I grew up in the country during the early 90s. My family didn't have the money to give me art lessons and my school only offered the most basic art classes. I had no one to teach me how to draw. There wasn't even the internet to turn to. I am fully self-taught artist, but I only was able to teach myself anything because of Trina Schart Hyman. She mostly did children's book illustrations and she drew with a style that was organic, detailed, and full of human warmth. My mother took the family often to the library (which was a good 40 minutes away by car) and I would take out every single fairy tale and fantasy book I could, anything with even a scrap of illustration in it. It didn't take me long to find her work, and I borrowed her books from the library over and over, putting most of the creases in the spine of those books myself.
I tried to mimic what I saw; the curve of a cheek, the shape of a heel, a flowing strand of hair. With her books all scattered across my desk I drew and drew and then redrew what I saw through her eyes, and slowly began to figure out how to move the pencil across the paper in some way resembling art.
I have kept all my sketches from that time, and I recently just went through them again. My very earliest works are from the 6th grade and as I flipped through each page I saw my own progression of skill and her influence sprouting up everywhere. I graduated to painting in high school, which was an even greater pleasure to me because Trina Schart Hyman primarily used watercolor paints herself. By following her lead I saw myself becoming braver and braver in my own art.
Trina Schart Hyman died in November of my freshman year of college (2004). When I heard the news I was devastated. It had been a childhood dream of mine to meet her one day and tell her how, even though she didn't know me, I was who I am today in large part because of her. I wanted to thank her from the depths of my heart. Even as I sit down to write this post though I'm not sure how I could ever communicate the fullness of that feeling to her.
If you have never explored the work of Trina Schart Hyman now is the perfect time to start. Online sellers like Amazon and eBay have new and old copies of her picture books in constant rotation. Or you could do what I did decades ago and hop in your car and head to your local library.