Saturday I attended the annual Chemers Gallery Children's Book Illustrators Show and Signing in Tustin. The show included demonstrations and a display of books and original art by five exceptional illustrators, working in various styles and mediums.
I was particularly excited about the inclusion this year of one of my most favorite ‘illustrator-idols’, the master illustrator Gennady Spirin, who came with his son Ilya (also an illustrator) as translator. Illustrators always want to know details of artists' processes and mediums, so it was gratifying when Gennady answered questions from the audience. We learned he does his gorgeously detailed, often quite small, paintings without a magnifying glass. He doesn’t even wear glasses, ‘thanks be to God’. He uses all mediums but prefers watercolor, especially for illustrating books. He has every imaginable size of brush and prefers Russian sable, which he says will last him through two books whereas other brushes will only last through two paintings. He likes Windsor and Newton paints, but also uses Russian watercolors (though they have fewer color choices).
Who inspires him? So many artists he couldn’t pick just one, but certainly the Renaissance masters. About his beautiful, graceful calligraphy, he feels it’s part of his art. He has designed most of the title calligraphy for his books. He professed dissatisfaction with all his body of work. He enjoys the process, but he always wants to do better and better and grow as an artist.
Of course original illustrations are always better than the work in print. Gennady Spirin’s originals are breathtaking.
The gallery exhibit and sale continue through December 18.