Ode to Steig

steig painter

Spring induces a feeling of joy, and in that spirit I offer this ode to William Steig. Steig was born in Brooklyn in 1907 and lived until 2003.
He was famous for his work in the New Yorker and for his many wonderful children’s books including Dr. DeSoto ,steig doctor desoto

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,steig sylvesterShrek,

steig shrekand Zeke Pippin.

steig zeke pippin

He was famous for his drawings and his language. Steig loved wordplay and even letter-play.

steig fn l

He came from a family of immigrants with strong (Socialist) political views. It was a wildly creative family. His parents, brothers, in-laws, wives, children and extended family painted, wrote, sang, made jewelry, drew and expressed themselves in myriad ways, as did Steig. He stitched…

steig stitcheryand he carved.

steig sculpture

Recently I spoke to students in Pocatello, Idaho. Over a few days and many talks I realized the nugget of what I wanted to say to them: that creativity is a habit, not a gift. Sometimes people say “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” But creativity isn’t a bone – it’s a muscle, and it grows stronger with use. Steig’s creativity,empathy, and wit were limber and strong.steig carnival Steig was a follower of Wilhelm Reich and believed in unleashing his energy,  sometimes sitting in an orgone box in order to do so.
His work vibrates with energy. He evokes a wide range of emotions, often starting with but not always ending with humor.

steig eternal sea

steig insect

steig turkeysteig axolotl


I am grateful for all of his work, but most blissfully for his images of bliss. Who could not love this painting of a Sweetheart, a Swain, a Swine and Some Swans?

steig sweethearts


If you are hungry for more Steig you can read The World of William Steig, written by Lee Lorenz.

steig gorky rises

12 responses to “Ode to Steig

  1. What a wonderful post, Julie. thank you for reminding of what a genius William Steig was. I want to go and collect ALL his books and work.

  2. Steig’s style and humor is endearing.

  3. Steig was so prolific! I didn’t know he also stitched and carved. Kind of like folk art through the Steig lens.

  4. laurakvasnosky

    What a wonderful post, Julie! I especially love your remark about creativity being a muscle — one we can strengthen every day. How lucky we are that creative workouts are mostly fun and engaging. And yay for William Steig. One of my favs is Ira Sleeps Over. Simply brilliant!

  5. Creativity is a habit! Love it.

  6. I’ve always loved William Steig’s work–thanks for sharing his gift in this beautiful post.

  7. So glad to see this tribute to one so droll and unafraid to use the language.

  8. Thanks for this lovely article. I was aware of his work in the New Yorker, but it’s great to learn more about him.

  9. Inspiring post, Julie. I’m going to work out that creative muscle a little harder…Marcia

  10. Pingback: Another Look at Steig | Books Around The Table

  11. I knew I recognized his style from somewhere, but I had to go do a little research…I have Grown Ups Get to Do All the Driving which I used when I taught Child Development at the high school level. I have always found the illustrations to be slightly unsettling and mischievous.

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