A beautiful bio of Robert McCloskey, who died yesterday.
I loved the quote from him, where he talks about how he started out wanting to do “great art”, but “great art” has a way of not paying well, so he ended up bringing some of his work to be evaluated by an editor for children’s books:
I never sold an oil painting, only a few water colors at the most modest prices, and financially my art career was a bust. I went to call on an editor of children’s books in New York. I came into her office with my folio under my arm and sat on the edge of my chair. She looked at the examples of “great art” that I had brought along (they were woodcuts, fraught with black drama). I don’t remember just the words she used to tell me to get wise to myself and to shelve the dragons, Pegasus, and limpid pool business and learn how and what to “art” with. I think we talked mostly of Ohio.
That one quote alone makes me think that I would have liked the man, had I met him in person. “Shelve the dragons, Pegasus, and limpid pool business” — a smart woman, that editor! There is also a beautiful story of how he brought ducks home to his apartment, so he could draw them, in preparation for what would eventually be the classic children’s book Make Way for Ducklings.
Robert McCloskey’s books were the first to hypnotize me. The first in a long long line of books which captivated my heart, my mind, cracked open a door inside me, showing me other worlds, other lives, setting my imagination on fire. He was the first. He was the first.