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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002


  • Thursday, Friday 10 am - 4 pm
  • Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 5 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Collecting Inspirations press release

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Presents: Collecting Inspiration: Contemporary Illustrators and their Heroes

Amherst, MA (March 3, 2017) “Artists cannot work in a vacuum, especially if they have a dust allergy.” Although a joke, author, illustrator, and now co-curator Mo Willems’s words ring true. Picture books instill in children a sense of awe, magic, and wonderment, but what is it that inspires the illustrators—the people who bring incredibly imaginative worlds to life? The Carle’s exhibition, Collecting Inspiration: Contemporary Illustrators and Their Heroes, on view May 23 through November 26, gives visitors a peek into the minds and motivations of an array of talented artists working today.

The show is organized by two prominent figures in the field—Tony DiTerlizzi and Mo Willems—who share their personal stories of inspiration and influence. Their concept for the exhibition arose when they discovered that each had begun collecting work by other illustrators important to their careers. Willems, a lifelong admirer of Charles Schulz, and his wife bought an original 1953 Sunday Peanuts cartoon strip for their first wedding anniversary. Willems was enamored by Schulz’s skillful use of lettering as a way to express emotion, a technique he admits to “freely lifting” when creating his first picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Visitors can view Willems’s exuberant pigeon—yelling in ALL CAPS—along with Lucy’s similarly “loud” verbal tantrum in the Peanuts cartoon. “Later in my career,” says Willems, “when I was lucky enough to actually own one or two of the actual drawings I studied in my youth, it was like welcoming an old friend into my home.”

DiTerlizzi was entranced by Brian Froud’s fantasy illustrations when his mother bought him Faeries in 1978. The book had such a profound effect that, upon graduating art school, DiTerlizzi wrote to Froud, explaining how much his art meant to him and included samples of his own work. He was overjoyed when Froud replied with praise—and a drawing torn from a sketchbook. “I still treasure that scrap of paper,” says DiTerlizzi. “It’s as much a diploma as the one I received from art school.” For DiTerlizzi, Froud’s sketch “held the possibilities of what I could one day become.” The exhibition features Froud’s sketchbook page alongside DiTerlizzi’s Common House Boggart from the popular Spiderwick Chronicles

Selecting the artists for the exhibition was not an easy task. Says Willems: “It’s been an incredible education to see such a diverse group of artists in terms of age, style, and work answer the same fundamental question: what sparked me to become the artist I have become?” Each featured artist contributed a personal statement speaking to the importance of their inspiration on their work and career. Visitors will learn what prompted Jerry Pinkney to purchase, on layaway, a Leonard Baskin etching of dandelions. Or how Alice and Martin Provensen’s illustrations from The Golden Book of Fun and Nonsense informed Lane Smith’s experimental approach in The Stinky Cheese Man. Or what Patrick McDonnell feels when he gazes at W.W. Denslow’s illustration from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz near his drawing table.

As Willems says, “Whatever the reason for an artist to collect, it is deeply fascinating to see the connection between someone’s efforts and their heroes. Are these collections reminders of what got them excited to become artists? Or are they trophies, rewards for having stuck it through and survived in a demanding vocation? Maybe, they’re just beautiful.”

Although art by the 19 contemporary illustrators differs vastly, their shared sense of inspiration is a reminder that the creative process often crosses generations. “I realize there are infinite ways to create a picture book,” DiTerlizzi explains. “Showcasing a selection of diverse artists, and their individual inspirations, may just demonstrate that, in truth, we really are all interconnected in some way.”

Visit The Carle to discover who inspires the following artists: 

Sophie Blackall

Sandra Boynton

Ashley Bryan

Eric Carle

Bryan Collier

Tony DiTerlizzi

Marla Frazee

Laurie Keller

Loren Long

Patrick McDonnell

Yuyi Morales

Kadir Nelson

LeUyuen Pham

Jerry Pinkney

Robin Preiss Glasser

Judy Schachner

Maurice Sendak

Lane Smith

Mo Willems

About The Museum:

The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.

Eric Carle and his wife, the late Barbara Carle, co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle is the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 40,000-square foot facility has served more than half a million visitors, including 50,000 schoolchildren. The Carle houses more than 11,000 objects, including 7,300 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and Master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons College. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. Open Mondays in July and August and during MA school vacation weeks. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For further information and directions, call (413) 559-6300 or visit the Museum’s website at

IMAGES ARE AVAILABLE FOR REPRODUCTION. For additional press information and/or images, please contact Sandy Soderberg, Marketing Manager (413) 559–6315/

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