Chris Van Allsburg

Chris Van Allsburg

CHRIS VAN ALLSBURG was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1949. As a young child he was adept at drawing, but gave it up for Little League and hunting tadpoles. He entered the university of Michigan with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but after taking a course in figure drawing freshman year, he began to take more art courses and eventually changed his
major to Fine Arts. Graduating with a B.F.A., he went on to the Rhode Island School of Design where he received his M.F.A. in sculpture,

After graduation, Mr. Van Allsburg soon gained wider reputation as a talented sculptor, and in the late 1970’s he started drawing "for a break and to try something different." At the urging of his wife, Lisa, a grade-school teacher at the time, and his friend, David Macauly, he showed his drawings to an editor at a children’s book publisher and they were immediately accepted.

In 1979, Chris Van Allsburg’s first book,The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (1979) was published. It met with tremendous critical success and was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 1980. Since then, he has won two Caldecott Medals, for Jumanji (1981) which was made into a feature-length movie starring Robin Williams, and The Polar Express (1985) which has sold over 2.5 million copies.

Mr. Van Allsburg says of illustrating books, "To me, the artist’s role is as a magician who can make strange things happen. And it surprises me now that I didn’t discover the illustrated book as a way of expressing graphic ideas earlier. It’s a unique medium that lets the artist/author deal with the passage of time, the unfolding of events, in the same way a film does. But what makes book illustration distinct from other illustration, is that it isn’t thrown out after a month, or even two,like an illustration for a story magazine. It stays around; it endures. It’s like having a permanent exhibition between book covers. I appreciate that. To be able to create a small world between two pieces of cardboard, where time exists yet stands still, where people talk and I tell them what to say, is exciting and rewarding."

See also the Classroom Connections for ways to incorporate his drawings in class.