Archives for the month of: September, 2016

One of the local galleries where I occasionally show my work is called Nails in the Wall. It is in a lovely church and the themes for the shows are spiritually focused. The current show that I’m in is called “Saints Among Us.” For this show I was asked to speak about my piece and so I thought I’d reprint some of my talk here:

I was intrigued by the idea of visually representing “Saints Among Us” so I googled the phrase to see what came up. I discovered the term “Tzadik Nistar” which was a concept in Judaism, which I wasn’t familiar with.

The Hebrew word, Tzadik/tzadekket means a righteous person (For a male it is a tzadik for a female, tzadekket.) Nistar means “hidden”. It is also where the word “Tzedakah” comes from. “Tzedakah” means charity.

According to what I’ve read the concept of “Tzadik Nistar” began with the Babylonian Talmud (Jewish law), which says that there are no less than 36 people who walk among us anonymously at any given time on earth helping to keep the world safe from destruction by their good deeds.  Although these are humble people who are not aware of their special status, one of these 36 is thought to be “The Messiah”.

There are many interpretations as to why the number 36 is significant. Some think there is an astrological basis for 36 but Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah gives significance to letters by assigning them a number. The number 36 is twice 18 and 18 is the number that represents the letter “chai”. The word “Chai” translates to “life” but there are many other interpretations as to where the number 36 came from regarding these hidden saints.

I chose to do my image in a somewhat different style for this show. It is done primarily in graphite, which I rubbed into the paper. I then pulled out highlights using an eraser, which I thought gave an feeling of other unknown saints hidden among us. I added small collage elements and limited the color to touches of yellow and blue.

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To be a children’s book illustrator was my original dream.  It was the Crayola® of the profession as far as I was concerned.

When it came time for me to gather up my portfolio after art school and begin the journey on my yellow brick road to children’s book stardom, I came up against the comment that my work was “ too sophisticated for children’s books”. This comment occurred more than once and I was always somewhat baffled by it. Especially because everyone else who looked at my work said, “You’d be great for children’s books!”.

As my career progressed I did eventually get some work in the children’s book market but usually in the form of textbooks or music books for kids. Not until many years later was I able to break into the hallowed world of picture books.

I’ve tried over the years to figure out what is was about my style that held publishers back from taking more of a chance on me; did my work look too old fashioned? Did I not show that I could be consistent with a character? I know my work isn’t graphic or quirky. It doesn’t have a childlike simplicity or cinematic realism. It doesn’t have that special something that wins artists Caldecott awards or entrance into the Society of Illustrators Children’s Shows.

Maybe I’ll have to pull out my Purple Crayon and start dreaming again… that is if the Wild Things don’t get me first.

Dream

©Janice Fried 2012