For Matthew Porter, 39, images hold incredible power. As a young boy struggling to learn to read, Porter was encouraged by an insightful tutor to draw the scenes as he listened to the stories read aloud, and he was captured by their magic. “I loved the escapism, to imagine different worlds and adventures,” says the North Seattle-based illustrator and author of eight books.
Today, Porter infuses that same sense of wonder into his own line of nursery-ready paintings (prints start at $16; paintings start at $240) and children’s books, which feature whimsical, often comical characters ranging from a giant robot cat to his now-signature cast of monkeys. Using acrylic paint and bold lines, Porter creates his characters on distressed pine board with the wood grain peeking through, giving the images a modern style that appeals to grown-ups. Kiddos love the stories in his most recent board book, Tails Chasing Tails (Sasquatch Books, $9.99), a looping creature-following-creature tale inspired by his then-infant son Owen’s propensity for skipping pages. (The sequence loops from front to back to front, so the book can be picked up at any time and opened to any page.)
This fall, Porter published his first storybook for older kids, The Thunderbolt Express (Sasquatch Books, $17.99), an adventure set on an early-1950s-era steam train, featuring monkeys as magicians, detectives, a ventriloquist and Dixieland musicians. “There is an entire world of monkeys I want to explore, especially as Owen gets older and can play along,” Porter says of the now 3-year-old. “This is just the beginning of their antics and adventures.” Available at matthewporterart.com