IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Village Man was my first children’s illustration. It was not published in a book, but matted and hung in a child’s bedroom. My son was two years old at the time, and my second child was on the way. I was just starting out as an illustrator, and aspired to do children’s books, so I thought – why not practice illustrating for children while also decorating my children’s bedrooms?
The result was a whole series of prototypes – whimsical gouache paintings titled, as a series, “Bright Spirit”. Village Man was the first. Hand-painted borders on the mats added to the charm, and soon I was selling them through a local giftshop, The Sweetheart Gallery in Woodstock, NY. I sold dozens of these paintings, many of them the same design, but each one painted in a slightly different way. My figures were multiracial – often with green or purple skin – and dressed in fanciful ways. I contrasted washy, transparent areas – such as the man’s body and the sky – with solid, opaque areas – such as his hat, face, hands, and shoes.
Village Man was followed by other children’s paintings, such as Mountain Woman, River of Laughter, and Kiddie Totem. I shot 35mm slides of these paintings before I sold them, and soon I had a portfolio of children’s art.
At the time, I was studying Jungian dream analysis with a mentor and Jungian analyist in Rye, NY – my dear octogenarian friend Winifred. One day I brought her a dream that she could not understand, and she referred me to her mentor: accomplished Jungian analyst and author Jan Perkins. To better understand my dream, Jan asked to see my artwork. When I showed him my “Bright Spirit” slides, he offered to put me in touch with his wife, who was then the editor-in-chief at Holiday House Publishing in NY. Holiday House is one of the last independent children’s book publishers, owned by Kate & John Briggs, who encompass in their books the kind of values I wanted to teach my own kids. I was proud to join their team of authors and illustrators.
My first picture book, What’s Maggie Up To?, published a year later as my second child was born, was based on one of my “Bright Spirit” paintings. I painted the art with my newborn daughter nursing in my lap. Ten more books with Holiday House followed – eight of them written by Emery Bernhard, my ex-husband – before we branched out to work with other publishers. I remember those books fondly.
Wishing you a good week,