Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Original Art 2011 Opening

Well, it happened. The Original Art 2011.
(this is what I wrote for the catalog)

The Original Art Show blurs the identities and boundaries of the two sometimes separate worlds of Art and Illustration.

A work of art is made to hang on a wall or occupy a particular space. We can buy a postcard or a poster of that artwork, but those printed materials are meant to refer us back to the one original artwork. Museums have become wonderful treasure boxes full of these curious things you can’t touch and, for 99 percent of us, things you can’t buy or take home.

In contrast, an illustration for a children’s book is painted to be printed in a book.. The original illustration refers us to the book and the story told within. The book then becomes the artwork. A picture book is also wonderful treasure box full of curious things made into thousands of identical copies so you can touch it, take it home, read it and share it. You can wipe your greasy fingers on it, put it on your shelf, sleep with it, or feed it grapes. It then becomes a part of your story and the stories of many other’s as well.

This exhibit is a rare experience. Works of art are put up on the walls so that we may recognize their beauty. Along with their superior qualities of beauty, emotion or design, each of the extraordinary illustrations here is a single page in the life of a story. The characters you see are in one spot along their voyage. They came from somewhere and then a page is turned and the characters have moved on to somewhere else. Each of these illustrations refers us to the work of art that is the book and the story it tells.

At the same time, this exhibit contains illustrations that have become separated from their text. Unconnected from their brother and sister pages, these illustrations might become their own stories. You, the viewer, can decide what their story is now. Isn’t that the very essence of a work of art?

here are the real details:
(In other words this is what I said in front of a wall to wall crowd of people that included mostly people that look up to as heros. I am talking to you Peter de Seve, Lane Smith, Kadir Nelson and Scott Gustafson. In other words no big deal)

As illustrators we are the first detectives at the crime scene interpreting the evidence. We are problem solvers, House Builders, We are historians and sometimes the cleanup crew, miners looking for the gold nugget in the story,
We live vicariously, and through our work have summited mountains, ruled countries, visited the moon and hibernated for the winter. The Original Art show is our travelogue. We have been places that are inspired by not limited by text and imagination. The Original Art SHow is here to prove it.
I’d like to thank Anelle Miller, Kate Fiertag, Tara Jacoby and the mighty Society of Illustrators for this beautiful venue, making the catalog and gathering the books and art, hanging it and making the whole thing happen.
Thanks to The amazing Dylis Evans, founder and captain of this Original Art show 31 years ago. Thanks to Marcia Leonard a kindred spirit, and the show's safety net and anchor. Laurent Linn who’s enthusiasm and heart are a mighty wind. And the wonderful Sophie Blackall my assistant chair.

a little bit about the judging process: :
First the jury: A jury of seven members; 5 illustrators and two people from the children's publishing industry. These were chosen with an eye to talent, variety, and sheer raw awesomeness. They are Sean Qualls, Hyewon Yum, Cecilia Yung, Scott Gustafson, Erin Stead, Julie Danielson, and John Marciano. A big Thankyou to them for a wonderful varied show!

This year, On the jury day, each member of the jury looked at over 550 different books. For each book the juror cast a silent vote whether to admit that book into the show. Their votes were cast on the basis of the artwork’s merit. These votes were tallied, the result being the Original Art Show. Roughly a fifth of the number of books entered.

However this was not the end. The jurors, after one or two more cups of coffee, looked at their top picks together as a group. The medal winners were decided by rational and illuminating discussion. It was, as my son likes to say, EPIC.

I love the flexibility and stretch of this medium, That can bring us a stick figure with a full range of emotions, or the poignant story of a man’s life as told through shrubbery.
I think this years winners show that breadth. I am so proud of the care and sometimes agony and that the judges gave to the selection of the best of the best in our industry.

It was my very great pleasure to present the medals to the winners
This year we are uniquely fortunate to have all three medals given to author illustrators:
Every year two silver medals and One Gold medal is awarded.

A Silver Medal was awarded to Kadir Nelson for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, published by Balzer and Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; art director: Martha Rago; editor: Donna Bray; author: Kadir Nelson.”
(my book description):

In Kadir Nelson’s book of portraits, every wrinkle and crease tell a story. Every sparkle in the eye speaks of the will to survive the next thousand miles of hard road and steady stream of injustices. The warm sunlight that shines on each person promises hope, and the entire book leaves the smell of fresh earth in your nostrils.

A Silver Medal was awarded to Lane Smith for Grandpa Green, published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan; art directors: Anne Diebel and Molly Leach; editor: Simon Boughton; author: Lane Smith.”

my book description:

In Lane Smith’s Grandpa Green, The Grandpa, while his stories are being told through the living landscape of his garden, is also losing his memory, as well as his tools and glasses. As the grandson gathers all these up we know that the Grandpa is cared for and that his stories will be remembered and tended. The elegant clean lines contrast the lush messy textures of the shrubbery. I have yet to read it myself without bawling like a garden hose.

The Gold Medal was awarded to Rosalyn Schanzer for Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem, published by the National Geographic Society; art director: David Seager; editor: Nancy Feresten; author: Rosalyn Schanzer.

(my book description)

Using scratchboard and a powerful and minimal use of red Rosalyn Schanzer has Evoked at the same time an old world style and a new modern edge in these powerful images. The color red itself becomes a character, a sub-plot, and a struggle for power. By the end of the book we suspect that the devil might well exist, but not in the accused.


  1. Hi Amy,

    This is all fascinating! May I quote you for my series of features on The Original Art on my blog? Please click on the link.

    I asked Kate Fiertag at the Society of Illustrators to forward a message to you. I can be reached at

    Warmest regards,
    Joy Chu

  2. Hi Joy,

    Please do! I love your blog.

    talk to you soon,

  3. have to say Grandpa Green is my favorite!

  4. A perfectly eloquent synopsis, recap, speech, blogpost, etc., Amy. I always love reading about this show when all's said and done. Someday, maybe, hopefully, I'll get out there for an opening reception.