My hero: William Steig by Jon Klassen

I copied this beautiful contribution to the Guardian by beloved children’s book author/illustrator Jon Klassen

Illustrator and writer William Steig in New York in 1945. Photograph: AP

Illustrator and writer William Steig in New York in 1945. Photograph: AP

My hero: William Steig by Jon Klassen

There's no copying Steig, no map to follow. The only common thread I can find in his stories and illustrations is a gentle, empathetic voice saying: 'Just keep going. You'll figure it out'

Jon Klassen

William Steig is a mystery to me. Most of the time, when you find someone whose work you admire so much, the impulse is to try to parse it, to find some seams, to open them up a little and see how the thing is put together so you can admire it from the inside, and probably steal a little from the inside, too. But Steig's books are like perfect smooth stones, complete in themselves, with no seams to be found. The only thing you can do is hold them and enjoy the holding.

I think the reason his design is so elusive is that he doesn't seem to have thought of it as design at all. His books are about any number of things, sometimes about donkeys that get turned into rocks, sometimes about island-stranded mice, sometimes about people's marriages, sometimes about wandering good samaritan dogs. Sometimes they involve magic, sometimes they depend on the harshness of the real world. There is a sense of him following his nose in what he decides to write about, and in the storytelling itself. You can't guess which way any of it is going to go, and you can feel him enjoying that. This is rare on its own, but then he always has the skill to bring together what seems to be a lot of spur-of-the-moment choices and make them into stories that land so perfectly and satisfyingly and feel so inevitable in their endings.

His illustrations have the same quality. The drawings are made up of small marks and dashes and look as if he just kept coming up with small areas of detail until he thought he had enough on the page. There's never one clean lyrical line, but a series of small quick ones that are making up the shape. This kind of drawing suggests an unorganised mess, but when you step back and look at it all at once, it's a living, breathing place, and the small marks and dashes are all serving to make one cohesive thing.

There's no copying him, there's no map to follow. He didn't need one. The only common thread that I can find in his stories and his methods is a gentle, empathetic voice saying: "Just keep going. You'll figure it out."

• Jon Klassen won the Kate Greenaway medal this week for This Is Not My Hat (Walker Books).


I was so delighted to be the musical guest on this wonderful podcast, hosted by Andras Jones, live in the studio of Starburns Industries in Burbank, California. We recorded on July 29th, 2018, and the results have been edited into eight 30 minute podcasts.


Kira Lynn Cain_Cover.jpg


My dear friend Carla Richmond Coffing, photographer, cinematographer, Kundalini yogi, worked so hard yesterday to transform my kitchen into a set. She even moved the fridge so we could get a wider shot in my tiny kitchen. I sang two songs, she set up lights and cameras on tripods and filmed. We had a blast. Can't wait to share!

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New Chapbook

written by the articulate genius Agatha French (Los Angeles Review of Books, LA Times, others). Featuring illustrations by incredible LA- based women illustrators including ME (I'm so lucky!).


Upcoming Concert

October 22, 2017 Crescent Hotel Beverly Hills

new set of songs, solo with electric guitar



 inspiration/reference images for my two current illustration projects (one book, one TV series) as of September 2017


How wonderful her work is!

Am so inspired by the spontaneity of the lines {and so many tiny lines!}, by the looseness and spareness of color so thoughtfully designed and applied. Love the conceptual, dreamlike compositions/ambiguous backgrounds. I see the influence of Alice and Martin Provensen and even Käthe Kollwitz and Susan Rothenberg. 

From "Ati Forberg was born in 1925, in Germany. She is the daughter of Walter Gropius, who is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture."