One Very Possible Art-Filled Visit
with Barbara McClintock Before Thanksgiving

h1 November 21st, 2012 by jules

“As the girl in pink on the milk-white horse
Cantering over the sawdust course.”
— From
Leave Your Sleep

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted briefly with the very talented Barbara McClintock about her illustrations for Ellen Bryan Obed’s Twelve Kinds of Ice (Houghton Mifflin, November 2012), as well as her artwork for Leave Your Sleep, a selection of classic children’s poetry first adapted to music in 2010 by Natalie Merchant. (This, I must add, is a CD my children and I have enjoyed immensely. To say that Merchant’s meticulously-researched adaptations of these poems to music are impressive would be 2010’s biggest understatement.) This beautiful new picture book collection was released by Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux earlier this month.

Today, I follow up with some artwork and images from Barbara, mostly from Leave Your Sleep. Barbara shares here her inspirations for some of the artwork, as well as some sketches and even some home and studio shots. I thank her for sharing.

I hope all my American blog readers have a great Thanksgiving … Eat nine kinds of pie.

Barbara in her studio
(Click to enlarge)


From Ellen Bryan Obed’s Twelve Kinds of Ice


“We would put on music and pretend we were skating before crowds in a great stadium. We would try out moves that we’d seen figure skaters doing on television or in a picture in the newspaper. We were planning and practicing
for some distant Olympics. …”

(Click to enlarge image)

“The ice came in our sleep. We never knew when it would come, but when it did, we could skate anywhere we wanted … Dream ice never melted.”
(Click to enlarge image)


From Leave Your Sleep


With Natalie Merchant in Barbara’s studio
(Click to enlarge)

Final illustration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Land of Nod”:
“From breakfast on all through the day / At home among my friends I stay; /
But every night I go abroad / Afar into the land of Nod.”

(Click to enlarge)

Illustrations from Ogden Nash’s “Adventures of Isabel”

Barbara: “Here’s my inspiration for Isabel. That’s me on the left,
ready to poke a bear in the tummy with a fork.”


* * *


(Click to enlarge slightly)

Final illustration
(Click to enlarge slightly)

Illustrations from Rachel Field’s “Equestrienne”

Barbara: [Below are] pics of spreads on my studio wall, research and studies for “The Equestrienne” (copying horse anatomical drawings by George Stubbs, plastic horses from the Tractor Supply Co., and me riding Paddy), and a photo of Rachel Field, the American poet who wrote “The Equestrienne.”

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge slightly)

(Click to enlarge slightly)


* * *


Finished art for Robert Graves’ “Vain and Careless”
(Click to enlarge)

“Vain and Careless” as a work-in-progress
(Click each image to enlarge slightly)

Barbara: Here’s my son, Larson DiFiori, at University College, Oxford, where he was studying for his Master’s degree in Classical Chinese Language Studies. I used Oxford, where Robert Graves lived, taught, and wrote as the setting for “Vain and Careless.”


* * *


(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Leave Your Sleep as a work-in-progress


* * *


Barbara: “View out of my studio window of David Johnson’s
[her partner’s] rose garden.”

Barbara: “Our house with … guess what … roses.”

Barbara: “David’s rose garden.”


* * *


Barbara: “[Illustrations] by the grand master himself, good ‘ol Randolph Caldecott,
a major mentor for me.”

(Click each image to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

TWELVE KINDS OF ICE. Copyright © 2012 by Ellen Bryan Obed. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Barbara McClintock. Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

LEAVE YOUR SLEEP: A COLLECTION OF CLASSIC CHILDREN’S POETRY. Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Merchant. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Barbara McClintock. Published by Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus Giroux, New York.

All images here reproduced by permission of Barbara McClintock.

5 comments to “One Very Possible Art-Filled Visit
with Barbara McClintock Before Thanksgiving”

  1. What a beautiful collection of sharing!
    Thank you. Love, Aunt Phyl

  2. Wow – thank you. Really enjoyed all of it. I must get the CD/Book. I’ve been putting it off… Love the drawings, the photos, the roses.
    Happy Thanksgiving. Didn’t manage 9 kinds of pie sadly, but did have some lumpy lemon merangue (much to the mortification of my mother-in-law who doubled the cornstarch and left out the lemom) and some fantastic pumpkin pie.

  3. Hello to Barbara, the horses (real and sketches), Natalie, and the studio cat! Every dwelling needs a cat. 🙂

  4. […] See some art and an interview with the artist at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. […]

  5. […] Soon, Barbara will also see the release of another 2014 illustrated title, Jim Aylesworth’s My Grandfather’s Coat (Scholastic), which has already received two starred reviews. (Barbara also discusses below some other new projects. Fans of Adèle & Simon will be happy.) I haven’t seen My Grandfather’s Coat yet, but maybe she can come back to talk about it, especially since she’s also interested in talking further about the March Leave Your Sleep exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, as well as the Leave Your Sleep Carnegie Hall concert (back in April), which had, in Barbara’s words, “images from the book projected big as a barn behind the stage. Maybe [we can have] a discussion about ways picture books extend beyond their printed avatars.” (If you’re not familiar with Leave Your Sleep—with Natalie Merchant—you can visit this 2012 7-Imp post.) […]

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