Gus Gordon is one of the best-known and most talented illustrators in the country. No, the world. His latest book as writer / illustrator, Herman & Rosie, has been nominated for awards in Australia, Japan, Germany and France. I have lots of fun working with Gusto on the My Life series. Here, I grill him with some extremely challenging questions, accompanied by illustrations his My Life illustrations.
Tristan: Name just a few of the life lessons you’ve learnt from me and my stories over the years that we have worked together…
Gus: Gosh, there are so many… but if I was to narrow it down to my top three it would be:
(1) I’ve learnt that all of your stories are completely made-up (which is kind of convenient since you write fiction but I was still disappointed).
(Note from Tristan: Not true above.)
(2) I’ve learnt that you take note-taking far too seriously – like it’s ridiculous! Here’s an example I saw you write in one of your note books recently: ‘Just had a ham and cheese sandwich. I like ham and cheese together in a sandwich. It’s an interesting combination of flavours. Maybe I should write a story about a ham and cheese sandwich that leaves home in search of the mysterious mustard man. Wow! I can’t believe this isn’t a book already! It’s going to be SO good! Where’s my apple juice?’
(3) I’ve learnt that you have no idea what the average person regards as gross. I’d hate to guess what you think is normal! Really dude, what you think is a mild kind of grossness is really bordering on criminal. I have actually been physically sick on a number of occasions while trying to illustrate your stories. Ease up a little mister.
Tristan: You’re a pretty strange guy. What are the three weirdest illustrations you’ve done for the My Life books?
Gus: Well, thanks buddy. Boy, this really is a tough question as all my stuff is weird. Here are a few that come to mind:
(1) ‘Hover poo’ (that’s self explanatory).
(2) ‘3 things I’d rather do than eat Vegemite off my sister’s toe’ (I had trouble drawing Tom sucking the pus out of Lisa Crabapples’s zits).
(3) ’Nan acclimatising for Everest’ (I had fun drawing nan with just her legs hanging out of a freezer. I made my wife Ali pose for that illustration. She spent three days in hospital afterward with frostbite but it was worth it).
Tristan: My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up was nominated for YABBA & KOALA children’s choice awards. Do you think we deserve it or do you agree with my contention that kids don’t know much about stuff?
Gus: We better win that award or I’m going to be really angry you made me draw all that stuff!
Tristan: Tom Weekly, the main character in the My Life books is part me and part you. Which bits of Tom, do you think, are you?
Gus: All the cool bits are me and all the freaky stuff is obviously you.
(Note from Tristan: Again, clearly not true above.)
Tristan: I hear you’re going to Paris to work on your new book, the follow-up to Herman & Rosie. Why didn’t you invite me to come with you?
Gus: Geez, I specially told everyone not to tell you. I would’ve invited you to come but you really need to address your hygiene issues, like we discussed. Remember, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. Then we can progress from there. See you after Paris!