This past weekend was the Tucson Festival of Books. It was the third one since it began and each year it has gotten bigger and bigger. I heard people saying that over 100,000 people were expected to visit the festival over the weekend. Staggering numbers.
Most of my time was spent listening to various panels and presentations and spending time at the SCBWI booth. What an wonderful weekend it was. I must admit that I was somewhat star struck when being in the presence of three (yes 3) Caldecott winners.
On Saturday, I watched in awe as E.B. Lewis, David Wiesner and Eric Rohmann bantered with Chris Gall, who moderated the panel, about their work, inspirations and passion. Each one of these incredible artists shared wonderful pearls of wisdom with the audience about what drives them. Eric Rohman described himself as someone “who sits alone in his room trying to reach as many people as he can.” E.B. Lewis, who uses the term “Artistrator” instead of illustrator, at one point turned to the audience and said, “I don’t know about you guys but I’m having fun here.” What became obvious is that the three of them, all Caldecott winners, had one thing in common. They are all incredibly passionate about the picture book format and entirely committed to process of creating. Storytelling is of utmost importance and they completely immerse themselves in the process of creating an exciting, unique and emotional experience for the reader. The idea of awards, accolades, and success do not even come to mind. It was incredible to watch and listen to.
Both Chris Gall and David Christiana are illustrators that live in Tucson and I run into them every so often. We were all part of an illustration show a couple of years ago at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Ok, so I’m a geek, but I couldn’t resist the photo opportunity.
The last panel that I attended was moderated by our very own Michelle Parker-Rock, and it featured E.B. Lewis, Wendy Watson and Adam Rex talking about the process of illustrating the work of other authors. They talked about what draws them to certain manuscripts and how they tackle illustrating the work of others. Once again it became very evident that they all are extremely passionate about their craft. E.B. Lewis, who is so incredible to listen to, shared that his studio has an entire room filled with period costumes ranging from the 1800’s to today. He also came up with a visual that will remain with be forever. I am summarizing but he said that the picture book is a piece of cloth made up of the words (the vertical threads) and the visuals (the horizontal threads). He was so much more eloquent when he said this but essentially he stressed the importance of each of these elements and that only together do they make the whole.
It was incredible to be able to listen to these artists share their passion. I am so inspired right now to get back to work.