Friday, May 21, 2010

Free Spirit Friday ~ Trina Schart Hyman (illustrator/artist/editor/creative soul)

In my childhood, I grew up without a TV. Books and my imagination and the variety of pets we had entertained me. In the 70's, my brother, Troy Howell (, wanted to be a writer and he sent one of his illustrated poems to Cricket magazine. Trina Schart Hyman was the art director for this phenomenal children's magazine from 1972 to 1979. She liked my brother's art work better than his poem and so he began illustrating for Cricket magazine (even doing cover art). I remember devouring Cricket magazine and I especially liked the "comic strip" at the bottom of the pages. Trina would sketch "Ladybug" and "Cricket" and other insects talking to one another about the stories on the pages. I would always seek out books illustrated by her at our library. In the summer of 1984, during the Los Angeles Olympics and the NYC garbage strike, my brother Troy took me to NYC. He was doing a show of his art at the Master Eagle Gallery. Trina was there. She had published Little Red Riding Hood (one of her favorite stories) and had won the Caldecott Honor Medal. She was also showing her original art from Little Red. I felt so happy to meet her and spend some time with her. After the three day show, I was able to meet some of her friends and agent Dilys Evans. I also met other children's illustrators (Barbara Cooney and others) at that time. Trina was warm and interested in me. She was pleased to hear that I loved her art and that I was growing up without a TV. She showed genuine interest in me. I was barely 18 at the time. It was magical meeting her. Trina was born in 1939 in Philadelphia. She grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania and credits her mother for instilling in her the joy of books. Her father fueled her imagination with magical tales. She skipped first grade but never felt like she was a good student. She preferred to doodle and draw instead. She enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in 1956 and found her calling in life. She married a mathematician and engineer in 1959 and lived in Boston for a while. She studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and graduated in 1960. She and her husband lived in Stockholm, Sweden for two years and this is where she illustrated her first children's book. In 1963, she birthed a daughter called Katrin. She divorced in 1968, and she and her daughter moved to an old farmhouse in Lyme, New Hampshire. She proudly admitted to not owning a "mind-destroying, soul-sucking" television and chose to fill their home with "hundreds of good books" and "take the time to read them".  She was influenced by Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Howard Pyle and N. C. Wyeth. I appreciate the romantic and magical art she created.
Trina lived with two dogs, four cats, and a herd of  sheep she shared with the neighbors across the road.  She had a duck named Dave. A poodle named Jerry and a cat named Bad Baby. Before her death on November 19, 2004, she suffered from arthritis and continued to work in her "tiny, messy" studio, "heated by a little wood-burning stove". Before her death, she illustrated her daughter's (Katrin Tchana) book, The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women.  In all, she illustrated more than 150 books. The Boston Globe writes of her, "Ms. Hyman's characters were the stuff of legends...fairy tale princesses and gnomes, Arthurian heroes. But she also imbued many of her characters with qualities taken from composites of her neighbors in the Upper Connecticut Valley, her friends, even her grandchildren". She died from breast cancer. She was only 65.  She once said, "It was always very clear to me and to everyone else too, exactly what I would do when I grew up. I would be an artist, and I would be the sort of artist who made pictures that told stories. It wasn't until the seventh grade that I learned about the word 'illustrator', but when I heard it, I knew that that was me."When I was at our favorite used book store the other day. I came across one of her beautifully illustrated books. It was signed by her. She is missed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You beautifully told this story about Trina. Your close up photography does her work justice.
And of course, I give you the credit for the wonderful photography!
your sis