My grandmother was an artist, and throughout her career, she’d make abstract sculptures and embroidery that I’d stare at for hours as a child: “oh, that looks like a face, and that there? That’s an animal.” Our play was art-making, and I was always amazed at how different her aesthetic would become when she was with me. Her paper dolls weren’t abstract at all; I’d make an abstract shape, and she’d magically transform it into a dragon. Her work around my childhood self was whimsically cartoonish, otherworldly and yet completely familiar. 

When I stumbled upon Andy Warhol’s brilliant little cookbook and his playful illustrations for “Best In Children’s Books,” I felt a pang for my grandmother. Like her, Warhol was an illustrator before he made a name for himself as an artist. The illustrations are childlike in the best way: magical and without a hint of condescension. Free and joyous, his pen and watercolors effortlessly skip about the page. As Brain Pickings’s Maria Popova notes, the vivid colors in The Red Hen are quite unusual for the time, when colors in children’s books were typically muted. The rules of nature need not apply: the Red Hen is bright pink!

 

 

The cookbook is equally delightful. Meant in part as a parody of fashionable French cooking, the book includes recipes by the artist’s dear friend Suzie Frankfurt, calligraphy by his mother, and color by a group young men who helped out. The process took ages and yielded only 34 copies, but the carefully hand-painted book is a touching testament to the artist’s passion, love, and friendships. Take a look!

 

 

Thanks to Brain Pickings

Images via Brain Pickings

 


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