This past Saturday artist Dan Yaccarino gave a talk at my local art museum, which I had been looking forward to. He writes and illustrates the most delightful children's books. Many of the over fifty books he's written are award winning. As you can see he has a very inviting and colorful style very retro in feel, which is perhaps why I am so drawn to them.
He spoke to a nice size crowd that included lots of families but was diverse, too, in age range. He told us his talk would be similar to the sort he normally gives to schools and children's audiences. Apparently he had already spent time at a local elementary school (the same one my niece attended) as well as read some of his books to children at one or two of the different branches of my public library. This was his third day in Omaha and I'm glad he got at least one sunny (though still cool, sadly) day out of his visit.
Since it's picture books he creates, he had visuals to go along with his talk. A very articulate and well-spoken man he obviously enjoys what he does immensely and it shows in how he talks about his work. Judging by the laughter elicited from the younger members of the audience (and from the adults, too!), he has a very good sense of humor, which surely you must need to write children's books. There are adults (and I am sure I am one of them) who have forgotten what it's like to be a child, but I don't think he has--no doubt that's part of his success.
I wish I had taken notes, but I just wanted to sit back and enjoy listening to him, but I hope I can at least share a few impressions. In his slide show he shared photos of himself growing up, as well as his artwork from when he was very young. He said he's lucky as he's known from an early age on what he wanted to do when he grew up. He's always been creative and has nurtured and worked on his craft. He attended art school, changing and perfecting his style until it has become 'his' style.
He not only writes and illustrates books, but has illustrated the work of others, has had several cartoon series (including Oswald and Willa's Wild Life) and created a number of animated shorts. He showed us several 'excerpts' from his animation, which were all very cool. He said he loves drawing octopuses and has used members of his family, including his children, in his work.
It was interesting to see what his work process is like. He begins with sketches--smallish panels with each scene/page mapped out, which he may later cut apart and move around depending on how he decides to tell his story. The illustrations come first, since that's the focus of a picture book. He tries to tell as much of the story through those illustrations, and the things he can't convey through his paintings he sets down in words. The cover comes last as that is what is the initial eye-catcher. And I think his books are indeed very eye-catching. He works mainly in gouache because of the luminosity of the colors as well as watercolor. His last book published, however, he created through digital means.
After the talk he signed books. Actually he didn't just sign them, he illustrated them, too.
Yes, I gave in to temptation and added to my own collection. How could I pass up buying a signed book?
This is my favorite. It's from Kate and Nate Are Running Late by Kate Egan and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. I also brought home All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family, which is autobiographical (he said he was a little nervous about this one as it felt as if he was opening himself up to the world writing about his personal life), and Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, which he illustrated but was written by Carolyn Parkhurst.
And one more illustration to leave you with. This is from the back inside cover of All the Way to America. Can you tell he is inspired by those around him? A family portrait I suspect.
The Joslyn Art Museum has been running a whole series of exhibits of artists who do illustrations for children's books. Up next is Raul Colon and in the fall artwork from Dr. Suess's The Lorax will be on display. I'm looking forward to more new discoveries.