Maira Kalman Magic

Lady Baby and I recently spent a lot of time reading Maira Kalman’s “13 Words” (with words by Lemony Snicket), sympathizing with the despondent blue bird, rejoicing to encounter Pete the dog, and disagreeing a little about whether the illustrated goat (my take) who drives a convertible is a “puppy” (Lady Baby take).

So on a sunny but cold March afternoon, I delighted to spend a joyful time with Maira Kalman – thanks to Julie Danielson’s treasure trove blog about illustrated books “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast” (“7imps” for short).

Danielson, who describes herself as an “illustration junkie,” has archived an amazing series of interviews she conducted with the makers of illustrated books. To interview Kalman, Danielson teamed up with the author and blogger Jama Kim Rattigan.

In addition to Kalman’s colorful, slightly wacky and always perfect-for-their-place paintings, she is an articulate artist. She never leaves me despondent.

In the interview (here) she responded to a question about nurturing creative life: “There is a lot of hope involved. And hoping for the best. And you just plain do your work. I can’t emphasize that enough. Just sitting there and doing it – persevering. Being patient – and seeing the long view.”

In a little video attached to the interview, Kalman speaks of the fluidity between the “narrative word and narrative picture.” She seems to take such joy in the myriad characters and absurdities of life, and makes her work, her “meaningful distraction,” from observing them. But Kalman also regards our mortality (she looks in no way close to death, but Kalman’s a realist). She asks what’s really important, and answers her question: “it’s love and it’s work.”

Love and work – yes. Thanks for the reminder “7imps” and Maira Kalman!