Connoisseurs of children’s art and literature know the work of Loren Long, who will be exhibited at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature this summer. He has “putt puff puttedy chuffed” his way all over bestseller lists.
He wrote and illustrated a series of Otis books about a lovable tractor that makes the “putt puff” sounds as he helps his animal friends on the farm. Long re-illustrated the famous “The Little Engine That Could” book and the award-winning “I Dream of Trains.” He was selected by Madonna (“Mr. Peabody’s Apples”) and President Barack Obama (“Of Thee I Sing”) to illustrate their children’s books. And Long’s vibrant art is found in the pages of Margaret Wise Brown’s previously unpublished book “Good Day, Good Night” and in Newbery Medalist author Matt de la Peña’s book “Love.”
But what many people may not know about Long is that he is colorblind. He has known he was colorblind since he was 14. He says he cannot tell the difference between shades of brown and green or blue and purple. Long attended school to learn color theory and works with tubes of paint that are labeled. His wife also serves as his color consultant, along with their two sons.
Long grew up in Kentucky and pursued graduate level studies at the American Academy of Art in Chicago after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design/art studio from the University of Kentucky. After graduation, Long worked as an illustrator for a greeting card company before beginning his career as a freelance illustrator.
“After working as a broad-based illustrator for mostly magazines after art school, I did my first picture book,” he said. “From that book on, everything changed in my career. I loved the fine art of telling stories with pictures. I love that my work is specifically for children. It’s been incredibly gratifying to meet little ones and their families over the years who spend time every night with the art that I make alone in my studio.”
Long has earned numerous awards for his fluid Work Progress Administration (WPA) style painting of the 1930s and 1940s.
His beautiful artwork will be on display at the NCCIL in a bold retrospective exhibit as powerful as Otis himself titled “Something Like A Hello: Loren Long.”
“Loren’s work is certainly worth celebrating,” said Trish Dressen, the NCCIL’s executive director. “Similar to how he lives his life, his work is painted with broad strokes and bright colors. We are simply thrilled to bring his vibrancy to the NCCIL.”
The exhibit opens Thursday, June 11 on ArtWalk night and will serve as the inspiration for the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council’s 9th Annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival. The NCCIL partners with the ACAC each year to create a world based on the summer artist on exhibit.
“I’ve created over 20 picture books, and to see much of my life’s work displayed all together in one place in an exhibit is humbling,” Long said. “There are little bits of me all over this gallery.”
He will be in Abilene for the festivities. He will sign books purchased from the NCCIL on Thursday night, June 11 at the Paramount Theatre after delivering his Artist Talk. He will also sign books at the NCCIL on Friday and Saturday mornings, June 12-13. A complete schedule of festival events is available at www.abilenecalf.com.
“Something Like A Hello: Loren Long” will be on display at the NCCIL through Sept. 27.