• Children’s book illustrator David Shannon started drawing early, but some of his works of art have not survived. He says, “I drew these great panoramic epic battle scenes around castles, but few of those survived because as each person got killed they got scribbled out, so you [w]ould end up with a whole bunch of scribbles.” Mr. Shannon is modest. He illustrated Jane Yolen’s The Ballad of the Pirate Queens, about two women who sailed as part of a pirate crew. Fellow children’s art illustrator Dilys Evans says about Mr. Shannon’s illustrations for this book, “Painted in acrylic, these pictures show David Shannon’s admiration for [famous illustrator] N.C. Wyeth, but at the same time they portray his own unmistakable form and palette.” Mr. Shannon’s reaction to this praise was to laugh and say, “Well, you can tell it’s David Shannon because it’s not as good as N.C. Wyeth.” Ms. Evans adds, “It’s this kind of instant humor and gentle humility that gives this illustrator the ability to tackle so many different kinds of stories with genuine enthusiasm.”
• As a kid, children’s book illustrator/author Patricia Polacco loved Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches the Egg, which is about an elephant sitting on an egg in a nest on a tiny limb of a tree and hatching it. Young Patricia was impressed that such a large animal as Horton could sit on such a tiny tree limb without breaking it. She says, “Then I started thinking … if Horton can sit on that skinny, little branch, then any elephant can, and that means I can!” She tried it in her grandfather’s small cherry tree — and ended up falling to the ground. By the way, young Patricia had an imaginary elephant as a playmate. The elephant’s name was Sweet Pea, and at meals Patricia’s family always had a chair at the table for Sweet Pea to sit on. Sweet Pea’s favorite book was also Horton Hatches the Egg. Today, Patricia says, “As the years have passed, I don’t see her as much anymore. I would imagine that she is charming some other youngster with her lumbering and gentle ways. I’ll bet they are reading Horton Hatches the Eggtogether!”
• Children’s book illustrator Pat Cummings got in trouble when she was a five-year-old girl growing up in Germany, where her military family was stationed. She saw several German-speaking girls get on a bus in her neighborhood. Although she didn’t speak German, she also got on the bus, and when the girls got off the bus, so did she. The girls then attended a dancing class, and young Pat went with them and tried to do what they were doing. At the end of the class, the dance instructor pinned a note on her blouse: “Please don’t send her back until she’s at least eight.” Pat got back on the bus, returned home, and discovered her mother frantically looking for her. Of course, Pat was grounded, but she got a good start on her future career by drawing pictures of ballerinas.
• Even when he was in the 2ndgrade, children’s book author/illustrator Tomie dePaola knew that he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. One day at school, he was excited because Mrs. Bowers was teaching an art class so that the children could learn to draw valentines decorated with daisies, violets, and roses. Following art came arithmetic. Young Tomie was supposed to copy arithmetic problems from the blackboard and solve them, but he used his paper to draw daisies, violets, and roses instead. Poor Tomie got into trouble when his teacher found out what he was doing even though he explained he was going to be an artist when he grew up and not an “arithmeticker.”
• African-American artist Palmer Hayden painted stories in his canvases. In Midnight at the Crossroads(created about 1940), Mr. Hayden shows an African-American boy holding a violin — which is too big for him — at a crossroads. In one direction are a church and no doubt other buildings and places familiar to the boy. However, the boy is looking down the other road, which curves and hides what is to come. Perhaps the boy in the painting is about to choose a road that leads into both the unknown and a future in which he can achieve aesthetically.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART
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