Friday, March 14, 2014

Reconnecting with David McPhail

I recently reconnected with Author-Illustrator, David McPhail at a recent book event and exhibit for New Hampshire Illustrators at the Amherst, NH Library. I finally got the chance to thank him.

Nearly 30 years ago David generously donated his time to share his wisdom about the children’s book industry and the craft of illustration to a young group of new and aspiring authors and illustrators. I was among that SCBWI critique group who, in the mid eighties, met monthly in a private home in Cambridge, MA. David was not much older than us, but he was already established in children’s book publishing. At the time, I was a “newbie”. I had only published a few books as the illustrator, and had not yet sold anything as an Author-Illustrator (but I was trying!)

David didn’t remember coming to our meeting that morning, nor did he remember me…(and I didn’t expect him to.)  But I did remembered him and after all these years I finally got the chance to thank him for his inspiration, wisdom and encouragement in the very early days of my career.

Even back then, I was a big fan of David's work, especially his pen and ink drawings. During the  Library event, we reminisced about publishing and illustrating children’s books in the 1980’s. Things were different.  The tenuous process of pre-separating art by hand was still commonplace. (Thankfully, soon after, the industry moved into illustrating in full color.) 
'Bumper Tubbs' by David McPhail. HM 1980, pre-separated art

At the time, there were many independent publishers. Books deals were made with an editor over a cup of coffee. There were fewer committees, less hoops to jump through, and quicker decisions. The industry might have changed, but good illustration is timeless. After over 200 children’s books published, David continues to illustrate and write beautiful books.
'Mole Music" By David McPhail, Square Fish/Macmillan 2001

"The Family Tree" By David McPhail, Henry Holt 2012

Not often do we get the opportunity to thank someone who inspired our career. Thanks David. In turn- I hope that I will somehow inspire others.

Is there anyone who inspired your career or art? Maybe it is time to thank them.
(All illustrations posted by permission - Copyright David McPhail, All Rights Reserved)


Stephen Aitken said...

What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that Maryann. I would bet my boots that you have inspired an entirely new generation of picture book artists!

Maryann Cocca-Leffler said...

Let's hope so! Thanks for writing Steve.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

That's so cool that you were able to connect with him. I know exactly what you mean! :) e

Janet McDonnell said...

I'm such a fan of David McPhail. I just bought one of his books, "Ben Loves Bear," for my little nephew. So great that you were able to thank him. For me, it was Larry Day who offered early encouragement. Great guy.