This Wichita, Kansas orthodontist, who is also a New Yorker-published illustrator and big thinker, answers some major questions as he unveils his first book The Shape of Ideas.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?

I love the William Carlos Williams mantra “No ideas but in things.” The everyday world is a boundless source of inspiration. This motto is useful in the search for ideas for writing and drawings, but also in the struggle to stay attentive to life outside my head.

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU LEARNED IN HIGH SCHOOL?

I had a great high school art teacher named Rich Canfield. All the students called him Rich. He was somewhere between 6’5” and 6’8” tall and looms even larger in my memory. He never really lectured on technique or critiqued our work, just gave unique assignments. Each assignment had a few simple constraints: “draw a 3×3 grid and fill it in with lines and patterns,” or “paint something using these three colors.” I learned that art is self-directed, derived from imposed outside constraints, and open to endless improvisation.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST PET PEEVE?

My own negativity. It is the source of inner conflict that plays out in many of my comics, so at least it’s useful in one sense.

WHAT IS ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?

Books, books, books. And an alarm clock that wakes me up early in the morning to draw. I used to keep my phone on the nightstand, but I’d wake up and check email. Now I charge it a safe distance away, down the stairs and a few rooms over.

WHAT GIVES YOU GOOSEBUMPS?

Not sure, but I read a lot of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series in elementary school. The brightly colored, mysterious covers were catnip to my childhood imagination. The books were great too but never lived up to the promise of the cover art. I think this appetite for books, yearning for more stories, and sense of lingering dissatisfaction led me to be a lifelong reader. Now I’m an author myself, and I find myself always slightly dissatisfied with the work I’ve done previously.  

WHAT IS YOUR BAD DAY BACKUP PLAN?

Go to bed as early as possible. Tomorrow will surely be better, and I can always use the extra sleep.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?

A destination that no matter how far one travels lies just over the next horizon.

BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?

I once saw a guy at a concert wearing a shirt that said: “People are more important than ideas.” That really stuck with me. At the same concert, I saw a t-shirt of a giraffe with the head of a baboon photoshopped on it. For some reason, that image stuck with me as well!

WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT?

When I’m at the drawing table, chasing an idea, mind buzzing from my third cup of coffee, I find that lunchtime slides into dinnertime.

WHAT 3 THINGS WOULD YOU GRAB IN A FIRE?

My three children – ages 4, 3, and 1.

FAVORITE WORD?

“Mote.” Some of my favorite poets reference “dust motes.” It’s a very poetic word – brief, specific, and descriptive. It evokes standing by a morning window in a sunbeam. In fact, I’ve never heard the word used outside of a poem.

FAVORITE BOOK? 

I love the poems of Billy Collins, the novels of Haruki Murakami, the picture books of Arnold Lobel, and the short stories of Kelly Link. I couldn’t pick just one.

WHAT HAS BEEN/IS THE BIGGEST SURPRISE ABOUT FATHERHOOD?

I am surprised that I can no longer recall what life was like before fatherhood. Being a parent starts out quite surreal, but after being immersed in surreality for awhile it starts to seem normal.
Also, it changed considerably once my daughter was old enough to start asking questions. I realize how much of being an adult is holding assumptions and taking things for granted. To adequately explain the world to a preschooler is challenging (and often exhausting), and reveals how little I really know.

WHAT HAS FATHERHOOD TAUGHT YOU?

Time management. Otherwise, I would accomplish nothing but reading picture books and cleaning up messes of thrown food, scattered toys, and broken household items.
And on a deeper level, the life’s great impermanence. I’m amazed how quickly the stages of childhood and parenting change. In the course of months, they go from learning that a cow says “moo” to telling you in complete sentences that you are putting the silverware away in the wrong drawer.  I’ve enjoyed every strange minute of it.

 

To learn more about Grant, visit his website and follow him on: