Hiding out with Highlights
The magazine and the Highlights Foundation are truly a class act. I’ve never worked for a company that so values it’s contributors and cares so deeply about the people it reaches. They talk the talk and walk the walk and I’ve been lucky enough to join them on that walk occasionally, creating some illustrations for the magazine along with a couple of Hidden Pictures.
The Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of children’s literature by helping authors and illustrators hone their craft and to help do this, they’ve created this cool spot up in the Poconos at the former home of Garry and Caroline Myers, who started Highlights way back in 1946.
Last weekend about 25 illustrators were invited by Highlights to the Foundation’s campus at Boyds Mills to learn more about Hidden Pictures, meet some fellow illustrators, shake hands with the wonderful staff and generally get spoiled by comfortable lodgings, amazing food and gorgeous surroundings (music too!). All of this in addition to a great lecture by the great Tim Davis: the man who has created more Hidden Pictures than anyone in history! This guy can hide an aardvark in an avocado… a cat in a coat sleeve…a peanut on a partly parched parcel of playground…you get the idea.
I need to point out that this was all on Highlights’ dime. Free. They even sent a driver hours to pick folks up at whatever airport they flew into. Amazing, really.
Tim and I were picked up (by our wonderful driver Linda) at LaGuardia and then set off across the city to grab about ten more folks before heading for the hills. The weather was perfect and the leaves were turning as we headed over Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. We actually passed the Yasgur farm, famed site of the Woodstock Festival! I always figured it was near Woodstock. What do I know?
Arriving at the campus the beautiful Barn sat on a hillside above the original house
and behind it sat a group of the little cabins. (There were a few more hidden in the woods behind.)…and a little farther up stood the Lodge.
Some folks stayed in the cabins and some in the Lodge, which housed a number of cozy rooms. Gorgeous original art hung from the walls within the Lodge, all part of a series titled “Dream Stories from Around the World”.
Once everyone was settled, we began to gather at The Barn. There was a patio on the rear side that was backed by an amazing stone old wall of the original barn. The rocks were huge and there were gaps along the top that acted as windows long ago. At the far end there was a poetry garden containing stones with words carved into them. I also found a small plaque attached to a stone along the front wall. Did I mention that coolers of soft drinks and beer were strategically placed throughout? Yup.
Waves of talent emanated from everyone and things were getting fuzzy. We met editors, art directors and other staff members, all really great folks and had a bunch of laughs and good snacks served by the chef before dinner. Inside the lodge was a great room, a loft, the kitchen and a couple of reading rooms full of every issue of Highlights ever printed. More fantastic original art hung on the walls!
Dinner was great, the company was perfect and I was beat. I’d risen at 3:30 that day to catch an early flight and I was running out of steam. To bed.
The next day we woke to a great breakfast and began the day. We learned about the history of Highlights, their vision and how we fit in. The beauty of Highlights is an endless variety in art styles, something that makes us artists very happy. Eventually we were all given sheets to fill out, sort of Mad-Lib style bio that we were encouraged to have fun with. Next, it was Self-Portrait time! This was funny. Everyone scrambled for their drawing stuff and got working. It was a little intimidating being surrounded by so much talent. Eventually you had to just go for whatever came up, the clock was ticking! Needless to say, they were funny.
Once that was finished it was time to analyze Hidden Pictures with Swami Tim. He’s a great artist and had some really good pointers. Hiding objects in a picture; some hard, some easy, is a tough task and any tips and tricks are a great help. Thanks Tim!!!
We finished up by showing each other our portfolios. That was a big-time treat. Talent!!
To end off the afternoon we were introduced to the former Editor in Chief of Highlights and grandson of the founders, Kent Brown. He was a trip. A gruff older guy with a really dry sense of humor, he explained to us why he hates hidden pictures, that he was the original “Goofus” from Goofus and Gallant (which he took as a compliment) and how he supervised the building of the campus and Barn. The Barn is really a wonder of green technology married with ancient timbers and slate. After this, many of us went on a tour with Kent. They guy loved to tell stories and kept us grinning.
We all returned to the Barn afterwards for another great evening of hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dinner, live jazz and a roaring fire. It’s really just another day for us illustrator-types. We’re treated like this everywhere.