I understand that you began designing Gloomy Bear on postcards. Where did Gloomy Bear come from?
When I was a retained illustrator for a recruitment magazine, I was asked to draw a little girl holding a cute bear. I did it because it was my job, but I was thinking, “Bears aren’t really cute and cuddly...” and I doodled a small picture of a bear attacking a boy on the side. This eventually became Gloomy.
What is the story of Gloomy Bear? What is the message of this character?
If anyone really ran into a bear, they’d be terrified, right? If a real bear wandered into town, it would probably be shot. But in stuffed animal form, bears somehow become cute and cuddly. The same bear that we’d usually fear and kill. I convey the humor in this contradiction. There’s also the unfortunate fact that animals age faster than humans. I’ve always had pet dogs and cats, but they’ve all died. When the boy Pity finds Gloomy, he was still a baby bear. Another message I want to convey is that abusing animals is just as bad as abusing children who are unable to defend themselves. There are many messages within the Gloomy story and I can’t name them all, but each reader will probably understand it in his own way, which is the best way.