Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Skunk Art

Puppy Le Pu, Roger Cruwys
The designation "wildlife art" is so deep and wide as to be far too ungainly to handle in a single posting. Fortunately wildlife art (mostly paintings) have proven to be among the most well-received of all the subjects I write about. I think that's because I've broken such art down by content areas--elephants, zebras, giraffes, tigers, etc. In most cases, the number of images I have to pick from are all but overwhelming. I expected the same challenge in selecting skunk art. Not so. For some reason, which is not all that hard to fathom, few artists are willing to take on such a stinkin' subject. To do so requires a daring sense of humor, as seen in the work of Montana artist, Roger Cruwys' Puppy Le Pu (above).
Spirit Skunk of the Cimarron by Foxbane d3got8u
(obviously not the artist's real name).
The skunk icon (not
sure what it means).
If creating skunk art is daring, far more so is buying it, which would explain why there is so little of such work to be found. Not only that, but so much of it is trite and equally inept, often depending up other elements in the (usual) landscape setting to "carry" the work, as seen above (if all else fails, add a sunset). Even albino skunks often get relegated to supporting roles. And, as with virtually all animal art, the handling of the subject by the artist breaks down into two categories--cutesy and realistic. With skunks, hard as it might be to think in terms of the obnoxious little stinkers being "cute," the vast majority of skunk art is just that.
The name "Flower" sent Bambi rolling on the forest floor in gales of laughter.
Baby skunks are born about the size
a mouse and are blind. Can you
anything worse than
encountering a blind skunk?
You can blame Walt Disney and his co-conspirator, Bambi, for that (above). Bambi's darling little friend "He can call me Flower if'n he likes, I don't mind," not only set the bar for skunk art but set it quite high. Warner Bros. and their Looney Tunes version, Pepe le Pew, despite the voice of Maurice Chevalier, never quite mea-sured up. On the realistic side, usually paintings of baby animals can be depended upon to engender the "ahhhhh, how sweet," reaction. As seen below, baby skunks are not so blessed.
Baby skunks are a perennial part of many forest predators' diet (despite the aftertaste). No mother skunk would ever leave her baby to rest alone like this.
If I were to ask you to describe a skunk, you'd probably say they're black with a white stripe down their back. Well, you'd be half right (some skunks have a ginger brownish tint to their fur). As for their most distinguishing feature, virtually all striped skunks have two white stripes down their back starting just behind the head and continuing through to the end of their tails. Essentially, you'd have to say that skunks are mostly black and white with a black stripe down their back. I found several examples where the artists got it wrong.

You think all skunks are basically the same? Think again.
Skunks fall into the same family as badgers and can be quite vicious (apart from their vicious odor) in protecting their young (especially
so if rabid).
A 1634 description of a skunk by a Jesuit priest contained these words:
[The skunk] is a low animal, about the size of a little dog or cat. I mention it here, not on account of its excellence, but to make of it a symbol of sin. I have seen three or four of them. [They have] black fur, quite beautiful and shining; and [have] upon [their] back two perfectly white stripes, which join near the neck and tail, making an oval which adds greatly to their grace. But it is so stinking, and casts so foul an odor, that it is unworthy of being called the dog of Pluto [the devil]. No sewer ever smelled so bad. I would not have believed it if I had not smelled it myself. Your heart almost fails you when you approach the animal. Two have been killed in our court[yard], and several days afterward there was such a dreadful odor throughout our house that we could not endure it. I believe the sin smelled by Saint Catherine de Sienne must have had the same vile odor."
Striped Skunk, Ray Harm.

Skunks are omnivorous, their diet quite seasonal, except in populated areas where their favorite dining spot is the back-alley dumpster. They seem not to mind the smell. Also, they seem to have a sweet tooth, being one of the primary predators of the honey bee. Like felines, the skunk is naturally curious, as depicted by the legendary wildlife artist, Ray Harm (above). Harm is often credited with "inventing" the limited edition print. His Striped Skunk is one of the rare examples of skunk art to be found in this media.
I know neither the artist nor the
title of this etching, but judging by
the style and the aging of the paper,
I would suggest it dates from the
late 19th-century (or before), which
would make it one of the oldest
examples of skunk art.



Monday, April 9, 2018

Spring Art

Copyright, Jim Lane
Maple Flavored Landscape, Jim Lane
Last year, on the first day of each month, I made an effort to explore paintings having to do with that particular month. Naturally the mass of art associated with each month was just that--massive. When you include holidays and holiday landscapes, art having to do with historic events, and famous people associated with each month, not to mention the work of famous painters who chose to depict all of the above, the sheer number of works for some months became rather formidable. However, when you're dealing with only four seasons, one has to be a lot more selective. The typical and stereotypical images that might be selected on a monthly basis have to be brushed aside as the search for the more unique visions, styles, and to a lesser extent, technical prowess, must be brushed aside. That's what I've tried to do.
Springtime, 1886, Claude Monet. If you must have arboreal blossoms to symbolize and suggest spring, Monet is a good as it gets.
Imagine Spring, Sue Gardiner
When we think of spring the first image coming to mind are those of flowers--billions and billions of them--often seen in landscapes. What we don't often bring to mind are paintings such as my own Maple Flavored Landscape (top). Spring? There's not a flower in sight. The painting appears cold and drab. However, the last time I looked at the calendar, the month of March ends in the springtime (okay, just barely). The maple sap rises in early spring. It's not that I have anything against flowers, those of springtime or any other time of the year. I just tend to resent an artist's "safe" reliance upon them in place of a more searching and profound depiction of his or her thematic content. As a design motif, either of spring, or quite apart from it, flowers have their place in art, as seen in Imagine Spring by Sue Gardiner (left). But they should not be relegated to mere decor-ations or "eye candy." My tribute to blossoming trees comes from Claude Monet and his Springtime (above) painted early in the Impressionist era about 1866. Below, I've also included a van Gogh, his famous Blossoming Almond Tree, from 1890 (rendered very late in his Career.
Blossoming Almond Tree, 1890, Vincent van Gogh
Okay, now that we've got the pretty flowers and the famous painters out of the way, it's now time to look at those spring renditions which stand apart from the typical. Probably the first painter (or one of the first) to depict spring did so without much attention to floral arrays but with dancing, frolicking, scantily clad ladies (and one or two gents). Sandro Botticelli's now famous, La Primavera (below), dates from between 1470 and 1480, during the period we now call the "early" Renaissance. La Primavera, by the way, literally translates from Italian to English as "The Spring." (Some have translated it "Springtime.")
La Primavera, 1470-80, Sandro Botticelli. It's not one of my favorites but some like it.
Whether selecting paintings and illustrations by the month or by the season, one has to be careful not to be seduced by images, sometimes quite beautiful, of what I call "greeting card cute." I'm talking about any subject with four legs, especially the immature offspring of such creatures, or by the same token, their human equivalent. If it's "syrupy" sweet, almost inevitably the content gets in the way of the message. Kitty cats, puppy dogs, and toddlers are not what "spring" is about.

Spring, 1873,Giovanni Boldini
Spring Confetti, Sabi Klein
The Italian genre painter, Giovanni Boldini and his Spring (above), from 1873, Is a case in point. The setting depicts spring. The figures are merely decorations which attract the eye, thus (as in a play) stealing the show. If that's the case, then what's to keep an artist from attaching the word "spring" to the title of virtually any painting in depicting such sea-sonal art? To put it simply, not one thing, as seen in Sabi Klein's Spring Confetti (right). In fact, it's a ploy often used by artists in their combined search for a title and relevance. Once more, the colors and their relationship one to another sug-gest spring. It makes Liana Turnbull Bennett's Spring Creek (below), seem almost realistic. There's not a flower, a blossom, even a pedal in sight. Only the vivid colors and semi-abstract shapes suggest spring.

Spring Creek, Liana Turnbull Bennett

Perhaps the spring art genre most often ignored by serious painters in more recent decades is that having to do with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Notice, I did not say "Easter." God knows, there's a ton of springy pictures of merry little bunnies and the colored eggs they've begged, borrowed, or stolen from their barnyard friends. One such work which caught my eye was by Sir Lawrence, Alma-Tadema which he titled Spring-1894 (left). At first glance, it would appear to depict the crowd accom-panying Christ's trek from the court of Pilate, through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, to Golgotha. Here the title is most important, both in its reference to spring and to its being a scene from the modern era. Along the same line, my own resurrection scene, He Lives (below), while not referencing springtime directly, nonetheless reminds the viewer of the rebirth so crucial to any depiction of this transitional season.

Spring-1894, Sir Lawrence
Copyright, Jim Lane
He Lives, 2000, Jim Lane

Springtime, 1873, Pierre
Auguste Cot. I could
think of lots of titles
for this one. How about
"Spring Swing?"


Monday, April 2, 2018

Vanessa Poutou

Voices 2016, Vanessa Poutou. At first glance it appears to be little more than a Jackson Pollock inspired splash of paint.
One thing quickly learned by artists wanting to sell their work and make a name for themselves is that they must stand apart from the crowd of other artists wishing to do the same. One of the best ways they may do so is to create works which are in some way eye-catching. Sometimes sheer size alone is the key. Distinctive color is another. I always tended to concentrate on unusual, viewpoint, content, humor, and a generous amount of detail, though for many artists, "expressive" works too. Some artists come by this realization through experience while others seem to have inborn instincts in this regard. I always hung such work at the front of my displays in the hope of garnering a "second look" by the passing art lover. In my own case, often such works were too big and/or too expensive to ring up much in the way of sales. One look at the Greek expressionist Vanessa Poutou's work reveals that she, too, has come to embrace this sales strategy. Virtually all of her paintings are crowd-stopping works--expressive, but not quite abstract figures.
Petit Ballet, Vanessa Poutou
Petit Ballet (above) is one of Poutou's best in the way of showstoppers. The two detail close-ups drive home her penchant for a sort of wildly beautiful expressionism seasoned with just enough objective realism to avoid the age-old, "my kid could do that." Voices 2016 veers toward expressive dance, or possibly (given the title), singing.
Vanessa is young, appears to be still in her thirties. Yet her mastery of her medium (oils), color, and dazzling self-expression is that of an experienced artist twice her age.
Vanessa Poutou was born in 1979, thus she is, indeed, still in her thirties, though barely so. She is one of several contemporary artists I've highlighted during the past year. Vanessa Poutou studied at Middlesex University of London where, in 2004, she gained a bachelors degree (with ho-nors) in graphic design. Her work focuses on the traditional descriptive depiction, but painted in a modern manner. Emphasis is given to facial expressions and body move-ments, which are reinforced by abstract twists, strong ges-tures and, often, surrealistic elements. Vanessa explores human emotional states such as loneliness, nostalgia, love, eroticism, and the need for freedom. All of Poutou's paint-ings are unique, hand painted originals (sorry, no prints) found in private collections all over Europe, the UK, Aus-tralia, and the US.
Young Werther,
Vanessa Poutou
The Breath, Vanessa Poutou
The Young Werther (above, left) was inspired by The Sorrows of Young Werther, an autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Poutou does not paint people as they are. I paint them as she feel them to be. She conducts a private investigation into their character and personality, exploring her subject to the very boundaries between life and death. Her models often reflect the transcendent act of crossing the border of souls living in the body as seen in her We Are All Drowned in the Aegean (below).

We Are All Drowned in the Aegean,
Vanessa, Poutou.
Drowning in oil on canvas.

Touch the Sun,
Vanessa Poutou.
Life after death?


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Billy Rose Fire

Fire and paintings do not mix.
(This is a reasonably accurate digital reconstruction. I did NOT run out and take a picture of my stupidity for old time's sake.)
About fifty years ago, when I was a sophomore art student at Ohio University, my wife and I lived in a 12 by 60-foot mobile home. One Sunday afternoon, we invited my parents over for a barbecue (my dad was big on barbecued chicken). I set up a brand new grill on the concrete pad just outside our "trailer" (or caravan as the British call them), and proceeded to light the charcoal "briquettes." That required a special lighter fluid just a little less flammable than gasoline and somewhat more so than lamp oil. In any case it was a rather time consuming, hit or miss operation. In this case it was both.

The left painting is now known only through this photo. The painting on the right I redid the following year.
A strong thunderstorm wind came up to speed ignition but the accompanying shower threatened to leave us with chicken tartar on the menu. We had a small metal storage building next to our magnificent abode so I decided to move the grill just inside the broad access door (dumb move on my part). What with the wind, in no time the contents of the building were on fire. The steel building was a total loss (above) and came within about a foot and the Chauncey (Ohio) Volunteer Fire Department of incinerating our mobile home as well. In the process I lost two Christmas paintings (above), which I'd stored in the building awaiting the appropriate season for display. Except for that we were quite lucky.
This present day reconstruction of Rose Hill appears somewhat smaller than Billy Rose's ostentations mansion, (tiny inset) but does suggest the architectural opulence that went up in smoke in just a few hours.

  In the early morning hours of April 2, 1956, the famous Broadway impresario, Billy Rose, was not so lucky. A fire at his Mount Kisco, New York (a northern suburb of NYC), destroyed not only his multi-million-dollar, 28-room, Georgian mansion (now referred to as Rose Hill) but his entire private art collection consisting of at least seven Salvador Dali masterpieces, as well as numerous others by classical artists such as J.M.W. Turner, Franz Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, and others. Taken together, the art was probably worth more in dollars and cents that the sprawling mansion (which was far removed from a mobile home and had almost enough wings to take flight). No one was injured in the conflagration, though fighting the fire was something of a comedy of errors. The fire department had to be called from a neighbor's phone (a half-mile away) thus they were quite late in getting there, only to discover that the nearest major water supply was a lake over a mile away (to which a hose had to be run). By daybreak, it would seem to have been hardly worth the bother. (Life magazine took pictures of the bubble but no photos of the fire or the ruins seem to exist today).

Billy Rose's close friend, Salvador Dali (1944) posing with his series, "The Seven Lively (or Animated) Arts." All were lost in the fire. Dali later reproduced at least one of them from memory for Rose.
Not surprisingly, when the press interviewed Rose as to his loss, he was not inclined to talk about it: "Let's just say it all burned up. That’s all I want to say. I lost a lot of things that can’t be replaced with money.” Although some of the works by classical artists were probably worth more on the art market at the time, nearest and dearest to Billy's heart were the series of seven painting he had commissioned from his friend and sometimes collaborator, Salvador Dali, dealing with "The Seven Lively Arts"--opera, ballet, cinema, theater, radio, art of the concert (music), and Boogie-Woogie (dance). Four of them survive in black and white photographs. Missing below are The Art of Theater, The Art of Radio, and The Art of Ballet.

Typical of Dali from the late 1940s.
Dalí and Rose first met during preparations for the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens, where the artist was commissioned to create a pavilion that he called “Dreams of Venus," while others described as a “surrealist funhouse.” The pale-pink facade, covered with weird protrusions and statuary, led into a space filled with naked women, bizarre tableaus, and a radical combination of references to the Renaissance, current pop culture, and the risqué. Rose helped Dali achieve his vision using his experience as a nightclub owner known in putting on raucous shows of his own, among many other profitable showbiz ventures.
As you can see in comparing this version of The Art of Boogie-Woogie with that just above, the recreation is only an approximation of the original.
Beginning with that collaboration, a long friendship was born. Dalí went on to supply the illustrations for Rose’s 1946 autobiography Wine, Women, and Words. But before that, Rose envisioned a theater extravaganza for which he enlisted the surrealist’s help. In December 1944, with World War II still raging, Rose bought the Ziegfeld Theater and transformed it from a movie house back into its original incarnation as a showcase for the arts of the stage. To christen the theater, he decided to put on a musical revue that would both introduce the space under his new management while being a Broadway spectacle the likes of which New York hadn’t seen since the before the war. His new play was titled The Seven Lively Arts, which told the story of a group of young people who come to New York to woo the arts.

The only known photo of the interior of Billy Rose's mansion.
In addition to the art of the stage, Rose decided that he wanted to wow his theater guests with art of the painted variety. He asked Dalí to create seven works of art to be displayed in the lobby of the theater that would depict the seven arts also referenced in the show: theater, popular music, opera, ballet, classical music, movies, and the radio. Life magazine, which photographed the paintings in the series for an art feature, reported that Dalí created the works while “locked in a cubbyhole high in Ziegfeld Theater.” The result were canvases that were classically Dalí, surrealist visions of the forms and effects of the arts in question. Of all those destroyed in the fire, only Dali's Seven Lively Arts: The Art of Boogie-Woogie was recreated by the artist (above).

One might argue that Billy Rose was even more famous for his collection of wives starting with Fanny Brice in 1929 until his death in 1966.
Billy Rose’s Seven Lively Arts would go on to have 183 performances, but its run at the Ziegfeld was outlasted by the Dalí paintings, which remained on display for 10 years. Two years before the devastating fire broke out, Rose moved the paintings to his mansion in Westchester. Their loss—and the loss of most (but not all) of his worldly possessions was devastating to Rose. Incidentally, I should note that Billy Rose collected wives (above) like some people collect art. None of his wives burned up in the fire.
Billy Rose, 1947, Salvador Dali


Monday, March 19, 2018

Mona Caron

Outgrowing, Mona Caron's urban weeds left unattended, though in this case grown for their medicinal qualities in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
There was a time when I was growing up during the 1950s and 60s when virtually every family in Stockport, Ohio, had a garden. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but the tradition extended back to pioneer days and the Victory Gardens of the war years. In any case, it was often my job to get out in the hot sun and "hoe the garden." Weeks were my enemy. They were an ugly invasion force which had to be carefully uprooted to die in the same bright sun that was also killing me. Yet the American mural artist Mona Caron would contend that weeds are beautiful. Indeed, hers are. Hers are also a painted warning as to what heights weeds might rise to if left to grow unattended. Hers vary from a fairly modest one or two stories in height to as much as fifteen stories high painted on the blank ends of high-rise office and apartment buildings (above).
 Collaboration with Liqen, Mona Caron, public art commissioned by the City of Vigo, Spain. 
Muralist Mona Caron has created a worldwide "Weeds" series, with colorful renderings of humble plants growing ever taller on buildings in cities such as Portland, São Paulo, Spain, Taiwan, and elsewhere. The San Francisco-based artist often partners with local and international, social, and environmental movements for climate justice, labor rights, and water rights. She selects plants, both native and invasive, that she finds in the cities where she paints. She combines the words "artist" and "activist" to form "artivist" in describing herself and her gigantic murals.
Taking Root, Mona Caron.
Hers is not an art for those
afraid of heights.
Taking Root (above), featuring the first tiny wildflower that made it back to the once barren piece of land it now stands upon, after its rehabilitation from industrial pol-lution. The roots contain narrative miniature paintings representing the land's history. Caron also integrates tiny details into the main visual elements of her murals, several of which contain intricate miniature details, invisible from afar. These typically narrate the local history to chronicle the social life of the mural’s immediate surroundings. Such images visualize future possibilities created in a process that incorporates ideas emerg-ing from spontaneous conversations with the artwork’s hosting communities while paint-ing. Caron regularly shares process videos and photos of completed works on Insta-gram. She also delves into the narratives behind several of her murals on her website.
Caron's Weeds series growing with time-lapse photography.

The Mission Blue Butterfly is the central image in Mona Caron's mural of Brisbane, California (below). This mural narrates the history of the small town within a display of the native flora of nearby San Bruno Mountain. The silhouette of San Bruno Mountain spans the whole background of the mural, while a number of native flowers (many of them butterfly host plants) are depicted in the foreground. The town of Brisbane is painted nestled within the large, protective shape of a Mission Blue Butterfly, a local endangered species.

The Mission Blue Butterfly, Mona Caron.
A series of smaller pictures within the mural depict moments in the history of Brisbane, in chronological order. These are painted monochromatically in sepia tones. The outside shape of these images changes gradually from a butterfly to a star. The star is the symbol of the town because of the oversize wooden pentagrams that homes in Brisbane traditionally display on their façâdes, so the butterfly changing to a star symbolizes the transformation of a natural setting into a man-made one. The star outline continues changing to that a book, which at the end transforms back to a butterfly. This represents hope in education and our younger generations, as modeled by the work of the local Brisbane Educational Support Team, who spearheaded this mural project.

Stream of Life, Mona Caron.A stream of water in the forest becomes a stream of people in the city. Both are the key to the vitality of their environments.
In addition to history, weeds, and butterflies, Mona Caron also paints current events in line with her activist tendencies. A prime example is her Bike Flower in Curitiba Brazil. The Mural was created for the 2014 World Bicycle Forum as they celebrating the blossoming of the city through its embrace of lighter-treading means of every-day transportation. In most of her murals that involve art for mass street actions, Caron worked in team with her longtime friend and comrade-in-art, the fellow artivist and puppetista, David Solnit.

Bike Flower, Mona Caron, Curitiba Brazil
Caron often joins Solnit in facilitating the collaborative creation of, portable images that are used to amplify the visual impact of rallies, while adding the experience of art making and the language of theater to the actions and struggles. The street art pieces are closely related to her other mural work, but are instigated by activist groups, or were made in support of a specific issue, during a moment of heightened public debate around it.

A Weed in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Mona Caron.

When asked why she paints weeds, Caron first lays claim to the pejorative term "weeds", owning it, as it describes not the plants' intrinsic value but their action. Whether invasive species or benign wildflowers, plants act as weeds when they appear clandestinely, autonomously, in surprising urban places. This is why she creates some of her murals as on-site animations: to let the paintings not just BE, but ACT like weeds. Although a large number of them are classified with the ominous-echoing term "invasive non-natives," all immigrant plants are native somewhere. If they are here, it's because the global environment has been disrupted. It's a consequence of globalization, which is part of the metaphor.

Manifestation Station, painted
utility box by Mona Caron.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Ed Emberley

Ed Emberley joins his creations.
Ed Emberley's thumbprint
instructional illustrations. 
At the most elementary level, children, and even adults, have long been taught to draw using basic shapes--circles, triangles, rectangles, squares, and thumbprints. Thumbprints? I'm not sure if Ed Em-berley is quite old enough to have "invented" the teaching of drawing using basic shapes, but he can certainly be credited with the use of thumbprints for that purpose (left). Although I don't remember hav-ing learned to draw through such methods, I do recall having used Ed's thumbprints as the basic shape in teaching children as young as six and as old as sixteen the basics of drawing using what I termed the "rule of thumb."
I called the cartoon-like little creatures "thumb-buddies." At the most elemental level, a child's thumbprint pressed into a sponge dampened with watercolor then printed on paper leaves a simple oval image ideal for any number of human and animal creatures. The older students created "Thumb-buddy" stationary with such figures placed in the upper corners of a blank page and on a matching envelope. My high school students then packaged them in re-sealable plastic bags. The art club sold them ten for fifty-cents. We didn't make much money but the teens loved it and learned from it. (Kids that age seldom wrote letters, even back in the 1970s.)

Emberley's books fill shelf after
shelf in many bookstores.
Ed Emberley's most popular books teach kids (and adults sometimes too) how to draw through a refreshingly straight-forward method. Emberley’s step-by-step instructions visualize how a diverse range of creatures, people, and objects can be created by using just a few shapes—and the occasional thumbprint. Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals, for instance, uses a small half circle, which he transforms into a porcupine through the addition of a few staccato lines (for spikes), and a tiny dot (for an eye). In Fingerprint Drawing Book, fingertips dipped in paint and pressed to paper become butterfly wings, tadpole torsos, and snail shells. Emberley has made 22 of these drawing books over the course of his career, many of which remain in print today. Drawing Book of Animals, for its part, has sold over a million cop-ies since it was first published in 1970. Emberley has also written and illustrated mesmerizingly beautiful children’s storybooks, like Drummer Hoff, which won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1968. 

Today, 22 books later, Ed
makes a living largely by
 just signing his name.
Ed Emberley was born in 1931 in Malden, Massachusetts (a northern suburb of Boston). He was raised in Cambridge. From an early age, Ed was surrounded by makers. His father and grandfather were both carpenters, his mother, a dressmaker. The family didn’t have money for lots of toys, but there were always pencils and paper around the house, and Emberley’s grandmother would occasionally give him a box of his grandfather’s wood scraps. He played with them for hours--lining them up, making shapes from his DIY blocks. He went on to study traditional figure painting, sculpture, and etching at Massachusetts School of Art. He eventually decided it was illustration he liked best. After graduating, he made ends meet by working as a freelance direct-mail illustrator, which entailed sending illustrations to greeting card companies, children’s magazines, and religious newsletters, then receiving payment by mail in return. It was a tenuous career if ever there was one.

Ed Emberley's art from basic shapes.
Emberley, who is now 87 years old, is something of a jokester. He’s also one of the world's most successful children’s book illustrators—due in no small part to his playful, experimental approach to art. Emberley is a firm believer in not taking art too seriously. While studying at the Massachusetts School of Art in the 1950s, Emberley gained a reputation for dragging a papier-mâché dog around campus on a leash. Despite the popularity of his books and a loyal following, Emberley admits that he’s surprised by his success. He is coy if you ask what inspired his career in illustration. “I still don’t know,” he answers, mischievously. His books, however, tell a different story.

Not all of Emberley's drawing lessons use live
models. This one uses wheels, not legs.

Teaching the alphabet through drawing.

I wonder if Bob Ross got his
start like this.