In an effort to become more comfortable with talking about my work, I thought I would write a blog series on what inspires and informs it. Over the next few months, I will highlight some of my influences and inspirations. This month I will go back to where my love of art began. My beloved children’s books.
One of my favorite books growing up was one I never owned. I did however check it out at my local library over and over. The story takes place on a shimmery blue coast, surrounded by cliffs, and centered around a very special selkie. Part woman, part seal. That alone was all I needed to love it.
Based in Scottish and English folklore, the book is The Seal Mother by Mordicai Gerstein. He wrote and illustrated the book in 1986. Little did he know that his book was so beloved by little me that I checked it out repeatedly, and on several occasions plotted stealing the book. I could never commit such a crime, and adult me did the reasonable thing: stalked the internet until I found a copy to call mine.
I began to think about the story, and what I loved about it. I believe it was partly due to the main character being a woman who was half marine animal (thank you The Little Mermaid), but the other reason was the beautiful illustrations. I loved the blues and greens. I loved the moonlight colored seals with their spots. I loved the use of light (moon, sun, and lamp). I loved the cliffs and coast. Most of all, I loved the underwater scene with all the sea’s inhabitants swimming around a glowing castle. There were unicorn whales, schools of flying fish, sea horses, and sea cows. It was magical.
It was a story I escaped into. To this day it is one of my absolute favorites. When I feel adrift in my work, I like to turn to my collection of children’s books. It is not only the illustration, but the comfort they bring. My collection brings me back to where my love of art started: in the illustrated pages of my favorite stories.
Anything with anthropomorphism or folklore was a winner. I loved Beatrix Potter, Richard Scarry, Maurice Sendak, James Marshall (fox books specifically), Barbara Cooney, Edward Gorey, and many more. It is interesting to look back at my favorite illustrations, and compare them to my own work. Little influences creep in, but I cannot see it until I step back.
There is endless inspiration in books. The covers, end papers, gilded designs along the spine, or little drawings added by a previous reader. Holding a book, feeling the weight and the texture of the paper, and studying the illustrations is an inspiring place to begin researching, and forming ideas.
I may address in a later month some influences like manga in my teens, or the illustrated books I have discovered as an adult (such as reprints of classics with modern artwork by The Folio Society).
- A selection of my original works will be on view at It’s the Little Things in West Columbia, South Carolina throughout the month of March.
- One of my original collages will be up for auction in late March at the University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery’s 63rd Art Auction. Portion of the proceeds directly funds the University of South Carolina Art Scholarship and Gallery Fund.
“If something doesn’t creep into a drawing that you’re not prepared for, you might as well not have drawn it.” – Edward Gorey