JILLIAN: What I usually start with is asking people, you know, what do you remember loving as a child? What do you remember feeling inspired by, or drawn to? Just dive in…whatever feels right.
LEE: Okay. Well, I do remember feeling inspired by books, and loving books. From the very beginning. Picture books. It’s probably universal, but I remember— I just wanted so badly to read. And I actually was so frustrated, because my older sister could read, and I couldn’t. And she started teaching me. Because I wanted so much to break into that meaning, into what the books were. And she started teaching me, and our kindergarten teacher got wind of this, and called our parents, and said, you know, “Fibi’s teaching Lee how to read— I think maybe we should just take over from here, so we make sure that she learns right. And so I got to learn to read in kindergarten, as opposed to first grade when they were teaching everyone, and it was…it was a gift. It was so great.
JILLIAN: Do you remember any particular books that you loved, anything that…
LEE: Yeah! Vividly, I remember Harold and the Purple Crayon. You know? The really young books. And Blueberries for Sal— there were all these books that had a really strong… I mean, they do have a really strong graphic component at that point. And I loved that relationship between the text and the picture.
JILLIAN: Yeah, I loved both of those as well.
LEE: Did you? Yeah! There was just something…I mean, you were just in that purple world, and then you were in that blue world, in that world of, you know, being out, and blueberry-ing, and being completely consumed by it.
JILLIAN: Yeah! And it’s interesting, because if I remember correctly, and I may not, but both of those books are really just one color, right?
LEE: Yeah, they are! When you think about it, they are. It’s interesting.
JILLIAN: Yeah— the illustrations are really interesting, but they’re not…
LEE: Yeah, they’re very monochromatic! It’s kind of that saturated navy, almost, that color. It’s just so interesting.
JILLIAN: There’s a texture to it, almost. It’s just so delicious to be in it. Yeah. I so get what you mean. And the purple crayon too— that bold purple line of the crayon, and what he could make with it…
LEE: Right! He just took like one crayon, and just created a whole world. And that was just so satisfying
JILLAN: Yes, it really was! Just so…alright. Keep going.
LEE: So those were some of the earlier ones that I remember. And there were things like…we had this tall book of fairytales. I think it was a gold book, even, that I remember. And a lot of poetry collections that we would read out loud, again and again, or that someone would read to us. And there were always… there was a point at which the visual ones gave way to the storybooks, and the things like Charlotte’s Web. And a book called The Dollhouse, later — that were just…it just felt like I wanted to live in those books. I would read them— I’m sure everyone does this; kids do because my kids did. You’d read it again and again and again. And the experience was always both a little different and the same each time, and I think that’s part of why kids do that.
And at some point, I think I must’ve been maybe in second grade, and my older sister was a little older. At some point, I realized that books were written by PEOPLE. That they weren’t just objects in the world— that somebody actually made them. And when I realized that, it was literally like being hit by lightning. It was just like, oh my god. And I immediately… for me, it was so simple. It was just like, oh my god, I want to do this. You know?
Conversation between Jillian Hanson and writer, Lee Prusik author of Light Sister, Dark Sister.
"I started this technique after graduating from Royal College of Art in 2003. It started after a trip to Thailand, where I bought a beautiful second-hand book on the Kao San Road. My father had passed away while I was studying at the RCA, and I was thinking about life, death, and the in-between. My first book-sculpture was ‘The Quiet American’. I cut moths from the book with a craft-knife. The piece was inspired by a Chinese legend, about two lovers whose souls re-emerge from burnt ashes in the shape of two Moths. I began working with paper, because of its connection to spiritual rituals that I encountered in South East Asia, and this in turn led me to work with books, and fairy tales."
British Paper Artist Su Blackwell talks about how she arrived at her technique.
Creative work needs solitude. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to…Privacy, then, a place apart - to place, chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again. - Mary Oliver
Finding a career is like finding love - you have to use a trial-and-error method. Out there, somewhere is a job - or even 500 jobs - you’d like to do; it’s up to you to hang loose and look at the opportunities. People aren’t fortune cookies with jobs buried beneath their skin; you make yourself up as you go along - Mary Ellen Banashek
I started out as kid drawing and just getting very involved in art. I loved art when I was in grammar school and I can remember being in fifth grade or fourth grade and drawing pictures of pretty women that I wanted to look like. You know, that I thought you looked like when you were an adult. And it’s funny, because when I was cleaning out my parents’ house a couple years ago when they were moving, I found all these drawings that I did that were still on a chalkboard in my mother’s attic.
Los Angeles Bridal Hair & Makeup artist, Betsy diFrancesca talks about her early interest in art and beauty.
Photo: Clara Walmsley