Inside an Illustrator's Studio
A bi-weekly column on the Lexington arts scene.
On Wednesday, June 16, Lexington resident and children's book author-illustrator Jennifer Goldfinger welcomed me into her Arlington studio. Goldfinger's studio is a rectangle of a room with wooden floors, and white walls covered in her work. A breeze floated in through the open window. Handing me a Fresca, Goldfinger cleared a seat for me on a soft, slightly worn couch.
Glancing around, I realized that this is what one must do to pursue a passion: find a room for it. Artists - whether they're writers, actors, filmmakers, painters or gourmet cooks - must make space in their lives for their work. Goldfinger seems to have it figured out; she's written and illustrated two books, My Dog Lyle and A Fish Named Spot, and has stayed busy providing artwork for several others. She's also presented and sold many of her fine arts pieces.
"Sometimes, I don't get to the studio, because I'm also a mom," explained Goldfinger, who has two children, ages 11 and 14. Luckily, she's found other ways to juggle work and family. She began work on A Fish Named Spot at 8 1/2 months pregnant and did most of the illustrations with "a baby on (her) lap."
When she does make it to her rectangular haven, Goldfinger usually brings along her dog Lila. My Dog Lyle, which Goldfinger wrote and illustrated, is in memoriam of her late dog Lyle, who drank out of the toilet, waited in the driver's seat of Goldfinger's car while she and her family shopped for groceries and got both Goldfinger and himself sprayed by a skunk. Lila modeled for many of the book's illustrations, and one of Goldfinger's children assisted with the artwork.
The author-illustrator has found inspiration in Lexington. At the time she was drawing illustrations for Linda Hayward's The King's Chorus, about a rooster who considers himself "king of the barnyard," Goldfinger lived near the town's Busa Farm. The roosters' crowing every morning helped her imagine what Hayward's story might look like.
While she's been very successful, Goldfinger remains open to having new experiences as an artist. After college, where she majored in art, Goldfinger worked in art directing, computer graphics and mural painting, but none of those professions felt like her "direction."
Goldfinger discovered her love for illustrating books when an illustrator boyfriend of hers broke his arm mountain biking. Unfortunately, he'd been in the middle of completing a deadline for a children's book. The publishers selected Goldfinger to finish the illustrations. Later on, the vice president of Little, Brown and Company saw Goldfinger's work and asked her if she'd considered writing in addition to illustrating books.
Goldfinger feels she's found her calling. Now, when working on a new project, "I put on my blinders and just go, go, go," Goldfinger says, admitting that she forgets to eat, drink or sleep, and often accidentally finishes way before a deadline.
Goldfinger, who counts among her former housemates Jack Gantos, author of the Joey Pigza books, emphasizes the importance of an artists' community. She's joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which connects children's book creators from all over the world.
Prior to my visit, Goldfinger had also met with a critique group, composed of published authors, for a "fresh" look at her writing. Furthermore, she's part of a listserv called PicBookArts, hosted by the Picture Book Artists Association, which enables her to share information with other artists from around the globe. The friends she's made through these groups lend her personal and professional support.
Make way for art in your own life. If you fancy museums, Lexington's National Heritage Museum is hosting "Jim Henson's Fantastic World," an exhibit on the famous creator of Sesame Street, through June 27. Moreover, Henson's widow, Jane Henson, will present a personal perspective on Henson's work today from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
For live music, head to Lexington center's Nourish restaurant on Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Thursdays, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Brewed Awakening on Sundays, 6 to 8:30 p.m.; and Concerts in the Park by the Hastings Park Bandstand on Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.
Lexington Youth Theatre will perform "Grease" at Grace Chapel on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m., and Boston's Yamaha Music School will give ensemble performances in Cary Memorial Hall on Sunday, July 20, at 12:30 and 3 p.m.