(An interview with children's book author and illustrator Lane Smith continued from yesterday.)
VKBMKL: Your latest book, Grandpa Green made both my six -year-old son and me cry on the first read. That's what I love about your books. They assume children have more empathy and intelligence than most grown-ups give them credit for.
LANE: Thanks. I was heartened that so many people reacted that way to Grandpa Green. And yes, I believe kids are much smarter than we think.
VKBMKL: You collaborate with lots of people on your work, Jon Scieszka, your wife - book designer Molly Leach, and Bob Shea, who co-curated the Curious Pages with you. Are you drawn to other artists because they share a simple aesthetic with you, or do you simply admire their work individually?
VKBMKL: All of the above. Jon, Bob and I all share the same sense of humor, and Bob, like myself, loves vintage graphics and character design. We see a still from a UPA cartoon or a William Wondriska illustration and both go “wow!” at the same time. Molly and I are completely in synch creatively.
I have been very lucky to collaborate with some of my idols: Florence Parry Heide, Judith Viorst, George Saunders; not to mention posthumously, Seuss and Dahl.
I also have an Edward Gorey shelf in my studio and the thing I like about him is his own books are great but the folks he chose to work with are great too and share a similar sensibility: Peter Neumeyer, Florence Heide, Lear, Eliot. So it’s like a Good Housekeeping Seal. You know if he liked a writer's words enough to illustrate them you are probably going to like them too. I would hope folks would say the same about the writers I’ve chosen to work with. I am very picky and am offered lots of manuscripts and I turn the majority of them down.
VKBMKL: My favorite contemporary picture book authors are the ones that draw lessons from vintage children’s literature in design and theme, but make it new and viable for the children of today. Do you have favorite illustrators now you feel are carrying on the “grand tradition”?
LANE: Oh yes, I agree. You have to know the past. Sometimes you can spot their influences like when J.Otto Seibold is tipping his hat to M. Sasek or when John Marciano carries on the tradition of his grandfather Ludwig Bemelmans or when someone puts a little Mary Blair or Flora in their work. Patrick McDonnell’s work has a timeless quality that looks like it could have been created yesterday or in the 1920s. Jon Klassen is a newish book illustrator who has a classic look. So does Carson Ellis.
I’ve been sometimes obvious with my influences. Pinocchio, the Boy is one example. That definitely had a Little Golden Book feel to it. A little J.P. Miller, Blair, Art Seiden. My Happy Hocky Family Books were definitely an homage to Munro Leaf’s...Can Be Fun books.
Something like Grandpa Green was influenced by no one in particular (well, maybe a little Gorey in the way I drew the lines on the trees) but I feel a strong 1970s vibe when I look at it. That limited color (mostly green), against ink-lines that you saw in a lot of books of that era.
VKBMKL: Thanks so much for sharing with us Lane. And you kids at home... to learn more about Lane, visit his Website and check him out. To see more of his impression book collection, check out the Curious Pages.
Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy