At Central Park Library’s Redwood Room on Nov. 6, children’s book author and illustrator Frans Vischer showed about 100 attendees pictures of his adventurous cat Fuddles- before and after losing weight, pondering the universe and perched still beneath a birdhouse.
So far, Vischer has four books out in print, three of which are based on Fuddles (with one book co-starring his dog). The Santa Clara City Library Foundation and Friends, sponsoring the event, paid for Vischer’s books which were given free to the first 35 families arriving at the author’s talk. Erin Ulrich, the library’s program coordinator of youth services, describes Vischer as “awesome” and “inspiring.”
“I hope to inspire the kids here to read, be creative and use their imagination in a variety of ways,” says Vischer, a resident of Glendale in Southern California. “I stay creative by reading, writing, illustrating and dreaming up stories. I also do freelance animation work.”
Vischer studied character animation at the California Institute of the Arts, which was founded by Walt Disney, and then he went on to work for the Walt Disney Company. He brought an example of a picture book “dummy,” a book template used by authors who are also illustrators. Vischer advised authors who don’t illustrate against submitting illustrations of someone else’s work to editors.
When the Holland-born Vischer came to America, he didn’t speak any English. He still remembers his first day of sixth grade, taking place in the middle of the school year in February 1970.
“Not knowing the language at all, I was the center of attention and I hated it,” Vischer says. “The worse part of that day was having to go to the bathroom and I didn’t even know how to explain that. I tried to explain to the teacher and he didn’t have a clue and the kids were all trying to be helpful…I was so desperate that I did a drawing of a kid on the toilet. I showed it discreetly to the teacher who then shared my drawing with everybody. That was my first day which I will never forget. But I got through it because I could communicate by drawing.”
Vischer encourages those interested in an illustration and animation career to keep practicing and to pay attention to what’s around them.
“Observe the world around you; watch not just how people move, but how people behave and interact,” Vischer says. “I keep sketchbooks everywhere. I have them in my bags, my car, at home, everywhere. [At the airport], I’ll see the uptight businessman who’s late for his meeting, and he’d be pacing and have his headphones on…and I’ll picture how this guy might be at home. I love watching people and I store whatever information I get in the back of my head for some future project.”
Visit fransvischer.com for more information about Vischer, including his holiday themed picture book, “A Very Fuddles Christmas.”