Thursday, December 15, 2011

Children's Book Illustrators Show at Chemers Gallery

Every year I look forward to the exhibition of original work by top children’s book illustrators at the Chemers Gallery in Tustin. It was doubly wonderful that the artists whose work is being shown were on hand on the first day of the exhibit -- to speak, to demonstrate their techniques, and to sign their books.

This year’s talented artists were Raul Colon, Mary GrandPre, Elisa Kleven, Robin Preiss Glasser, and Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.


I particularly enjoyed hearing Raul Colon describe his distinctive style, which involves many layers of watercolor washes and colored pencils on Arches watercolor paper. He also described how he makes his signature wavy lines in his illustrations with a favorite scratchboard tool.  Also fascinating was the workbook he shared with us.  In it he has experimented with various color combinations, studies of favorite artists’ palettes and recipes for his own color palette for projects he has done, complete with tiny notations of which colors were layered over which to achieve a particular glowing color.


I’m embarrassed to admit I was unfamiliar with the work of Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher -- but now they are new favorites.  A talented and innovative husband and wife team of illustrators, they shared with us their unusual methods of collaboration.  Once they’ve agreed on a color palette, materials, and the effect they want to create, they both work on the same illustrations, passing them back and forth to add touches and details.  Each artist has their own strengths, and the combination of his art school training and her innovative ideas works well for them as a team.  The couple doesn’t always initially agree on how to approach an art project but have truly learned the art of compromise.  With exquisite results.


Mary GrandPre entertained us by telling us who -- including a couple of dogs -- had inspired the illustrations of characters in the Harry Potter books -- which included her 2 dogs.  She always chooses projects which are meaningful to her in some way, and said that illustrating a book was like being a movie director.  She likes to vary her style, between that associated with the look of her Harry Potter illustrations and her more sculptural geometric illustration designs, inspired by her love of African art.


Robin Preiss Glasser wanted to tell us that though everyone claims Fancy Nancy’s appearance must be patterned after their own daughter or granddaughter or some other person known to them, actually the real inspiration for the look of little Nancy is her own niece, Jessie.  She spoke of her illustration schedule, which is usually from the hours of 4 p.m. until 2 or 3 a.m.


Elisa Kleven is known for her charmingly childlike illustrations and she spoke of the childhood realization she wanted to be an artist, and of her love of paper dolls and dolls which have resulted in several delightful picture books. Her desire, she said, was to take dreams and visions and to share them.  She drew several examples of her distinctive and delightful little characters.

The exhibit runs through Saturday.  I hope to get back to see the wonderful illustrations again!  And I can't wait to see who Chemers invites next year.......

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