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Three Questions with Sally Wern Comport

How do you approach illustrating children’s books? What are some hallmarks of your illustration style?

I approach illustrating children’s books very specifically for each title, subject, and cultural time period. The experience of researching is my most productive creative time. By immersing and imagining the light, the smell, the temperature, the climate, the dress, the art of the surrounding culture in a point in time – but most especially the light; I am transported in my mind and can see the book unfold before a pencil has touched the page for sketches. I am drawn to particular artists that share the aesthetic of the moment that I am trying to portray and I will sometimes emulate other artist’s work that most relates to the emotion of that aesthetic. Although it may be apparent that I have illustrated each of the titles that I have done by the drawing style, the techniques vary widely, and have exposed me to a whole new way of thinking about a subject. Always, the initial research is key.

How does art & literature engage community?

From an early age Art and literature shape our cognitive skills as we all are aware, just as math and science, but as we are introduced to a larger world in our various environments, it is our emotional intellect that give us awareness of our connection from one human being to another. The enrichment of reading someone else’s thoughts and sharing similar thoughts or being universally connected by the same earth that revolves around the same sun with the same light is what exposure to art and literature opens us to in our bigger world.

What role does a library and a librarian play in a town or school setting?

I have loved libraries from when I was a child and my Mother would drop me off to the library for programs. Prior to the internet and google searches, the initial research that I did for illustrating was all done through the local library. I would often discover things in the process of one search and find a whole other relatable subject to inform an assignment. I was also drawn to the way the library was organized and I would inevitably make my way to the art books to find a treasure trove of images that, in print, are far more accessible than the flash of a screen image. To this day, the stacks of a library are a comfort to me, and my home Art library with the rolling library ladder is one of my most important imagining zones. I think a library in any town or school is an essential keeper and symbol of our great asset of knowledge and  a place for invention of new ways to engage people from all walks of life.

About Sally Wern Comport
Sally Wern Comport began her career as an artist at age 15, drawing furniture newspaper ads for her dad’s [much more innocent] Mad-Men-era advertising agency. Since then, her prolific catalog of creative works span decades, applying visual problem solving to editorial concepts, corporate collateral, children’s publications, commercial branding design, and large-scale art. Comport is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Columbus College of Art and Design and earned her graduate degree from Syracuse University and continues to guest lecture and teach at Maryland Institute College of Art. She co-founded W/C Studio Inc., a commercial art studio in 1986 with clients as wide ranging as American Express Bank, Microsoft, UPS, and Simon Schuster Publishing. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of American Illustration in New York.

Comport established her design studio Art at Large, Inc. in 2003, which specializes in large-scale artistic solutions for interior and exterior spaces. Clients include George Washington’s Mount Vernon, University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopedic Institute, the Harriet Tubman Visitors Center, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and the Maryland Historical Society. She serves as a designer/consultant to several non-profit Boards, including Providence Center, Visit Annapolis, and the public art initiative she co-founded in 2004 known as ArtWalk. Comport’s latest picture books include Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs by Dr. Angela Farris Watkins and Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood, for which she has received many honors including the Christopher Award, the 2017 Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, and inclusion in The Society of Illustrator’s Original Art Show. Sally is represented by Shannon Associates in New York City, and resides with her family in Annapolis, Maryland.

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