GUT's First Visiting Artist: Maira Kalman!
Maira talks creative routines, art supplies, wandering and wondering, then gives the GUT a drawing assignment, and answers *your* questions.
Welcome to the DT Grown-Ups Table! New here? Check out the introductions and say hi. Been at the table a while? Pop back over to see who has joined and welcome new GUT members. Want to share your drawings with the group? We do that in members-only chats on the Substack app - download it here. (Android folks, yours is coming soon. We’ll use IG till the app is available for you, too.) Leave any questions in the comments. So happy you’re here! xo,wm
The Grown-Ups Table’s Inaugural Visiting Artist: Maira Kalman
Since launching the Grown-Ups Table I’ve been excited about the idea of hosting Visiting Artists: interviews, studio visits, take-overs, and special lessons and assignments with artists and drawing-related folks I admire. People we can learn from. Folks who can show us fresh ways of looking at the world.
I don’t think there’s a better inaugural Visiting Artist than the incomparable Maira Kalman.
“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.”
― Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty
If you know my work, it comes as no surprise that Maira’s artwork and storytelling is huge influence.1 Her book The Principles of Uncertainty (based on her monthly column in the NYT) was a revelation. Here was someone pairing visual observations with personal wonderings and urban wanderings, grappling with inner and outer life, history and present, art and literature, people, places, things, pathos and delight. The world cracked open.
Maira has done it all. There’s just no pinning her down. Children’s books. Fashion and set design. Posters and paperweights. Decades of collaboration with her world-changing husband Tibor Kalman. Stories and books and stories and books and books and books and books. No matter its form, Maira’s work always delights us down a path where it’s impossible not to fall in love with the world again and again.
Maira has a brand new book out called “Women Holding Things.” On the surface it is what it says it is. The paintings are lovely and whimsical and melancholic and glorious. But Women Holding Things is so much more - it’s a musically paced visual poem - an illustrated meditation about how women (and I’d offer people beyond that narrow gender definition) have traditionally held so much for their families, for society, for each other and themselves. All the love, loss, fear and resilience. And how ultimately, through it all, most of us manage to go to bed and wake up the next day and somehow (somehow!) we hold on.
Maria Popova wrote way more eloquently about “Women Holding Things” in the Marginalian. Read her piece and ogle the gorgeous paintings.
As the Grown-Ups Table’s first Visiting Artist, Maira generously agreed to answer some of the long-burning questions I have for her about her drawing and life and her process - AND she agreed to give us our weekly drawing assignment (!) She also offered to take a look at GUT members’ drawings and answer your questions, too. Instructions on how to do that is below in the assignment section.
So! Friends! Without further ado. Our first GUT Visiting Artist…
Conversation, Art Assignment and More from Maira Kalman
Maira, Thank you for this! A few questions. First, How do you prepare yourself to get to work? Do you just walk into the studio, or do you make tea or coffee or read or walk or draw or stare at a computer screen or…?
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