Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Duke, The Artist, and Fred

As a student, I spent a year studying English Country Houses at the University of Hull in England. During that time I ran across the slightly obscure, somewhat formulaic portrait of the Duke of Arundel by Daniel Mytens the Elder. It shows the Duke in front of a red drape, showing off his treasured collection of antique statuary. When I returned to the states I took an American Art History class and was was introduced to the self-portrait of yet another obscure historical figure, Charles Wilson Peale. C.W. would have, I argued in my term paper, been familiar with the Mytens, and had chosen his pose deliberatly hoping to associate himself with the Duke, who like him, spent fortunes in collecting. Apparently I wasn’t all that convincing, I believe I received a C. (That professor never did like me) But, years later, the images still stick. So to honor the Duke and Mr. Peale, here’s me and Fred. (I don’t have a fortune so collect neither art nor botanic speicimans, just characters)

Layers of Meaning

When I visit schools, I like to point out to students how many layers of meaning that kid’s books sometimes have. Art, whatever the genre, often references outside sources and imagery to add another dimension of meaning. In the book GRANDMOTHER HAVE THE ANGELS COME? Written by Denise Vega, the text shows a grandmother reassuring her granddaughter about the aging process. When I’d received the manuscript the line that stood out most for me was just after the child has asked the grandmother if the angels have come and covered her ears. “Yes, my darling granddaughter they have quieted the sounds so I may hear even the sigh of a butterfly.” For me, and in most cultures, the butterfly symbolizes rebirth. I’d known that in Mexico, the butterfly is often referenced in celebrations of as the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead). They are seen as a symbolic of departed loved ones souls. The famous monarch migration to Mexico is at about the same time as the holiday. I thought all these references tied in very nicely with Denise’s text, and was in line with my interpretation of her story. I set the book during the migrations and added butterflies to every spread, hoping to emphasize the imagery; it also has the added bonus of and giving children something to look for in each spread. For me these layers of meaning are important. Kids do pick them up, even if only subconsciously, often faster than the adults reading to them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy 75th Birthday Tomie dePaola!

Three Kisses: a tribute to Tomie dePaola
Source: threekissesfortomie.blogspot.com
On the occasion of Tomie dePaola's 75th birthday, the children's book community honors this living legend who has had 45 years in the business. Whether we grew up with his work or have worked alongside him, Tomie is an inspiration to us all. http://threekissesfortomie.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


One of the last jobs I had this past winter with long time art reps Tugeau 2 was a spread in LADYBUG for the poem , BEAT THE HEAT by Patricia Toht. I'd forgotten about the assignment, so was pleased when my daughter recognized it at the bookstore. It's appropriate too, considering the heat in Los Angeles this week.