Many of us have heard of the painter Grandma Moses. This morning I had the opportunity of meeting her great grandson, Will Moses. Will lives in the same house his famous ancestor lived in. He recalled visiting her in her laundry room studio where she would explain what she was painting before giving him a molasses cookie and sending him on his way.
A few of his favorite childhood books include Scuffy the Tugboat and an early Disney book entitled School Days. He also appreciated the works of the Brothers Grimm with Hansel and Gretel being one of his favorites. He liked the color, details and richness of the classics.
The medium that Will works with is oils. Even though it takes longer to dry, he likes the finished product better than acrylics. His art is described as folk art, primitive art or naive art. Will's first painting was done at age 4. His grandfather encouraged his artistic endeavors, much to the dismay of Will's parents.
His first children's book for which he did the artwork was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He added that Washington Irving was paid by the word for his writing! His favorite book which he created and illustrated is Raining Cats and Dogs, which is a book of illustrated idioms.
Following his keynote presentation, I assisted him with the autographing session.
This afternoon's speaker is a prolific writer of more than 100 books for children. Jan (pronounced Yon) Wahl, painted pictures for us with his words. After living in Denmark and Mexico, he returned to the Toledo, Ohio area where he currently resides.
As a child, Jan collected words like other boys collect baseball cards. At age four, he called one of his least favorite aunts a "radiator." Wahl also had an imaginary childhood friend, whom he named "Garage." (because it sounded French!)
His first book Pleasant Field Mouse was illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Over the course of forty years, he wrote The Enchanted Sled. He commented that Margaret Wise Brown wrote Good Night Moon in twenty minutes.
Jan's favorite adult author is Willa Cather. He cited Charles Dickens as the "master of the names." Wahl prefers writing about the joys of life, rather than focusing on negative issues confronting today's children.
His German sister-in-law (a countess) once asked Wahl, "When are you going to stop writing those stupid children's books and grow up?" Wahl concluded his presentation by reciting The Enchanted Sled and commenting that he hopes the countess is wrong!
I also assisted Jan with autographing. That gave me an opportunity to speak with him one-on-one. He shared some interesting childhood tales.