Born February 10, 1943, Stephen Gammell is an American illustrator of children’s books. He is by far my favorite illustrator; his artwork surely having the most profound impact on my own art. I think I first noticed his exceptionally disturbing illustrations in the “Scary Stories…” trilogy, and as a young boy with an over-active imagination his creations were like a visual magnetic pull I can liken only the gravity that keeps us firmly planted to the ground. I was hooked! I can’t recall a single detail from any of those stories, but the gruesome images are forever scarred in my brain. His illustrations have won him many awards, including the Caldecott Medal. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. The son of an art editor for a major magazine, his dad often brought home periodicals that were a constant source of artistic inspiration to Stephen. Along with the periodicals, his parents made sure Stephen never ran short on pens, pencils, paper, and encouragement. Like myself, Stephen is a self-taught artist. He began his career doing freelance commercial art, but eventually became interested in children’s book illustration. His first book, A Nutty Business, was published in 1973, and he has since gone on to illustrate over 50 titles, the most popular, of course being Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series of horror short stories. I spent many hours gawking and studying his works, fascinated by every detail. His imagination and gift has inspired many fellow artists, and a little of this inspiration definitely bleeds over onto my drawing paper from time to time. It was said by someone once, “Stephen’s pictures look like they just happened before you turned the page.” And Stephen himself proclaims, “I try to have that element of surprise and fun in every drawing. This is why I never do any sketches beforehand, or plan ahead. My desire is that it happens for me in much the same way it happens to whoever will be looking at the book. ” He truly does have a way of surprising the viewer and aiding the writer in melding visual with literal.
“When I am working on the book, it’s for me and for you. When the book is done, it’s mostly for you. Does it work? Only you can say.” Stephen lives with his wife, Linda, a photographer, in St. Paul, Minnesota; he works daily in his studio, located above a restaurant.
Bohemia is a monthly journal that features artists, poets, writers, photographers. The magazine’s content reflects the best talent in our region, Central Texas. In addition, we follow our interests: which includes reporting on the arts all over the world. We are always looking for submissions.
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