at the Museum
An artist’s creativity is all enveloping for the artist and creativity will soon be an immersive experience for Museum visitors. Jerry Pinkney’s own studio will be recreated at the Museum from the last week of September to the middle of January.
In Jerry’s Studio,
young artists can touch art materials, see his actual
tools, watch videos of Jerry drawing to observe his
technique, and look at the books that Jerry looks
at for information and inspiration.
Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney has been organized by the Norman
Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge,
The exhibition has been made possible
by a grant from The Max and Victoria
Dreyfus Foundation, with additional
support by Jack Noël.
The exhibition includes a 96-page illustrated catalog with essays by the exhibition’s co-curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Dr. Gerald L. Early, and others. The catalogue and books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney are available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
Jerry Pinkney Drawing the Story
In over a hundred books Jerry Pinkney has turned an artist’s eye and hand to the story — a classic, a folktale, a fable — and readers all over the world saw something new, something they wanted to remember. “I am a storyteller at heart,” Pinkney says. He is also the master of the American picture book, and more than 140 of his watercolor illustrations are seen in Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney at the Museum in its only New York showing. The first major overview of Jerry Pinkney’s 50-year-career, Witness follows his 2010 Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse from the American Library Association.
“Oh Grandmama, what great eyes you have!” the girl cried out.
“All the better to see you with, my dear,” declared the wolf.
More praise for Pinkney comes in 2012 with his election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences as an artist and illustrator from the field of children’s literature. “I’ve found it interesting to trace how the chapters of my life have knitted themselves into my art,” Pinkney reflects, and his art covers a wide range that Witness explores in stories from the Bible and history to the classics and family traditions. Philadelphia born and bred, now a long- time New Yorker, Jerry Pinkney’s path to illustration success was not easy. Blacks were not expected to be able to forge careers in the art field, so he trained as a commercial artist at a vocational school, but persisting, won a scholarship to the Philadelphia College of Art where his work took on the shading, detail, and color for which he is renowned. Art critics see Pinkney’s use of color — the scarlet curve of Little Red Riding Hood’s cloak, the golden grass of a Serengeti plain. Sociologists look at Pinkney the boy, who, without a visit to a museum or an art class, drew at home on the back of wallpaper samples. What we see, though, in Witness is his wish: “It has always been my intent for my work to continue to breathe after publication. My hope is that [museum visitors] will believe that Jerry Pinkney cares deeply for people, making art, and visual storytelling.”
The first thing you notice when you enter the sunny studio of Westchester artist Jerry Pinkney is its calm. You will not see or hear a television, computer, or a telephone. A bit of an oasis crisscrossed with the welcome of a home port, the studio was envisioned by this artist to aid his creativity. On the eve of the opening of his nationally touring exhibition Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney at the Hudson River Museum, and looking forward to the November 2012 publication of his latest book Puss in Boots, Jerry Pinkney reflects on his work and his working process.
What is a typical working day like
I’m usually in the studio around 10 or 10:30, six days a week, when I’m not traveling. It often used to be seven days, but now I try to take Sundays to spend time with my great-granddaughter Zion, she’s 5 and has her own art cubby in my studio. I do all the business work in the morning, all the calls and emails from the day before, so I can get started on the “real” work.
What does your studio mean to you?
It’s a refuge, a place many artists need. It gives me both freedom and isolation. People do respect the space and it is the place where I focus on the work itself, rather than everything that surrounds the work. My library here is also a source of inspiration for me. To be able to pull out books by other artists and consider them is important. The Ashcan School was an influence for me, and I’ve been intrigued with how Matisse used red. To create a sense of deep space for a decorative project I’m doing now, I’m looking at Van Gogh’s drawings.
What are some of the things you’ve
learned about the way you work in
Often at the end of the day I’ll leave something undone so next day I can re-enter the world I’m creating more easily. The early phases of developing a book, the so-called research time, tends to be the most chaotic, because I am drawing ideas from a lot of different places.
How did you come up with the idea to
illustrate your new picture book Puss
This classic fairy tale has been on my list of projects for a long time, and I worked with my editor Lauri Hornick at Dial Books closely on the project.“One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how each artist can take the same materials and end up with such completely different results. The artist’s spark of creativity is what makes the difference.”
How did your drawings for Puss take shape?
One of the things about a set of illustrations for a book is they have to be a suite — color palate and tonal intensity must be similar as you review and revise. All my work is in pencil and watercolor. For Puss, the pencil drawings were done first and I worked on his features to keep them consistent throughout. The same is true of the backgrounds, the chateaux, the flesh tones, and the character of the Miller’s son. Sometimes, as I learn more about a character, I will go back and adjust the early images. To capture the flavor of this cat’s France in the 1700s, I researched the chateaux, hair styles, dress — all amazingly fanciful. The drawings of trees in Puss are taken straight from the French landscapes of the day.
Puss, as a character has a wonderful,
very graphic design, and possibly a
One of the things I knew starting the story was that I didn’t want to make Puss orange, which he is in many of the illustrated versions. I chose a black-and-white British Shorthair tabby. He is a kind of European cat that would have been around in 1729.