Monday, September 14, 2009

Hester Bass: The Secret World of Walter Anderson

One of the really great things about SCBWI Conferences is getting to know other authors. Katie and I met Hester Bass at our very first SCBWI Conference three years ago. At that conference, Hester relayed (make that, shouted and sang) her Cinderella story of selling her book The Secret World of Walter Anderson to Candlewick Press.

Her book tells the story of the Mississippi artist Walter Anderson, and it is illustrated by the amazing watercolorist E.B. Lewis. The book is billed as describing "the most famous artist you've never heard of"--but for someone like me who has grown up in Mississippi, he's the first famous artist who's work I loved. I mean, really loved, deeply and passionately.

Walter Anderson painted many of his paintings alone on the islands off of the Mississippi gulf coast. He became one with nature and the animals, even acting like the animals at times to understand their movement and perspective. His artistic voice is unique in it's use of vibrating color and line, and he expresses Gulf Coast nature in a way that no one ever has or ever will again. I grew up going to these islands in my dad's boats, so Walter Anderson's work has personal meaning for me--especially after hurricane Katrina completely altered the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast forever.

I love seeing Walter Anderson receiving national acclaim, and especially children being able to see his work on a national level (his work has been shown at the Smithsonian and there are books about his life written for adults--but this is the first time that his
story has been told for an audience of children).

He is the Van Gogh of the southern United States, and I'm thankful for Hester's persistence and belief in her dream to tell his story.

Here are a few picture's of Walter Anderson's work:

The gorgeous book cover painted by E.B.

And, Hester at my daughter's school where she did a fabulous presentation. The picture next to her is the name of the school (Bramlett) spelled out in Walter Anderson's alphabet that he designed.



Lisa and Laura said...

Walter Anderson's work is absolutely stunning! I can't believe I've never heard of him. Off to google...

ElanaJ said...

Beautiful. I'll look him up too. And I used to teach art... *hangs head in shame*

TereLiz said...

Don't worry, gals, old Walter isn't someone you'll find in an art history survey. I have an MA in Art History, and it wasn't until my graduate work that I discovered him.

Not only was he a painter, but he also produced a wealth of ceramics, and his descendants still work out of Shearwater Pottery, about five minutes from the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs. (See "Dreaming in Clay" Maurer/Iglesias)

Some other great books on his life and art are "Realizations of the Islander" (Driscoll), and "Approaching the Magic Hour" by his wife, Agnes, which I highly recommend.

Agnes once said, "He was a painter always, a lover at times, a husband and father never." He was a prolific artist who was only comfortable surrounded by the nature that inspired his work.

His mother was a graduate of Newcomb College's art program, the old women's college of Tulane University, and was said to have given him his first drawing books.

Thanks for helping to shed some light on this amazing artist and Ms. Bass's addition to the oeuvre. This is the first time I've heard anyone describe him as the VanGogh of the South, the the comparison is apt in many ways.

Thanks again!

Hardygirl said...

TereLiz! You are awesome! I should paste your comment into our post.

Approaching the Magic Hour is one of the most incredible books that I've ever read. An amazingly personal story of what it was like to live with this creative genius (Agnes truly enabled Walter Anderson's genius to flourish--without her understanding of his creative needs, I don't think we would have such an unbelievable body of work from this compelling artist).

I tried to sell my car when I graduated from college so that I could buy an original Walter Anderson. My dad wouldn't let me and the stupid car was in his name. Dang it.


Solvang Sherrie said...

I remember hearing about this book. Anderson's paintings are just amazing. How cool that Hester is helping to make more people aware of him!

TereLiz said...

*blushes* I do see a typo there. My thesis advisors wouldn't approve. ;)

Thanks, Sarah! Publish or perish, lol!

Gwendolyn said...

I met Hester in Chicago at ALA. As soon as she showed me her book's postcard I knew who she was. I remembered her from the article in the Bulletin. What a story. I saw Hester again in LA. A very cool and classy lady!

Hardygirl said...




Katie said...

I am so glad Hester sold this book! It is truly a remarkable story. Not only is Anderson brilliant, but his life was so peculiar that it's art in itself.


Our Motto

Our Motto