Friday, April 22, 2011

Mollie Eckelberry, author and illustrator

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Mollie Eckelberry of Muttontown, NY, author and illustrator, draws almost exclusively animals. She draws some animals because their expressions or poses strike her interest, some as illustrations to her books. Mollie avoids anthropomorphism, her portrayals reflect years of discovery, first-hand experience, and keen observation. 

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Mollie's love of the animal world started rather dangerously at a tender age of three: "... a seventeen-hand horse named Buster careened rider-less down a narrow farm path straight toward ... me. ... I never moved - just stood there in awe of this wondrous creature that somehow managed not to trample me into hamburger as he went by. ... Horses were never to be far from my mind from that moment to this. I solemnly crayoned red dots on every one of my dolls, told my mother they had measles and that I couldn't play with them any more and I didn't. I made little stables out of shoeboxes, and when my parents gave up on the dolls and gave me toy horses, I bandaged their legs with adhesive tape and made little halters and bridles our of thread and saddles out of bits of cloth."

An avid equestrienne and nature lover, she retained the childlike awe for the smart, amazing creatures surrounding her. She devotes a good portion of her day to the animals in her care.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Her creative pursuits get their fair share of attention, as well. Mollie draws almost every day, always with Mozart's music in the background. The studio is her sanctuary where time plays tricks, it usually passes too fast.

Mollie's mother, Louise Stark Wolf Arnold, an oil, pastel, and watercolor painter, encouraged her young children to experiment with drawing on butcher's paper available by the roll in her studio. Mollie covered miles of that paper with stick horses, eventually progressing to more advanced depictions. In time Mollie signed up for live drawing and anatomy sessions at Art Students League of New York where she took classes with Bill Barnet, Robert Beverly Hale, and Louis Bosa, among others. She was advised to follow her instincts and concentrate her work on things she loved most, the animals. Mollie's brother, Robert Warbrick Stark Jr., became a renown luminist painter of Nantucket landscapes and marines. Until this day Mollie seeks his advice and critique.

Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Mollie published four books: 'Vest Pocket Farm' from which the above quote was taken - an equestrian memoir full of captivating stories in her own vivid language, 'The Foxes of Kirby Hill' - an eulogy to the beloved Kirby Hill estate where she rode surrounded by the wild life of the area, 'Willa' - part introduction to the seeing guide dogs, part love affair with her dog Willa, and 'The Cat Burglar of Castor Bay' - a mystery book for children with the cat at the center stage.

She is invited to read the last three books at schools or nurseries. She appreciates when children laugh at the right places, but, even more so when they grasp her message of the animal care, appreciation for nature, and importance of land conservation. 

Think Long Island First carries her interesting books, her very popular notecards and paper weights.

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