Paul Carrick wrote and illustrated Watch Out for Wolfgang. And it’s a keeper.
To have illustrated and written his first children’s book is obviously very exciting for Mr. Carrick. “There’s something magical about seeing it neatly bound together in a complete package,” he said. “It was a special experience to be involved in all aspects of its design: I got to pick the book’s dimensions, the typefaces — everything.”
Mr. Carrick comes to his work honestly. His parents, Carol and the late Donald Carrick, were a Vineyard-based children’s book author-illustrator team. “I would hear the stories in their earliest of phases and see them develop into polished manuscripts; I would see my dad’s sketches turn into full-fledged paintings,” Paul recalled. After graduation from high school, he pursued a degree in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. When his father died, it was a natural move to begin illustrating his mother’s books.
Watch Out for Wolfgang is a tale of three robots who manage to create havoc for their mother. Rod, the neatnik, Slick, the smooth-talker and Dudley, the individual, take on Wolfgang, the evil recycler (read: neighborhood bully.) Rod and Slick are cool and confident, but get fooled by Wolfgang. Fortunately, Dudley rises to the occasion.
It’s a charming story, with a bit of suspense and a feel-good, though predictable, ending. It is ironic that Wolfgang, the ogre, is a recycler, which today is considered a favorable career path. There are a couple of points where the story takes a sharp turn, once when the focus shifts radically from the three robots to Wolfgang, and later, when, after weeks, Dudley abruptly saves his siblings. Despite these minor detours, the fable follows a reliably straight route.
Mr. Carrick provides dramatic illustrations for his book, with primary colored, action-packed robots who dominate each page. His figures are reminiscent of claymation creatures, real enough to stand on their own.
The impetus for the story was Mr. Carrick’s intrigue in sculpting miniatures. “My favorite subjects are funky machines and vehicles, the more weather-beaten, rusty and with scraped paint, the better. I decided to create a way to incorporate the sculpture into my illustrations. Since the style lent itself better to mechanical designs than organic, robots came to mind,” he said.
The most challenging part of the experience was convincing a publisher to use his illustrations. “I realized I’d need a few samples to show how I intended to illustrate it. It wasn’t until I visited a publisher and let him hold the art in his hands that a lightbulb went off. Not only did that first publisher buy my book, but he asked me to illustrate another book in the same style. [Wired].” It was the break Paul Carrick needed to promote his own artistic style.
And although the story is about robots, it is not a mechanical or computer-generated tale, but a sweet story of self-confidence and family unity. Indeed, the book is dedicated “To my Mom,” and the first line reads, “Once upon a time, an old mother robot raised three sons.” Family is important to both children and robots. Mr. Carrick claims the moral of the fable is based on the Three Pigs, but there is a hint of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit as well.
“Much of the story is about choosing your own path in life, being true to your own voice,” he said, adding: “Even in such a short story, one can really get to know their characters to the point where they almost write their own dialogue. Writing such a short story is similar to a Haiku in that you have a very limited amount of text to work with, so each word needs to have a lot of purpose.” It was not an overnight experience; Mr. Carrick says the project, from manuscript to published book, took five years.
But he is already looking ahead to his next project, which involves monsters and Halloween, both favorite subjects. He has been selling limited editions of his resin sculptures,. And he plans to develop his fantasy art through prints and posters. His Web site, paulcarrick.com, explores both fantasy art and illustrations.
Wolfgang, the book, is on prominent display at the Virginia Weston Besse gallery in Mr. Carrick’s one-man show at Featherstone Center for the Arts on Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs. The show includes illustrations from three other collaborations: Wired, Mothers Are Like That and Dinosaur Parents, Dinosaur Young.
The show opened April 1 and runs through April 16. An opening reception is scheduled for Sunday April 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. Mr. Carrick will be on hand to share insight in his work. For more information call 508-693-1850.