World of Whimsy

by Erin Dahl,

  • Ben Clanton

When Ben Clanton ’10 was a kid, he wished he could fly, grow antlers and own a three-headed dog. Since none of that seemed possible in the real world ordinaire, Clanton translated his childhood fantasies into whimsical art and enchanting stories.

World of Whimsy

Clanton shares his quirky, friendly illustrations in his new picture book, “Something Extraordinary,” slated for publication by Simon & Schuster this summer.  Although he usually works in ink and watercolor, these illustrations were created with pencil, watercolor and various paper textures.

            “It’s pretty much all of the things I wish could happen or would happen, but can’t or won’t,” he says. “It’s also about finding the extraordinary in the everyday world.” 

An Idea is Born

“When I lived in Seattle, I imagined rain coming down in various colors and flavors. I wanted to draw an image of a kid playing in the rain, sticking out his tongue to catch the different flavors.”

Creating a Story

“For ‘Something Extraordinary,’ a rough outline emerged quickly. I started with a rough, 32-page storyboard. Then it was a matter of figuring out pacing and tinkering to make a satisfying ending.” 

Animal Friends

“This spread is about all the pets I wished I could have had. I wished I could have talked with animals and had unusual pets. The next best thing was filling an entire drawing with all these creatures. Then I had to figure out which ones would stay.” 

Editing Process

“There was a lot of back and forth about the storyline, but adding something was ultimately up to me.  My editors cared more about hitting the right story notes and getting the right pacing.”

Connective Threads

“In this spread, you’ll see a young boy with fangs — something else I had wished for. The robot, in the upper left, shows up throughout the book. And the bird in the bottom right corner has an important substory about finding a partner.” 

A Feast for the Eyes

“I wanted readers (and their parents) to find new images every time they came back to this drawing. They are like hidden Easter eggs, waiting to be found.” 

The Big Goal

“To make a book kids of all ages will enjoy. Also, I hope it might inspire readers to find the extraordinary in the world around them and dream up new extraordinary things.”