Children's Book Illustrator & Writer, Marla Frazee
Marla Frazee, an artist based out of Southern California, is a children's book writer and illustrator that has unlocked the secret to creating work that transcends age and time. As both a childhood favorite and close family friend of mine, I have always admired her ability to unveil wisdom and humor in a word and in an image. Like most of us here at KAC, she is an artist to her very core. From her home, to her infamous, unruly hair, to the clothes that she wears, there is art to be found.
Although Marla has yet to tell me her secret to touching the hearts of children and adults alike, there is much that I have learned from her work...
1. There is something to be said about simplicity. In simple word and text, there is an inevitable symptom of universality. Though each individual is different in so many ways, we all experience that which is simply human: love, pain, passion, fear, acceptance, art, beauty, death... The use of simplicity, more often than not, allows for deeper thought and connection to ensue. The less that is said, the more that is thought. A moment of nostalgia or connection is able to surface for more people from that which is simple, and can mean so many different things to each individual. And most importantly, simplicity does not always correlate with terms such as "general" or "shallow." Though more general in nature, that which is "less" allows for more personal moments and connections to be made for the reader. One word can mean a thousand different things for a thousand different people. Often, the most important lessons are the lessons that are understood, but seldom said.
2. Sometimes, however, you need detail. With simple text, the bulk of a children's book is often found within the image. Small but powerful details lend itself to a deeper and more whole character or storyline, and the expressions and colors used speak to things that the text cannot. The image never "says" precisely what the text says, but brings with it a new shade of meaning or light to a moment within the book. The details of the image are the icing that lines the words within a children's book. They are what brings the reader coming back for more, acting as a sort of "hunt" for the eye to find things it has never noticed before. The details are the little things about a character or scene that you notice and love. The slight smirk in a smile, the mismatched socks, the personality shown in a tree, the black kitten that lives in the background of every page... There is a balance between that which is simple and that which is detailed that Marla has perfected.
3. There are no rules. There is no tried and tested formula. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do things in the world of art, or further, for anything in life. To create art, and especially to create art that one is passionate about, is to follow that creative instinct within us without bounds or inhibitions. Marla's body of work is ever-changing and varying, and with that, leads to her creation of the unpredictable. Yes, there is a style that is unapologetically her own, but she talks about the things she is interested in at the moment. She follows the winding road that life takes her on, and tackles topics that range from the meaning of life, to the very important work of Santa Claus. The most important and loved artists in history have this in common. They are unafraid, they have a love for art, and they seldom follow the rules.
For more Marla Frazee, visit her website or your local bookstore.
Olivia Ferreiro Author
Growing up with parents that are artists has surrounded me with a constant feed of creative energy. As a child, every day was a new project, allowing my older brother and I to use the walls of our every home as a blank canvas, whether we were aware of it or not. Spending my younger years in California made me a flower child that could never lose her youth, even with the passing of time. Coming back to New York as an adult made me discover my roots, beyond café con leche for breakfast and Cuban music always playing in our car. And going to the University of Colorado: Boulder to study writing kept me bold and curious, reminding me that the world is a lot bigger than I ever could have imagined.
I'd like to think that I have my father's obsession with precision, and my mother's desire to be free-spirited. And although I did not study to pursue art on a professional level, I have always been an artist in all that I do.