about R.W. Alley

First off, what I like to draw…

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…and (some of) the ways I draw them.

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Now, the Facts…

I’ve illustrated well over a hundred books. For the last twenty years, I’ve illustrated Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear books, in all their formats. Recently, I begun a collaboration with Garth Stein to bring Enzo, the canine narrator of his The Art of Racing in the Rain, to picture books. I have also returned to writing my own books with a series of four season titles about four siblings: Gretchen, Clark, Mitchell and Annabelle.

In 2010, I received a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award for the illustrations in Pearl and Wagner One Funny Day by Kate McMullan.

I also collaborate with my wife, the charming author Zoë B. Alley. Our There’s A Wolf at the Door was selected as a Washington Post Best Book of the Year and its companion book of reinvented fairy tales, There’s a Princess in the Palace, received equally happy reviews.

Since the 1980s I’ve illustrated (and sometimes written) a series of more than fifty Elf-Help books, first published by Abbey Press. They are self-help (get it?) titles for both an adults (pocket-sized) and children (picture-book scaled) that are available worldwide. As of June, 2017, Abbey Press is no more, but the books continue to be available internationally and through various online bookstores. Hopefully a new publisher will pop up soon!

Now, a little background…

My parents saved everything, so I know that I began drawing sometime around age two. I haven’t paused since. In fact, my drawings now and my drawings then bear a rather strong resemblance. I have gotten slightly better at hands, but horses remain a problem. 

As an only child, growing up in Virginia, New York, Texas, South Carolina and finally, since fourth grade, in Annapolis, Maryland, drawing was fine self-entertainment. Before I could read, I was telling myself stories in pictures. Sometimes, I drew the characters that I saw on TV. But, mostly I made up characters. They lived in the trees in the vacant lots around my house. There were also a few who lived on other planets. Sometimes they’d visit. Sometimes they still do.

The more I drew these characters the more they started moving around on the page and getting into adventures. As I learned to read and write, I started writing down what they said. I started making little books. This seemed like a really fun thing to keep doing.

The summer after graduating high school, armed with a list of art directors for children’s books and an exceedingly stuffed and heavy portfolio of drawings, I knocked on doors in New York City. Encouraging, it was not. But, one art director, asked to see my sketchbook. There were all my story ideas and character doodles. “There may be something here,” she said. That was enough to keep me going.

I didn’t go to art school, but earned a BA in Art History from Haverford College and spent a lot of time in the fine arts studio. Following graduation, I wrote and illustrated my first children’s book, The Ghost in Dobbs’ Diner. It was published in 1981 by Parents Magazine Press. After that, I worked as an in-house artist and art director for several greeting card companies before entering the freelance world.

Today, Zoë and I live in Rhode Island where we raised our two clever, and now adult, children. I draw my characters in a studio that used to be the garage. It has a rolling library ladder, walls lined with books and a drawing board surrounded by pens, pencils, paints and paper. And, a trash can that gets heavy use. Mostly as a result of odd renderings of horses.