Friday, January 4, 2013

Lois Ehlert's illustrated tales inspire MOLE HILL STORIES

Lois Ehlert's MOLE HILL STORIES, on stage at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center January 12 through January 27, 3013 is inspired by the work of celebrated Milwaukee author and illustrator Lois Ehlert.  This innovative collaboration with Danceworks brings three of Ehlert’s most beloved stories to life – “Mole’s Hill,” “Cucu,” and “Moon Rope.”  The play draws on the bilingual nature of Ehlert’s stories, integrating Spanish language, live music and dance, creating a living environment through which the characters journey.


ABOUT LOIS EHLERT
Taken directly from: http://mhhe.com/socscience/education/kidlit/aom/janaom.htm


I grew up in a home where everyone seemed to be making something with their hands. As far back as I can remember, I was always putting things together, cutting, stitching, pasting, or pounding. The feel of the object I made was as important as the look.


My mother, a good seamstress, shared her fabric scraps with me and taught me to use her sewing machine when I was about eight years old. My dad had a basement workshop, which supplied me with scrap lumber and nails. So I always had a ready supply of art materials, but not necessarily traditional ones like paper and paint. In fact, colored construction paper was pale in tone compared to my bright cloth scraps. (To this day I prefer to paint my own papers to create just the right color or texture.)

While growing up, I worked on a folding table. My mom and dad allowed me to leave my projects spread out on this table so I could continue to work in my free time. It was my own spot. Today I have a large studio to work in, with a huge drawing board and cabinets filled with art supplies. But it's still my spot. If you are creative, you need to find your own spot to work in. You won't do much drawing or writing if you have to hunt for a pencil each time you get an idea.

If you look closely at my books, you will see that I still use simple art materials-and that I'm still cutting and pasting. It's an art technique called collage: cutout pieces of paper, fabric, or objects glued to a backing. Sometimes I paint white paper with watercolor washes and then cut up the paper, and sometimes I use paper with just one tone or texture. I usually start out by making a dummy book with sketches. That way I can figure out what I want to illustrate on each page. Once I get that figured out, I start to really research my subject. I spend a long time checking my facts before I begin to paint. I guess I feel I can never know too much. After I decide what to illustrate, I start cutting out each little piece and gluing it on a board.

If you are an artist or writer just like me, sometimes it is difficult to know just where ideas come from. That's a question people ask me all the time. Now that I'm grown-up I realize that I write and draw thing I know and care about. Yes, a squirrel really did sneak in through my window. Yes, I do enjoy gardening. Yes, I've made snow creatures, and each year I press beautiful maple leaves in my phone book. The ideas for my books develop as slowly as seeds I plant in early spring. Ideas and seeds both have to be nurtured to grow. I study, sketch...and sit and think.

Then I begin to paint, setting the mood for the book. I'm messy when I work. When ideas are coming, I don't clean up my studio every day-I keep working. I know there will be days when I have no ideas, and then I will have plenty of time to clean up and empty my overflowing wastebasket. I splash pint on my shoes and get glues under my nails; scraps of paper lie strewn all over the floor and stick to the bottom of my shoes. I wear old clothes and a denim apron when I work, an idea I borrowed from watching my dad. I leave the paintings scattered around my studio; if I run out of space, I even use the floor.

Then I begin to write. As you may have noticed, in most cases my writing complements my art. I work on writing for a while and then go back to the art-back and forth, until I get just the right balance. It takes me a long time to make a book, and it is difficult but enjoyable work. It looks so simple if you get it right.

I'm often asked why I chose to become an artist. I think it may be the other way around: Art chose me. If you are creative, you know what I mean. No one has to make you paint a picture. I think being creative is a part of a person's makeup. It's something I feel very lucky about. I've worked hard to make this gift as fine as I can make it, but I still think I was born with certain ideas and feelings just waiting to burst out.

For more about Lois Ehlert's MOLE HILL STORIES, click here.

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