Scion Presents: Ed Emberley and Friends from Scion ART on Vimeo.
One day last Spring, as my friend Caleb Neelon and I walked over the Mass Ave bridge in Boston, he told me about a show he was starting to piece together that would pay tribute to the children's drawing book illustrator, Ed Emberley. I loved it. As someone who was heavily influenced by Ed Emberley books as a child, it seemed like such a great homage and a brilliant idea. Those books were pivotal in my learning to draw and made it seem so accessible. Plus, who doesn't like to wax nostalgic about drawing as a child? It seemed like such a no brainer, and especially if Caleb was behind it. An artist and muralist, who spends a lot of his time encouraging inner city kids to draw, Caleb seemed like the obvious person to bring this idea to light.
It seemed obvious how quickly Ed Emberley & Friends came together over the past year. Opening this coming weekend, the show will feature Ed Emberley's original mock-ups, as well as on-site panels and work from six artists who were influenced by Ed Emberley books as children; Raul Gonzalez, Seonna Hong, Matt Leines, Christopher Kline, Saelee Oh and Ben Woodward. Each of the panels will be donated to various Children's Hospitals around the U.S. Amazing.
Caleb sat down and answered a few questions about his inspiration behind the show, getting to work with Ed himself and how such a humble and prolific illustrator helped shape his career. - meighanEd Emberley & Friends opens Saturday July 17, 7-10 pm at Scion Installation, LA 3521 Helms Ave (at National) Culver City, CA 90232. On view until August 7.
For those who didn't grow up with Ed Emberley books, can you give us alittle background on him, his drawings and the books.
Ed Emberley is an author and illustrator best known for hisstep-by-step drawing book series: Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book ofAnimals, Ed Emberley’s Make a World, Ed Emberley’s Big Green Drawingbook, Ed Emberley’s Big Purple Drawing Book, and so on – most of thesecame out in the 1970s and early 1980s. Inthe drawing books, he breaks down drawing into a very simple languageof squares, triangles, squiggles, dots, and lines. And these funnycharacters he taught – lions, faces, space creatures, etc – are sopervasive that even if you didn’t learn directly from his books as akid, the kid at the next desk over might have – and they showed youhow too.
Something one hears again and again about Ed – this is a quote from myfriend Anne, but I’ve heard it a lot in putting this show together isthat “Ed Emberley made drawing possible for those like me who have nosense of how to create anything but a few simple shapes!”
Tell us about your earliest memory using/reading an Ed Emberley book.
His Big Green Drawing Book is very near and dear to my heart. I stillhave my old drawings of Zorts and Wooflers (kinds of space creatures)to prove it!
Is there a certain animal you drew as a child (and perhaps inadulthood) that Ed Emberley books helped shape for you?
Well, my Lilman character, which I even ended up publishing achildren’s book about, grew out of an Ed Emberley beastie. The funnything was, I didn’t realize it until I was in my 30s. I never had hisBig Purple Drawing Book as a kid – I had looked over another boy’sshoulder as he had the book, drawn one of Ed’s characters, then afterthat I mutated it along until it was something my own.
Tell us about the show, Ed Emberley & Friends.
Well, enough time has passed that some of the kids who grew up on EdEmberley books are now accomplished artists in their own right. So Iwanted to put together something that showed this generationalconnection. And along the way I made the connect with Ed and his wifeBarbara. Turns out Ed and I are even from the same old neighborhoodin Cambridge.
So the show puts Ed together with artists Saelee Oh, Matt Leines, RaulGonzalez, Seonna Hong, Chris Kline and Ben Woodward. They’re all showing a bit oftheir artwork, but also, each one of them is painting a six foot bysix foot panel that is a happy mash-up of their style with Edcharacters and flavor. These big pieces are gonna be donated fordisplay in children’s hospitals in various U.S. cities.
And then there is Ed himself! He is showing the original mock-ups forseveral of his books, and they are so so rad….. He’s also done a smallamount of drawings for sale (also to benefit children’s hospital artprograms). They are going fast!
What was his reaction when you first contacted him about puttingtogether a show based on his work?
Curious to see what this would look like, I think.
I know you've spent time with Ed leading up to the show. Canyou tell us what that was like?
Ed and Barbara live in a million year old house on Boston’s NorthShore, it’s beautiful. Old wood beams and everything. He has a greatlittle studio upstairs with lots of his old stuff. And spending timewith him has of course been a treat. It’s inspiring to see someonewho has made a life out of encouraging millions of kids to draw.
Is he still drawing today?
Yes, and still is making books. They look different from the DrawingBook series that I grew up on, but they are no doubt influencing newgenerations of kids.
Each artist that you asked to be in the show has a pretty distinctstyle, can you briefly tell us what each artist will bring to theshow?
Everyone makes art that I love, that’s what! I wanted to bringtogether a group that would have fun together – everyone is painting abig fun happy panel on-site in the week leading up to it, and it’s EdEmberley, so it’s art camp!
You are an artist that frequently works with children in Boston, howhas Ed Emberley's work shaped your interactions with kids?
The spirit of Ed’s work is that it doesn’t take ‘I can’t draw’ as ananswer. No. Really. You can. Try it again. Then try it again.And have fun doing it.
Do kids nowadays now who Ed Emberley is?
Not in the way they know Elmo, but yes.
What do you hope people will take away from the Ed Emberley & Friends Show?
I want people to go home and lie on the floor and eat cereal and draw!