The late Maurice Sendak is one of those illustrators whose work is so powerful and full of imagination and originality that it is universally adored. His uniqueness and need to constantly evolve led to a legendary career doing what he loved: creating picture books. Sendak’s refusal to repeat ideas for the sake of profit — “People say, ‘Why don’t you do Wild Things II? Wild Things I was such a success!’ Go to hell! Go to hell. I’m not a whore. I don’t do those things.” — his fearless approach, risk-taking and unyielding opinions, although they sometimes landed him in hot water, are incredibly inspirational and valuable for artists of all sorts.
Members of London’s Tate Art Gallery traveled to Sendak’s upstate New York home back in November 2011 to interview the beloved author and illustrator. What resulted is one of the most inspiring shorts we’ve feasted our eyes on. Surrounded by the woods, Sendak and his German Shepherd illuminate the screen with hysterical anecdotes of landing in the world of children’s literature, his love and confusion of poet William Blake, Herman Melville’s advice for artists, and the enchanting power of childhood. Peek inside the Where The Wild Things mastermind’s workspace — oddly full of Mickey Mouse figurines, poetry books, and large wooden desks — along with a few photos and noteworthy quotes after the jump.
My work has always been considered inappropriate, but the ones that I love, the ones that I think work as works of art and books, are inappropriate!
Herman Melville said that artists have to take a dive and either you hit your head on a rock and you split your skull and you die, or that blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back up and do the best work you ever did. But you have to take the dive, and you do not know what the result will be.
I’m reading an interesting book now on the life of William Blake. I’ve read many of them. That whole row back there is Blake. I can’t figure out what it is – I mean, what draws me to it so much – because I don’t understand him. I still cannot read through one of his illuminated manuscripts – I can’t. I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about! But I love him, like, if I were religious, I would feel that way about whatever! He’s an illustrator; I’m an illustrator. He illustrates poems, his own poems, and mythical dream poems. I guess it’s the way his profound belief in something… Sounds kind of idiotic, but I believe him. I believe in his passion.
My books are really books that are impressed and loved with the memory of comics, and how important they were to me as a child. You know, I did live across the street from the Baptistery; I didn’t live near any famous person; I didn’t see Michelangelo go to work in the morning I just lived in Brooklyn, where everything was ordinary, and yet enticing and exciting and bewildering. The magic of childhood is the strangeness of childhood; the uniqueness that makes us see things that other people don’t see.