Ep.23: How to succeed in the world of children’s books with Gene Barretta

Gene is a highly accomplished and awarded children’s book author and illustrator, animator and character designer. He graduated from New York University: Tisch School of Arts with a BFA in film studies.

Gene is also the older brother of Muppet performer, writer, and director, Bill Barretta.

“What are they doing now?” That was the popular question around my house and neighborhood. It was not unusual to see my brother Billy and me dressed up in homemade costumes – filming Super 8mm dramas – attempting risky stunts in the ravine – animating GI Joes and weird-looking clay figures – building and performing clunky puppets – drawing offbeat comics and imitating The Beatles.

Gene began illustrating mass-market and novelty books in 2000 and eventually transitioned to picture books into 2003. He has also contributed to children’s magazines such as Cobblestone, Odyssey, Faces, and Appleseeds.

Get in touch with Gene

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Key Takeaways

“Don’t limit yourself. Stay connected. Get out to as many events as possible. Try to work every day, keep your imagination and skills fresh. Stay optimistic, develop a tough skin and be prepared for rejection”

  • When Gene decided to do art full time, his wife was working and they made conscious effort that he will dedicate himself to this full time. After that, he made concentrated effort to put portfolio together for picture books and he worked on it hard
  • Best advice he got from his uncle: “When you go through the life, make a wide path, let them know you have been here …” Career wise, the best advice is to keep your “tentacles” out in all directions. Don’t get your heart set on one path, because it’s such an competitive field that the right path might not reveal itself at least not at the start
  • His creative approach is to look for the way to get the core information to the kids artbooks in entertaining and enjoyable way – makes it more accessible to elementary school children, so they are excited. He wants them to be interested in the subject so they get to pick another book about it …
  • Favourite quote – “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”

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Resources mentioned

Special thanks to Gene for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Gene Barretta, used with permission

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