Editor's note: The Norman Rockwell Museum provided
source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article.
If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please
contact The Norman Rockwell Museum directly through either this phone number
or web address:
Building Books: The Art
of David Macaulay
November 13, 2004 - May 30, 2005
- "For some time now, I have been encouraging people to ask themselves
why things look the way they do."
- -- David Macaulay
- An author and artist who has helped us to understand the workings and
origins of everything from simple gadgets to monumental architectural structures,
David Macaulay employs pictures and words to reveal the secret lives of
objects and emphasize the common sense behind the design of things. A gifted
visual storyteller, he inspires discovery by demystifying an increasingly
complex world while celebrating the places the imagination takes us when
we least expect it.
- Startling in their complexity and beauty, David Macaulay's award-winning
books are beloved by readers throughout the world. Rich in content, they
reveal the artist's lifelong love of history, keen sense of humor, and
innate interest in all things from the marvelous to the mundane.
Vibrant visual experiments, his images place us in the middle of the action
as well as above and below it, inviting us to experience new realities
while compelling us to turn each page.
- Translated into twelve languages, David Macaulay's books encourage
readers to draw connections between seemingly unrelated things, transcending
the boundaries of time, culture and geography. His art conjures up new
worlds, defines and comments upon society, enhances our appreciation of
ideas, and challenges our perspectives. We are honored to celebrate and
explore David Macaulay's outstanding artistic legacy, which has profoundly
enhanced and influenced our rapidly changing visual culture.
- "My days were mostly spent watching things being made and being
outin my own world, fueled by my own imagination. That was a priceless
combination, as it has turned out."
- -- David Macaulay
- "History was a very important part of my educationI have always
loved history, which is filled with wonderful stories."
- -- David Macaulay
- "My work has been shaped by the fact that I am still growing up."
- -- David Macaulay
David Macaulay: The Building of an Illustrator
- "As a child, I was very aware of process and how things get made,
and that they do get made. I knew that things didn't just appear."
- -- David Macaulay
- When David Macaulay was a young boy living in Lancashire, England,
he was fascinated by simple technology. Born on December 12, 1946, it was
not long before he began constructing elevators with cigar boxes, tape
and string, and devising intricate systems of moving cable cars with wood
- Residing with his family in small house at the end of a row of identical
brick homes typical of those found in industrial Northern England, David
Macaulay spent much time playing and exploring in the nearby woods, fueled
by his own imagination. There, he uncovered a wealth of small treasures
like animal skeletons and unusual rocks, which he collected and catalogued.
If inclement weather kept him indoors, he joined his family in the kitchen,
where projects were always underway. "My parents were both makers
of things," the artist has said, "and we were all witness to
what they were making whether my mother was preparing food or my
father was involved in some project it was all done at the kitchen
table." A television was not present in the Macaulay household until
he was ten years old.
- Employed in the knitting industry, David Macaulay's father was adept
at repairing and improving the function of complex, clamorous textile machinery,
and his skills were in high demand. After accepting a manufacturing position
in fast-paced Bloomfield, New Jersey, he brought his family to America
when David was eleven years old. The five-day transatlantic journey on
the U.S.S. United States was an exciting one for the artist, and
it was during this period of transition that he began to draw seriously.
- In 1963, as his high school years were drawing to a close, David Macaulay
considered his next steps. The artist's grandfather had been an architect
and a surveyor, and David, too, was interested in a design education. Pursuing
a career in architecture, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design
from 1964 to 1968, and spent his fifth and final year of study in Rome,
Italy -- a city that he has returned over and over again, both in life
and in art. Though he ultimately decided against a professional career
in architecture, his training had served him well, enabling him to navigate
complex ideas with confidence.
- After graduation, David Macaulay taught briefly on the junior and senior
high school level, worked in an interior design office, and experimented
with freelance illustration, when he began to explore the creative connections
between words and pictures. His first book, Cathedral, was published
in 1973 and was an immediate success. Since then, David Macaulay's books
have been met with international acclaim and he has received many prestigious
professional citations, including the Caldecott Medal and Honor Awards.
The inspiration for and host of Building Big, a PBS miniseries about
the world's greatest feats of engineering and ingenuity, the artist is
currently at work on a book exploring the complexities of the human body.
Building Ship: Exploring the Artist's
- "The words 'utter chaos' describe perfectly a seductive and often
frustrating form of self-abuse called the creative process. The creative
process, in turnsets out to bring order and extract meaning from a conglomeration
of parts and elements that are without order or connection."
- -- David Macaulay
- David Macaulay's book Ship links the present with its past by
weaving a rich tapestry of words and images that tell the tale of the Magdalena
of Seville, a sixteenth century sailing vessel long-lost in the reefs of
the Caribbean Sea. A vestige of the age of discovery, this small wooden
ship known as a caravel was a technological triumph in its day, ideally
suited to the uncertainties of coastal exploration and transatlantic travel.
Though caravels changed the map of the world forever, no drawings or models
exist that describe exactly what they looked like or how they were built.
- An engaging work of fiction, Ship's story is based almost
entirely upon fact, and is recounted by the artist in two distinct parts.
We are first invited to enter the world of modern day maritime archaeologists
in their underwater search for the remnants of a sunken caravel. As artifacts
are recovered and interpreted, five-hundred-year-old clues from the past
bring the Magdalena to life again. In the book's second half, a
merchant's diary from the year 1504 offers a detailed account of the building
of the Magdalena, from the choice of timbers to his reflections
as the boat sets sail.
- Beautifully conceived and illustrated, Ship also serves as a
roadmap of David Macaulay's creative and technical process. Recreating
history requires imagination, academic care, and passion. This section
of the exhibition offers an in-depth look at the artist's working methods,
from first idea to finished manuscript and artwork. Pieces of a whole,
each fragmentary stage -- from ethnographic research, thumbnail studies,
mechanical drawings, consultation with scientists, and travel to distant
lands -- helps him to find his story and communicate it in a compelling
Journey Books: The Evolution of Ideas
- "It isn't necessary to think in a straight line to make sense.
While uncertainty brings with it the chance for screaming failure, it also
offers the possibility of exhilarating surprise."
- - David Macaulay
- The always unpredictable and often frustrating nature of the evolution
of ideas has been at the center of David Macaulay's thinking for more than
thirty years. In contrast to the historically accurate architectural books
that he is best known for, his "journey books" are flights of
fantasy that explore the ways that people's lives intersect without their
- For the artist, the notion of taking a break from his established approach
to bookmaking seemed like a breath of fresh air after more than a decade
spent dissecting the world's most prodigious structures in Cathedral,
City, Pyramid, Underground, Castle, Unbuilding
and Mill. Engaging visual jaunts, his journey books reveal his love
of travel and offer gentle commentary on life's ironies and complexities
as time passes and stories unfold.
- Sometimes built around a fragment of an idea or a single drawing that
needs a home, David Macaulay's journey books have no clear-cut beginning
or end at the outset, and can be challenging to write and design. Piece
by piece and sequence by sequence, each book is "grown" by letting
ideas have a little breathing room.
The New Way Things Work From Levers
to Lasers, Windmills to Websites A Visual Guide to the World of Machines
- Did you know that your dentist's drill is a direct descendant of the
first windmill? Or that the principle behind the zipper and the plow also
governed the building of the pyramids? David Macaulay's imaginative, accessible
guide to the workings of machines shows how the concept behind one machine
links to the concept of another from the simplest lever to the far-reaching
capabilities of the Internet.
- His most successful book to date, The Way Things Work was first
published in 1988, when it remained on the New York Times bestseller
list for fifty weeks. A sometimes grueling four-year project, this innovative
volume was the result of a close collaboration between the artist, science
writer Neil Ardley, and project editor David Burnie. Though he usually
devotes his energies to one book at a time, David Macaulay took a break
in the process after two years to write and illustrate a lighthearted work
of fiction titled Why the Chicken Crossed the Road which he
completed in just three weeks.
- In The New Way Things Work, an updated and expanded second volume,
additional illustrations, drawn from life, detail current technology and
underscore the dramatic advancements that had been made in just ten years.
With a touch of whimsy, the artist's bemused woolly mammoth ambles along
the pages of the book, demonstrating his prehistorically simple approach
to a diverse array of concepts. Rooted in the past, he tends to resist
change, as we learn in the book's epilogue.
- While mammoth had been impressed by much of the digital domain,
- also plenty about it that left him feeling uncomfortable. In the
end, it was just
- too muchtoo fast, and too unfamiliar. Mammoths, after all, had never
- embraced the concept of progress and this one wasn't going to start
- Each of the story sequences in Black and White is painted in
a particular way to help readers make visual connections as they turn the
pages of the book. The artist's style and technique is varied exquisitely
from one frame to the next, creating a sense of mood and atmosphere. On
each left-facing page, impressionistic watercolors trace the boy's solitary
journey home and sepia-toned domestic scenes recall old family photos.
On the right, a color-washed rail station teems with life and an army of
lost Holsteins move in and out of abstraction.
Wall and label text from the exhibition:
- Big Ideas! Looking at Architecture with David
- Building Ship: The Artist's Process
- Journey Books: The Evolution of Ideas
Back to first page
Visit the Table
of Contents for Resource Library Magazine for
thousands of articles and essays on American art, calendars, and much more.
Copyright 2003, 2004 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights