Mazza Weekend Conference welcomed more than 300 participants to hear from award winning artists from around the world. Artists featured this year included Mazza Medallion Recipient David Wiesner (read more about Wiesner’s acceptance of the award here) as well as Tony Abbott, Sergio Ruzzier, Brian Biggs, Nikki McClure and Dan Santat. Each speaker gave participates a look inside his or her story and shared how they became storytellers in ours.
Abbott was one of many on Saturday to talk about the responsibility of working and writing for children. Author of more than 100 books, he also pointed out that he didn’t have to be the best reader in the room as a child to become a good writer. Though he wasn’t a reader, his influencers were many including William Joyce, P.G. Woodhouse and William Faulkner. He likened being a successful writer to first catching the pulse of light and excitement and ensuring that spark makes it through the agent and the publisher, to the librarian and finally the young reader.
Born in Milan, Italy, Sergio Ruzzier didn’t have access to many children’s books as a child aside from Il Piccolo Orsacchiotto (The Little Bear), and he preferred the ones with pictures. He explained that once the writer writes a story, “the illustrator tells a new story based on the words the writer wrote.” He shared with the audience his book This is Not a Picture Book, giving everyone new appreciation for its origins.
To Brian Biggs, it’s all about “writing a book that I want kids to love. There are books that inspire and books that make me recognize that I can do that. That I, too, can be a writer and an illustrator” he said. While in town he enjoyed seeing the illustration process through the sketches and art pieces at Mazza. His latest series Tinyville Town, like many of his other books, has a way of telling stories within stories through all the little things that kids can look at and pick up new elements every time they read.
Nikki McClure reminded conference attendees that everyone cuts a different path in life: “Some people even grab a machete,” she laughed, but McClure cuts with an X-acto knife. Her unique work is often made from one piece of black paper, cutting out the parts that aren’t a part of the illustration, quite the opposite from the artist who adds color and ink to white paper. She also shared the real story and photos from the experiences that inspired the book Waiting for High Tide.
Growing up where reading was more about learning science and math and less about storytelling, Dan Santat learned much of his storytelling instincts from inhaling hundreds of movies. Drawing comics and images over and over, he realized that finding his style as an artist was like peddling a bike until it stops wobbling. Though his parents wanted him to be a doctor, and he had many options available to him as a graphic artist, he followed his passion to be a children’s book author and illustrator. Ending the presentations for the afternoon, Santat also read his 2015 Caldecott Medal Winning book The Adventures of Beekle for the audience.
Along with the keynote artist presentations, participants had the opportunity to join the artists for dinner on Friday evening. Each of the artists also 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.
For more information about upcoming conferences at the Mazza Museum visit our website at www.mazzamuseum.org. Located on the campus of the University of Findlay in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, the Mazza Museum, is home to the world’s most diverse collection of original picture book art. The Museum and Gift Shop are open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and the museum hosts a variety of events throughout the year for children and adults.