February 27, 2012

The Art of Stephen Gammell

Stephen Gammell celebrated his 69th birthday a couple weeks ago, and I just wanted to show off his work here today. Most people have never heard of him, but if you grew up with the Scary Stories books as I have, you are all too familiar with his very haunting imagery.

Stephen grew up in Iowa. His father, an art editor for a major magazine, brought home periodicals that gave Stephen early artistic inspiration. His parents also supplied him with lots of pencils, paper, and encouragement. He is entirely self-taught.

He started his career with commercial freelance work, but became interested in children's book illustration. His first book, A Nutty Business, was published in 1973. Since then, he has illustrated over 50 titles.

If you are interested in studying Steven Gammell’s art first hand, I recommend checking out the Scary Stories boxed set: Scary Stories Boxed: Set by Alvin Schwartz and Steven Gammell

A friend once told Stephen that his illustrations "looked like they just happened before you turned the page." He responded by saying:
"That statement startled me and I've never forgotten it.  I have kept that in mind each time I do a book.  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." (TTLG).
 Here's some samples of his art.


This bio written by Stephen for the Children’s Literature Network is just perfect and gives a fan a little more insight into how cool this guy is.
Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of lying on the floor in our old house in Des Moines, books and magazines around me, piles of pads and paper, lot of pencils…and drawing. Just drawing! I was four at the time thinking that I really didn’t want to go to school next year…I just want to do THIS.
Well, these many years later, here I am doing THAT. Drawing. Painting. Making art. Making books. What I wanted to do.

Sometimes there is uncertainty about not getting on paper what I see in my mind’s eye, or wondering about how to achieve a certain effect, or even being puzzled about the direction an illustration is going, or should go. But never any dissatisfaction about what I am doing in life. I’ve alway felt, and I’ve said this, that a bad day at the studio is better than a good day doing anything else (with the possible exception of a wilderness hike, or watching a Laurel and Hardy movie).

So, still at it. Still on the journey. Still taking a perfectly good sheet of paper and ruining it. My thanks to all who enjoy my efforts. Hopefully we’ll continue to enjoy them together.”

- Stephen Gammell























7 comments:

Jonah Sidhom said...

freaky. so in that regard, successful.

Anonymous said...

Delightfully dark it brings tears to my very eyes , as if everything that once dwelled in you're imagination suddenly came screaming right out of an endless and dark closet I love your work it simply takes my breath away.

Anonymous said...

Only two that I don't remember seeing. Proud of this fact for some reason. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved these as a boy, fear them as an adult!

Emachine said...

These images have the same effect on me that they did when I was a kid. They're so haunting they make me want to throw up. I think that's a compliment...

Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful!

Moongrrl said...

These illustrations were my favorite as a chid. The images in Scary Stories perfectly piqued my macabre imagination. I am impressed that they are morbid without being violent. They are gently drawn and extremely sensitive. I ended up going to art school and majoring in Illustration. That was over 10 years ago that I finished. I now own a design company and all the work produced is drippy and surreal, not unlike these images I looked at when I was a child. I would say that these childhood images were a huge influence on my adult aesthetic, which has been very successful. I thank you Stephen Gammell for your exquisite works. You've inspired the next generation!