In today’s Meet the Illustrator feature we hear from David Ezra Stein, award-winning author and illustrator of the delightful Interrupting Chicken and recently released Tad and Dad. David reveals his unique artistic inspirations, takes us inside his new studio, and shares some special artwork from his kiddos.
What first made you excited about art?
My first steps taken as a toddler were to investigate the red, velvet lining of a cello case. Color! Texture! The world around. The jewelry of bohemian relatives. Picking up a pencil and scribbling in my parents’ daily planner.
What illustrated book from childhood has stayed with you over the years?
The Runaway Bunny. The colors of the paintings in that book are seared into my mind. There are two techniques used: line drawing alternating with painting. The way Clement Hurd made a bunny metamorphose into a sailboat and a tree is visual alchemy.
Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations?
Chinese and Japanese calligraphy. Textiles. Matisse. 50s posters. Going out. Life drawing. Theater. Flowers and plants. Fashion. Food. Comics.
What does your workspace look like?
I am working hard right now to build this little studio house! And move out of my apartment studio. This is in a nearby backyard, here in New York City. At the moment it is looking like this:
I’m already painting in here, and enjoying the natural light. It’s a real blessing.
What materials do you most like to use?
I love the feel of real-world materials. Watercolor is always a joy for me. It has a mind of its own, yet can be shepherded in fascinating directions. It is a compromise between will and accident. Crayon is nicely waxy and scribbly. Uni-ball pens are the perfect blend of scratchy and inky. I have dipped almost everything into ink to make a line: pencils, markers, chopsticks.
What design resources would you recommend to young artists?
Drawing is the most essential approach to any kind of design, because drawing IS design. To pick up a pen or stylus and make a mark is to compose. What do you leave out? What do you put in? How do you exaggerate and what does that say about the message or story you are trying to create? Drawing is style. And the best way to do it is to just do it. Here in NYC we have some of the greatest museums in the world. So when you’re done drawing, you can go see how others throughout the eons have solved the same problems of design.
How do you get your kids excited about art?
My kids love art because they see me drawing and painting for fun, as part of my life. Honestly, my daughter, who is two, seems to be more into it than my 5-and-a-half-year-old son. Maybe it’s because he’s allowed in the art studio and she’s not. Forbidden fruit! (She likes opening inkbottles and pouring them out.)
What have your kids taught you about books and reading?
Being a father has taught me the depth of love that a parent feels for his offspring, along with all the frustrations and challenges that go with it. I have been creating books that reflect the journey that parents and kids take together. My latest, Tad and Dad, is no exception.
What’s the best name for a color that you’ve ever heard?
Award-winning children’s author and illustrator David Ezra Stein was born in Brooklyn, NY. By the time he was three, he was asking adults, “Wanna come to my room? Read books?” David says, “I’ll never forget the experience of sitting in a beloved lap and having a whole world open before me: a world brought to life by the pictures and the grown-up’s voice. That wonder is what I want to re-create in my own books.”
Children’s-book historian Leonard S. Marcus has called David “one of the most gifted younger artists working today.” David’s Interrupting Chicken was awarded a Caldecott Honor. Scholastic named it one of the top 100 books of all time for children. His books have been translated into ten languages. His latest is Tad and Dad.
David lives with his wife and two small children in Kew Gardens, NY. You can learn more about David at his website, www.davidezra.com