Picture books are my comfort food.

A Hole is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. This was Sendak's first big break into children's illustration they say.

Picture books are probably responsible for my art career. I grew up with Little Golden Books my mom bought at the grocery store, (The Musicians of Bremen was a favorite) and other well-used books kept on the shelf in the bedroom I shared with my sister Leslie. Guess what, she is a children’s book illustrator now, fancy that! (Peepsqueak! by Leslie Clark, Harper Collins, 2012.) If you grew up as I did in the era of black-and-white television, followed by the breakthrough of Disney shows in COLOR, you might understand the huge impact simple (often library loaned) picture books had upon kids like me.

Maurice Sendak’s illustrations in A Hole is to Dig just captivated me, and they still do. His drawings are charming and a little primitive in the best way. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on the early Peanuts cartoon paperback collections by Charles Schultz,  you will know what I mean. The early Peanuts characters also had the same sweetness before they were honed by the master. Just look at Snoopy in this drawing!

Peanuts book cover

When we were kids, our family drove from Denver to Iowa and Chicago in the summers in our Chevy wagon. My Uncle loaned us his big collection of Peanuts paperback books to help keep us occupied in the car. (Yes, sounds like the dinosaur age.) When a kid is entertained for hours, reading picture books over and over, something sinks in.

When I spoke with illustrator Bernie Fuchs at my portfolio review at Asilomar, one of his comments struck me. My early portfolio was mostly children’s illustration from imagination. He said, “I don’t think I could ever just create illustrations out of my head.” He worked from photographs as did many of his peers. I learned to do the same, when I went back to school for my BFA.  Photography became a valuable tool, but later I discovered it was not for becoming a great illustrator in the fading, but magical style of that day.

I grew up with drawing from imagination. I absorbed the world of children’s illustration, movies, animation and everything available to a middle class kid in 1950’s and 60’s America. I’m glad my “comfort food” comes out of that culture.

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