Top Draw-er

Menomonie’s children’s book illustrator Beth Peck

Kinzy Janssen, photos by Andrea Paulseth

STEP INTO THE STUDIO AND, AHEM, DRAW UP A CHAIR. Menomonie artist Beth Peck specializes in children’s book illustrations and her “calligraphic” images have appeared in 25 books.

In a world full of untouchable art, most of Beth Peck’s drawings do not reside behind glass. Her artwork is flippable, pick-up-able, and tells a story. Peck is a children’s book illustrator, and she works to translate verbal plot into visual expression.

Peck, a resident of Menomonie since 1990, has been illustrating books since 1984. After earning a BFA from the Rhode Island College of Design, she made a habit of dropping off her portfolio at publishers whose work she admired. Her selectivity paid off. Harper & Row gave her her first three jobs. “I thought it was a good way to mesh my artistic life with a practical application,” she says.

Since then, Peck’s “calligraphic” images have made their way into 25 books (including Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory). Two of her more recent books, entitled Just Like Josh Gibson and Music for the End of Time, are featured at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson. Music for the End of Time was one of the Best Children’s Books of 2006, according to Bank Street College in Manhattan. Also on display will be Peck’s sketch panels, which show her thorough figure studies, like torsos twisting with the swing of a bat. She will appear at Phipps Center on July 23 to talk about her illustrative process. 

On June 22, a roving museum visited her. “They find these parts of the U.S. that have pockets of childrens’ book artists,” she says of the 40 or so enthusiasts affiliated with the Mazza Museum of International Art in Findlay, Ohio.  Peck had served as a visiting illustrator at the Mazza Museum last fall, and she was delighted to welcome a bus-ful of tourists into her studio for a short talk.

But when they aren’t giving talks for museum-folk, what is the everyday work of an illustrator like?

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