Last year, I went to Maurice Sendak’s house to spend a day with the Sendak Fellows, four artists who were given time and studios to work on any project they desired, as well as access to Maurice for advice and encouragement. So who better to talk about his legacy? I asked each Fellow “what’s the most important thing you learned from Maurice?” (And, as a bonus, asked them for their favorite Sendak titles.)
1. Maurice confirmed so many things that I already felt but didn’t have the confidence to admit. He taught me that while creating books everyone else should be forgotten, even children themselves. As he said during our stay: “Kids…What do they know?” In his profound and wonderful way he repeatedly told us “don’t let the bastards get you.” Most of all, the fellowship made me utterly grateful and proud to call myself an illustrator and to be doing what I love.
2. I hesitate to say Where the Wild Things Are as it seems too obvious, but that book means the world to me — and for the wicked Wild Thing inside, I believe it always will. The Sign on Rosie’s Door was also a great love of mine as a child.
1. That I will probably never be able to get rid of self-doubt. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
2. The Little Bear books, which were among the very first books I saw. Those pen drawings made an everlasting impression on me.
1. It’s hard to pick out something I learned in any didactic sense. Maurice Sendak was himself a lesson: his integrity, his devotion to his art, his warmth and generosity to the fellows. I know that if I am ever tempted to make some concession or take the easy road, I will think of Maurice and be too ashamed to betray myself.
2. Part of me wants to pick In the Night Kitchen. Another part wants to pick the gorgeous drawings for Hector Protector. But my childhood self chooses Pierre, for whom I felt a perverse admiration for sticking to his principles even from inside the lion’s belly.
Denise Saldutti Egielski:
1. Live your life, he would say, be happy (he loved to laugh), it’s okay being different, it’s okay being sad or even frightened or frightening at times, let love rule, be brave and be bold, be yourself in your art, and then tell children anything you want. Maurice has had a profound effect on my life since he was my teacher when I was twenty and more recently when I was a Sendak Fellow. I feel like I’ll never stop learning from this great artist. I know I will never stop missing him.
2. Recently my sister sent me Somebody Else’s Nut Tree and Other Tales from Children by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I had never seen this book before, and now I can’t put it down — it’s so full of life, warmth, humor, sadness and all “gracefully illogical.”