Garrison Keillor, of Prairie Home Companion fame, has said:
I’ve been a fan of Wendell Minor’s work for years without being aware of it, admiring his book covers and never quite remembering his name. Then he did a cover for me and suddenly he became unforgettable.
I quote from David McCullough’s introduction for Wendell Minor: Art for the Written Word:
Wendell Minor is an exceptionally gifted, almost imaginably prolific American artist…. In the world of publishing there is no one quite like him. Indeed, his value to the world of books can hardly be overstated.
Wendell’s paintings have a special quality. They seem imbued with a quiet stillness that draws one into his art and makes one feel as if she/he is there in a particular locale at a particular time:
- Trekking westward with pioneers through Scotts Bluff in Nebraska
- Walking through sand dunes and sea grass as an orange sun sets
- Standing on the rocky coast of Maine with Rachel Carson as moonlight shimmers on the sea
- Gazing at stone monuments hewn by nature at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona
An Illustration from America The Beautiful
Wendell has a true commitment to his art and to portraying areas of our nation in all their majesty and humble beauty. Many of his books have been designated as Notable Trade Books for Children in the Field of Social Studies and as Notable Science Trade Books for Children.
Interview with Wendell Minor
Wendell: I knew I wanted to be an artist from the time I was in the fourth grade.
Elaine : Did you begin your career in art illustrating books for children?
Wendell: No. In the years following art school I experimented with advertising, graphics, greeting cards, landscape painting, and book jackets. In 1986, after doing about over 2,000 book jackets, I was offered my first manuscript for a children’s book. I discovered that I loved the whole process of creating a children’s book, and have been doing them ever since.
Elaine: Many of the picture books you have illustrated have a real sense of place: Diane Siebert’s Mojave, Sierra, and Heartland; Jean Craighead George’s Everglades; Katharine Lee Bates’ America the Beautiful; Grassroots: Poems by Carl Sandburg; and Charlotte Zolotow’s The Seashore Book. You seem to have a true respect and reverence for the land. Would you like to tell us about that and about the kind of research you do before beginning work on a book like America the Beautiful, Everglades, or the others I have mentioned?
Wendell: When I was a child, my father, who was a sportsman, took me on outings in the wild, and I learned at a very young age to observe nature. As a landscape painter, I am a keen observer and advocate for the environment, and believe that one cannot transmit that to a child convincingly, without experiencing it first hand.
Wendell: It is often hard to explain to people how I can work as many hours as I do, however, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, once said that each person gets so many heart beats, and he promised himself never to waste a single one. That is my philosophy as well. There are so many ideas, and so little time, and with one hand and one brush, that equals 12-14 hours days in the studio: days that seem to pass as if each one was a single heartbeat. There really is no “typical” day in the studio, as I work on numerous projects simultaneously. Each day is comprised of a combination of concept, research, design, discussions with editors, arranging for models shoots for various projects, and then, finding as much time as possible to sit and do the final art for the project at hand. As you might imagine, this makes for very long hours at the drawing board, but fortunately, my drawing board faces beautiful woods, so that I can look out my window and watch the changing skies and foliage, wildlife and birds, and even though I am inside, I still feel a part of nature. I am also fortunate that my wife Florence works with me, in an adjoining studio, and helps coordinate much of the business and editorial part of all the projects. She has also taken on the role of collaborator, and has written two books that I illustrated. Our cats Sofie and Cindercat are always with us in the studio, and lead the relaxed lives we wish we had!
Elaine: Are you working on any new children’s books at the present time?
Wendell: I just delivered the paintings for If You Were a Penguin and currently have several books in various stages of production in the pipeline.
Elaine: The snowflakes you created for Robert’s Snow in 2004 and 2005 were inspired by your book Christmas Tree!, which was written by your lovely wife Florence. Do the two of you plan to collaborate on any more books?
The Gorgeous Cindercat
Elaine: Would you share with us your inspiration for your 2007 snowflake?
Wendell: My 2007 snowflake is from my book Nibble Nibble. It was an honor, and a joy to re-illustrate this Margaret Wise Brown classic, and the image on the snowflake is from the dedication page piece from the book – a rabbit holding a daisy.
Wendell's 2007 Snowflake
Two Illustrations from Nibble Nibble
Click here to read my review of Nibble Nibble.
Visit Wendell Minor’s fabulous website! It includes animations of some of his picture books, including Nibble Nibble and Buzz Aldrin’s Reaching for the Moon.
NOTE: All illustrations and photographs © Wendell Minor. They may not be used without his permission.
REMINDER: WIN A PRIZE!!! I do hope you’ll stop by to read all of my Blogging for a Cure articles and to comment about the artists and their work. I have a special prize for some lucky person who leaves a comment at any of my six posts featuring a Robert’s Snow artist: a limited edition giclee print of an illustration from Grace Lin’s book Robert’s Snow!
Each time you comment at one of my Blogging for a Cure posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I’ll put your name in a hat. If you comment at all six posts, your name will go into the hat six times! The drawing will take place on November 19th, the day bidding begins on the first of three Robert’s Snow 2007 auctions.
I also have several consolation prizes for commenters who don’t win the “big” prize: five small prints of the Robert’s Snow mouse(mice).
Here is a link to my Blogging for a Cure article about Robert's Snow artist Scott Bakal.