What draws me to Van Allsburg?
Excellence in both illustration and storytelling. That’s rare to do both. And has a large body of work. His illustrations keep my eyes moving, they are aesthetic and pleasing spaces that I can relate and enter into, they elute emotion. The texture of the art itself, very realistic with the element of wonder. Enigmatic, takes ordinary objects and puts them into mysterious, unexpected places. Gives the figures life, makes me think about the object magically, and lets me sink my teeth into it. His cropping style lets me ponder my imagination richly.
Chris Van Allsburg (born June 18, 1949) is an American author and illustrator of children's books. Van Allsburg is a true luminary in the children's book world. He twice won the Caldecott Medal, for Jumanji (1982) and The Polar Express (1985), both of which he wrote and illustrated, and both of which were later adapted into successful motion pictures. He received the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1980 for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.
Life and education
Van Allsburg was born in East Grand Rapids, Michigan where he lived in an old farmhouse. His family then moved to a new house at the edge of Grand Rapids when Chris was three years old. His new house was located close enough to his elementary school that he could walk there for class. His family later moved again to East Grand Rapids. Van Allsburg attended the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Michigan, which at that time included the art school. He majored in sculpture, learning bronze casting, woodcarving, resin molding, and other techniques. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 and continued his education at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), graduating with a master's degree in sculpture in 1975. After graduation, Van Allsburg set up a sculpture studio. Chris Van Allsburg lives in Providence, Rhode Island with Lisa Van Allsburg, his wife of 30 years. They have two daughters, Sophia and Anna. Van Allsburg converted to Judaism, his spouse's faith. Career
While Van Allsburg focused on sculpture, his wife thought that his drawings would make good illustrations for children’s books. After his wife showed his pictures to a children’s book editor, Van Allsburg wrote his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, in 1979. Since then, he has written and illustrated fifteen books. His art has also been featured on the covers of an edition of C. S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia published by HarperCollins in 1994, as well as in three children's books written by Mark Helprin. Works
His books often depict fantastic, uncontrolled events and utilize sometimes-brutal irony. His stories are magical, funny, creepy, poignant, inscrutable, and unforgettable. Van Allsburg breaks out of the comfortable world of children literature to explore the darker side of human nature. For example, his book The Sweetest Fig is about a selfish man who is suddenly given the opportunity to make his wildest dreams come true. His greed is eventually his downfall. This is not an unusual moral for a story in children books, but Van Allsburg's chilling characterization of the man brings a frightening tone to the narrative. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a collection of images on one side, and one sentence on the other (meant to be 'recovered pages' of longer books) continues the themes of darker undertones and was the inspiration for the short story "The House on Maple Street" by author Stephen King, in his collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes (as his author's note expands upon). The Wretched Stone, in which a ship's crew is mesmerized and corrupted by the titular rock, is an allegorical tale about the negative impact of television. Other literary themes include dreams, the environment, and items with lives of their own (like the board games in Jumanji and Zathura, two books which are almost the same story, with the only difference being the theme...