WAUSAU, WI.-The stylishly diverse, award-winning childrens book illustrations in Paul O. Zelinsky: Angels to Ogres will brighten up dark winter days at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum from November 19, 2005 January 29, 2006. Fifty-eight original artworks created by Zelinsky for eighteen books over a twenty-year span delightfully reveal why opening up a Zelinsky-illustrated picture book is a magical adventure for readers of all ages.
The range of books Zelinsky has illustrated to date covers the realms of fairytales, movable books and chapter books, rhyming stories, and, most recently, computer graphics. Zelinsky enjoys the fact that the books he illustrates are dissimilar because it makes me try different things, new techniques, unfamiliar styles. His primary goal is to make pictures that speak in the same voice as the authors words.
The artist has translated many classic stories into beautiful picture books including the Brother Grimms fairytales Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, and his 1998 Caldecott Medal-winning Rapunzel. For Rapunzel, Zelinsky used oil paints and Renaissance-style illustrations to take the reader to Italy in the 1500s. Doing so allowed him to ground the story in a solid, historical world and lend authenticity to a fairytale that has no actual authentic version.
In his movable books Zelinsky brings motion and song to life through his lyrical adaptations of Knick-Knack Paddywhack! and The Wheels on the Bus. These masterfully engineered books invite children to pull tabs and spin wheels, revealing hidden surprises within each page. His characteristically bright and detailed illustrations bring out the humor of these familiar childhood songs.
Older readers of chapter books will recognize illustrations from the well-known classics Dear Mr. Henshaw (written by Beverly Cleary) and Five Children and It (written by E. Nesbit). Whether depicting real-life situations or stories of mystery and intrigue, Zelinskys artwork convinces the reader of each fantasy world created by the author. For Five Children and It Zelinsky reflects that
I would have liked to come up with an original look for the sand fairy, but Nesbits descriptions were so clear that there was only one way to draw the creature.
Witty characters steal the show in Zelinskys off-beat adaptations of poems and stories in rhyme. His whimsical style in The Maid and the Mouse and the Odd-shaped House is fun and lighthearted, and readers even find themselves laughing at Awful Ogres gruesome, but comical, ways in Awful Ogres Awful Day.
About these more playful books, Zelinsky writes,
now and then its great to throw seriousness completely to the wind and make something absolutely ridiculous. But that doesnt mean that it cant also be beautiful.
Zelinskys foray into using computer graphics resulted in Doodlers Doodling, where simple, doodled images seem to evolve and take on a life of their own. Doodling is one of Zelinskys favorite ways of drawing because I never know what I will draw next. Whats already there decides what comes next. He also admits that monsters are always satisfying to draw, too.
The diversity of Zelinskys artworks is seen in his many different styles as well as in the array of drawing and painting mediums he uses with such proficiency. They include pastels, both transparent and opaque watercolors, pen and ink, color pencils and gray pencils, and oil paints.
Paul Zelinsky was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1953. He attended Yale University, where he took a course with famed childrens book illustrator Maurice Sendak, which later inspired him to pursue a career in childrens books rather than follow in Pablo Picassos footsteps or in childhood when I grow up careers that included astronomer, architect, and taxidermist. He received a graduate degree in painting from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia.
The exhibition Paul O. Zelinsky: Angels to Ogres and complementary programs are made possible by Presenting Sponsor Verizon and Education Sponsor Abby Bank. The National Center for Illustrated Childrens Literature, Abilene, Texas, organized Zelinskys work for national tour.