In Department of Design, Faculty and Staff

David Habben and his book “Mr. Sherman’s Cloud,” which is now available in stores. (Alyssa Lyman)

Everyone has a bad day once in a while, but design professor David Habben’s newest children’s book “Mr. Sherman’s Cloud” takes a look at how those bad days can be turned around.

Habben, who goes by the pen name HABBENINK, hopes the book will help people walk away with a new perspective on how to handle difficulties in life and open up discussions about mental health.

“I wanted to put an emphasis on the need for us to control our responses to challenges in life,” said Habben. “Even if we have a time in our life where we feel like there’s a storm cloud above us, in the end it can work out. It will be okay.”

He continued, “We talk about mental health issues and how we need to be more vocal about them and avoid creating a stigma around having a dark time in life. I wanted this story to speak to the idea that we’re not alone in our journey and we can be honest about the fact that we’re having a rough day and allow other people into our lives to help us resolve that in whatever way it needs to be resolved.”

The original inspiration for the book was one of Habben’s sketches that features a man huddled under a rain cloud. The idea to turn the sketch into a book was born when a publisher approached Habben after seeing his work online.

“It’s the phone call every artist hopes to get as often as they can,” said Habben of the experience. “It feels great.”

Although Habben has illustrated various children’s books, “Mr. Sherman’s Cloud” is the first book he has both authored and wrote.

“There’s something nice about being able to craft a story that says what you want it to say and matching your story with the illustration style that you like to do,” said Habben. “A lot of times for illustrators, there’s another party involved, like an art director, that’s putting everything together. It’s nice to tell your own story in your own way.”

While characteristic of Habben’s trademark fantastical style, the book also introduces some new stylistic elements that came about during Habben’s latest stylistic shift. His current style focuses on finding a balance between reality and the abstract.

“I think every artist should try to speak their own truth,” said Habben. “For me, the way I look at the world, there’s a lot of ambiguity and ridiculous things that go on. I try to approach some of that in the way I make art. If I draw something too exact, it feels less accurate in a way; it doesn’t express the true nature of something. The more I allow my interpretation to come through, the more I’m being truthful about my own perspective.”

For Habben, his colorful approach to art is a way of putting a positive spin on the difficult aspects of life — something he hopes comes through in the book.

“You can’t take everything so seriously to the point that it becomes a negative part of your life,” said Habben. “I hope people get the sense that they can overcome a bad day and get a better perspective. I want it to help people. I want them to connect with the book in a way that helps them feel positive and make progress in their own lives.”

Habben will be holding a book signing at The King’s English in Salt Lake City on May 18 at 11 a.m. For more information about Habben’s other upcoming events and new work, follow him on social media @HABBENINK.

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css.phpJessica Zurcher, BYU Communications