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Guy Gilchrist

March 19, 1999

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Guy Gilchrist is the syndicated author and artist who pens the Night Lights and Pillow Fights series and, with his brother Brad Gilchrist, also does the Nancy comic strip (United Features Syndicate). From 1981-86 they collaborated on The Muppets comic strip. Since the beginning of his career Gilchrist, now 42, has been giving his "Storytelling Creative Workshop" to kids. I was fortunate to recently speak with him and ask a few questions.

Vivian Rose: Tell me about your Storytelling Creative Workshop for kids.

Guy Gilchrist: I've been doing it for about twenty years. When I started I was working for Weekly Reader Books, and one of the things they liked their artists to do was talk to schools. What I do changes from year to year depending on what I'm working on. I bring some of my stories and art, but I don't just read to the kids - I explain how I came up with the ideas. I try to de-mystify the whole idea of being a writer and artist, and make it more accessible to kids. I want them to realize that if it's something they're interested in doing, they can do it. Last, I tell them one secret - if you know it, you can draw anything in the world.

Vivian Rose: What is it?

Guy Gilchrist: You're not part of the workshop, are you?

Vivian Rose: So you're not telling me?

Guy Gilchrist: Sorry, you have to come to the workshop. But if you read Night Lights and Pillow Fights and look at my Guy's Genius Club hardware, you'll probably be able to figure it out.

Vivian Rose: What do you enjoy most about teaching your workshop to kids?

Guy Gilchrist: Just that I get constant feedback. I like knowing that what I'm writing is touching kids. That way I'm not isolated; I'm not writing things that I just think kids will enjoy - that's a huge, huge deal. If I hadn't had the constant interaction with kids all these years, I wouldn't have known what kids are into.

Vivian Rose: You also do the weekly Nancy comics. How did you become interested in that?

Guy Gilchrist: Well Nancy was begun in the fifties, and I remember reading that strip. When the man who created Nancy died he had no family, so United Features Syndicate got the copyright. Nancy never really went away - they had someone else draw the strip for about ten years, but it wasn't as popular, so they stopped doing the strip for a while. A few years ago, when I was first asked to revive the Nancy series, I didn't want to do it. I said I wasn't interested, but after I hung up the phone, I started trying to draw Nancy - and I couldn't do it! I just couldn't draw her the way she was supposed to look! So I kept trying and trying until I got it right, and then eventually I agreed to try doing it for a while.

Vivian Rose: Your brother Brad works with you on the Nancy strip, and you've worked with him on many other projects. Do you ever get in arguments?

Guy Gilchrist (laughs): All the time! We're always fighting about how things should be done! Since we're brothers, I think that's one reason why we can be so honest with each other when we don't like each other's work.

Vivian Rose: You have seven other siblings. Are any of them cartoonists or writers?

Guy Gilchrist: No, just Brad and I. But I think we get it from our mother, who was always drawing things.

Vivian Rose: Did you know when you were a child that you wanted to be a cartoonist and author?

Guy Gilchrist: I started drawing when I was a kid, yes. As I said, my mother was very artistic, and she was often drawing, so I started drawing too. You know, I have this really early memory from when I was about five. I was sitting in front of the TV, drawing, and there was this show similar to American Bandstand on TV. They would have people singing with bands on the show, doing famous songs. Well this one guy came on, just with his guitar, no band, and he sang this song which he had written himself. I was so impressed that he had the guts to get up there and do that. I was so inspired by that. Actually, the guy who was singing is a friend of mine today - I told him that story, and he was just amazed that it left that much of an impression.

Vivian Rose: Did you ever have any setbacks when you were trying to become an artist?

Guy Gilchrist: Well, by the time I was in high school, I had a really big head. Whenever there was any painting or drawing or anything like that to do at school, I was always picked. So I decided to send some of my drawings off to MAD magazine. I sent them a whole stack of art, and they wrote me this letter telling me that they couldn't use it. They said most of my work stunk, and the only drawings I did which were any good at all were a few life drawings (someone had to talk me into sending them!) I'd done - drawings that I didn't like very much. I was crushed, but I learned a lot from that experience. I started drawing real.

Vivian Rose: You did The Muppets comic strip for five years. How did you get that job?

Guy Gilchrist: Well, I was young and didn't have that much experience. I tried out for the job not knowing that Jim Henson had auditioned some of the best cartoonists and turned them down. So, not knowing any better, I tried out for it. When I got the job, and first began drawing the strip, some of those first comics were terrible!

Vivian Rose: I know what you mean. I find it embarrassing to look at some of my earlier writing.

Guy Gilchrist: Oh, you want to talk about terrible? You should see the first week or so of The Muppets! Miss Piggy looked awful, I couldn't get Kermit the Frog right for anything...but you know what I always say? When I draw or write something, I always think, "This is the best I can do today". That's my motto. My advice to kids is to remember that - it doesn't matter if your writing or artwork is better than someone else's - just that it's the best you can do right now.

Vivian Rose: Are your children interested in art or writing?

Guy Gilchrist: Yes, my daughter...Lauren, 18...is a wonderful artist and so is my son...Garrett, 19. In fact, he's in film school right now. He's very talented, but he's the one who's got a big head - he needs to get a rejection letter from MAD magazine! My stepdaughter...Julie, 8...is becoming interested in art too.

Vivian Rose: What do you consider to be the highlights of your career?

Guy Gilchrist: My children, my family. My greatest accomplishments are my children, and convincing Angie Brown to marry me.

Note: If you are interested in any of Mr. Guy Gilchrist's workshops, or are interested in becoming a cartoonist (or if you just are interested in writing him) please write him at guy@gilchriststudios.com. Mr. Gilchrist loves hearing from his fans and tries his best to answer all letters.

Mr. Gilchrist also has a Web site with his bio and other interesting things.

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