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c. 1980 Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is giant.

In 1979, I was an art student at Humboldt State University (Arcata, California), majoring in graphic design and printmaking. Being a college town, Arcata was full of not only great restaurants and cafes, but also one of my favorite things: used book stores. One foggy day, I chanced upon a used copy of Cricket Magazine, featuring the work of the Austrian picture book illustrator, Lisbeth Zwerger. I was awstruck… and suddenly realized that I, too, saw the world through an illustrator’s eyes.

Shortly after, I put together a small portfolio and made the ‘inquiry letter’ image that you see above. I must have sent out a dozen or so inquiries, all containing this hand-painted xerox. As is typical in the publishing world, most of my inquiries came to nothing, but there were a few kind editors who replied with encouraging words, watering the seed of my dream of being an illustrator of books.

I am not sure what happened, but suffice to say that Life swept me away from that dream (with work, relationships, home, garden, and other forms of art), and it has been only in the last several years (which are now almost thirty years later) that I realize that the seed planted by seeing Lisbeth Zwerger’s work is still alive and well… and is ready to come to fruit now. I could, of course, look back at the intervening thirty years and think that I had wasted by time, but it is very clear to me that all of the ‘water under my bridge’ has lead directly to the timing of this fruition. Life is funny, isn’t it?

So it was with great joy that I recently received a small loan from friends to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts next weekend (which just by itself is an amazing place) to see the exhibition “An Exquisite Vision: the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger.” Lisbeth herself will open the exhibition with a talk and slideshow, and I will finally have the opportunity to see quite a lot of her paintings in their original form.

For any of you who might be tempted to attend this exhibit too, the show itself runs from June 29 – September 26, 2010, and Lisbeth’s public appearance will be on July 11, 2010. More specific information can be found on the museum’s own website, including a short preview of the exhibition. The museum’s announcement reads:

The Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

“Lisbeth Zwerger is one of the foremost illustrators working today. In 1990, at the age of thirty-six, she received the Hans Christian Andersen medal—the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for children’s literature. Her range of subject is remarkable, encompassing the Brothers Grimm, O. Henry, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, and L. Frank Baum to name a few. Her artistic vision is informed by watercolors executed with a deftness and delicacy that nevertheless possess an assurance and substance.”

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

Which finally brings me back to the Illustration Friday word of the week: giant. “It is with glad heart and a bright eye” (a line from one of my favorite movies, Kate & Leopold) that I wish to assure myself and my readers, “There really is a God (or something else that is giant) that watches over us and fulfills dreams, no matter how long it takes…

“Karma” (watercolor, pen and ink)

Art at the top of this post: “Asking the Giant” (xerox of pen and ink drawing with colored inks)

See you next week with a post about my adventure at The Eric Carle Museum!

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

This week’s Illustration Friday topic is linked.

I may well lose half of my reading audience after this, but today I want to talk about the dreaded G– word!

Quickly, so as not to lose all of those folks, I assure you that my point of view here–really, that’s all it is–is much, much broader than any particular religious stand… It’s more of a philosophical view, more of a perspective on the nature of ‘reality.’ Being neither physicist nor religious person, my view has formed from a lifetime of wide reading, an observation of nature, and much contemplation. It is most closely allied with eastern, ancient and native cultural thought.

In the arts world, the work of the Impressionist ‘pointillist’ painter, Georges Seurat (1859-1891) comes closest to depicting my feeling of God. In his paintings, there are no lines, no boundaries. Points of color comprise everything, overlapping but staying distinctly themselves too. His depicts a fluid, interconnected world.

Which brings me back to this week’s Illustration Friday topic linked. Simply stated, my feeling is that ‘God’ is everywhere, knows everything, sees everything, IS everything. In this world view, we and everything we can see, taste, and touch are the substance of this thing called God. This definition of God is indeed mind-numbing, unknowable, a profound Mystery… a subject worthy of a lifetime of contemplation. And the implications of such a belief are far-reaching… Isn’t that so much more Soul-satisfying than a belief in the white-bearded man on a cloud, keeping score? The story teller in me, and the Inner Child who still believes in magic, really likes to think so…

And so, I leave you with my painting “Everywhere” (watercolor, gouache). A God that (benevolently) sees all, knows all, is linked to all, IS all… and there,right in the middle of IT, is this thing called Little Me. I haven’t worked out the details on that last bit yet.

(I had a feeling that, eventually, “just making art” would lead to wild controversy…)

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