Monday, June 25, 2012

Why don't you draw anymore?

When people learn that I started out as an illustrator they are surprised. Very few people who know me now don't know I can draw (and quite well sometimes if I do say so myself).

I started out wanting to be an illustrator of children's books. My mother and my aunt are born artists and always kept me well stocked with art supplies. It was always expected that I would be an artist in one form or another.

I studied art in college and even before I graduated I was pounding the pavement in NY to show my portfolio to publishers.

A few editors suggested I try to write my own books. I kept correcting them that I was an "artist" not a "writer". But after a while it started to sink in and my first book ever published was as an author and illustrator (Timothy and the Night Noises-you'll find it in all the best bargin bins if there are any left). I went on to publish about a dozen books and almost all were with my own stories and art. It was funny but I fell in love with the writing part and less so with the drawing itself!  The reason was that my books were always under horrendous deadlines. With a full time job I had to plow through the art to make my deadlines. It wasn't easy but I was happy people wanted my work. Illustrating is a very lonely business. Its you in a room with as few distractions as possible.

Of course I still had to work full time and the books seemed to take a back seat to my design career. When I rediscovered writing with Red Chair Press I had the chance to write for kids again. I loved it! But I had even more fun finding artists I loved to hire. They drew much better than I did and I tried to give them as much time as I could for them to do all the pictures.

But I have not given up being an artist at all. I'm a woodworker, painter, carver and anything else I want to try. Just the past weekend I finished building my own fence in the front of the house. The planning and work was just as rewarding as any illustration work I had done. And I still had the satisfaction of seeing the final product and knowing that I made it with my own hands. Creativity takes many forms.

Both my boys have the "gift" but when I push they shy away from it. I can only hope they they too will find their need to create no matter what form that takes place.


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  2. Having been an Illustrator is what makes you a wonderful art director. You always give the artist as much time as you can and trust them to have intelligent ideas.

  3. What a nice post. I knew you were multi-talented Jeff but I had no idea you published a dozen books! Like you, I majored in art and photography, but now I dream in excel sheets! It's comforting to know that if one is born with that creative gene, it will always find a way to come out, in often surprising ways.