1. What was the inspiration behind your book?
I have long wanted to write a book that makes the behind-the-scenes of the “art world” more accessible. The idea came to me when I was reading my son a book called Whose Tools Are These, which looks at each stage of building a house and each person’s role. I thought it would be really fun to apply the same idea to demystifying being an artist and the many people who support that work. From an early age, making art is a huge part of children’s development, then at a certain age this creativity gets devalued or replaced in favor of more traditional paths of learning. With this book I am saying, Wait, don’t put your markers and paintbrushes down, you can do this for a job!
2. When you were young, did you visit galleries and museums with your parents?
I used to do my homework at museums! My mother was a curator—she’s now retired—and I went to elementary school across the street from the museum she worked at, so I would go there after school. To me, visiting museums was as normal as going to the playground, it was part of my life. We went on vacations to cities with amazing museums rather than tropical beaches or national parks. I can clearly say that going to museums is part of my DNA!
3. Are your parents both artists or in the art business?
My mother collects nearly everything, with a focus on everyday American design history. I grew up surrounded by typecase drawers of miniature collections in each, a shelf with the history of the stapler, and on and on. Her ability to group things together and make a statement is second to none. Now, she is using her collection to make Joseph Cornell–style boxes with her own mark. (We are even working together on a children’s book of these boxes.)
My dad was a true hippie, and he and his brothers did a lot of light shows and experimentation in photography. They invented the first 360-degree camera called the Globuscope. Now he is very involved in supporting Japanese art and design. So I have really been surrounded by creativity and the appreciation of creativity my whole life.
4. What is your connection to the art world now?
My entire career has been in the art world. I have always made books about artists, which is such a fun job! I work for a big commercial art gallery and have the privilege to help tell artists’ stories and get their works further into the world.
5. What is it like to work at a big art gallery and to make books with artists?
It is truly amazing to be surrounded by so many creative and talented people. Everyone wants to do the best they possibly can for the artists and each other. The gallery puts on nearly 40 shows a year globally, and we work with 75 artists and estates, so it can be very busy, but very exciting.
6. Do you get to meet famous artists?
Yes! It has been such a privilege to be invited into artists’ private spaces, their studios, and their minds. They are so passionate about what they do, and to be invited into their world feels very intimate. Hearing an artist speak about their work, and art in general, is such a special opportunity.
7. You have two children. Do you make art with them and what do you think are the most fun art projects to do together?
Yes! My son is 6 and my daughter is nearly 3, so they have different things they like to do but it does seem that they are always making things. My son actually loves making little books, which is so nice to see that he is interested in what I am doing. He makes covers and title pages and loves to draw pictures. My daughter loves gluing things and painting, so we put together a lot of collages. She recently did a project with our wonderful nanny where she created a portrait of herself and then one of Frida Kahlo.
8. How did you decide on Rose Blake as the illustrator for the book and what was it like to work together on this book?
Dare I say it was love at first sight? I was looking for an illustrator who would appeal to both children and adults, and someone who had a true understanding of fine art. I saw her book A History of Pictures that she did with David Hockney and Martin Gayford and felt that I had to meet her. Once we met, it was clear that this project would be a true collaboration. We talked through the concept, we storyboarded it together, and then, unusually for children’s books, she did the illustrations and the writing responded to it. I have definitely found a kindred spirit in Rose, we have TONS of ideas!
9. Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists and why?
My absolute favorite artist is the British Op artist Bridget Riley, who I have gotten to know very well. She has taught me how to look. Her work, on the surface, can seem simple: it is clean lines and recognizable shapes. This makes it accessible and appealing, and then once you stop and truly look, these paintings change and move before your eyes. She is truly a force and continues reinventing her work even at 90 years old. I also am very inspired by the American artist Fred Wilson, who has, throughout his career, rearranged museums to draw attention to missing histories and racism.
10. What are 3 reasons you think art is vital for children?
Development of imagination
Pride in oneself
11. What does creativity mean to you?
The freedom to make something new, to see something differently.