Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Sendak’

Edible Sendak


Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

–Maurice Sendak


He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.

I love this little episode from Maurice Sendak. Reinforces my own faith in the judgement of children when it comes to art. Their reactions are pure and unadulterated– with the emphasis on the adult portion of that word. Kids look at things without pretensions and preconceived notions of what art is or is not. I am happiest when a kid reacts strongly to my work.

If only I could paint something that some kid would love enough to eat…


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Art has always been my salvation. And my gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart. And when Mozart is playing in my room, I am in conjunction with something I can’t explain — I don’t need to. I know that if there’s a purpose for life, it was for me to hear Mozart. Or if I walk in the woods and I see an animal, the purpose of my life was to see that animal. I can recollect it, I can notice it. I’m here to take note of. And that is beyond my ego, beyond anything that belongs to me, an observer, an observer.

–Maurice Sendak


Amen to these wise words from the late great Maurice Sendak.

Thought it might be nice to share some of his work beyond Where the Wild Things Are. It is equally as wonderful.

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Maurice Sendak from We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy 1993Forgive me.

I try to keep this blog and my work separated from politics, keep it a place where you don’t have to face the crazy contentiousness and illogical arguments that fill every minute of the news cycle in this election year.  We need a tranquil resting place.

Last year, when I was leading a two-day workshop, one of the participants brought up the then burgeoning presidential race, wanting to bash one side.  Though I agreed with him and wanted to bash as much as anyone in the room, I felt like I had to stop the discussion.  I didn’t know the politics of everyone in that room and didn’t want anyone to feel challenged or attacked in any way.  They didn’t sign up for that.  They came, hopefully because they wanted to learn to do something that took them away from rancor, something that united rather than divided people.

So I declared the workshop a no-politics zone and we moved on.

But today I am making a slight departure if only to share the  illustration above from the late great Maurice Sendak.  It’s from his 1993 children’s book We Are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy, which basically took two Mother Goose nursery rhymes and combined them into one simple story that presented strong social commentary that decried the ills of our society.  You know, greed and avarice and that kind of thing.

One of the illustrations is the one shown at the top which shows Trump Tower and a host of folks in rags with them exclaiming the words: Lost! Tricked! Trumped! Dumped!

There’s lot more that could be said.  In fact, I went on a spiel but cut it.

Sometimes it’s better to let a simple image do the talking…


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openhouseforbutterflies18 ruth krauss and maurice sendakI really like good children’s books.  The good ones read as well for adults as they do for the kids, speaking in simplified terms about universal themes,  Sometimes it’s just refreshing to see a simple truth not hidden beneath a mountain of adult garbage.

Most of us know Maurice Sendak for his classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are and many others but he was also a very prolific illustrator for other author’s books.  Early in is career, he had an eight year collaboration with Ruth Krauss (1901-1993) who is considered a giant in the children’s book genre although many of us probably are not aware of her work.  Her editor, Ursula Nordstrom, described the appeal of her books in the 1950’s in a way that sort of describes why I believe I like kid’s books so much:

Krauss books can be bridges between the poor dull insensitive adult and the fresh, imaginative, brand-new child. But of course that only will work if the dull adult isn’t too dull to admit he doesn’t know the answer to everything. Krauss books will not charm those sinful adults who sift their reactions to children’s books through their own messy adult maladjustments. That is a sin and I meet it all the time. But there are some adults who don’t sift their reactions to children’s books through their own messy adult maladjustments and I guess those are the ones who will love and buy Krauss.

Maybe they are bridges between the dullness of our adult minds and the openness and flexibility of our child’s mind.

I came across one of their books, Open House for Butterflies from 1960, and found many of the images charming and timeless.  Beautiful bridges.

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Where the Wild Things AreThere’s a part of me that’s slightly embarrassed by my reaction to the ads running for the the release of the movie version of Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are.  I find myself smiling every time the ad concludes and a certain lightness, a  kid-like giddiness rises in me at the prospect of seeing something magically special.

I don’t know why.  I’m seemingly long past the age of  kid-like excitement.  I never read the book when I was a child  so it doesn’t rekindle warm and fuzzy memories.  I usually don’t even like the idea of trying to make movies from my favorite books, usually with good cause.

But there is something very engaging in the trailer for this film.  Maybe it’s from the direction of Spike Jonze who is responsible for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, two of the most unique films of recent years.  His choice of costuming and the beautiful golden colors of his cinematography make it so that you can’t pull your eyes from the screen.

I can only hope it meets my now raised expectations.  It opens this Friday.

There was a somewhat animated version from 1973 that was done by Peter Schickele ( AKA PDQ Bach) in collaboration with Sendak.  It’s a short piece that definitely lacks the finish of more recent animations but is true to the story.  Take a look…

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