Tag Archives: William Steig

On the Go

Drago Jurac

I’ve just returned from a sea voyage. Travel refreshes.
What’s your favorite way to get away?
You could hop on a bike.

by William Steig

Or a bug.

by Hedwig Sporri-Dolder

Ride a swallow, a pale blue cat or black dog.

by Eleanor Vere Boyle


by Julie Paschkis


by Lisbeth Zwerger


Float in a boat

Ola by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire


or a balloon.

by Alice and Martin Provensen

Ride a truck, a car, or a train.

by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

French Advertising Card 1920


by William Pene du Bois

Or just head out on foot.

The Disorderly Girl 1860

by Arthur Rackham

by Yuri Vasnetsov


Enjoy the ride!

from A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, poems by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen



Go Outside!

It’s July. It’s good to be outside.
Step out!

illustration by Rudolf Mates from A Forest Story

Ride your bike.

Edward Gorey

Julie Paschkis – Out for a Spin

Everything is better outside. Eat outside.

illustration by William Steig for Sylvester

illustration by Hedwig Sporri-Dolder for Hinderem Bargli

Climb up high.

illustration by Alois Carigiet for Florina

Dive down.

illustration and poem by Julie Paschkis for Vivid

Dance around.

Yevgeny Rachev 1900

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

Maybe go fishing,

illustration by Chris Raschka for Fishing in the Air

or explore an island.

illustration by the D’Aulaires for Ola

Read a book.

Charles Knight 1809

Or listen to a story.

illustration by Rudolf Mates for A Forest Story

Take a nap on the grass.

illustration by Hedwig Sporri-Doldi for Hinderem Bargli

Or sleep outside for the whole night.

illustration by Kathleen Hale for Orlando the Marmalade Cat

Stop looking at this screen or any other screen. Go outside! You might even float away.

illustration by Wm Steig for Gorky Rises



Ho! Ho! Ho!

Last week Margaret showed you lots and lots of toys. But who delivers them?


Look on the roof!rogerduvoisin
Roger Duvoisin illustrations 1954

Santa might come by sleigh.


Edward Bawden illustration

Or on a bighorn sheep. (by Miroco Machico, from the Art Room Plant)mirocomachikoOr with eight tiny reindeer (from my new fountain pen)paschkis tiny reindeeror holding a green tree (my painting of Father Christmas)Paschkis santa

or with two pink trees (by Nivea Ortiz, courtesy of the Art Room Plant)nivea

He might ride a bicycle (image from the collection of Marcia Paschkis)bicycle santaor call out to you (drawing by Gus Hoffmann when he was little).gushoffmannor travel with friends (William Steig)william-steig-new-yorker-cover-1974However he comes he won’t stay long.Roger Duvoisin

So, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Harald Wiberg illustration from Christmas in the Stable

Harald Wiberg illustration from Christmas in the Stable

Another Look at Steig

The Steig Album-cover

When I was visiting my parents recently, I pulled The Steig Album off their bookshelves. My father bought this book when he was a student at Alfred University in upstate New York. He said Steig was popular with his colleagues in the 50s.

What surprised me most about the images in this book was how different the majority of them are to the work we know from his later children’s books, some of which Julie Paschkis mentioned in her post Ode To Steig.

steig sylvester

His earlier work was darker, often presenting a sardonic look at human nature, like these drawings from “About People.”

W Steig-Spiteful little man.

W Steig-Woman desiring to attract friendship.

His depiction of relationships is accurate and insightful, but hardly flattering, like his section, “Till Death Do Us Part: Some Ballet Notes on Marriage.”

W Steig - Darling – Hold me tight.

W Steig - When you and I were young, Maggie.

W Steig - You live your life and I'll live mine.

W Steig - Impasse

W Steig - Reconciliation.

You get the feeling from this book that Steig understands every aspect and conundrum of human existence –

W Steig - About People: Ennui

W Steig - Embarrassment

– and had little patience with us.

W Steig - Persistent Faces: Hero Worshipper

But the humor was always there.

Steig’s many drawings of children indicate his keen eye for capturing moments of  juvenile inquisitiveness and camaraderie.  These cartoons appeared in The New Yorker in the 40s.

W Stein-Worm

W Steig-Espionage and–  counter-espionage.

W Steig-"Toity more years we'll be toity-seven."

He underscored the pain, frustration, and anxieties of childhood as well, as in these pieces from the section, “The Agony In The Kindergarten.”

W Steig - Mother knows whats best for you, dear.

W Steig - Well Speak up, what is it?

W Steig - We don't play with that sort of children.

W Steig - "Willie!"

Steig didn’t begin to write children’s books until he was 61. His first children’s book was published in 1968. Somewhere in his first six decades, I think he softened a little.

My daughters loved the Dr. De Soto books, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Abel’s Island. Another of our family favorites was The Flying Latke, by Arthur Yorinks. Steig created the background illustrations for this wacky holiday book, and played a cameo role as the newscaster in the story. The book came out in 1999. He was ninety-two.

The Flying Latke news page

Long live William Steig.

William Steig as "The Newscaster"


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


sip the roses, anonymous artist, 1809

In 1809 John Roscoe published The Butterfly’s Birthday which included the following advice (still good today):

roscoe advice

Beautiful summer days are meant for pleasure.

kite and garland 1825

And picnics with friends.

Our New Friends by Joe Max Emminger

Our New Friends by Joe Max Emminger

You never know who will show up.

Sylvester by William Steig

Sylvester by William Steig

Don’t bring too much to a picnic.

On Market Street: words by Arnold Lobel and pictures by Anita Lobel 1981

On Market Street: words by Arnold Lobel and pictures by Anita Lobel 1981

It helps to have a picnic basket.

August Picnic by Julie Paschkis

August Picnic by Julie Paschkis

If you bring raspberry tarts, make sure there are enough for everyone.

Raspberries by Jay O'Callahan, illustrated by WIll Moses 2009

Raspberries by Jay O’Callahan, illustrated by WIll Moses 2009

Sometimes I am too lazy to make elaborate food for a picnic. Watermelon with lime juice squeezed on it is delicious and takes no effort.

Julie Paschkis fruitful

Sometimes you don’t need food at all.

Collage by Richard Kehl

 Richard Kehl

A bonfire is the best way to end a summer evening.

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Kathleen Hale 1938

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Kathleen Hale 1938

I hope you are having fun summer days filled with excursions and picnics. If you have ideas for the perfect food or book to bring on a picnic, please comment.

She Sells Sea Shells, Seymour Chwast 2008

She Sells Sea Shells, Seymour Chwast 2008

Having More Fun

Merry Widow Merry Widow Persistent Faces - William Steig

Merry Widow
Persistent Faces – William Steig

I enjoyed posting some of my favorite fun picture book illustrations so much last month that I am revisiting the topic this week, only this time, I am pulling some well-loved images from sources outside of children’s books – more artists whose work conveys humor and playfulness.

william steig_putty

Persistent Faces – William Steig

Many of these images have a doodle-like quality. The topic of doodling deserves an entire post of its own, which maybe I will write someday, but I think doodling has a universal appeal because of its apparent fearless exploration of goofiness.

Sphinx - Saul Steinberg

Sphinx – Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg’s work has a sardonic wit.

March-April - Saul Steinberg

March-April – Saul Steinberg

Ben Shahn’s images laugh a little more quietly,

alastair reid Ben Shahn-Both Ways

Words That Read Both Ways
Ounce Dice Trice – Alastair Reid, illustrated by Ben Shahn

but still express a wise sense of humor.

alastair reid Ben Shahn-Bug Words

Bug Words
Ounce Dice Trice – Alastair Reid, illustrated by Ben Shahn

John Rombola I imagine sharing a cigarette with John Waters for some reason.

 Rombola by Rombola - John Rombola

Rombola by Rombola – John Rombola

 Rombola by Rombola - John Rombola

Rombola by Rombola – John Rombola

The circus also inspired Alexander Calder. The Seattle Art Museum had a Calder exhibit a few years ago. I don’t think a museum exhibit before or since has ever put me in such a happy mood.

Circus Lion - Alexander Calder

Circus Lion – Alexander Calder

Josephine Baker. Ooh la la and hallelujah.

Josephine Baker wire sculpture - Alexander Calder

Josephine Baker
wire sculpture – Alexander Calder

Even his large mobile sculptures evoke playfulness.

Yellow Whale  sculpture in wire and metal- Alexander Calder

Yellow Whale
Wire sculpture – Alexander Calder

Inuit art also seems to contain a lot of humor. What is it about all that ice and snow? The long summer days? The long winter nights?

The Enchanted Owl-Kenojuak

The Enchanted Owl – Kenojuak

Judas Ullulaq "Transformation"

Inuit sculpture – Judas Ullulaq

And here is a contemporary Japanese printmaker continuing the 17th – 19th century tradition of Okubi-e (bust portraits of Kabuki actors).

tsuruya kokei_bando tamasaburo

Bando Tamasaburo V as Ochika in “Ikite iru Koheiji”- Tsuruya Kokei

When I was in Japan as a teenager I saw Tamasaburo perform. He is actually quite slender and graceful. I don’t know if Tsuruya Kokei intended parody or was just tweaking composition and form, but it’s makes Tamasaburo look like a high comedienne.

Below is a photo of a Panamanian mola that I bought a number of years ago. It is a modern take on a traditional art form. Usually the motifs include bird and animal forms. This is the only one I’ve seen about a hairstyle.

Mola - artist unknown

Mola – artist unknown

And in response to Julie Paschkis’s last Beastly post on this blog, here are a couple of my favorite prints by Jose Guadalupe Posada. Scary funny.

Sol en Escorpion - Jose Posada

Sol en Escorpion – Jose Posada

I think I spied one of these bicyclists the last time I was in Brooklyn.

Calaveras de Ciclistas - Jose Posada

Calaveras de Ciclistas – Jose Posada

And speaking of Julie Paschkis, here is a drawing she made on a piece of paper from my notebook while we were at an SCBWI talk many years ago. She is the Queen of doodlers and her work also makes me smile. I kept the drawing (it was my paper after all…) and it hangs in my studio to remind me to let loose and have more fun when I am working (and not get my neck all twisted around like that).

doodle in pen and ink - Julie Paschkis

doodle in pen and ink – Julie Paschkis