The Zen of Leo Lionni

Before Eric Carle, there was the brilliant Leo Lionni. I am so in love with his books. They are seemingly simple, very zen-like. A beautiful match of few words and crisp images. His short stories carry meaningful messages of character and integrity. It is not surprising to find out that he had a very brilliant career in advertising prior to writing children's books. He headed up the graphic design department at Parsons School in NY and was the art director for Fortune and co-editor of Print. He also worked in advertising at prestigious firms as art director. He had a strong influence on both Eric Carle and Ezra Keats.

Here is what Leo Lionni had to say about his process:
"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives. And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.'"

He didn't begin writing and illustrating children's books until much later in his career. In fact, his first book was developed to entertain his grandchildren on a boring train ride.

Here is a wonderful link where you can see more of his books and learn more about him.


Stephanie said...

As a former pre-school teacher your Leo Lionni post struck a chord. My favorites being Frederick and Swimmy! I have boxes of children's books and will not part with them unless I become a grandma one day. I must say one of the first children's books I purchased as a pre-school teacher is Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear.:o)

Amy said...

Amy, I always thought your illustrations were inspired by Eric and Leo...now I'm pretty sure they are!! ~a.

Josephine Cameron said...

At the Eric Carle Picture Book Art Museum in Massachusetts, there are a number of original Leo Lionni works in the permanent collection. It's pretty amazing to see the *actual* pieces of art with papers layered on top of each other, and even tiny dabs of white-out on occasion, shaping some of the work. It was very cool...you should make a pilgrimage some day! :)

Red Fish Circle said...

Thanks Josephine! I was there just before it is opened, but I am up that way a lot - I can't wait!!!

sassypriscilla said...

ooh - haven't thought of his books in a while. i loved them as a girl and will have to pick some up for my son pronto!