Tomorrow another illustration hero of mine will turn 95 or maybe 94, his daughter, my friend Kim told me they aren’t exactly sure of his birth year but it doesn’t really matter.
His name is Leonard Kessler and in my pantheon of children’s book illustrators he is there among the best. He has illustrated hundreds of children’s books with his lovely, warm style. One of his best known being “Mr.Pine’s Purple House” published in 1965. Once in a while, he would insert names of friends or family members into his illustrations like he did with me in his book, “On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!” I was a “great sprinter”.
I met him when I was about 14 and when he found out I loved to draw and hoped to be an illustrator he gave me my very first rapidograph pen.
Sometimes when I’d come to visit Kim, he’d leave us pads of paper and colored pens as little gifts.
He was then and still is a joyful person who continues to create and bring smiles at 94 or 95.
Leonard and I shared the love of children’s book illustration but we also shared late October birthdays. Ours were only a couple of days apart. “You and me and Picasso” he used to remind me.
Leonard was a classmate of Andy Warhol’s at Carnegie Mellon University and I often wondered what kind of conversations they must have had back in college.
Here’s to you, Leonard the K…Happy 94th or 95th birthday!