Tedd Arnold has been a soldier, a hamburger cooker, and a worm counter; he’s illustrated school books, delivered newspapers and popped popcorn. But he’s always been an artist. Cartoons decorated his papers and desk top throughout elementary school. In junior high, Arnold took his first formal art lessons from an old man in a studio above the Happy Pool Hall in Gainesville, Florida. He filled his high school history notebook with drawings of his own left hand—being a right-handed artist. After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in art, Arnold got a job illustrating science textbooks and later, advertisements. “Even in the Army I used my art when I learned I could get out of a lot of boring work and training by offering to paint murals on the barracks walls.”
Arnold’s wife, Carol, taught kindergarten during his advertising days and frequently brought home books she used in the classroom. “The words and artwork in those gorgeous picture books reminded me of the captioned cartoons I drew in high school or the advertisements I wrote and illustrated every day. I fell in love. Each evening after work I rushed to the library, brought home piles of children’s books and studied them cover to cover.”
Arnold began writing his own stories and illustrating the images they conjured up. He worked for six years before selling No Jumping on the Bed, his first book. In Arnold’s opinion the biggest misconception about writing for children is that it’s easy. “No Jumping on the Bed will always be special to me because it was my first picture book. I guarantee if your work that hard and that long and finally succeed, you will always remember the first time.”
Arnold has written or illustrated over 25 books. His ideas come from a variety of places: his children, wildlife, letting his mind wander. The idea for Parts came from a memory he jotted in his journal ten years earlier: “When my first son, Walter, was five years old, I found him lying on the couch looking pale as a ghost and clutching a Bible to his chest.” Walter had found his first loose tooth. “Carol and I realized that despite all our efforts to be good parents, we had forgotten to warn Walter that teeth fall out.” In Walter’s five year old mind, he was coming unglued and about to fall to pieces.
After Arnold creates a story, he reads it to his writing group for their comments and suggestions. “One of my most treasured times are the day-long monthly writer’s group meetings I attend. Eight of us, all extensively experienced and well-published and living in Western New York get together and critique each other’s work.” After the story is written Arnold begins illustrating his words. Each drawing goes through a detailed seven-step process using a combination of colored pencils, water colors, and his secret technique, SCRIBBLING. Arnold spends about two days on each of the drawings in his books. Currently, Arnold has about nine books under contract with various publishers waiting to be illustrated. “My next four years are pretty well booked!”
Arnold lives in Elmira, New York with his wife, two sons, and two cats, all of whom may appear in his stories or artwork. He collects old coins and even has some pennies from the days of Robin Hood, and one coin from King Arthur’s time. “I love to read. I just wish I could read faster. There isn’t enough time in the day to read as much as I would like. We have so many books in the house, I fear our floors are sagging. I love the library, but I love to own the books even more.”
Arnold’s favorite characters are Green Wilma and Huggly. “I guess because they’re green. And being green in a people world ain’t easy, as Kermit [the Frog] knows.” When one of Arnold’s books is first published, characters like Green Wilma and Huggly are real to him, but in a distant way. “As I visit schools and do readings, the characters become more and more—not just real—but ALIVE because I see them living in the minds of the children.”