Leonard Filgate: In his own words... 

When I was a child, I never imagined that I would become an illustrator of children's books. From my earliest memories, art was a part of me, having drawn and painted my entire life. When I wasn't playing with friends on the beaches and in the parks of San Francisco, participating in sports, or attending school, I was drawing alone in my room. I do not recall reading and looking at picture books, but I do remember the comics, particularly Prince Valiant. It was very different from all the other comics and I loved the detail and compositions created by artist, Hal Foster. Around the same time, I was introduced to the work of Leonardo de Vinci and Rembrandt. My own drawing, which included many depictions of heroes and pirate ships, was very much influenced by these three very different masters. As a young adult, I was introduced to the work of illustrator Maxfield Parrish, who greatly inspired my painting technique and color palette. Later I discovered N. C. Wyeth and Harold Pyle, contemporaries of Parrish who also influenced my art. The idea of my illustrating children's books came after I became a parent and was introduced to illustrated story books through my daughter. I was intrigued with the work of contemporaries Chris Van Allsburg and Dean Morrissey. With the encouragement of my wife Susan, who believed that I had the ability to create images that would work with the stories she wrote, I began illustrating her words. 

My training as an artist and illustrator came from my own observations, studies and ambitions- I never attended art school or college. After high school, I sailed the world for five years as a merchant seaman. I continued to draw while onboard ships and in foreign ports. I was encouraged by my shipmates to pursue my art so I returned to my hometown, San Francisco, to do just that. For the next 27 years I worked as a fine artist, painting everything from marine art, fantasy (including scenes from operas and nursery rhymes), landscapes, cityscapes and toy still-life paintings. I created theatrical backdrops, props for television, storyboards, and reproductions of traditional Japanese screens. 

In 1997, I began working on the illustrations for Rip Squeak and Friends™. My long love of pirates and the sea inspired the theme of the second and third books in the series, The Treasure and The Adventure. The rewards have been too numerous to list, but the highlights were: being the featured illustrator at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in 2003 and honored with a one-person show entitled Pirate Tales and Beyond: The Adventures of Rip Squeak and Friends at the Delaware Art Museum in October 2005 to January 2006. Around that same time, I became a member of the Society of Illustrators in New York City. It was a great honor to find myself in the company of artists I had long admired.

In recent years, I occasionally create images for Rip Squeak® or for other story books written by my wife, author Susan Yost Filgate, but have also found inspiration and satisfaction by going back to my fine art roots. But even as a fine artist, I try to keep the storytelling aspect in my subject matter, whether it by a story about a place I’ve been, a world imagined, or just to capture the memory of a past experience I’ve enjoyed.

The best reward of all, however, is seeing the smiles on the faces of those my art and books have touched.