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 ,
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,Shrek,
and Zeke Pippin.
He was famous for his drawings and his language. Steig loved wordplay and even letter-play.
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…
and he carved.
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 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.
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?
If you are hungry for more Steig you can read The World of William Steig, written by Lee Lorenz.