Eric was born on September 7, 1927 in London, and educated at Pooles Park Elementary and Tollington Park Central schools until the outbreak of World War II. At 16 he joined an art studio as a messenger, where he was encouraged to draw cartoons in his spare time. He particularly enjoyed drawing aircraft, and it was the markings of planes that later came to influence the design of Spot, reflected in the spots on his body and the tip of his tail.
After a spell in the airforce, Eric returned to the studio to work on his cartoons, which soon began to be published in national magazines and newspapers. He started a weekly strip for the London magazine Illustrated and did small story sketches for Lilliput. After a year, he left the studio and joined the art department of an advertising agency as a visualizer.
His next important step was an appointment with FHK Henrion at Erwin Wasey, a large advertising agency in Park Lane. Henrion was an internationally acclaimed graphic designer, under whose guidance Eric’s skills as a designer and art director developed. After a long stay at Wasey’s, he was hired as European Creative Director for a new American Agency.
His advertising career came to an abrupt end four weeks later with the folding of the agency. Eric relished the chance to work for himself. Freelancing as an art director, graphic designer and illustrator, he slowly returned to being an artist.
In 1976 Eric’s son Christopher was born; by the time he was two Eric was making up stories about the adventures of a small puppy to read to him at bedtime and Spot was born!
“I am quite convinced now…that the actual training of drawing cartoons – which is, of course, my style – led to my producing Spot. Cartoons must be very simple and have as few words as possible and so too must the Spot books.”
The design of the books was inspired by an advertising flyer Eric had devised involving a flap covering an amusing picture. When Eric showed this to Christopher he saw how responsive he was to the idea and incorporated it into his book. Although initially created just as a story to please his son, Where’s Spot? was actually published as a children’s book in 1980 and started a new publishing concept of ‘interactive books for babies’. The innovative lift-the-flap concept, combined with the simple story and quirky, charming illustrations, helped Where’s Spot? become an instant hit with young children and within weeks it was at the top of the UK best-seller list.
The playful puppy soon became hugely popular and a series of adventures followed, including the introduction of Spot’s friends and family. Spot expanded from the original lift-the-flap books to interactive storybooks, sound books and audio books. There are currently eight series of Spot animation available on DVD and these have been broadcast and sold on video and DVD all over the world.
Spot’s own website funwithspot.com was launched in 2000 to coincide with Spot’s 20th anniversary. Incorporating fun and learning it has helped thousands of young children develop their on-line skills through interactive games and activities. The site receives 10 million hits and 70,000 unique visitors per month.
With Spot book sales reaching 50 million worldwide and his stories now translated into 60 languages, he really is a publishing phenomenon. Spot’s first fans, who are now having families of their own, can enjoy Spot with their children, confirming his place as a modern classic.
As well as his son Christopher, Eric also has a daughter, Jane, who works very closely with her father on many Spot projects. Eric remains involved in the development of all Spot projects at every stage. He and his wife Gillian divide their time between California and France with a varied collection of animals which provide continual inspiration for the Spot stories.
Eric was one of the ‘literary ambassadors’ invited to The Children’s Party at the Palace to commemorate The Queen’s 80th birthday at Buckingham Palace in June 2006. This highlight of Eric’s career was followed with the award of an O.B.E. for services to children’s literature in the 2008 New Year’s Honors List.
PLACE AND DATE OF BIRTH:
London; 7 September 1927
Dirk Bogarde’s autobiographies
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
My sense of fun
Cole Porter’s ‘Let’s do it (let’s fall in love)’
Day of the Jackal
When did you start writing?In 1978, when my son was two years old, I started my first book for children. Where’s Spot? was published in 1980 and became the catalyst for my new career as an author. I don’t really consider myself a ‘proper’ author as I am basically an illustrator who adds words to his pictures as a ‘voice-over’, although in later books I have expanded my writing a little more.
I still have to look up words in the dictionary!
Where do you get your ideas?From my experience as a father and memories from my childhood. Most of the Spot books contain some elements that actually happened i.e. Spot pulling down the Christmas tree in Spot’s First Christmas actually happened when our golden retriever pup, Tiger, destroyed our decorated tree whilst we were out.
Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?1. Write about what you know or like best. (With me, it was obviously dogs!)2. Be honest. Write what you really feel, not what you think others would like to read.3. Confine your thoughts to a particular subject and/or age group if writing for children.
Favourite memory?Christmas morning at home with my parents. Feeling the filled pillowcase at the foot of my bed.
Favourite place in the world and why?Wherever my family is. For me, my family (and animals) are my world.
What are your hobbies?Collecting toy cars and boats. Gardening in fine weather. Reading everything.
If you hadn’t been a writer, what do you think you would have been?I first wanted to be a pilot but I wasn’t bright enough. But now, I really don’t want to be anything other than what I am.WHAT HE SAYS…
“I am quite convinced now, as I look back, that the actual training of drawing cartoons – which is, of course, my style – led to my producing Spot. Cartoons must be very simple and have as few words as possible and so must the Spot books. I designed Spot out of my previous background as a designer and illustrator. It was quite unconscious but I can see now that I have created a ready-made trademark of its kind, with the essential spot on the body and a bit on the tail.”
“It must have been subconscious but I realized that when I came to draw the spot on his body and the tip of his tail I was copying the markings on an aircraft. I grew up drawing aircraft – that is how I learned to draw.”
“I have always been a ‘dog man’ so it was quite natural for me to create a canine character who would be as playful and endearing as the real thing.”
“I believe it’s the sense of fun that makes the book so popular. When he shows excitement on Christmas Day and cries “Yippee”, that’s me in there. I love the character, he’s my buddy and I’m at ease with him. Subconsciously I see things from the dog’s point of view, so Spot is within me.”
“Part of the success of Spot is the play element – a hippo and a pink piano, for instance – I want to keep the idea that reading, that sharing a book, can be fun.”
“I believe children all have a basic creativity that needs to be encouraged and nurtured and the Spot books seem to provide that encouragement.”
“In Where’s Spot? I thought it would be fun to draw a chair – in a period style rather than a straightforward type. A grand piano instead of an upright – pink rather than brown. Table with cabriole legs and other decorative details. All to broaden the visual scope that a book can bring to a young mind.”
“There is so much to be learned and enjoyed from reading and it is all out there just waiting for you. Think of opening a book as opening your mind.”
“I cannot think of a better use of my talent than being creator of Spot.”
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