Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wendy Edelson

How is it that you became an illustrator?
I was born six weeks early, the only child of parents who both showed extraordinary artistic talent but never pursued their own paths but were extraordinarily encouraging of mine
The Epiphany….or the Velveteen Artist….
It all began innocently enough when I was two, drawing my way across the unfolding landscape of America in the back of the family station-wagon, moving from Manhattan to Los Angeles. I arrived at our new home surrounded by Orange and Eucalyptus trees, forevermore in love with drawing, having made the decision to Be An Artist during my first road trip.
Fast forward a couple more years to me and my Mom at an ubiquitous shopping center. See me transfixed in front of the window of a small stationary and art supply store. I was transfixed, gazing rapt, in awe into what had become a Shrine. there, front and center was a complete set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Until this moment all I'd every drawn with was crayons and I'd painted with drippy poster paints...but these pencils were calling to my Soul. My Mom who had walked ahead of me, came back to where I stood and a hushed and reverent voice I whispered to her...."those are what REAL ARTISTS use!!!" How I knew about Prismacolors or knew that  “Real Artists” used them, I have no idea.  In a moment of Pure Parental Perfection my Mom grabbed my hand and bought them for me. My path was chosen……and I set out upon it.
In the the Velveteen Rabbit, a child's love forever transformed a stuffed toy into a Real Rabbit, likewise an early moment of pure faith and love opened wide a little girl's vision. Everyday my Dream and Desire is to create work that somewhow allows me to go to bed at night feeling like a "Real Artist".
 Did you go to art school?                                   
No...I am self taught. I was planning to go but life kind of got in the way. In my last year of Junior High School I met my   first full time working artist, the father of one of my friends. I spent as much time as I could in his studio. I was planning to apply to Cooper Union or RISD and mentioned that to him…and was astonished when he  passionately expressed his opinion about that…that I would spend 4 years learning what I would have to spend the rest of my life unlearning…and that I’d be better off learning on my own. That same year my art teacher had us weaving strips of colored construction paper into what looked like placemats…probably to show the relationship between complimentary colors but I was bored and drew on mine when I was finished and she gave me an F as a final grade…..that same year I won the Gold in the National Scholastic Art Award competition….it all seemed so crazy that I decided to follow  Henry Koerner’s advice and dropped out of school and left for New York with a big black portfolio at the age of 17.
Were there one or more  individuals that were an influence in your becoming an illustrator?  
   Besides Henry Koerner, the artist that I mentioned above, I was highly influenced by my father. He was a Philosophy Professor but dreamt of being a sculptor but never felt he could make a living at it, so it became what he did on weekends and evenings. While my father carved wood, his favorite medium, I would sit with him and draw. He was a fanatic for good draughtsmanship, for accurate anatomical drawing and would have me draw people and animals ( h/t to Muybridge!! ) over and over until they were right. Foreshortening was his favorite…..I can recall drawing foreshortened feet, a nightmare, for hours on end.
   I have also been influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters, their near obsessive attention to detail and by the drawings and paintings of Howard Pyle and NC Wyeth.
 What inspires you now?
Big lofty ideals that come with capital letters….that look  a little phony or trite on paper but nevertheless get me out of bed in the morning, excited to walk into my studio…and keep me there until 2 in the morning. Congruity, Commitment, Beauty, Perseverence, Truth and Faith…..and striving to learn something, to improve with each completed project.
Is there anything you would like to share regarding your technique or style of work, for instance what types of medium do you like to work in?
  My work always begins with drawing. I draw on vellum, creating a very detailed pencil drawing, figuring out all the shading, lighting, pattern… Years ago I used to have to transfer it all onto watercolor paper on a light-table and absolutely hated that step…tracing my own work. Now I scan my art and print it out onto hot press watercolor paper on my wide format Epson printer in a light sepia. I then go on to ink in the exterior contour lines of people, animals etc in the foreground. Then I staple the drawing onto a portable drawing board or piece of gatorboard and slop water all over it. When it dries I proceed to paint, mostly in watercolors with the occasional use of acrylics and colored pencil.
What types of markets do you do illustration for?

   Most of my work has been for book illustration, for children’s books. I have also illustrated  cook books, gardening books and a book about Gods, Goddess and Angels. I have created art for ad campaigns for banks and restaurants and hospitals, product illustration…food, camping equipment, woodstoves, toys and art for zoos, aquariums, ballet and theatre companies. I have also licensed my work for puzzles, decorative items and cards and in the past few years I have enjoyed creating fabric collections. Right now I am back to working on a series of children’s books.
Are there other creative interests you pursue? 
I enjoy writing and have written one children’s book, and created a dummy for it, about a dog in Mexico…but, so far, it remains a dummy. In the last few years I have been so busy painting that that remains something I’d like to spend more time doing…..someday…soon.
I, like many other artists, love love love gardening. I love gardens that are a beautiful mix of vegetables and flowers and I love  crescent shaped moon gardens…planted out with white flowers, usually night blooming and fragrant. I love antique roses and Angel’s Trumpets, Casa Blanca lilies and jasmine!

Do you currently have products with your images on the market? 
Yes, I have puzzles out and also a new Holiday fabric collection out now.
I also have 3 new books coming out and several more that are available.

Are there links where your products or images can be found?
Here are links to book titles:
Dogs A-Z

Pobble’s Way

Bartholomew’s Gift

The Baker’s Dozen

Saturn For My Birthday

Over The River and Through the Woods

My “Snow Magic” fabric group is under the name Stella Blue because I do two fabric lines for  South Sea Imports, one for the “Wilmington Prints” division under Wendy Edelson and the other for South Sea Imports under Stella Blue...hence the “nom de fabric” : )

Ontario, Canada

Here is a link for puzzles:
SummerKiss puzzle
What is the thing you love best about what you do?
I think that one of the things I love best is the sense of congruity….that who I am in my studio….at “work” is really no different than who I am in the garden or in the kitchen…whatever I’m doing. My life, is extraordinarily fortunate and blessed to be about creativity…and about doing, learning whatever I am feeling passionate about at the time. It’s also a blast to get a box of books, or puzzles or fabric with ones work on it. 
I am fairly certain that I feel like many artists do, that while I work extraordinarily hard and spend  most of my time alone, working…that it is sublimely rewarding and regardless of economic vagaries, wouldn’t do anything else, ever….and that I am supremely grateful.


  1. Wonderful interview, Wendy! I have always loved your work.

  2. wonderful work, enjoyed interview too

    Kit Grady