Alison Garwood Jones

Ian Falconer, Olivia’s Dad

March 24, 2023

My insides dropped a thousand feet when I heard that Ian Falconer, the set designer and father of Olivia the pig, died on March 7. He was only 63.

Falconer created Olivia in his tiny West Village studio apartment back in the late 1990s. It was a tribute to his new niece with the little pug nose and the determined spirit.

A few years later, when a jittery Falconer presented his drawings to a children’s literary agent on Madison Avenue, she nodded and said, “I like them … but she’s not Eloise. She’s not Eloise” (twice in case he didn’t hear her the first time).

The agent proposed that Falconer turn his drawings over to a professional author who would pen a new story. Falconer was dismayed. He thanked her and left. By now, his nervous energy was off the charts. All I knew was that I couldn’t bear to give Olivia up, he said.

If any of you would like to hear a wonderful interview with Falconer, I consider this the definitive sit down: His May 8, 2014 conversation with Jessica Harris on NPR’s “From Scratch.”

Harris, without asking what Ian’s inspirations were (Worst. Question. Ever), managed to pull from him a full bouquet of inspirations. For example, I learned that he drew Olivia in charcoal (I’m not a fan of charcoal, but now I’m not so sure … I mean, look how sensitive it is!!). Then he smudged the charcoal with women’s makeup sponges and cotton swabs. In a final splash, he dressed Olivia in red gouache dresses and maillots, with the occasional fisherman’s stripe for some extra zing. He layered shadows on top of the gouache using more smudged charcoal. To protect his creation, he locked the lines in place with hair spray.

Tribute to Ian Falconer's Olivia

Ian has inspired me to try something different than my usual Uniball pen and watercolour. It turns out, I have all the art and beauty supplies on hand, right down to the eyeliner sponges. I never use these on my face. I’d rather smudge up a pig!

We’ll always remember you, Ian!




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