Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Influences: Scarry, Knight, Bates

Picture Book Month
Last week, I featured a trio of children's book illustrators who have had a big influence on my life and work. This week's illustrators are no less talented. I have no doubt at least one of them has impacted your artistic sensibilities as well.

Children's book legend Richard Scarry has a place in everyone's consciousness, I think. I only had a few of his early books, but sometime in the 70's I found Busytown and was hooked. I received the Puzzletown Farm for Christmas, and begged for all the sets, though my parents thought me a bit too old by then. I was enamored with the detail of the illustrations, the romantic depictions of everyday life in a small town, and the full-fledged world which made me want to jump into a book and linger there.

One of many Puzzletown playsets
featuring characters from Richard Scarry's books.
His books still delight readers, not for their nostalgia, but for their timelessness and relevance to children today, as evidenced by the reissuing and rebranding of his body of work.

 "I’m not interested in creating a book that is read once and then placed on the shelf and forgotten,” Richard Scarry once said. “I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment.” 

He evidently pioneered a method of transferring his drawings to board, called "blueboarding," not unlike how some modern illustrators print their scanned sketches directly to watercolor paper.

Which of Richard Scarry's books inspired you most?

Need to get in touch with your inner child? Download fun Busytown activities from Random House.

The Bunny Book, by Richard Scarry
Richard Scarry's brilliant vocabulary builders.
Richard Scarry's Busytown

Cricket Magazine
August 1984

At age 9, I discovered Hilary Knight. Wow. His work renders me speechless. (no easy feat!)

Perhaps it will come as a surprise that it was not Eloise who captured my attention. Truthfully, I didn't read Eloise until I was 30. I adored his soft colors, his storytelling, his imagination, and his masterful ability to distort the figure into the most expressive and graceful poses.

 It was only much later that I learned Hilary Knight has illustrated from Broadway to Sax Fifth Avenue and everywhere in between. Mr. Knight, who celebrated his 87th birthday recently, is as prolific as ever. And I still get paralyzed when I turn a corner and see his unmistakable artwork.

Hilary Knight's Cinderella
A French girl who looks remarkably like Eloise
A Walk in the Park, by Hilary Knight

The last inspiring illustrator for today is the incomparable, Amy June Bates.

Her work, like that of Hilary Knight, leaves me breathless each time I see it. I picked up an early reader about Susan B. Anthony because I couldn't stop staring at the art. It didn't take long for me to track down her various volumes. Amy's work is fresh and unique. Her subdued palette gives her illustrations emotional impact. Her characterizations are lively. In an age where smooth, digital style prevails, Amy's obvious brushwork seems even more outstanding. Amy seems like the kind of artist whose style will continue to evolve, which can only mean the best is yet to come.

Go to Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things interview for an absolute feast of Amy's work.

From I Will Rejoice,
by Karma Wilson
Amy June Bates sketch

Painting of boardwalk  by Amy June Bates

If you haven't yet discover these wonderful illustrators, I hope you will take the time to explore their work, and that you are inspired to greater artistic achievements.


  1. We had Scarry's The Best Mistake Ever when my daughter was little and I read those stories to her over and over again. She loved those characters.

    1. Thanks for commenting. You've piqued my curiosity. I wonder what the biggest mistake might be. Hmmm . . .

  2. Richard Scarry is a favorite at our house! We have a Puzzletown in our closet that out little Princesses play with when they come for a visit. And we ALWAYS read The Best Word Book Ever!

  3. Thanks for all the great suggestions!


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