Monday, June 4, 2012

Three Wise Men

I've experienced much too much loss lately.

On April 1, 2012 my father died.

I wouldn't be an artist if it weren't for my father.  I might not have so many stories to tell.  He taught me how to paint.  He exposed me to the wonderful world of Art - and beautiful things - at an early age.  He encouraged me to follow my dreams and listen to my heart.  He was my #1 fan.  He loved that I live in New York.  He connected with people of all walks of life.  He was larger-than-life.  And now, he is gone.

I think his spirit lives on.  I believe his philosophy that art makes the world a bit more humane - and much more beautiful - remains in me.  Still, I feel sad.  It will take time.  I am determined to honor his spirit by continuing to make art and continuing to tell my stories.  How can I not?

A few weeks after my father passed away, Maurice Sendak followed suit.

It was an almost erie aftershock.  Sendak was The Father of Children's Books.  He was one of my earliest influences.  When I was little, I often got lost in the imagery from Where the Wild Things Are.  Max's journey was the perfect metaphor for my active imagination.  In his later interviews, I often likened Sendak to my father.  They were around the same age–– 80-something.  Their wisdom, life views and dark humor were remarkably similar. 

Then only last week came news of illustrator Leo Dillon's passing.

My husband, Sean Qualls, and I just spent a lovely afternoon with Leo & Diane Dillon.  Sean and I recently begun the process of collaborating on 2 books together.  The first book features the Lovings; A pioneering interracial couple in the late 1950's who fought for their right to be married.  We got together with the Dillons to ask for their guidance and advice upon embarking on this new picture book adventure.  They shared many stories with us.  It was profoundly helpful.  Leo & Diane, themselves a pioneering interracial couple, are our role-models for all of the obvious reasons (race, books, art, etc.,), yet we should only aspire to be so talented and so humble.

These three men have helped shape and influence me as an artist and storyteller.  I feel like I must nurture strength from all of this sadness, somehow.  Art is continuous, and great artists live on through their art, as cliche as it might sound.  I owe it to my children, my children's children, and all of the children out there to continue to do my part.

Three cheers (and maybe just a few tears) to Three Wise Men.