The 8th of May marked the passing of my favourite artist / children’s book illustrator, Maurice Sendak… master of childhood neurosis. Sendak’s extraordinary gift lay in his empathy with a child’s inner fears and anxieties. He made the ugly look beautiful. Secret whisperings between adults in the dead of night or muffled voices in angry exchanges, what lay at the end of the bed and beyond the closet; these were some of my childhood anxieties and everyone of them exquisitely expressed by Sendak in every line he drew.
I recall watching an interview with Maurice Sendak in a documentary in which he explained why the act of drawing was such a sanctuary to him. Every morning he would go into his studio and sit at his drawing table and pick up his pencil and from that moment onwards whatever personal imperfections he happened to be struggling with would just cease to exist as he became engaged in the act of drawing. And with that sentence he summed up the reason why the rest of us who happen to be artists do what we do.
At the same time, as readers of his books, we are given permission to revisit our own childhood anxieties in a warm safe environment without judgement. That is the magic of Sendak.
So good bye dear friend. We know you haven’t really left us. You have gone to Where the Wild Things Are.