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Crafting Colorful Classics

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More stories from Yoanna Shushkova

The New Colombia
January 30, 2017

Yoanna Shushkova

Yoanna Shushkova

The High Museum’s exhibition “I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle” opened last March, but has attracted so many visitors that it has been extended until February 12. Eric Carle is one of today’s most beloved illustrators and writers, having created over 70 books. His colorful, and interesting works have intrigued young readers all over the world. The High Museum’s exhibition, which contains over 50 years’ worth of Carle’s original works, explores Carle’s thoughts, personal interests and techniques.

Carle was born in 1929 in Syracuse, New York. When he was six years old, his family moved to Germany, where he graduated from Akademie der bildenden Künste, a prestigious school in Stuttgart. His parents and teachers encouraged his artistic abilities since an early age.  

Growing up in Germany, Carle’s dream was to someday return to America. In 1952, he moved to New York, where he got a job in graphic design at the New York Times, and later became the art director of an advertising agency.

One day, author Bill Martin Jr saw Carle’s illustrations in an advertisement and asked Carle to illustrate for a story he had written. Together, Carle and Martin created “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”, a book designed to help toddlers associate colors and meanings of objects. With the book’s publication, Carle’s true career began. He started writing his own stories, starting with “1,2,3 to the Zoo,” followed by the classic “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” which became his most famous work.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” has captured the hearts of millions of children all over the world. The book has been translated into 62 languages and has sold over 41 million copies. A copy of the book is sold somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. The first edition of A Very Hungry Caterpillar was made in Japan because there weren’t any printers in America that could execute the complex die-cut holes and oddly sized pages. Carle’s full body of work includes over 70 books, which in total have sold more than 132 million copies.

To create the unique textures and patterns in his artwork, Carle uses everything from brushes and sponges to carpet squares and brooms. He also uses acrylic paint, black ink and tissue-paper to make his collages.

On display in the High’s exhibition is “Friends,” Carle’s most personal book, which is about a young boy who is very sad after separating from his best friend. The inspiration for this book comes from when Carle moved to Germany and had to leave his friends behind. Inside the book, Carle included a photograph taken in his childhood of himself with a friend he hadn’t seen in over 70 years. After the book was published, a dedicated fan was able to track down the mystery girl from the picture, who was living in Florida, leading to a very emotional reunion for the two friends.

All of Carle’s books explore different themes like growth and discovery. Carle believes that learning should be done in a creative and interesting way. Carle has said that part of his inspiration to write about the adventures of small animals came from his childhood, when his father often took him on walks through nature. Carle’s fondness for those memories, as well as his colorful imagination, have created fantastical books and illustrations that have awed and inspired children across the globe.

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The arts, cultural and news magazine of Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia