Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Roy Freeman on Don Freeman: Part Two

(continued from yesterday)

Growing up surrounded by creative artists, performers, and musicians had a deep-forming effect on me. I am definitely a product of the environment my parents created. Not only was my father a graphic artist, but he was also a musician. Even beyond the well-known story of losing his trumpet on the New York subway and deciding it was a sign to pursue art instead. (Of course, soon after he bought himself another trumpet in some pawnshop). For instance, he could make a trumpet sound with his lips even without any trumpet! So around the house, while working at his artist’s table, he was always “playing music”. (You can see and hear him playing his cornet and his “lip” trumpet in the short documentary film "Storymaker”.)

My mother, Lydia, was also an artist and was actually the co-author of many of my father’s books. At 90 years old, she'd sketch every night an abstract picture of what the day had been for her. She came from creative parents; her mother was a painter and her father managed a music store. In my own history, playing the piano literally brought me to life out of a deep depression in my early 50’s. Although my interest in nature and science are deeply rooted and my many years as a professional scientist also molded me, I do not think I could live with anybody who was not – in some way - creative herself. My partner danced her way out of cancer and works as an alternative medical practitioner and movement therapist. She is creative and grounded (something I have a problem with); music and dance are in her body and soul.

After I left home, my parents occasionally took children and young adults who were having problems into their own home. My parents were very open, warm, and – as I learned later – played important roles in the lives of some other people. Once in a while, I get letters or e-mails from people thanking my father and mother for all they did for them, not only through children’s books, but also their personalities, directly!

Don was a very creative artist. Each one of his children’s books was illustrated in a different way. He simply could not do the same thing twice! (This is a trait I share with him. It is not always a positive; it is more like a drive that controls me, not me it!) Also, he insisted on doing all color separations himself, even in an era when most artists let the publisher do the color separations. This meant that Don’s color illustrations were created as four black illustrations: one each for blue, red, yellow, and black! The color picture of how all these looked when printed together existed only in Don’s mind! This was probably why he always wanted to be at the printers when his final color illustrations went to press. It was only Don who knew what the “correct” colors should look like.

My father was not only a very talented graphic artist, but he was a hard worker. He took his talent to task and sweated with it on the drawing table until it was exactly the way he wanted. When he had a book to finish, he would “hole up” someplace where he could work undisturbed, even a hotel room would do. Then, he would work day and night. This is crucial. It is not very special to be talented. Each one of us has our specialties. But to work hard in a disciplined way with the talent gifted to us – that is the real meaning of genius.

(continued here)

8 comments:

Antmusic said...

"...she'd sketch every night an abstract picture of what the day had been for her." What a great idea! My 4 year old loves to draw and color(abstractly). I have GOT to suggest this to him and see what he does for a few nights.

It is obvious that your father loved his work, and learning more from you is an eye opener as to how much! I can't wait to read more tomorrow! Some of the best children's book artists are not "realistic." I remember loving Don Freeman's style, but being thrown off by other non-realistic artists like James Stevenson... but I still loved James Stevenson's books irregardless of realisticness (is that a word?, ha ha). Both James Stevenson and Don Freeman are talented artists in their own rights. Their work moves children (and adults) every day, and that is what matters.

Lolanose said...

Roy Freeman, thank you for sharing the bond, strong and difficult though it may be, with your father. As a parent and as a child I realize that our relationships with each other often go misunderstood or misconstrued. Taking the time to reflect on them is worthwhile, and it is fascinating and enriching to read your own story of growing up in a home informed by art, rigor, and familial affection.

Meghan said...

i was a little intimidated to leave a comment yesterday, however, i am so moved by your words i just can't help myself. i imagine it's so hard to open up about your relationship with someone you felt to be larger than life. hard to put into words your struggles with someone that has become beloved worldwide. i so admire your story of self discovery and realization.

i can relate to the mathematical/ scientific persuasion you have and at the same time the need for creativity. i see the world in mathematics too! i constantly struggle with reconciling my linear and abstract ways.

i'm glad you found your way, and so glad that you are doing this series. i can't wait to read more tomorrow. thank you so much for sharing your soul and your father.

james at 10engines said...

fantastic series, please thank Roy for sharing. this may seem a little facile but is Corduroy named after Roy?? just struck me...

Scribbler said...

you know james, i was just thinking that same thing myself.

Roy said...

Hmmm, just might be... I used to wear corduroy pants all the time as a kid. ;-)

Elizabeth Fuller said...

I was one of those kids who asked Roy how it was living with his father. I was in high school at the time, and sometimes rode the school bus with him, although I don't recall him being on the bus very often. It may have been the late bus that carried kids from Santa Barbara High School (me) and Santa Barbara Junior High (him) together. He lived not too far from the Mission, and I lived in Mission Canyon and got off way after he did. My recollection of Roy on the day I asked about his father is that he was extremely gracious, especially for someone so young. He seemed serious and sincere, and looked me straight in the eyes as he talked. He was eminently likable. I don't remember exactly what he said, but he gave no hint of a troubled relationship. How lovely it is to know that he acted with dignity back then and now displays the kind of maturity that allows him to accept and appreciate the flawed man his father was. It brightened my day to come across this posting, to remember a happy incident, and to know Roy is doing well.

Jil Casey said...

Interesting and well written. Roy - doing the website for your dad is a wonderful act of love, I will be sure to check it out.

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