By: Grace Greene ‘17
On April 7, Linda Wingerter, illustrator, puppeteer, and fire-eater, presented pieces from children’s books, greeting cards, and magazines in the Kohn Joseloff Gallery. Ms. Hovasse, art teacher and artist coordinator for the Gallery, was excited about this show in particular because it was the first time that a book illustrator had a show in the gallery. The reception began at 5:30pm and Ms. Wingerter began her talk at 6:00pm.
Background on Wingerter
Wingerter began illustrating in 1996 and has been an artist for the past twenty years. She says that she has known she wanted to illustrate children’s books since she was four years old. She comes from a family of artists; her great grandfather was a church muralist from Russia; her grandfather a puppeteer, cartoonist, and an illustrator; her grandmother a miniaturist and a sculptor; and both her parents are designers. She says when growing up, “everyone gave me the best, most beautiful children’s books that were ever made, so at four years old I decided to become a children’s books illustrator, and I never changed my mind.”
Wingerter attended Rhode Island School of Design and since then, has illustrated seven full length children’s books. Wingerter compares her job as an illustrator to that of a director, and the role of the author to that of a screenwriter. She says, “[The screenwriters] give their plays over and the director gets to make his own vision.” She sees storybooks as something very similar to film or theater; “if you like film a lot, you might like children’s books because it’s basically the same as directing a film. You’re casting characters and you’re picking costumes and you’re shooting scenes in different places and you’re chopping scenes up.”
Wingerter also described the process that she goes through as an illustrator from sketching to publishing. She’s brought in after the manuscript is completed. A publisher picks her and she begins to illustrate. She says, “There’s this wonderful idea that authors and illustrators find each other and go over each others’ houses and have tea and come up with a beautiful story, but It’s not always quite that romantic.” In Wingerter’s case, there are few times when she and the author have direct contact. She compares the process to a play: “You get a script and you do the play, so I don’t have any say about the story but I kind of get to make it my own.”
Wingerter uses acrylic in her paintings and describes her relationship with the medium as “a great match.” She encourages spontaneous artists to try acrylic because it drys quickly and you can always paint over it sand it off. She likes acrylics, despite initially using watercolors, because, “it can be like watercolor, like oil, it can be dry brushing, and it’s kind of like pastels.” Wingerter works on a textured board and creates the swirls and waves in her pieces before she even begins to paint. She’ll paint in layers over the board and says that each painting has about twenty or so layers of paint. She says that an observer is “looking through many layers of glazing and washes.” She says she uses distressing techniques that are reminiscent of “tutorials you’d see on HGTV.” Wingerter said that on average a book takes her two years and that it is probably around five before the book is published.
More recently, Wingerter has been working on album covers, greeting cards, and puppeteering, which she picked up after her grandfather passed away. She has taken a break from full length books since breaking her hand several years ago. Wingerter talks of a “whole world of illustration outside children’s books.” She says that she is “constantly getting inspiration from the other things that [she’s] doing.”
Wingerter has illustrated:
-One Grain of Sand by Pete Seeger
–The Water Gift and the Pig of the Pig by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
-The Chiru of High Tibet by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
–Magic Hoofbeats* by Josepha Sherman
– What Could Be Better Than This by Linda Ashman
– One Riddle One Answer by Lauren Thompson.
I attended the opening without having done any previous research on Wingerter, which in hindsight isn’t ideal for someone trying to cover a story for a newspaper. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to look around the gallery. Ms. Wingerter was kind enough to talk to me before she gave her talk and it was only after sitting down with her that I even got to see her paintings. Much to my surprise one image was very familiar. It was the cover of Magic Hoofbeats, my favorite book when I was younger. It’s a collection of folktales about horses that was given to me by my godmother during my horse-obsessed phase. My mom dug it up and brought it to me at school the night of the show, where I was lucky enough to have her sign it for me.