Monday, December 12, 2016

Hidden Gem in NYC: The Society of Illustrators

I am a Queens native and still very much have the Queens in me.  I look at my pictures of my class from PS 117 and see how diverse and wonderful each student was and also think, "How did our teachers ever teach us with nearly 40 in a class?!"  I love how FaceBook has connected me with my early friends now way over 30 years later.

When I was in school in the 70s and 80s, we would take field trips frequently to the cultural mecca of "the city" which was and always will be "Manhattan."  We went to The Met, MoMA, The Museum of Natural History, The Hayden Planetarium, NY Transit Museum (which I think was in Manhattan at the time), the Museum of the City of New York,  and I'm sure more.  With my Mom I went to the theatre often with any excuse in the book ("Oh, you got a 100 on a test, let's go to the theatre!" and with my Dad we celebrated every birthday by visiting a tourist attraction with my friends.  But until last Monday, I had never been to The Society of Illustrators and had no idea what a treat I was in for!

The Society of Illustrators is at 128 East 63rd Street

There was a special event for librarians only but I was lucky enough to bring my art teacher, Suzanne, along because she and I have plans to open a "gallery" in my library in the spring in honor of an illustrator visiting us who just happens to be one of the silver medal winners of "The Original Art 2016" Show that we were there for!  Hmmm....could Daniel Miyares be visiting Castleton Elementary School in May?

The Original Art show is amazing and a must see for any librarian, classroom teacher, art teacher, parent, really anyone interested in original illustration art.  This year it is original artwork from 132 of the best books chosen by a panel of illustrators, authors, and art directors.  Imagine this.  You love a book so much.  You have read it to yourself a dozen times and share it with students a dozen more. You have visited the illustrator's website.  You have talked about the book with others.  And now, you can see a piece of artwork from that special book up close and personal. Not only that, if you are able to attend a gallery talk like we did last week, you can even hear more about the details of the artwork. Pinch me.  I felt like I was in librarian heaven.

AND on top of all that, at last week's event we got to listen to and meet three illustrators from the show: Sergio Ruzzier, Mike Curato and Nancy Carpenter.  What a treat. They each talked about their process.

Sergio went first.  Originally from Milan, he has been here since 1995.  He shares a studio with some remarkable artists in Brooklyn (remember John Bemelmans Marciano and Sophie Blackall?).  Interesting fact about Sergio:  we found out that he never owned a sketch book.  This is Not a Picture Book is on my Mock Geisel for this year. Stay tuned.

Next up was Nancy.

She showed us a picture of her studio and desk and pointed out a piece of her own artwork hanging up.  "I put up my own artwork to remind myself that I can do this."  I love that. She also shared that "the mistakes I make are where the magic is."  I found the video that Nancy shared with us showing her process. Truly amazing:

We learned from Mike Curato's presentation that "mint is the answer to everything!"  Be sure and check out where the mint pops out in Little Elliot, Big Fun.

Q and A with the artists

I cannot believe I am holding my book backwards!

I took a bunch of notes during our gallery talk (I was in Martha Rago's group and the quotes are hers). It was all so enlightening and inspiring.  These are just some of the highlights of things I loved that were brought to my attention and I hope I bring to yours the next time you pick up one of these books:

Freedom in Congo Square by R. Gregory Christie
" an Alvin Ailey performance..."

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Long and illustrated by Raul Colon

"Van Gogh-ish"

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julie Denos
I particularly took note of this book because the character creates a "symphony of color" and wondered how I might be able to collaborate with my music teacher...
"feels very spontaneous" 
5 Little Ducks by Denise Fleming
Martha encouraged us to visit Denise's website and wow!  Lots of great resources and information there, including the book trailer for 5 Little Ducks:

Denise uses paper pulp to make her unique and beautiful illustrations.  You can learn so much more when you visit her website.

Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora

We love this book for our Mock Geisel project and it was lovely to see the artwork up close.  Martha put it so well when she said it is,
"very accessible and understandable and that simplicity works."

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet
Omg.  This was amazing.  Melissa created dioramas for her artwork and then photographed them.  You can't even describe it in words so you'll just have to go to the exhibit to see it in person.  As Martha put it, 
"The artwork, you just want to pour over it."

The Secret Subway by Shana Corey and illustrated by Red Nose Studio

This book is on my Newbery list and will be on my Sibert list.  We love Shana (and she also just happens to be Chris Grabenstein's editor--small world) and the illustrations are incredible.  They are hand built 3-D sets that are created first and then photographed.  Remarkable.

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel
I have fallen hard for this book and shared it with many classes along with Emily Arrow's song. 

Then to see the original artwork of the full page cat. Wow.  Here's what Martha said, 

"The story is about perception...he changes technique for each point of view."

I want you to know that ALL the artwork in the exhibit was incredible and it was so wonderful to see work by people I have met and some who even took a leap with me in the past (Brian Biggs*, Ashley Bryant, Sophie Blackall*, Lauren Castillo*, Matthew Cordell*, Jon Klassen, Steve Light, Zachariah OHora*, Greg Pizzoli, Sean Qualls,* Christian Robinson, Dan Santat*)

*They took the LEAP!

And speaking of Sophie Blackall (we were, right?) Suzanne and I walked by the MoMA Design Store so we could see Sophie's window.  I was in awe. I'd love to know the process behind that.  Then we went into the store and Sophie's work is inside as well.  It's worth the trip to 53rd Street.

Then Sophie surprised us all and came to gallery!  So exciting!

Sophie and Suzanne

Suzanne and I got home close to midnight but it was worth every tired minute the rest of the week.  That's why it took me this long to post about the event.  So the next time you are on the Upper East Side or anywhere near there or need an excuse to go to the city (do you really?), put the Society of Illustrators on your list.  You will not regret it.

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