Spring began with a visit to Bill Thomson’s Connecticut studio. Thomson illustrated Karate Hour, Baseball Hour, and Building with Dad; Chalk and Fossil (due autumn 2013) are his own wordless picture books in a projected trilogy that will explore facets of the creative process. He is Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford’s Art School and has frequently been exhibited in The Society of Illustrators’ annual show. Thomson’s fastidious artistic process results in 7-10,000 reference shots from live models, from which he then spends 70-100 hours painting each illustration. He demonstrated how, dissatisfied with the backbone of a rubber dinosaur to be used in Chalk, he photographed a gangly adolescent neighbor’s bony spine, then digitally manipulated it to become the dinosaur’s back!
We traveled to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Hadley, MA for the program, Remembering Maurice Sendak with Michael Patrick Hearn and Arthur Yorinks, celebrating what would have been Sendak’s 85th birthday. Both men had been friends of Sendak’s, Hearn as an historian of children’s literature, Yorinks as associate artistic director of Sendak’s Night Kitchen: A National Children’s Theater. As they reminisced about Sendak other legendary names were mentioned. The presentation ended with an audio birthday card for Sendak, in the style of the Night Kitchen Radio Theater (founded by Yorinks), featuring characters from Sendak’s musical, “Really Rosie.”
We were later given a tour by Barbara Elleman of the exhibition, The Caldecott Medal: 75 Years of Distinguished Illustration. Elleman gave the reasoning for her choices representing the best in children’s illustration, given a limited amount of space. She then introduced Lawrence Webster, author of Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham. Ms. Webster spoke about her parents’ friendship with the husband/wife team that twice won the Caldecott, illustrated with a slide show.
Justin Schiller and Dennis David joined us for lunch at The Society of Illustrators in Manhattan, then gave us a tour of Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work. The exhibits— many previously unpublished—are from the personal collection of these children’s literature aficionados. The depth and breadth of Sendak’s talent is represented by lithographs, etchings, drawings, watercolors, and other media used for Op-Ed illustrations, theatrical props, posters, magazine covers, bookplates, textiles, murals …even a small cow (Sendak insisted he was an artist for children) for the first Cow Parade in Manhattan in 2000. Commercials made for Bell Atlantic ran on continuous loop in a small screening room.
On 23 June the ABCs broke new ground with a joint field trip with the New England chapter of the American Printing History Association to explore the riches of the Watkinson Library in Hartford, now part of Trinity College. Our gracious host, Rick Ring, had put several choice items on display for us, took us on a tour of the stacks, and even printed a keepsake for us. Rick expressed the hope of making the Watkinson a more visible and active participant in the book world and offered to host more such forays.