Thursday, March 20, 2014

trina schart hyman--self-portrait

1981, Addison Wesley Publishing

Excerpts from Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman


I was born forty-two years ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We lived in a rural area about twenty miles north of the city. …

The farm was the oldest of the old places. It was set back from the road, and although you could see it from the corner of our yard, you had to walk the length of two fields and then down a long avenue of giant elms and old fierce boxwood trees before you could get to the house. It was a long, low, rambling stone and stucco farmhouse with at least forty rooms and three chimneys and a slate roof. It had an enormous stone barn, a mossy spring house, a romantic hidden rock garden, several flower gardens, an enormous...vegetable garden, and a lovely pond fed by ancient springs. … The people who owned the farm were the King and Queen to me. …

One of the first drawings I can remember working on was of the Queen with a big basket of eggs on her arm. I didn’t think her overalls were pretty, so I drew her in an elaborate long dress with lots of little egg-shaped polka dots. …

As I grew up, the days of the King and Queen came to an end. They spent less and less time at the farm, and finally the farm and its garden were left to collect dust and weeds and dream away the days.


… I was born terrified of anything and everything that moved or spoke. I was afraid of people, especially. … I was afraid of the stars and the wind. Who knows why?

My mother is a beautiful woman with red hair and the piercing blue gaze of a hawk. … It was she who gave me the courage to draw and a love of books. …Once, when I was three or four and she was reading my favorite story, the words on the page, her spoken words, and the scenes in my head fell together in a blinding flash. I could read!

The story was Little Red Riding Hood, and it was so much a part of me that I actually became Little Red Riding Hood. … My dog, Tippy, was the wolf. Whenever we met, which in a small backyard had to be fairly often, there was an intense confrontation. My father was the woodsman, and I greeted him when he came home each day with relief and joy.


…For nine years my father drove me into the city to the orthodontist every Saturday morning. …Some Saturdays, after the dentist, I got to go to the Philadelphia Art Museum as a reward. 

I should have been afraid of that grand, imposing building, but I wasn’t. I loved it. I loved the vales and glades and corridors full of paintings, and the tapestries and glass and wood and furniture that the artists who had done the paintings must have used or known! …

There’s a little painting by Breughel* in a corner of a hallway. It shows a fat man with red stockings, running, running. His hands are clutching at his hat and his satchel. He is running away from a hillside full of sheep! Why? There is a dark tree to the extreme right of the painting, and a bird perched on the only branch. A yellow sky. I could feel his fear. Why is the man so afraid? But then, if you look closely, there is a wolf in with the sheep, sneaking closer and closer. Oh no! He’s really Little Red Riding Hood! Oh, Brueghel, I love you.

The Unfaithful Shepherd, Breugel* the Elder, c. 1567/69


…I went to art school in Philadelphia.... Suddenly, I was not only allowed to draw all day long, I was expected to! I was surrounded by other artists all day, and we talked, ate, lived and dreamed about art. It was as though I had been living…in a strange country where I could never quite fit in—and now I had come home. …

My best friend, Barbara, was an illustration major, too. Barbara and I went everywhere together; we’d walk all over the city, drawing everything we saw…. And every day for lunch, rain or shine, we went to Rittenhouse Square. We took our sketch books, hamburgers, coffee and a big box of saltines for the crowds of pigeons….


At the end of my third year at the Philadelphia College of Art, Harris Hyman and I decided to get married. … He was moving to Boston, where he’d gotten a job, and then he was going to Sweden to study mathematics. … So I said goodbye to Philadelphia and went to Boston with Harris….


…I went to art school again.

That spring, I got my first real job, illustrating a children’s book called Toffe och den Lilla Bilen (Toffe and the Little Car).  …An editor named Astrid Lindgren…gave me a book to do. Of course, the text was in Swedish, so it took nearly as long for me to translate it as it did to draw the forty-six black-and-white illustrations…I was now a published illustrator!

* Breugel, Breughel--variant spellings for the same artist

Self-Portrait: Trina Schart Hyman is out of print.

Trina Schart Hyman, unknown date

A Gallery of Self-Portraits 
by Trina Schart Hyman:

Self-Portrait with Bert, oil on canvas, 1990

Self-Portrait with Angel on Forehead, ca. late 1990s

Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 2001

Here is a link to another article I posted about Trina Schart Hyman

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing... I'm off to read the other article. I'm a big Trina fan.... awesome work!