Excuse me, but this post is gonna sound a bit Twilight Zone-ish. On Tuesday, I attended a small group meeting hosted by a guy at my church. He's not an artist at all, but he's an art history buff. I got kind of quiet when he started dropping the names of artists I should know about, but don't. I left his house resolved to learn more about artists from the past.
Yesterday when I got to work, a reporter had left several children's publisher catalogs on my desk (they usually throw them away, so I've asked that they give them to me instead). Looking through Greenwillow's winter catalog 2008, I came across OH, BROTHER!, written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Mike Benny. I loved the art and was surprised to discover that the illustrator lives right here in Austin. I was even more surprised when I recognized his picture. I met him a few years ago when I spoke at an SCBWI conference. Mike had attended a workshop I'd given, and he even gave me a poster featuring one of his illustrations to boot!
Immediately I shot off an email to him, and he responded. I won't get into the specifics of the communications that followed (though I hope to someday), but I will say that he inspired me big-time. In his email, he mentioned WPA artists of the 1930s and 40s. Of course, I know very little about WPA artists, so I made a mental note and planned to do some research.
In the mail today, I received an old issue of CA magazine. I'd ordered it online when I discovered that it featured an article about illustrator Loren Long. Reading the article, Loren also mentioned WPA mural artists of the 30s and 40s, artists like Thomas Hart Benton and Ernest Hamlin Baker. DO-DO-DO-DO...DO-DO-DO-DO (sung to the tune of the Twilight Zone). Someone or something is trying to tell me something. Time to visit the library!
It's at times like this that I wish I'd attended an art college, or at least had taken some art history classes. I still can, I guess. But I'm too busy now.