Ted and Betsy Lewin - Air date: 06-24-08





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Published on Jun 20, 2008

Ted and Betsy Lewin
Ted Lewin grew up in an old frame house in Buffalo, NY with two brothers, one sister, two parents, a lion, an iguana, a chimpanzee, some monkeys, and an assortment of more conventional pets. The lion was given to his older brother, Donn, while he was traveling as a professional wrestler, and he shipped it home. The family kept Sheba in the basement fruit cellar until Donn returned and their mother convinced him to give it to the Buffalo Zoo.

Ted always knew he wanted to be an illustrator. As a child he copied the works of illustrators and painters he admired, including N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, and John Singer Sargent. Their influences are evident in his signature watercolor style. When it came time to go to art school Ted needed to earn money to finance his education. So, following in his brother's footsteps, he took a summer job as a professional wrestler - the beginning of a fifteen year part time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was A Teenage Professional Wrestler, an ALA Notable book.
Ted's artistic career began by doing illustrations for adventure magazines, but for the last thirty years he has devoted all his time to writing and illustrating children's books. "I'm having more fun doing this than anything I've ever done before," he says. He and his wife, Betsy, are avid travelers and many of Ted's books are inspired by trips to such places as the Amazon River, the
Sahara Desert, Botswana, Australia, Lapland, India, Uganda, and Mongolia. Some of these books are collaborations with Betsy. Every summer the Lewins co-teach an MFA class at Hartford Art School.

Ted has garnered many awards including a silver medal and The Hamilton King Award from the Society of Illustrators and a Caldecott Honor for Peppe, The Lamplighter by Elisa Bartone.

The Lewins live in Brooklyn, New York in a hundred and twenty year old brownstone near Pratt Institute where they first met.
Betsy Lewin grew up in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. She always loved to draw and can't remember wanting to be anything but an artist. Her mother, a kindergarten teacher, is responsible for her love of children's books. She read to Betsy and her brother every night: Winnie The Pooh, The Adventures of Babar, Uncle Remus, and all the fairy tale books. The illustrators A.B. Frost and Ernest Shepard were among her earliest heros. Later on when she started illustrating for children, Betsy realized how strongly she'd been influenced by James Stevenson and Quentin Blake.

After graduating from Pratt Institute where she studied illustration, Betsy designed greeting cards. Then she began to write and illustrate stories for children's magazines. When an editor at Dodd, Mead & Company asked her to expand one of those stories into a picture book, Betsy says, "I jumped at the chance. I've been doing picture books ever since and loving every moment."

Betsy's art is usually humorous, drawn in pen or brush with watercolor washes, as in Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That Type, but she also paints in a naturalistic style as in Chubbo's Pool. Gorilla Walk is her first collaboration with her husband Ted and is about their trek to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda.

Many of Betsy's books have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List and she has garnered many awards including a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, and a Caldecott Honor for Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin.

When not at work on their books, Ted and Betsy love to travel to exotic places around the world gathering material for new books. At home each of them has a studio in their brownstone house in Brooklyn. Besides the usual clutter of pencils and pens, paint tubes and brushes, drawing paper and, of course, books, they surround themselves with mementos of their travels: peacock feathers from India, Herero dolls from Botswana, Galimoto toys from Namibia and Brazil, digeridoos from Australia, postcards and snapshots, and countless stones and seashells and bits of cloth that transport them back to the lands they visited.

The Lewins co-teach an MFA class at Hartford Art School. They live in a hundred and twenty year old brownstone in Brooklyn near Pratt Institute where they first met.


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