Talented California artist and illustrator Susan Sorrell Hill reports to us today about a recent pilgrimage she made across the country to meet an artist she admires very much. When she learned that Austrian children’s book illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger would be at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Ma. for the opening of a retrospective of her work, she knew she’d  have to go. It was as simple as that.

Lisbeth Zwerger's cover for "The Nutcracker"

Susan agreed even before she made the trip  to cover the event for us.  After you read her account,  I’m sure you’ll want to visit her own rich blog and see her paintings on her online gallery.

We’ve  been hitting the children’s book art illustration museums pretty hard, lately.  In the last post (scroll down) we featured the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature and the gorgeous SCBWI “Golden Kite Golden Dreams” show.  Both  facilities perform an outstanding service in their celebration and exploration of children’s book illustration as fine art.

Enjoy her report on meeting one of the world’s beloved illustrators — and spending those couple of magical days at the extraordinary Eric Carle Museum.

Last week I wrote about my impending trip to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for the Lisbeth Zwerger exhibition. This 40,000 square-foot museum “is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art, conceived and built with the aim of celebrating the art that we are first exposed to as children.” Now that I am on the other side of my four-day, whirlwind cross-country visit, I can hardly believe it happened… Like a dream, it was wonderful and over all-too-soon…

Lisbeth signs my books.

The Museum sits in the middle of the lush New England countryside, quietly echoing large traditional barns and silos with its contemporary architecture which is also reminiscent of Eric Carle’s illustration… bold, balanced, inviting, simple yet monumental. Beautiful stone paving leads to heavy plate-glass doors opening onto the wide, light and airy Great Hall from which the large Auditorium, Art Studio, Shop, Library, Cafe and three galleries branch off. During the Members event on opening night, a grand piano in the Great Hall entertained browsing guests who sipped wine and nibbled appetizers. The Hall is also where a very long line of admirers stood patiently waiting to have their books signed by Lisbeth.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

It would be hard to say too many nice things about the Museum… it is an inspired, well-planned  and holistic peek into the world of the picture book. From the extensive library where children of all ages can browse published books in a cosy setting… to the well-stocked Shop which specializes in award-winning picture books, as well as cards and wonderful gift items… to the Cafe with its healthy snacks (Animal Crackers!!) and friendly welcome to guests who bring their own picnics… to the Auditorium which hosts prominent guest speakers, films, and performances of various sorts all related to the picture book… and finally to the three gorgeous galleries themselves.

The Art Studio

The galleries are surely the heart of the Eric Carle Museum… one could easily imagine oneself to be in a wing of the Metropolitan. The work is beautifully matted, framed and hung, the lights are kept low to protect the longevity of the artwork, and there is plenty of information given about each illustration, including copies of the artists’ published books to browse through. The three galleries rotate shows featuring the Museum’s own collection of Eric Carle’s prolific and endearing work, as well as the works of other notable artists (Leo Leoni‘s illustration for his book, Geraldine, the Music Mouse is on view in The Central Gallery.). An Exquisite Vision: the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger will be showing in The East Gallery until September 26th. Photographs are not allowed within the galleries to protect the illustrations, but below is a view from the lobby looking through glass doors to the gallery entrances and a view of the West Gallery from the Museum’s website.

Entrance to the gallery wings.

The West Gallery

Viewing Lisbeth’s exhibition, I was reminded of another artist’s comment recalling the first time she saw Lisbeth’s illustration years ago: “I think I stopped breathing for a moment.” It was much the same experience, walking into a gallery where approximately eighty-five original watercolor paintings hung one after another in their overwhelming, delicate and masterful glory. The paintings themselves spanned the full range of Lisbeth’s illustration career… from early, unpublished work to several from her newest book, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, (available in English from Amazon.com in October, unless you happened to be one of the lucky few who got one this last weekend at the exhibit). The paintings selected by Lisbeth and the Museum’s Curator represent virtually all of her thirty-plus books in print, and although there has been a definite shift in style, Lisbeth’s brilliant illustrative approach and virtuoso technique is consistently apparent throughout. It is hard not to be slack-jawed with awe.

The Museum’s Curator, Lisbeth Zwerger and her publisher, Michael Neugebauer… Arthur Rackham on the screen.

But Lisbeth herself, who was applauded with great admiration before and after speaking at length both days about her illustration and career,  is warm and down-to-earth. She is clearly very serious about her work, but has a sense of humor, sophistication and wit in person that echos her  approach to illustration.

While I am on the subject of friendly, I would like to say that all of the folks from The Eric Carle Museum that I have had the pleasure to interact with have been so very nice, really far beyond a basic good public interaction… Sandy, Jenny, Rebecca, Motoko, Nick… you know who you are…

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the surprise announcement made by Zwerger’s publisher, Michael Neugebauer (Minedition). Keeping just a few favorites, he will donate his large personal collection of Lisbeth Zwerger originals to the Museum. Having just flown in from the printer in China with a suitcase full of hot-off-the-press exhibition catalogs and Pied Pipers, he looked tired but pleased to be offering his magnanimous gift.

Several hundred people came Saturday evening and again on Sunday to hear Lisbeth speak.The Member’s evening was also attended by a number of well-known names in the children’s literature world… among them were Etienne Delessert (who will have an exhibition at the Museum next year, February 8 – June 5, 2011), Leonard S. Marcus, Maria Tatar, and Jerry Pinkney. On Sunday, I also had the pleasure of meeting illustrator Barbara Lehman.

Reading the new exhibition catalog, “Lisbeth Zwerger: The World of Imagination,” which has many more words about Lisbeth’s long career than did the first catalog, The Art of Lisbeth Zwerger, it would be tempting to think that her steady rise to fame has been all luck and synchronicity. But seeing so many of her beautiful originals, and being a watercolor painter myself, I know that the work of any illustrator always comes back to the moment-by-moment dance and hard work between the artist, the story, the materials and the artist’s vision. When all of this is done well, anything else is just well-deserved gravy over the artist’s simple desire to do her personal best… and “to please herself,” as Lisbeth says. Lisbeth, my dear, I am passing you the gravy boat…

Me & Lisbeth at the Eric Carle Museum

All in all, I am so happy (and fortunate) to have traveled from California to Massachusetts for this exhibition. I came home very full. Every time I think of the beautiful, lush New England countryside and Lisbeth’s exceptional art, I will remember (with a smile) Lisbeth’s note in The Wizard of Oz, “…green is my favorite color…”

It’s time for the quiz!

Question: Where can you see a bunny hopping by green, green hedges next to a world-class contemporary art museum, make some fun art, purchase award-winning picture books, get a tatoo of The Hungry Caterpillar, eat Animal Crackers, meet well-known illustrators and see beautiful, delightful and memorable original children’s book illustration… all in one day?

Answer: The Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. For a wonderful Virtual Tour of the Museum, click here.

Lisbeth Zwerger

Famous photo of Lisbeth Zwerger

Read a brief discussion of  Zwerger’s work and a few reviews of her books  from the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database.

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SCBWI Summer Conference

Portfolio Showcase 2009 - SCBWI International Summer Conference - photo courtesy of Priscilla Burris

SCBWI International Summer Conference, LA  — up to the minute coverage you don’t want to miss:

Austin SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor Carmen Oliver’s delightful daily coverage in her blog, Following My Dreams One Word at a Time

Update stream direct from the tweets of all those members attending the conference!

The Official SCBWI Conference Blog (team blog coverage from the floor, led by Alice Pope)

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August 14-15 weekend  watercolor workshop

Mark Mitchell is scheduled to teach a weekend workshop on drawing and painting for Children’s Book Illustration at the Art School of the Austin Museum of Art in Austin, Texas August 14-15.

Painting and color use is an important skill set to demonstrate if you want an art director or editor to consider using your story illustrations. This class is an introduction to watercolor painting techniques – as applied to different kinds of illustrations for children. On Sunday, students will work on bringing their own original illustrations to full color finish.  Saturday Aug. 14, 9 to 4  and Sunday Aug 15,  1 to 4.  For details or to register call the Art School at (512) 323-638o or e-mail artschoo@amoa.org

The Art School is located at the AMOA Laguna Gloria campus at 3809 West 35th Street
Austin, Texas  78703.

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Art Director/Editor Day – Sept. 25th in Arlington!

Check out this all-star cast! Scholastic art director Elizabeth Parisi, author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Scholastic assistant editor Mallory Kass, and illustrator/author Priscilla Burris will be presenting, manuscript critiquing, and portfolio reviewing. The conference fee for this North Texas SCBWI chapter one day event  is a mere $65.00. Incredible! And, amazingly, there are several spaces available! Unbelievable!!

For more information contact RA George Hellstren at hellstgf@yahoo.com. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your fine work considered by some of the best publishing professionals in the country!

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Austin SCBWI – Picture Perfect! A spit-polish picture book workshop featuring author Lisa Wheeler and illustrators Don Tate and Laura Jennings

Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 9th when our Chapter will meet at beautiful St. Edwards University’s Fleck Hall in rooms 305, 306, and 307 to enjoy an incredible day at the page. The focus of this one-day workshop is to hone the skills required to spit-polish your fine manuscripts and illustrations to radiant perfection. We have gathered a fabulous team of highly successful illustrators and authors who, through presentations and/or valuable one-on-one critiques or portfolio reviews, will generously share their tips for publishing success!

The Presentation/Review Team includes:

  • Lisa Wheeler has written 17 books for children. Her most recent picture book for Atheneum is the hilarious Castaway Cats, illustrated by Ponder Gombel. Learn more about Lisa on her website at www.lisawheelerbooks.com.
  • Sarah Sullivan who has written three picture books. Her latest, Passing Music Down, published by Candlewick is forthcoming very soon. Learn more about Sarah on her website at www.sarahsullivanbooks.com.
  • Stephanie Greene  is a master of the series chapter book. Stephanie has written the Moose and Hildy and Owen Foote series, several middle-grade novels, has earned Horn Book’s coveted starred review for her latest…Happy Birthday Sophie Hartley. Learn more about Stephanie at www.stephaniegreenebooks.com.
  • Don Tate who is an illustrator of children’s books and educational products. His background includes illustration as well as graphic design in the areas of advertising, educational publishing, and visual journalism. Learn more about Don at www.dontate.com.
  • Laura Jennings who is a freelance illustrator living in Austin, Texas.

Download the promotional brochure listing affordable fee scale, schedule of events, and portfolio and manuscript review information. Click here for the Picture Perfect Workshop brochure.

Note that reservation spaces for one-on-one manuscript and portfolio reviews are limited. Sign up right away to assure a spot!

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Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators features Carus senior art director Karen Kohn

PSIcon is set for September 25, 2010 at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, Oakdale, PA. Keynote speaker is Karen Kohn, Senior Art Director at Carus Publishing Company, publishers of Cricket, Ask and Ladybug. Karen will speak about the various types of illustration styles their publications look for as well as new developed apps soon to be released. Karen often finds new illustration talent to use throughout the publications from speaking engagements. She’ll be reviewing portfolios as well. Six additional industry-wide speakers are planned.

The one day conference is 8 am – 6 pm. It will be valuable to all levels of experience. Seasoned professionals and young talent alike will benefit. Light breakfast and lunch included.

Continue to check for updates on PSI’s website at: http://www.pittsburghillustrators.org/

Facebookers can “like” the PSIcon page and follow updates at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/…ence/145248678824986

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Presenting Power Color

We’ve added Power Color: Creating Perfect Palettes for your Pictures to our catalog. Don’t be afraid of  ‘mud’ anymore in your paintings. —  Mark Mitchell

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