Saturday, January 20, 2018

Artists' Corner with Wendell Minor

Wendell Minor
Today, we're thrilled to feature two brilliant illustrators, David SanAngelo and Wendell Minor. We've enjoyed telling you about Daylight, Starlight, Wildlife this week, and now here's the artist's perspective on the scene—

David SanAngelo Interviews Wendell Minor

The hallmark of every great artist is that his or her work, regardless of medium, can be instantly identified. You know you are watching a Hitchcock film by the shot selection or a Bob Fosse dance number from the choreography or that you are listening to a Jimi Hendrix song by the sound of the guitar. The same can be said of Wendell Minor's paintings.

Whether you are looking at an illustration of an otter or an astronaut you know from the composition, palette, and brushwork that it could have only been created by Wendell Minor. I have been a fan of Mr. Minor's work for years and so it was an unbelievable gift for me to assist with this interview.
David SanAngelo

David: Your work has extensive range, however, there appears to be three reoccurring themes: Wildlife, American history and American farmlands. Is there a subject matter you would love to illustrate that you haven't yet?

Wendell: The three themes that you mentioned have infinite possibilities, and with wildlife and American biography the list is endless. That said, I like to seek out subjects that need attention and have not yet received their due, so any animal or period of American history, or persons lesser known in history would appeal to me.

David: What are a few of your most favorite works and why?

Wendell: At the moment, Edward Hopper Paints His World and one of my early books, Heartland would make the list. Heartland presents a regional quality to the look of the art, very much the way Edward Hopper viewed Cape Cod and New York City, however, I must say that beyond that, it’s really hard to choose. Basically, I have enjoyed doing all my books.

David: If you could illustrate for an author you haven't had the opportunity to work with yet, who would it be?

Wendell: That’s an easy answer for me. It would be historian David McCullough. As you probably know, I have designed and illustrated most of his book jackets over the years, but the one thing David hasn’t done yet is write a manuscript for a picture book. Maybe someday that will happen.

David: What stage of your process is your favorite/ least favorite?

Wendell: I have to say that the ongoing treasure hunt for reference material for each project is my favorite. It’s a process of discovery that often leads to other ideas for future books. My least favorite stage of the process is judging when a piece is actually finished. Sometimes paintings seem to go on forever, and when I get a sense that my head is about to explode and I know I can’t go any further...that’s when I know a painting is finished.

David: What do you feel is the biggest difference in the publishing business now from when you first began your career?

Wendell: The clear difference is that many publishing houses used to be independently owned; now virtually all imprints have been absorbed into corporate publishing. The competition for a children’s book author or illustrator is ten times more intense than it once was. It seems that every year the portal narrows a bit. That means that more than ever, one has to be on top of their craft and be able to shift gears creatively to move forward.

David: If Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and N.C. Wyeth all had showings of their work at the exact same time which one would you attend?

Wendell: That is an unfair question! But, depending on where the openings were I’d run to each of them. N.C. Wyeth has been a favorite of mine for many years and J.C. Leyendecker was an inspiration to the young Norman Rockwell when he was developing his style. The artist I would most like to meet, however, would be Norman Rockwell.

David: You've done quite a bit of traveling to study your subject matter. Of all the places you've traveled to and remarkable things you've seen, where would you first recommend someone to visit to feel absolutely spellbound?

Wendell: There are two places I would recommend, and for contrasting reasons. Everyone should visit the Grand Canyon at least once in their lives. It is one of the wonders of nature and puts life into perspective due to the scale of the human vs the scale of the Canyon. It is beyond description.

The other place is Barrow, Alaska, which I love for a completely different reason. In Barrow, one can see virtually forever in any direction across the frozen ocean. The town of Barrow itself, is as close as one can get to a 21st Century frontier town. It takes true grit to live there, but it’s worth it.

David: Outside of illustrating, what do you enjoy?

Wendell: Plein-air painting is a favorite pastime of mine, along with reading biographies and American history books. And last, but certainly not least is spending lots of time with my wife Florence, at home with our cat, Cinder, when Florence and I are not traveling though this beautiful country of ours.

Wendell Minor is nationally known for the artwork he has created for over fifty award-winning children’s books. His many collaborators include Jean Craighead George, Robert Burleigh, Buzz Aldrin, Tony Johnston, Mary Higgins Clark, and last but not least, his wife Florence. In 2009 Wendell and Florence’s If You Were a Penguin, was chosen by Pennsylvania for their “One Book, Every Young Child” 2009 early literacy program, and they enjoyed the month they spent speaking to children in Pennsylvania’s libraries, schools, Head Start facilities, and Museums.

David SanAngelo is an award winning illustrator, a two-time Emmy nominated director of animated shows for children and he won a kite flying contest in the fourth grade. Dave attended high school with Jessica and Stephanie and they've all been friends for a billion years. Some of Dave's favorite things are: old monster movies, superheroes and shred-a-licious rock music. Although he grew up in New England, Dave currently lives with his wife and sons in Decatur, GA.
Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson

It was an honor hosting this feature interview with these two wonderful artists. Bringing together worlds connects us all, and it's been fascinating to learn about Wendell Minor.

We've been big fans of David SanAngelo and his artwork since we attended high school together. It was amazing having him as our illustrator for Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library, and it's our pleasure to spotlight his work.  

Dragons Bridge
Scene from Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library
Cover art for Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library

Friday, January 19, 2018

Margo's Musings: Feeling Wild?

On a recent visit to The Hickory Stick, a lovely local bookshop, we spotted Wendell and Florence Minor signing books. It’s exciting to meet authors and illustrators, and we had fun learning more about their stories. It was hard to decide which one to buy with so many great titles, but Margo and I love animals, so Daylight Starlight Wildlife won. 

This book has gorgeous illustrations that depict animals in the day and at night. It’s a wonderful way to learn about wildlife, and there are interesting things to search for in the realistic illustrations. We played “I Spy” while reading, and the game was super fun because there's so much to see in every picture.

Where are they going? What are they doing? 

Has anyone else read Daylight Starlight Wildlife? Or have you read another book written or illustrated by Wendell or Florence Minor? 
We'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Happy Reading!

Tune in Saturday to catch our illustrator spotlight
Artists' Corner: Featuring an interview with Wendell Minor, hosted by David SanAngelo

Florence & Wendell Minor signing books at
The Hickory Stick bookshop