Me and Mr. Emberley

I’m excited to announce that I’ve contributed a small print to a wonderful project for Cloudy Collection & Koyama Press. The set of prints is called Monster Parade, and is a tribute to my hero, Mr. Ed Emberley.

It features 15 original prints, as well as two new prints by Ed himself! You can order the prints and see more about the project here.

Most people who know me, know how deep my love for the work of Ed Emberley goes. His books were my absolute favorite to draw from when I was little. He focused on breaking drawing down into a very simple vocabulary so that you could play with endless variations on his examples, and create intricate worlds of your own. This was so much more powerful to me than what I found in other drawing books (like the Lee J. Ames series, for example, where the focus was always on copying specific realistic drawings). He gave me the ingredients to draw whatever I could imagine.

I carried his drawing books with me my whole life, and they survived every move. In my art school days, I would bring them to class to share with my friends and teachers.  More than the instruction they offered, I loved the personality of his drawing books.

When I look at them now, I realize they have the same ingredients that later drew me into the zine world – a humble, personal format with cool hand lettering, personal stories and thoughtful tips.

I remember the tip he offered to turn your drawing pad to an angle that’s comfortable and use the side as a straight edge. The story about how potatoes helped his family survive a famine. And above all, the wonderful characters and bizarre worlds.

When artist/writer/curator/awesome guy Caleb Neelon told me that he was putting together an Ed Emberley tribute show (last summer in LA, at the Scion art space), I was crazy excited at the chance to finally meet him in person. ¬†Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in that project, but Caleb set up some time for me to come in and meet Ed and his lovely wife/collaborator Barbara during the show’s set up.

Ed was sharp as a tack, and we talked about art, life, and the future of books. Ed told me how much he loved the idea of the internet removing the middleman, and creators being able to reach their audience directly.


I brought an old woodblock print of Ed’s with me, that I had found about 8 or 9 years ago. It was my first ever “big” art purchase.

Ed was excited to see the print again, and he remembered cutting the wood and Barbara pulling the print over 40 years ago. The print is simply numbered “1″, and Ed told me it was the only one ever pulled from that block.

Ed was kind enough to personalize some of my beat-up copies of his books.

Ed drew a dragon beneath my own giant name. You can tell how much I valued this book, I wrote my name in it 5 different times, along with my phone number (twice) and my address.

Some of my drawings as a kid are on the inside back cover, using characters from a variety of Emberley books.

I was happy that I happened to have this book for Barbara to sign too! Ed remembered that for this book, he used balsa wood, which was easy to cut and left an interesting grain behind in the shapes.

I always keep an eye out for Ed’s illustration work. Here’s a little uncredited lettering on the back of an Arthur Lyman record.

The original mock-up for his classic “Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals”

After the visit, Caleb asked me if I could drive Ed and Barbara back to their hotel. The entire time I was driving I kept thinking “…Ed Emberley’s in my car! Ed Emberley’s in my car!”

A little while later, Caleb sent me this nice surprise gift! An Original Emberley chalk drawing.

Ed’s new print for Monster Parade

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12 comments

  1. this is amazing, souther. what fortune and destiny!

  2. Okay, this is seriously one of the best posts I’ve read. So, so sweet…and I’m really happy for you that you were able to meet and speak to him AND to let him know what an inspiration he is to you. Imagine…someday this same scenario will play out again only YOU will be the one inspiring kids!

  3. oh, my. that actually made me teary-eyed. what a beautiful post!!

    i had a chance to meet Ed & his wife during the Scion opening. such a sweet couple! <3

  4. This is such an awesome write-up of your love for Ed Emberley! I’m so glad you were able to participate in the print set, and I love love love your contribution!

  5. susie g

    souther! this is so awesome. so inspiring & sweet! i love love love that you’ve carried his books with you through the years, and then had the opportunity to meet him after all this time. “He gave me the ingredients to draw whatever I could imagine.” – i feel the same way about mr. emberley! love this post.

  6. Joe

    I hadn’t even though of Ed Emberley in more than a decade. Not once. And this brought it all back. Thanks so much.

  7. kat

    Aw this entry is absolutely lovely!

  8. this is so great Souther.

  9. Chab Guthrie

    How pleasant to see this tribute to Ed Emberley. During the 1980s, I was a children’s librarian. In my counties, I visited classrooms K-6 three times a year. One of my regular presentations was on drawing books – in which I frequently would use one of Mr. Emberley’s demonstrations as an example on the chalk board. As you can guess, the children loved them, and we circulated many of Ed’s books.

  10. what a lovely post – what a thrill it must have been to meet Ed – you’re so lucky.

    Your post made my heart smile.

    Love, Violette

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