Up Close and Personal: The Original Art

Tonight – yes, I’m officially that girl, I don’t have a pet, I feed the blog. I think about it as I traipse up the stairs. I carefully unlock the bolt to my front door and tip-toe down the hallway, depositing my cocktail dress on the floor, I step over my watercolor block tower. I head for my laptop and stare into it’s big round eyes.

“Feed me,” it implores — which brings us to tonight…

This evening my artsy friend – Head Cheerleader/Monday Motivator, Sandra and I snuck away from our art at 5:30 in the pm – yes before the sun went down! Sorry art.We met on the crossroads, where I transcend the worries of this world and all cares melt away – nestled between Park and Lexington – a fortress of solitude,
The Society of Illustrators.

I scored two tickets to their most important event of the year – well as far as I’m concerned,
The Original Art Show opening.
illustration by Kadir Nelson
All your questions will be answered at the Society.

If you are like “Ick. Words.” I will try to make it less painful –

The Original Art show kicks the trash of the majority of gallery shows. It is expertly curated, flawlessly executed and something any illustrator should be desperate to see. The show features the fine art of some of the best children’s books published in America within the last year. Awards are given. Speeches are made. Hands are shook. Drawings are drooled over. Cocktails are drunk. Everyone is drunk. Oh and there are itty-bitty hamburgers. Don’t eat the wasabi buns. You might die.

I almost died multiple times tonight. I swooned over Sophie Blackall‘s Wombat Walkabout – written by Carol Diggory Shields.

Wombats in newspaper hats?! Genius.

I got choked up at the lonely little penguin who stares into an endless ocean in
Antoinette Portis‘ — “A Penguin Story.”
I can’t wait until I get to plop down and get comfy while I read about the plight of this chubby little fellow when I revisit the show under less packed wall to wall mingling.

I almost died laughing at the articulate expression Will Hillenbrand brings to his work with ‘Sleep Big Bear Sleep!” – written by Maureen Wright. This cover does not do justice to the original art – i wish you could see it opened up because when you look at the full cover as will painted it you so deeply appreciate his compositional genius. What a smarty pants, that Will!

A big part of the night was the acceptance speeches. Five awards are given annually – it’s a big deal. Like seriously. Big. Huge! I have to go shopping now.

This year Dr.Seuss was awarded the Posthumous Life Time achievement award. His art director accepted the award for him. She was so charming and witty. I hope that I get to work with someone who seems to ‘get it’ as much as she seemed to at some point in my career.

Chris Van Allsburg was at the society to accept his Contemporary Lifetime Achievement Award. He was so so different than I thought he would be. I push my Harry Potter specs up my nose and double check my pocket protector because yes, at some point in my life I decided what I thought Chris Van Allsburg would be like. Fly away little nerdbot, jump on the Polar Express out of your little nerd kingdom.

This year’s gold medal went to Kadir Nelson for his book, Coretta Scott. I didn’t know about this book before tonight’s show. Like all the books represented in the show there is one original painting from the book against a plain white wall. This is not my kind of book I can tell. I’m sure you can tell. This is so not She Sure is Sketchy style.
But. But. Man it pulls you in. It sits there on that wall and you realize you wish you knew this girl because she is so strong and so composed and that she’s been through something hard but now she is content. You get all that from the one illustration on a white wall pulled up in extreme close up portrait. and that is all from one illustration. Dang. that is good art, yo. Good art.

Brian Floca took home a silver medal for his book Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11. You should see this guy. You look him up and down and just add water – instant crush. So cute. So geeky. So adorable. I was too nervous to talk to him afterward but if I would have I’m sure he would have been drawn in by my vivacious hair tossing and intelligent witticisms. There we go again little nerdbot, what quaint little fantasies.

I read reviews for this book when it came out this year. I knew it was raved about. I love this whole science meets art thing, It’s why I’m an animator so I’m sure when I get the chance I’m going to fall for Moonshot. I’m really looking forward to reading this because it was raved about in my earshot all night, the illustrations I saw are forcible
, oh and this guy is hott.

Chicken Cheeks went home with a Silver Medal too. Kevin Hawkes‘ always funny sensibility saturated every page of this crowd pleaser with simple, strong, bold color. Looking at his original illustration I was awed by how wildly popular this book must be with the young’ins. I can just imagine pitching that book to the six year olds I used to focus group. They would have split their sides, “Sorry parents who signed release forms. All of your kids need to be sewn up. They’ve been looking at animal butts all morning and their little bodies just couldn’t handle the laughing.”

The founders award was given to a book I don’t even have to go back to the Society to look at before decide to squirrel it away in my personal collection. Harry and the Horsie is the first book illustrated by Lincoln Agnew. One glance and I was hooked.When it comes to the work of Bill Watterson I’m incredibly selfish. Mine. When I see his influence seeping into the work of my contemporaries I marvel at how they can even begin to know him like I know him or be influenced the way I’m influenced. I see the magic in Lincoln’s work and I just want to share the journey. I think Harry and the Horsie and I will be grand friends, but if they think they’re taking up Calvin and Hobbes‘ place of honor on my studio shelves they’ve got another thing coming. I’ll clear a spot next to Max and Ruby. While it’s not quite as prestigious an award as the founder’s it’s still a wild compliment.

I’ll be back at the show to really get up and fog up the glass every picture is framed behind in the coming weeks. Check back for more coverage, including a very important award show right here at She Sure is Sketchy.
listening to right this second: “Mad World ” — Alex Parks
I freaking love this cover.

2 replies »

  1. Amber-girl….this is AWESOME!!! You are AWESOME!!! I read every link and every highlight. You should be a NYT art critic, but better! Oh…I am pea=green. How did you score these tkts? It is better than BROADWAY and so inspiring. P to the S…Can you get me tickets next year and will you be there in frames???

  2. sigh I am also a lovely shade of green right now, tucked safely away here over 2000 miles away from the whole thing. I hope you are able to appropriately fog up all that glass enough for the rest of us in your upcoming visits. Thanks for sharing such an amazing experience. Wow.

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