More Words of Wisdom
from Trina Schart Hyman
Fortunately for us, Trina Schart Hyman has had a lot to say. Please forgive me if I quote her liberally, because no one can say it more eloquently than she can!

“That’s the one great thing about illustrating or being an artist, you can do it at home.”

 From Trina Schart Hyman interview, April 6, 1999.

“Book illustration can be an isolating experience. You work at home for months, send off a finished set of illustrations, and unless the book is a howling success, you never get any real feedback. It’s very lonely work, as I imagine writing is. On the other hand, when I’m in the middle of a book, I would love to be a solitary hermit on the top of a mountain in Tibet.”

from Something about the Author, Volume 46.

“I don’t do sketches, or preliminaries. I think about it instead. I think about the story and about what it means and about how it can be brought to life in pictures. I think about the characters and what makes them tick and where they’re coming from and where they might be going to.”

“I think about all this a lot. I think about it so much that eventually I start to dream about it. And when my dreams start to become the dreams of the characters in the book, when their reality becomes a part of my subconscious, when I can live in their landscape, when I put on a little red cape with a hood and tie the red ribbons under my chin, then I know what to do with my pictures.”

 from her 1985 Caldecott Medal Speech.

“I feel like an actor preparing for a role when I’m working on a book. I need to get inside my characters and begin to think and feel their thoughts and feelings before I can succeed in my illustrations. In order to do that, I have to become them. I often get up from my drawing board and act out scenes. . . . Illustration is theatre. You have to pick a setting, create characters, costumes, lighting. You even have to think about weather and how the weather creates mood. I often think I should have been a film director, because I see the imagery of a story in my mind as a film first, from which I pick out particular frames that I want to illustrate.”

“I don’t use models, I think about friends and relatives when I create a character. The man who lives across the road, an old Vermont farmer, has very strong features and I’ve used him endlessly in illustrations. He was the woodsman in Little Red Riding Hood. If I’m using him as a character and get stuck, I just walk over, pay him a visit, and study his face for an hour. It’s fun to cast your friends as character.”

“You have to be dedicated down to your bones to be an artist. It’s a vocation and you must believe in it, and in yourself. It’s much more competitive now than when I started out, so you must be either very lucky or equipped with an ego of iron.”

from Something about the Author, Volume 46.

“Personally, I think villains are the most fun of anything to draw. I never have any trouble thinking of a model for them (although most of my “models” live in my head, and I draw them from memory). I usually use my ex-husband, or a highly respected children’s book editor whom I happen to loathe, or a reviewer of children’s books who I actually like but also think is a pompous ass or else a friend who is really a lovely guy but who looks like a villain.”

“You are going to offend a certain number of people in this world, no matter what you do! The harder you try not to offend anyone, the more unsatisfactory your work is going to become. Are you an artist or a politician? An artist’s job (as opposed to a politician’s) is to make people think and feel, not to get votes. Very often people get offended when they are asked to do either of these things. Just accept that fact, and go on with your work.”

from “Ask Trina!”, Once Upon a Time, Summer, 1996.

Biography of Trina Schart Hyman

Interview with Trina Schart Hyman

Books Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

How I Work by Trina Schart Hyman

Causley, Charles, Figgie Hobbin,
New York, Walker, 1973.
Causley, Charles, Figgie Hobbin,
New York, Walker, 1973.
Stearns, Pamela The Mechanical
Doll, Boston, Houghton Mifflin,

Livingston, Myra Cohn, Christmas Poems, New York, 
Holiday House, 1984.
© 1999–2002 Denise Ortakales
All Illustrations are copyright by their respective owners.
This page last updated on 24 August 2002.

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