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Above: The Ex-Laureate's Party, Quentin Blake

This weekend brought an unexpected trip to the Rosenback museum in Philadelphia, where Maurice Sendak has a rotating exhibition running until September.  While browsing the mini collection (most of which are preliminary drawings) I was reminded of what I love most about illustration and even art: lines.  

There is an elegance in line-in its simplicity-that is addictive.  It is, after all, the foundation of our visual education; the first images we create are almost always some version of lines, scrawled in a beautiful mess across clean white.  It is how we comminicate, whether with letters or numbers or symbols. 

And so I celebrate the exquisite contours that define the pictures from our minds, with four artists who's images speak with the eloquence of line.


Maurice Sendak-

Most well known for his iconic book Where The Wild Things Are, Sendak's illustrations range from the simple miniatures in Chicken Soup WIth Rice to his detailed cross-hatching in Little Bear to the beautiful and haunting images in Outside Over There, whose details toy with realistic qualities.  There is something full about his drawing, something that you want to reach out and touch.  Some are clean, yet overflow with detail, so much so, that it seems not another line would fit.  Others are outlines of ink or pencil, but they are not empty, nor does it seem as though anything more should touch the paper; there is a balance in every image.  No matter the simplicity or intensity seen on the page, every image holds a quality in their line that is innately Sendak.    


Brett Helquist-

Helquist is the drawing force behind Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, as well as Chasing Vermeer and Tales From the House of Bunnicula.  He has also ventured into children's literature as the author of Roger the Jolly Pirate.  Helquist's unique hand carries a nostalgic feel, which fell perfectly in tune with Snicket's Baudelaire family.  His ability to define each character leaves you thinking there is no other way in which they could be drawn.  He describes his style as a fusion of Japanese and Chinese art with comic strip influence and has also said that in his weaknesses has found his strength, which just happens to be line.


Quentin Blake-

Blake has brought to life the stories of Roald Dahl.  In fact, it would be hard to try and separate the two.  Like Snicket and Helquist, Blake's images work in such harmony with Dahl's writing style that it seems as though the writer and illustrator were the same.  His quick lines create charming pictures that capture moments in action.  Blake has also illustrated his own writing; his drawings were solely black and white before his literary venture, in which he wrote about a boy who could make things change color. "I was never asked to do anything in colour. I retaliated by writing this story about a young man who made things change colour when he played the violin. So you see, it had to be illustrated in colour."


Charles M. Schulz-

Schulz created the knee-high world of Peanuts with simple lines that forever live in the world of comic strips.  Schulz creates with the fewest of strokes what many artists strive to convey with hundreds.  The expressions he captures, though clearly cartoon, are real in a way that digs into every child that is still inside all of us.  He could bring us back to a place that we all remember, no matter when we lived it, or how long ago it was, and drew out the truth's that every age is searching for.  


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Children's Literature