Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #23:
Blue Rose Blogger, Fire-Spinning & Puppeteering Rollergirl, and Illustrator Linda Wingerter

h1 April 30th, 2007 by Eisha and Jules

This week we continue our series of blogger interviews with The Blue Rose Girls by talking to illustrator Linda Wingerter. It’s been great fun to chat with the multi-faceted Linda, who seems to live and breathe the arts (and also roller derby and fire-spinning).

She is one of the seven Blue Rose Girls, but she also has her own individual blog, Antimonia. When we asked her if there were any regular features at Antimonia, Linda said that, nah, “it just flows along with the waves of life.” This seems like an apt description for Linda herself, who is, as her blog explains, “keenly interested in chance connections and found objects; currently conducting a life experiment in following synchronicity. I like anything that cultivates coincidence, and any place or event that is a crossroads of random people” (“antimonia” itself means “the mutual incompatibility, real or apparent, of two laws; equally rational but contradictory,” she explained). Linda added, “there are so many things I love — painting, fire spinning, roller derby, writing, puppeteering, etc that they are often in conflict with each other and my life seems to lack focus. But I’ve always had a feeling that they all are a pieces of a larger, more extraordinary whole. My blog is a way of looking at all these things, like a map, with the hope of finding the big picture.” Linda also broke her dominant hand while skating in November of last year and very candidly discusses her healing from that, both physically and otherwise, at Antimonia.

And, speaking of coincidences and crossroads, Linda has another blog entitled 21 Stones, which is all about a cross-country trip (Vegas to New Haven) she took with her fiancé at the end of 2005 and into 2006. “I brought 21 smooth black river stones to leave along the way. I got into the habit of placing small objects in interesting locations at RISD {Rhode Island School of Design}, starting with this string of Latin and French phrases from the back of my beloved old thesaurus, that make a lovely sort of poem when put together. Back then I scattered them over the Hill in Providence, this time I’ll make a path of them across the country,” she wrote at 21 Stones. At the site, she documented what was inscribed on each stone, what it meant, and where it was placed. Here’s just one example.

The Helen Doll; click on photo to read more about itAs for Linda’s busy, prolific life in the arts, she not only illustrates children’s books, but she is also a doll maker. She is a contributing artist of O.D.A.CT, Original Doll Artisans of Connecticut, her Helen Doll pictured here to the left. O.D.A.CT is a juried group of professional Connecticut artists who create figurative art in the form of doll art, artistry, figurative dressed sculptures, and much more. She also performs for a New Haven puppet company called Puppetsweat. Linda discusses both artistic pursuits below.

Whew, we haven’t even gotten to her beautiful books yet. So, let’s show those to you quickly and then get to know Linda a bit more. And did we mention, apropos to nothing having to do with the arts, that she’s a roller derby diva? Move over and make way for Polly Sonic. Snap, snap.

Linda is probably best known for her paintings in 2002’s One Grain of Sand: A Lullaby (Little, Brown and Company), a picture book adaptation of a lullaby written decades ago, which folksinger Pete Seeger composed for his daughter. It received a starred review in Booklist: the book’s concept “is echoed and enhanced by Wingerter’s luminescent, realistic art; the artist’s use of texture and color, from cool blues to sunny golds, adds warmth to intimate close-ups, such as a family lovingly watching its new baby, and also to stunning panoramas,” the reviewer wrote. Linda turned the lullaby in its picture book form into a trip around the world, beginning and ending on a tropical island with a mother and her young children. She then takes the reader over the sea, to big cities, to India, the American Plains, the African plain, the Arctic landscape, and much more, all coming full circle back to the island.

But to get to the beginning, we jump back several years to 1998 with Bird Tales From Near & Far (Tales Alive!) (Williamson Pub.), in which six bird tales from the Iroquois, Thai, Yemeni, Ukrainian, Ethiopian, and Japanese traditions are re-told by Susan Milord. Kirkus Reviews called Linda’s illustrations “radiant” and “luminous.” Linda immediately made her mark as an illustrator-to-watch with her textured, richly-detailed paintings. One Riddle, One Answer (Scholastic) by Lauren Thompson followed in 2001, in which we meet a sultan’s daughter who loves numbers and riddles and in which Linda played with Persian motifs. School Library Journal wrote, “readers of all ages will appreciate the gorgeous acrylic paintings that feature a broad palette of colors, including every imaginable shade of blue and purple.” 2003 marked Linda’s first collaboration with author Jacqueline Briggs Martin (they are currently collaborating again, as she discusses in the interview below) with The Water Gift and the Pig of the Pig (Houghton Mifflin), in which an orphan girl discovers that she shares her grandfather’s gift for finding things when their very clever pig disappears. In fact, it was with this title that Linda’s work was compared by Booklist to Andrew Wyeth’s (her “richly textured acrylic paintings” . . . “recall the tranquility and pastoral themes of . . . Wyeth’s work”).

Magic Hoofbeats: Horse Tales From Many Lands by Josepha Sherman (Barefoot Books; 2004) is a collection of folktales that feature magical horses which also includes profiles of horse breeds specific to each story’s place of origin. School Library Journal remarked: “Acrylic paintings in warm blues and browns feature stylized portrait ovals, framed as if in ancient parchment, of each horse followed by romantic and dramatic illustrations of scenes from the story.” Linda’s most recent book was 2005’s What Could Be Better Than This? by Linda Ashman (Dutton Juvenile). It’s a twist on the traditional fairy tale, the story of a dragon-slaying king and his seafaring bride who finally find their “happily ever after” in the simple, everyday wonders revealed to them by their young child. Once again, Linda’s fanciful style won high praise from School Library Journal: “Painted in rich hues, the romanticized illustrations echo the once-upon-a-time tone of the rhyming tale. Flowing brushstrokes and graceful lines add to the dreamlike quality.”

Here Linda is pictured doing a school visit with fifth graders, discussing her work as an illustrator. And, for some interesting reading, let us point out that she was featured (on the cover, no less) in the educational magazine Teaching K-8 in March of this year. The article is archived here.

We’d like to thank Linda for taking the time to talk to us and share her many talents with us and our readers. Let’s chat with her a bit, shall we?

* * * * * * *
7-Imp: What do you do for a living?

Linda: Mostly, I am a freelance illustrator. I also run a theater company with my fiancé, perform as a puppeteer and fire dancer, teach puppetry, paint murals, chauffeur, and work in a head shop from time to time.

7-Imp: How long have you been blogging?

Linda: Nearly two years.

7-Imp: Why did you start blogging? Why do you continue to do it?

Linda: I started my blog because it was an easy place to upload pictures, and I wanted to keep a visual journal for myself and my mom, who lives in Vermont and is also an artist. Then friends and strangers found it, and their comments were surprisingly encouraging and helpful. Now I blog to meet people who might hold clues I’m looking for, to expand my ideas about the particular things I’m trying at that moment, to find new directions, or to decide what to focus on. My blog is my diary, my psychic palm reader, and my therapist.

7-Imp: Which blog or site would you take to the prom to show off and you love it so much you could marry it?

Linda: Hands down, The Blue Rose Girls blog. But now that I’ve found this one, I think it’s pretty awesome too.

fire-spinning7-Imp: What are your other favorite things to do, other than reading and blogging?

Linda: I live for skating, on wheels or ice. I also love flying, staff spinning, dancing, puppeteering, watching and playing roller derby, yoga, growing plants, doodling, writing.

7-Imp: What’s in heavy rotation on your stereo/iPod lately?

Linda: Right now . . . ’70s roller boogie music, William Shatner, Roger Waters, the Wichita Vortex collaboration of Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, Jules Verne Impact, Metallica, the soundtrack to Xanadu . . .

7-Imp: If you could have three (living) authors and/or illustrators over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Linda: Joseph Campbell, Jalaluddin Rumi, Philip Pullman. (I know, two of them are dead, but I’d like some wine with them even so).

7-Imp: What’s one thing not many people know about you?

Linda: Thomas Edison is my great great uncle.

7-Imp: Okay, how about a few more questions that are specifically about your work as an illustrator (and all of the other things you do in the field of the arts) . . .

First, how’s your hand?

Linda: It’s doing much better since the second surgery last month. I still have a long way to go with therapy, but drawing is finally getting close to being like it was. It’s fascinating to relearn something I’ve done every day all my life.

7-Imp: In which science fiction novels have some of your paintings been published?

Linda: Oh! Yes, I did a cover for one maybe ten years ago, that I can’t even remember the title of. I just remember it was difficult matching descriptions of animals and plants that couldn’t look like they lived on earth.

Cinderella, Linda Wingerter, 2004, paper clay and mixed media7-Imp: Can you talk a bit more about O.D.A.CT and your doll artistry? (It’s really gorgeous stuff) . . . And can you tell us a bit more about Puppetsweat? Do you create puppets for the productions? You mention that your grandfather was a puppeteer — with which type of puppets did he work (marionettes or another type?).

Linda: O.D.A.CT (Original Doll Artisans of Connecticut) is a group of incredible doll makers. We meet once a month to share knowledge and critiques. We help each other with our work and often show together. I’ve learned a lot about sculpting from them.

My grandfather had a marionette theater in New Jersey called The Stringpullers. He and my grandmother and their daughters made all the puppets, sets, costume from scratch. Growing up in his shop was a huge influence on me. Puppetsweat is a New Haven puppet company I perform for and occasionally assist as a puppet builder under the direction of Bob Bresnick and Leslie Weinberg. Their shows are shadow puppet oriented with exposed puppeteers and often live music, but expand into multiple puppet and theater disciplines with layers of dance, toy theater, shadows, video projections, music, and narration. It’s geared towards adults, the subject matter is often dark, and it’s gorgeous. I’m very fortunate to have been taken in and taught by them. I’ve performed with live orchestras and opera singers all over the east coast including the Kennedy Center where I operated a Don Quixote rod puppet about twice my size. I now teach puppetry with Bob at Quinnipiac University.

7-Imp: We know this must be a maddening question for authors and illustrators, but it’s still fun to ask: Do you have an absolute favorite title out of all the books you’ve created? We also love to find out what authors’ and illustrators’ favorite picture books are (oddly enough, that tells you a lot about them, just as someone’s responses to those weird Pivot questions do, too). So, what are some of your all-time favorite picture books?

One Riddle, One Answer; 2001Linda: Every book is so much a part of me, it’s hard to say. I love them all for what I learned from them and for the benchmarks they represent. Bird Tales was my first, and my excitement carried through every minute to the end of that book. One Grain of Sand was a turning point in the way I thought about illustrating, I was called on to put more of my personal self into that book then anything I’d ever done. What Could Be Better Than This has a very particular color pattern I constructed based on alchemical concepts and I think my color sense is at its best in that book.

I love the work of Gennady Spirin, Lisbeth Zwerger, S. Saelig Gallagher, Susan Gaber, Mary Grand Pre, among many others. My all time favorite picture books are still the obscure and uniquely illustrated ones I’ve had since before I can remember, especially The Forest of Lilacs and Jumping Julius.

7-Imp: Can you tell us all about any forthcoming projects/titles? Are you still planning on writing your own book one day, one based on the story that the Tibetan woman told you (as you mention in the Teaching K-8 interview)? And are you still planning on revamping your web site to celebrate the release of What Could Be Better Than This?

Linda: My website update announcing What Could Be Better Than This was put on hold because of my hand injury that happened around the same time as the book’s publication, but my mom has been helping me and we will get it up soon! In the meantime, the other Linda {author Linda Ashman} has a page. Currently, I’m working on an amazing book called Chiru about the Tibetan antelope by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. And yes, the story about the Tibetan woman is still burning in my head, it’s something I can’t not write.

7-Imp: Have you heard back from anyone who perhaps found one of your Latin-inscribed stones from your cross-country trip (or is there no way of knowing)?

Linda: No! I made them anonymous on purpose. Though I wondered if anyone ever googled one of the phrases and found the 21 stones blog, but as far as I know that hasn’t happened.

7-Imp: Finally, any art shows/studios/galleries/exhibits/etc. that might be displaying your work any time in the near future?

Linda: I am very excited about performing my One Grain of Sand show for the New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas on June 9th in New Haven, Connecticut. I’m doing a short presentation and signing for the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy’s anniversary festival at the Boston Public Library on June 3. You can also find me scorekeeping for the Providence Roller Derby this season. And stand by for more book/art/puppet/twirling shows being lined up for this summer and fall!

* * * * * * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * * * * * *

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Linda: In English “egg”, in French “l’hopital.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Linda: “Mints and “underpants.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Linda: Trying new things that make me uncomfortable, people who push boundaries with their bodies, minds and souls.

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Linda: Lethargy, selfishness and mediocrity.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Linda: “Oh smeg.”

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Linda: Wind, rain, thunder, fireworks.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Linda: The sound of any being in pain.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Linda: A world-traveling circus aerialist sounds good to me.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Linda: I would not do well as a paramedic.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Linda: “Here’s a pair of wings, have a blast!”

9 comments to “Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #23:
Blue Rose Blogger, Fire-Spinning & Puppeteering Rollergirl, and Illustrator Linda Wingerter”

  1. Oooh. I want a stone. (The “l’inconnu” one from the fountain, if I had my choice.) And I want that perfect Cinderella. And to be able to twirl fire. Linda, I think you already HAVE wings.

    back to my oh so bland life…

  2. We enjoy your posts on children’s books, and have nominated you a Thinking Blog.

  3. Beautiful books. (but puppets kind of give me the creeps.)

    I’ll have to look for What Could Be Better Then This to read again.

    Oh, Linda may have the most interesting list of job titles I’ve ever seen.

  4. Kudos on your many accomplishments, and for you many talents. May your hand heal fully and well.

  5. Wait a minute–Thomas Edison was seriously her great, great uncle? Why did we not lead with that information? That is the coolest thing ever!

    Actually, there are plenty of cool things in Linda’s life. What an adventurer!

    Linda, so sorry about your hand. But the body does like to heal, so hang in there.

  6. I wanted to respond 2 days ago, but my interent was working too slowly to do so. Here’s what I wanted to say:

    1) Skating rocks! In all forms. I’m a 40-year-old skater who has traded in the wheels for the blades due to geographical considerations (although 4 wheels will always be my first love).
    2) Linda’s illustrations are beautiful! Keep on keeping on
    3) Thanks for another awesome interview, dudes!

  7. Wait, wait–yeah! Thomas Edison?!?! I am impressed! (Also, of course, impressed by all the incredible things Linda does)

  8. […] you’re not familiar with Linda’s work, you can read our April interview with her, in which her talents as an illustrator, Blue Rose blogger, doll artisan, fire-spinner, […]

  9. I love Linda’s work. Didn’t know she was a puppeteer too. What a cool woman. Great to see her on 7imp.

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