Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Scrooged and being Ebenezer

Ever since I published my first children's picture book in 1996, I have found myself in the generous world of children's literature. My experience has been more like Scrooge's visit with the ghost of Christmas past as I visit my childhood memories frequently, in order to paint  and write better stories. The ghost of Christmas present has been the creative spirit of my amazing editor, Allyn Johnston. I have been fortunate to have had such a collaboration -- almost a mentorship in the world of creating picture books for the past 17 years. And the ghost of Christmas future? As I grow older and maybe a little wiser, I have become painfully aware of how precious creative time in the studio is-- and the privilege of making picture books about subjects that excite me and help me grow in my awareness of this world is something I never take for granted, so I do what I can to share what I know of books and their makings with others, young and old.

As for being "Scrooged", I have led two lives as an artist and it was during the transition from one to the other where I was scrooged-- when I was the more vulnerable, of course. After college in California, I moved to NYC where I lived my twenties making art, hoping to get into a gallery, be discovered, perhaps even be invited into the Whitney Biennial?! I applied for grants, artist residencies, fellowships, and found some success and many rejections. Eight years later, I met my husband, moved to the midwest and continued to paint, sculpt, and show in local galleries and museums here in the Twin Cities. It was not a gallery dealer who scrooged me or a publisher, critic, or mentor, but a peer. With the tongue of a witch foretelling my future she snapped: "You will never be a serious artist because you got married and left NYC." That is all she uttered, but it hit me to my core. "Friends" in NY had told me the same thing, but I laughed it off, yet this time it stung. I was pregnant at the time with my first child, so there was no turning back and I was beginning to illustrate my first children's picture book, which at the time, did not feel like making "real" art. Tonight my first-born is coming home from college for the holidays. She is almost 20 years old. For the past twenty years, I have been "seriously" painting picture books and writing stories, sculpting and painting in-between deadlines. Perhaps in this person's eyes, I am still not a "serious" artist, as what I do now will never be in the Whitney Biennial. But who knows? Perhaps some visitor to the Whitney museum will will be walking through the galleries with their child in a stroller and that little girl or boy will tire of looking at the "new" art and instead read through one of my books pulled from the stash of books in the back of the stroller, as my children did on visits to art museums. And to this "peer" with her stinging tongue, I say: "Bah! Humbug!"


Stephanie said...

How awful! You are an amazing artist.Sometimes I think everyone thinks that way about publishing too: that you have to be in NYC to be serious about it. I'm so glad you live in the midwest AND are successful. It proves all those naysayers wrong.

Diane Adams said...

I believe that you are successful in more than your art, in which you are very successful. You have a family and friends, and I believe that there is nothing more successful in life than that. Bah humbug to the naysayers!!

john said...

Lauren, I remember your show at Groveland Gallery and thought that work was terrific. I also think your current work may have a longer life then some other contemporary art. People are going to be reading a book like Winter is the Warmest Season for a long time. I am glad that you found your path here.

David LaRochelle said...

Picture books are often a child's first exposure to art. And if that is important enough to be treated seriously, I don't know what is.

I would rather have my work displayed in a picture book than hanging in ANY art gallery, honest. And I wouldn't be surprised if someday they have an entire exhibit of your work at the Eric Carle Museum.

With all your past, current, and forthcoming successes, I'd say you got the last laugh on this peer.

Mark said...

I think you've already proven your peer wrong, Lauren. Your art is "on display" in bookstores and libraries around the country (and probably the world). A lot of "truisms" from the past are becoming ancient history, as far as I can see, especially as they relate to art and artists. Good for you for remaining true to your vision while also living your life!

Christy said...

Sorry to be late coming in on this discussion. I was a fine arts major, and I studied art history as well, spent lots of time in museums and galleries, but I don't believe art has to appear in a gallery or museum to have credibility or value.

I notice that same kind of thinking when writing for children is not considered serious, literary, or valued like writing for an adult audience.

Just don't buy into it. Sometimes that the best way to combat the issue; refuse to accept the premise.