Magazine article USA TODAY

The Gentle Art of Allen Say

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Gentle Art of Allen Say

Article excerpt

In his award-winning children's books, Say's simple prose and often haunting illustrations explore themes such as finding one's identity, fitting in, and the meaning of family and home.

IN 1972, Allen Say wrote and illustrated his first children's book, Dr. Smith's Safari. Twenty books later, he has become one of the most critically acclaimed children's authors of today. A two-time Caldecott Medal winner, Say creates art that is accessible to diverse audiences through his explorations of the similarities and differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

The Japanese-born Say began training in both Western and Japanese styles of art under the renowned Japanese cartoonist, Noro Shinpei, a man Say still considers his spiritual father, before he immigrated to the U.S. in 1953 at the age of 16. Arriving in this country without a knowledge of English, Say continued his visual art training as he was attending regular school.

While he was still a student, Say was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Germany. Say began his career as a photographer for the official Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. Once back in the U.S., he was hired by a prominent advertising agency in 1965 and thus began his 20-year stint as a commercial photographer, becoming one of the most highly paid photographers on the West Coast.

Say's career brought him in contact with several art directors who, impressed by his ability to sketch out ideas for photographs, encouraged him to use his drawing and design skills again. He eventually returned to his initial love--drawing and painting. Say's first books were tightly rendered in pen and ink, a style that he gradually was to abandon for watercolors. …

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