This book gives a wonderful insight into the working lives of some of the most lauded and beloved illustrators of children’s literature. Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Steven Kellogg, Rosemary Wells and others each share a letter about how they became an artist, a self-portrait, photos of their workspace, and artwork both past and present. If you enjoy the Creative Spaces interviews, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard Marcus
This book was published to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and profiles Robert McCloskey, Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, and David Weisner. The text covers a bit of each artist’s background and then a detailed account of the creation of one of their Caldecott winning works (most of these artists have won multiple Caldecott medals, and all of them have also received Caldecott Honors throughout their careers). The accompanying art shows the progression of the art from sketches and dummies to finished art.
The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz
I think this book may now be out of print, but I was able to find a used copy online. (And, of course, there’s always the library.) Jill Krementz is a photojournalist well known for her author portraits and this book offers portraits of close to 60 well-known writers in their workspace, accompanied by a short excerpt from each writer about their creative process. The introduction is written by John Updike.
The excerpts are brief, some straight-forward, some conversational, a few bizarre. The photos offer varied experiences. Sometimes you feel as if you are walking down a hallway past the writer’s room, catching them in a true moment of their day. Like Willie Morris who is caught mid-reach, boxes of clutter in the foreground, a cast-off magazine and papers at his feet, and a white cat huddled on the carpet. Some writers are obviously posed, a smile or stare directed at the camera. And others look deliberately staged, like Veronica Chambers sitting cross-legged on her kitchen counter typing on her laptop, which underscores a point she makes in her written excerpt. (Of course every photo is staged, really, as every writer must be aware of Jill Krementz there with her camera.)
The book is a wonderful tease because the photos and commentaries invite questions you won’t get answered. Did Eudora Welty always sit that far away from her typewriter? What are those papers Lewis Mumford has clipped to his wall? Was John Cheever really a two-pack a day smoker or had one of those packs been there for a while? (Or were they intentional props?) Is it coincidence that John Irving has on his desk a copy of Closing Time by Joseph Heller, another of the authors profiled?
But that’s the fun for me, the wondering more so than the answers, and my curiosity is raised with every turn of the page.