How can I tell this story? In what interesting way can I present it to the reader? These are the questions author/illustrator David Wiesner, who accepted the Mazza Medallion at the Mazza Winter Conference this November, asks himself as he begins a new project.
The 11th recipient of the award presented by the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay, Wiesner is known for his wordless picture books that still tell such a detailed narrative. “Thank you for allowing and enabling us, people of all ages, to put their own words to your illustrations,” said Museum Director Ben Sapp to Wiesner after he accepted the award. “The Mazza Medallion is an award for using different styles and media, and it was truly made for you.”
“It’s terrific receiving an award given the friends and teachers who’ve received it in the past,” said Wiesner, who also spoke at Mazza conferences in 2002 and 2011. “To come back again and see the way the Museum is growing and expanding and engaging in three dimensional work and graphic novels and keeping current with what’s happening in the field is just inspiring. It’s a fabulous institution to be a part of.” He also shared his memories of the Museum’s founder Jerry Mallett, “No one I ever met had such unrivaled enthusiasm for the picture book, and it was always amazing to behold the passion with which he approached what we do.”
Wiesner’s first wordless picture book, Free Fall, which the author took the audience through seamlessly from page to page in an ongoing illustration on screen, received a Caldecott Honor. He also shared the stories behind the making of his three Caldecott Medal winners, Tuesday, The Three Pigs and Flotsam. All his work challenges readers to look at images from different perspectives and learn more about the characters in the story and what’s happening to them. In his version of The Three Little Pigs, for example, the characters come out of the story. To make this clear, he used different visual elements to help tell the story.
“I love finding a visual solution to clue the reader into what’s going on,” he said. As the pigs “come out” of the book “they become three dimensional, there’s texture and a source of light from the upper right casting a shadow. All of these things create a different visual world. When the characters come out, they speak in word bubbles. There are very specific rules about what happens as they break down their story and explore the world inside the book,” said Wiesner.
As he continues to explore different visual worlds and mediums, Wiesner has recently created an iPad app called “Spot” that allows the reader to pinch and zoom into different depths of the story. “This is a whole untapped world for writers and illustrators, and it’s not going away,” he said of the medium.
Sapp also announced that Wiesner brought with him a donation of an original work of art from his new work, Fish Girl to become a part of the collection at the Mazza Museum. Written with Donna Jo Napoli and coming to stores in March 2017, Fish Girl, a graphic novel is yet another new medium for Wiesner. “I love that the Mazza Medallion is given for the diversity of the work,” said Wiesner. “For me that’s what picture books are all about, taking this canvas of 32 pages anywhere you can think of. It was the diversity of the genre, the range and style that first drew me to this work.”
To learn more about the Mazza Medallion of Excellence and Artistic Diversity and the Mazza Museum visit our website at conference.mazzamuseum.org. Located on the campus of the University of Findlay in the Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, the Mazza Museum, is home to the world’s most diverse collection of original picture book art. The Museum and Gift Shop are open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and the museum hosts a variety of events throughout the year for children and adults.
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