Herman Maril Artwork Inspired Books for Children

I thought I was writing it for children, but I was really writing it to answer all the questions people would ask me as an artist’s daughter–

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My first publishing success was a children’s book, two books— Me Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat and Runaway Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat—illustrated with artwork by Herman Maril.

Home for a visit after college, I was ecstatic to be surrounded by my father’s paintings, after living in an environment with mostly bare walls.  My mother Esta Maril, a psychiatric social worker, had just written a book about a little boy who only ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day and she was going to show it to a publisher, Barbara Holdridge at Stemmer House. An aspiring writer myself, we talked about the elements present in a children’s book over dinner.

That night, unable to sleep, I went downstairs and started writing a story told  from the perspective of  our black cat Molly, who had once belonged to me but had switched allegiance to my father.

I thought I was writing it for children, but I was really writing it to answer all the questions people would ask me as an artist’s daughter, questions like:

How long does it take your father to complete a painting?

Where does he work?

 What kind of materials does he use?

Where does he get his ideas?

Does he ever put you in a painting?

Are you also an artist?

 

Then I had  another idea. I could illustrate the story with actual paintings my father had done with Molly the black cat in them as well as photographs from our house, settings that had inspired my father’s artwork. My mother liked my manuscript so much, she took it with her to her appointment with Barbara Holdridge. Her book was never published, mine was. However, Barbara did not like the idea of mixing photographs with original artwork and she nixed my illustration concept. She also did not like the idea of the story being told in first person by the cat and asked me to change it to third person.

I did what she requested. Then she changed her idea again about point of view after she fell in love with the painting she chose for the cover, “Suzanne and Cat” and became entranced with the idea of alliteration, Me, Molly Midnight. So, one afternoon while sitting in her parlor on a lumpy couch revising my manuscript, desperately hungry for something to eat and too shy to ask her for permission to take a break, I changed it back to first person. I was young and eager. After it was published I visited many schools, gave readings and encouraged elementary age school children to create books of their own.

As one of the many programs associated with Herman Maril: The Strong Forms of Our Experience on exhibit through October 29that the Cahoon Museum of American Art,  September 15th at 1:00 p.m., I’ll be in Cotuit, Massachusetts on Cape Cod doing a reading and leading a workshop for children on making a book for about your pet. https://cahoonmuseum.org/programs/

I’d still like to do a children’s book with a mixture of photographs and paintings.  My pet of choice these days is a dog, Chloe the labradoodle, a dog my father never met. She’s quite striking, tall in stature and white when she’s clean.

In answer to that last question, fans of my father’s work often ask me, Are you an artist like your Dad?Tthe word artist is not limited to visual art.  Following in my father’s footsteps, I  am an artist, I create with words.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Herman Maril

My two early children’s books: Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat and Runaway Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat, gave me the opportunity to work together with my dad.

Today is October 13th, my father Herman Maril’s birthday. He died in 1986, but he is very much a part of my life, every day of my life. His artwork hangs on my walls and most days I’m likely to think about something he told me or something we did together, or something I observed about the way he made art a part of his life.
The youngest of six children, born in Baltimore Maryland on Park Heights Avenue in a row house, my dad told me he originally wanted to be an engineer and design bridges. He always had a strong admiration for the architectural elements of large beams and girders and evidenced in several of his canvases that focus on construction scenes. He couldn’t afford college. The family was poor. His idea of a delicious snack as a child was chicken fat spread on a piece of bread.
A graduate of the Polytechnic High School in Baltimore’s “A Course”, he liked to boast he could have easily been admitted to MIT however he had another stronger interest–painting. At 12 years of age his father registered him for a night class at the Maryland Institute of Art (now known as the the Maryland Institute College of Art ). He lied about his age, to get him into the course. To earn extra money he helped his uncle Herman Becker, a sign painter, paint signs for various Baltimore businesses. This was long ago, before computers when people actually painted signs not only for storefronts but for store hours and clearance sales. Many of his earliest paintings were done on masonite board because it was less expensive than canvas. One of his older sisters gave him money to help pay for paints and brushes. He designed some theatrical sets and programs, taught art and of course kept sketching and painting. A voracious reader and keen observer, he told me that one of the reasons he enjoyed teaching at the University of Maryland, College Park– particularly in the early days, was his opportunity to sit in on classes and interact with the instructors in the English, Drama, Music, and Art departments.
My two early children’s books: Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat and Runaway Molly Midnight; the Artist’s Cat, gave me the opportunity to work together with my dad. My inspiration was the desire to somehow share with youngsters how pieces of our everyday life can be the elements that inspire an artist. Happy Birthday Dad.