the artist behind the art

Posted on March 27th, 2010 by mountain girl  |  2 Comments »

Several years ago, I came across this book in a library. I think I was in college. I loved the illustrations, and took it home to study it. Later I found more of Uri Shulevitz’s books (he’s written and illustrated dozens of them) and I loved them just as much. He became something of a hero of mine.

I think his work is phenomenal; his wording is so simple, his drawings filled with light, color, and expression. I love his pen and wash.

Today I met him.

Uri Shulevitz is 75 years old this year. He was born in Poland and when he was 4, the war began. He says he remembers the bombs, the rubble, and the world falling apart before his eyes. His family relocated to Kazakstan, where they literally had nothing. He want to bed hungry every night for 5 years, and his favorite bedtime fairy tale was when he would ask his mother to tell him what they would eat after the war. Bread, she would say. All the bread you can eat, with butter. He said the Cinderella story was more believable to him than that fairy tale, but he loved it anyway.

He would draw as a child to keep his mind off food. He had no art supplies, so he drew with a burnt stick, and there was no paper, so he drew on old letters that were already written on. He squeezed leaves and flower petals to get a little hue of color in his art.

Later he moved to France, then Israel, and through his travels as a child, he mastered 6 languages. When he was a young man, Uri came to America to study art in Brooklyn. He worked as well, and at work one day he saw a picture book for the first time. He realized that picture books combined his two great loves: drawing and writing, and so began his long career.

I love that he has a story, a rich, amazing history, and I think that all of his works must be “tainted” with all his experiences. As I thought of how I used to copy his style and want to make art like his, I realized that he is the only person who can draw and write and make kids’ books the way he does, because there is so much more behind his work than a style or a method. There’s his history, his childhood, his struggles and victories, and all that makes him who he is as a person.

Then I realized I am the only person who can make art the way I can. What Uri can create has been revealed to the world. What I can create is for the most part undiscovered, even by me, but I’m really interested in finding out what that is, and in discovering a gold mine that can only flow from my hand, and from my heart.

I only hope it’s as beautiful as what has come from Uri Shulevitz’s.

2 Responses to “the artist behind the art”

  1. AG Ambroult says on :

    ohmygoodness. I am not familiar with Uri’s books. How can this be> I spent ALOT of my time in the children’s section at the library. I will be checking his books out tomorrow, for certain. Thanks. And wow- He has lived many lives, it seems. And what you said is so true–only his experiences can result in those gorgeous illustrations. Lucky for us we all have our own story to draw from (no pun intended)

  2. mountain girl says on :

    Yes, I love the children’s section of the library too! Uri is definitely a treasure of an author/illustrator…I hope you enjoy discovering his work!

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