TEMPERANCE - With a few strokes of Cyd Moore's pen, an alligator in a chef's toque, or hat, appeared as Ms. Moore talked about her life and work.
Speaking to hundreds of schoolchildren at Smith Road Elementary School last week, the Georgia native drew from her experiences growing up on a farm to show how her childhood shaped the artist she has become.
"Spending my days in the woods with my two brothers was a great way to grow up as an artist," she told about 120 fifth and sixth-graders. "The stories that I write and the pictures that I draw come from the memories of my childhood."
To show how, pictures she drew as a youngster flashed onto the screen, followed by her work as an adult. A juxtaposition of two witches she drew at age 7 segued into a book illustration of two witches.
"I've been drawing the same two witches for 40 years," the 48-year-old Detroit-area resident joked.
Her pencil and watercolor paintings - she adds details in colored pencil after the paintings dry - have appeared not only in books, but on magazine covers and in ads for Burger King and on McDonald's Happy Meals boxes - even a telephone-book cover in Alabama.
In three lectures, she gave presentations to the school's 430 students in a program funded by the school's PTA's enrichment committee. The cost for the day was $1,000, money PTA president Amy Schott believes was well spent.
"She was just mobbed," Mrs. Schott said. "There were 15 to 20 kids standing around her shouting out questions. Then everybody moved into the library and she signed her books. She drew a little picture in each one."
Ms. Moore's humor punctuated her hour-long talk to the older students, although she did start by criticizing a childhood spent solely playing video games.
"If you're easily amused, you don't have to use your imagination," she told the group after explaining she had grown up in rural Georgia, about 30 minutes from the home of former president Jimmy Carter. Her family's television could get two stations, the nearest theater was an hour away, and the family's finances meant the three children had few toys, although they did have pets and 72 goats. But that environment proved a perfect breeding ground for creativity.
A childhood spent with every kind of electronic game becomes one of deprivation, not stimulation, for a creative young mind. Nonetheless, she acknowledged the power of PlayStation.
"Play video games," she told the children, "but have a life."
Ms. Moore got her start in the advertising department of a newspaper. Having just 45 minutes to develop, draw, and present an ad concept had a powerful effect on her work.
"It made me fast, and it taught me not to question my instincts," she said in an interview.
She ended her lecture by dishing a bit on children's entertainer Raffi, with whom she recently did a book. For a scene she had drawn of a birthday party, he requested she take some of the presents out of the illustration ("so many presents promote materialism") and come up with a cake substitute ("a healthier snack, with fruit.")
She did so, but vowed she would never attend a party planned by him.
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