Monday, February 26, 2007

Miffy 'n Mo...

As you patiently awaited updates, my family zipped over to Holland for a quick visit with my parents and relatives.

But the trip wasn’t entirely lekker cups of tea and family chit-chat; I also managed to finagle a visit to Utrecht to meet with Dutch picture book giant Dick Bruna.

You probably know Mr. Bruna from his enormously successful character Nijntje, or as she’s known in English, Miffy.

Besides ka-jillions of books, Miffy can be found on anything from TV to towels to tattoos. She is (according to an article I read while researching my visit) a larger cash export for the Netherlands than Heineken (a beer which rose to global domination because the company came up with the idea of selling it in bottles).

Now, I consume more Heineken than Miffy, but who am I to doubt the internet?

What most people don’t know (I certainly didn’t) is that Bruna started his career as a cover artist for a line of paperback books called Zwarte Beertjes (or Black Bear Books) published by his father who would have preferred him to work on the business side of the family business.

Zwarte Beertjes printed detective stories, mysteries, and various popular pulp. The covers are masterpieces of minimalist modernism. Take a peek at some of the spreads from a book collecting all of Bruna’s covers. Sigh.

Bruna is a quite spry 78 and was the perfect gentleman. I showed him some of my work while we discussed minimalism, modernism, Calder (who he used to see in Paris), Shultz (who he spent an afternoon with once), Matisse, color, process, and studio work habits over a lekker cup of tea.

Luckily, he enjoyed the Pigeon and Leonardo the Terrible Monster, and pronounced me a ‘colleague’, a distinct compliment in Dutch.

Bruna spends a great deal of time on each drawing, ensuring that each of his (very few) lines is prefect.

While I greedily poured over his original drawings, Bruna was eager to show me drawings and sculptures sent to him by fans from all over the world. Like me, he loves the idea of kids drawing his characters for their own adventures.

Afterwards, I skipped over to meet my family at the Dick Bruna Museum, where everyone enjoyed the interactive displays, original sketches, and video documentaries. The Trixter and I were given Miffy masks to color and draw on, which we did eagerly before heading off into town for a lekker cup of tea at another café.

A good day.