interview by cans mckenzey


cans: For our readers who are unfamiliar with you and your work, could you please tell them who you are and what you do. (This would be a great time to tell everyone that you are an amazing illustrator, and that someday soon, you will rule the world).

J. Otto: Hi, I am J. Otto Seibold, an artist, and I am going to rule the world (through kindness and neglect).

c: How long have you been working digitally?

J.O.: I have been using computers for drawing since 1987. I bought the original 1984 Mac. I was a sucker for the "1984" advertising.

c: From past interviews I've read, it seems to me that 1987 was the year that everything came together for you. Did you know that 1988 was the worst year in the Ď80s? Did anything bad ever happen to you in 1988?

J.O.: Everything that happened in the Ď80s seems questionable now: John Lennon, Reagan, the Iran-Contra hearings. Thank God the Meat Puppets were issuing vinyl, or I don't know what would have happened.

c: How did you get started doing children's books?

J.O.: I was approached by a publisher and thought it was a good way to start weaving my economic needs with my creative deeds. Prior to that, all my illustrating was much more for money than love.

c: How do you come up with some of the characters for your books?

J.O.: Some, like Mr. Lunch and Olive, are based on our actual pets (of the same names). Others are fictionalized historical figures (the first monkey in space), and a lot are just made up.

c: Do you think any of your other books will become an animated cartoon?

J.O.: We are getting Mr. Lunch ready to be a pre-school series.

c: Will we get to see Olive the Other Reindeer (television special) around Christmas time again?

J.O.: Well, at this time Fox has no air date and, as far as I know, Olive will not be seen on TV anywhere this year. Not even on the Knife Channel. But she will be part of a kidís meal at Carl's Jr., much to our dismay. We are not into the trade off between cheap toys and bad nutrition. Yet, despite our strong objection, there she is.

c: Quick! Turn around and tell me what you see.

J.O.: The dishwasher and some tangerines.

c: Who or what influences you the most in life?

J.O.: My family: Vivian, the three kids and the dogs.

c: Who wears the pants in your family?

J.O.: We all wear britches.

c: What is a typical day for you?.

J.O.: Wake up too early, herd the kids to school, read The New York Times, drink coffee, take shower, talk on phone, smoke, draw, get kids, ride bike, eat, sleep, repeat.

c: What future projects are you working on right now?

J.O.: We are working on a book called GLUEY. Itís about a snail, a rabbit and some elves. Itís going to be huge!

c: In your opinion, do you think dogs have lips?

J.O.: Thatís where I always kiss them.

c: Your website is so playful and detailed. Does it represent you personally? I ask because jotto.com seems a bit insane. I love spending countless hours on it, playing with everything. Oh, wait. I hope no one from work reads this.

J.O.: It is as much me as my outgoing message is me on my answering machine. I am more grouchy than the site lets on. Also, the site is a lot of Vivian Walsh (J. Ottoís wife and writer of the books) and our Flash team, Feel Good Anyway, out of Portland, Oregon.

c: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you would be doing?

J.O.: Time.

c: Would you like to start a rumor about someone?

J.O.: Yeah. Dan Quayle is a really dumb guy. Pass it on.

c: You seem to get work on a very consistent basis. I was wondering if you could finish paying off my student loans? I also need a new car. Want to help a sister out?

J.O.: You should never have sought higher education if you couldnít pay up front in cash. Sorry. I can't help you.

c: Do you have a favorite childhood toy?

J.O.: Yes, but I can't remember my childhood.

c: What is the strangest thing to ever happen to you, other than this interview?

J.O.: Um, probably my years as a pyromaniac shoplifter. I was sorting through a lot of issues.

c: When you take a picture of cheese what do you think it says?

J.O.: Har-har!

c: Any parting thoughts or suggestions for our readers?

J.O.: Yes. Thanks for sticking with this interview. It was a lot of typing but, somehow, the fact that you read it all, and really want it to last forever, makes it all worthwhile.