Sunday, December 30, 2007

Delightful Doodles: the art of William Steig

Yesterday I took a walk across Central Park to stop in to the Jewish Museum of Art at 92nd Street and 5th Avenue. There is a new exhibit there that celebrate the art work of William Steig, a cartoonist who achieved early fame as an illustrator of the New York and became a children's book author at age 60. Though he is most famous for conceiving the idea for and creating the story of Shrek, that one work, as wonderful as it is, does not do justice to a career based on enchanting doodles.

Like many art exhibits, this one has multi-media components - a short film, narrated by Steig, about his life and work, models of the Shrek characters, letters he's written to and received from monumental figures in the art world, interactive pieces such as a children's library, and of course, his marvelous sketches. Immediately upon entering the exhibit, the greatest nugget to genius is written plainly on the wall. When asked about how he developed such a successful career, Steig said "I don't think like other people. I never really did grow up."

It's his wonderful sense of honesty and childlike desire to connect with people on a very profound basis that had me smiling all throughout the exhibit. His doodling and intentional coloring outside of the lines kept me dreaming, entering his world of fair tales that had meaningful lessons to teach viewers about their real, everyday lives. Steig said his best work came from drawing with no direction, with no purpose. Drawing for the sake of drawing.

This had me wondering all the way home what works I could create if I had no agenda in my creations. How would I live my life if I just did what I wanted to do without any sense of having to do something "useful"? By letting go, we can break-through.

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