At the 18th Annual Mazza Weekend Conference on Saturday more than 350 participants from 17 states were captivated by presentations from six keynote artists. Artists hosted by the Mazza Museum inside the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion at The University of Findlay included Matthew Reinhart, Michael Buckley, Molly Idle, Henry Cole, LeUyen Pham, and Marc Brown. Each artist found a unique way to draw the audience into his or her artistic world and share what their artwork means to them.
Reinhart, who also spoke at the grand opening of the Laiho Gallery, the first permanent gallery in the world devoted to paper engineering, shared that to him the process is a journey. With each book he creates, the pop-out illustrations go through several drafts before they become the full-sized awe-inspiring designs his readers find coming out of the pages, a process that’s illustrated in the artwork that’s featured in the gallery.
From moving pictures to words, author Michael Buckley told conference participants about how he first started as a stand-up comedian and television writer. He was making people funny on CBS’s “The Late Show with David Letterman” before he wrote “Sisters Grimm” the first in a 9-book series about two girls with famous ancestors. Though he’s also recently published a picture book, “Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show,” Buckley gave conference participants a look into books written for a slightly older audience including his next series “Undertow.”
When she spoke about the origins of her book, “Tea Rex,” author and illustrator Molly Idle shared that the inspiration came when her son asked her how a tyrannosaurus rex or t-rex liked his tea. Idle had the pictures to prove she was painting and drawing as even a child. Drawing inspiration from her childhood in many of her books, Idle also told the story of her picture book series, “Flora and the Flamingo” about a relationship between a girl and a flamingo told through pictures alone.
In his third appearance at a Mazza conference, Henry Cole gave an animated presentation that had the audience in hysterics. His memories of how he became an artist hit home with many of the teachers and librarians in the crowd as he spoke of his own teachers who “knew he liked to draw” and used this passion as way to engage him.
When LeUyen Pham took the stage she began by thanking the museum staff and guests for how welcome they made her feel when she arrived in Findlay. “They had researched me, and everyone knew how to pronounce my name,” she said. Pham, whose family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when she was a child, used illustrations she’d drawn of her own life to share how books and her artwork have impacted her.
Marc Brown, internationally renowned author and illustrator best known for the wildly popular “Arthur” series, and veteran keynote artist happily filled the void when another artist was unable to appear at this fall’s conference to the delight of many of his fans in attendance. His presentation answered the questions readers, young and old, ask about his work as an illustrator and advocate for literacy.
“We had a terrific batch of artists this fall,” said Benjamin Sapp, museum director. “Their presentations came together in a way that left our participants asking for more. We’re grateful to be able to bring these artists and our community of teachers and book lovers together in a way that is inspirational for both the artists and the participants.”
Along with the keynote artist presentations, participants had the opportunity to join the artists for dinner on Friday evening and each of the artists took the time to autograph copies of their books for sale in the Mazza Museum gift shop, even treating fans to an illustration or message with their signature.