As a boy growing up in Bridgewater, New Jersey, David Wiesner was known to his classmates as “the kid who could draw.” In high school, he made silent movies and drew wordless comic books. Then he went on to hone his talent at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he not only committed his future to art but furthered a passion for visual narrative.
Ultimately, Mr. Wiesner found his niche in picture books. The exhibition, “World Within Worlds,” currently on view in the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School, features rarely-seen drawings, preliminary sketches, and finished works from the artist’s personal collection as well as an animated video of his book Tuesday, with music by Paul McCartney.
“The idea is the process, or writing and drawing, and how the stories come together. I’m including pieces I drew during high school and earlier, to show how visual themes reoccur in my work,” he says.
A public reception for the artist will take place on Thursday, April 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the gallery.
As part of Princeton Day School’s annual “Imagine the Possibilities” program, Mr. Wiesner will spend time with PDS students on Thursday, April 18, and Friday, April 19, sharing his ideas and discussing his process. The “Imagine” series is made possible through the John D. Wallace, Jr. ’78 Memorial Guest Artist Series Fund, which has been bringing authors, illustrators, and poets to the school since 1996. The artist will spend time with students at all grade levels.
According to his website, Mr. Wiesner generally “spends several years creating each new book. Many versions are sketched and revised until the story line flows smoothly and each image works the way he wants it to.” To explore imagined creatures like flying pigs and standing lizards, he creates three-dimensional models so that he can become better acquainted with the objects of his fancy. This is the sort of attention to detail that lends authenticity to his drawings.
“By his redeployment of everyday items — a fish, a string bean, an amphibian — Wiesner suggests that fantastical things are happening all around us, that our dreams are closer than we think — whether those dreams belong to humans, clouds, or frogs,” said Andrew Leonard in the New York Times Book Review.
The author/illustrator is one of the best-loved and most highly acclaimed picture book creators in the world. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have won numerous awards in the United States and abroad.
Three of his picture books have become classics and each is a Caldecott Medal winner: Tuesday in 1992, The Three Pigs in 2002, and Flotsam in 2007. He’s one of only two artists to win three medals in the award’s long history.
“We are overjoyed to be exhibiting David Wiesner’s personal works at the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery,”’ said Gallery Director Jody Erdman. “Sometimes spending several years on one book, with at least a half a dozen galleys and sketches, the detail, and beauty of his
illustrations is both intricate and remarkable,” said Ms. Erdman.
But it’s not Mr. Wiesner’s images alone that inspire the smiles. He brings a new wildness to the familiar. Take his telling of The Three Little Pigs. In Wiesner’s version of this oft-told tale, the big bad wolf blows the three pigs into a whole new imaginative landscape, where they wander — and fly — through other stories, encountering the likes of a dragon and a cat with a fiddle along the way. The story engages grownups as much as kids.
In Flotsam, Mr. Wiesner taps into grownup’s memories of days at the beach, rummaging among the treasures of say, the New Jersey Shore. But in Wiesner’s story, the kid on the beach, a bright, science-minded boy, finds a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera with secrets to share … and to keep.
“World Within Worlds,” runs through April 24 in the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School, 650 Great Road. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when school is in session; and by appointment on weekends. For more information, call (609) 924-6700 or visit: www.pds.org. For more information on the artist, visit: www.davidwiesner.com.