I wanted to write about this man for ages but never got around to do so. This summer Dick Bruna decided to stop illustrating and enjoy retirement after 61 years of creating whimsical illustrations. And with his birthday today I thought this would be a great day do drop something about this warm Mister.
For those of you that do not know this man, a little introduction: Dick bruna was the creator of Miffy, the little adventurous bunny little toddlers all over the world get to know during their bedtime stories. But he has also made numerous other books and stories and started his career as a graphic designer.
During my Graphic Design studies we had to interview someone we looked up to. I knew that mister Bruna has had worldwide success with his great Miffy books but I also loved where he came from. A history in book publishing, designing book covers for years, yes I wanted to meet this man.
I wrote him a long letter about how awesome I thought he was. Yes, I felt like a teenage groupie going on 22 back then and I never expected a letter in return. He welcomed me to visit him in his Studio in Utrecht. So I prepared some questions, packed my camera and took a train to his hometown Utrecht to meet him.
When I rang the bell and Dick Bruna opened the door I remembered my first thought was; what a sweet smile, his eyes were twinkling and his mustache made his smile look even bigger. He welcomed me with a big hug and offered to make me some tea. While he was preparing our drinks in his studio kitchen he told me he loved interviews, because inviting people over would give him a good excuse to buy some of his favorite cookies. But why they were all so interested in his story he could not figure out. " I am just a man that has made some books, I am not any more special that a guy on the street."
"If someone takes the effort to sit down and write me a letter, sending a responds is the least I can do."
We sat down for a chat and I was caught up in his stories right away. He talked about his daily drawings for his wife before leaving home, how he took his bike to the studio every single day and I loved how he spoke about his fans. Little kids from all around the world sent him little artworks and drawings. Mister Bruna made room in his studio to save each and every single piece that came by mail and told me he sat down to answer all those expressions of admiration, letters, postcards, everyone got a personal thank you from his hand. After all these years, still making time to do so! I was so moved, a man would put so much effort into others.
He showed me his studio. With an impressive bookcase with all his Dutch children's books but also translations of the Miffy books, published all over the world. A little nook to sit in with cushions and kids artwork everywhere. He picked up some artwork "Look what amazing pieces of art. This stencil art was send by a little girl all the way from China, can you believe that?" He opened one of his cabinet drawers and showed me some folders and flyers, some logo designs and magazines that he had worked on. An entire very impressive portfolio was lying there, right in front of me. With his typical colorful illustrations and clean crisp typography. And then I saw his drawing table. His glasses, pencils and a large sketchbook. He told me drawing was not as easy anymore. His hands sometimes were too shaky and it took much more time to drawn clear clean lines like he used to. "But now it is up for your generation, nowadays the industry is much more competitive it must be a lot harder to make ends meet with doing what I do. But remember this, it is possible. If a small man from Utrecht can do it, you definitely can do it too."
It has been a great ride: 120 children's books and a respectable age of 87. Mister Bruna, please enjoy your well deserved retirement. Your work will influence many generations to come. And you have inspired me to follow my heart and take the risk to do what I love. I find myself working in my own studio, just doing what I love and people happen to pick up on my work. Thank you mister Bruna! You are an inspirational man.
If you ever visit Utrecht you can also visit the Miffy Museum: The Dick Bruna House, which is very close to Centraal Museum. It is a great place to visit with kids.