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Find out about the
award-winning bestseller Dream

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Secrets of the Artists
Legacy Project

LEO AND DIANE DILLON

Leo and Diane Dillon

Illustration from Dream
Illustration from Dream

New York, NY

Acrylic on acetate with
oil glaze

The person and the dream become one reaching toward
the sun (which is a star). In
the second illustration, all generations -- symbolizing the Believe, Do, Think of realizing dreams -- work together to harvest fruit as the tree of life embraces them as a unified community. The older woman wears a star pendant. She
crafts floral wreaths, one of which the young girl wears on her head, representing the gifts passed across generations and how older mentors can help the young achieve their goals. Believe, Do, Think has multiple meanings: 1) pursuing a dream requires believing in it, acting upon it, and making strategic, thoughtful choices; 2) there must be a unity of spirit, body, and mind; 3) we need psychological/social qualities from all stages of life -- childhood, young adulthood, and older adulthood -- to succeed; and 4) we need to learn from the past, live fully in the present, and hope for the future.

The Dillons, a husband-and-wife team, have devoted their lives to art and to the craft of illustration. In 1997, they celebrated their fortieth anniversary and completed their fortieth book, To Every Thing There Is a Season. Awarded the Caldecott Medal twice (for Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears by Verna Aardema), their long list of honors also includes two Coretta Scott King Awards and being inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Leo Dillon (Lionel John Dillon, Jr.) and Diane Dillon (née Diane Claire Sorber) were born eleven days apart in March, 1933, on opposite coasts. He grew up in Brooklyn, she was born and raised in California, and they met in 1953 while attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. Despite their artistic competitiveness with each other, they married.

After discovering that separate careers only fueled their rivalry, the Dillons decided to become a team. They view their unique collaboration as the "third artist," able to achieve things neither individual could alone. Each illustration is passed back and forth between them, one continuing the line of the other, or adding color, which the other embellishes. In the end, neither can say which part of the illustration is his or hers.

They worked together on album covers, advertisements, magazine artwork, book jackets, and movie posters before finding a niche in children's literature. Through their career they've mastered an impressive variety of materials and techniques, including woodcut, inlaid wood, stencil and frisket, collage, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, oils, alkyds, pastels, pochoir, and crewelwork, and have devised methods of simulated mosaic, stained glass, and painted silk. They take great pride in illustration and the fact that they are illustrators. They've never thought there is a difference between "fine" art and illustration other than good or bad art.

"We can't imagine a life without dreams. Most everything we have done began with a dream. When we were in school, one instructor told Leo he would have a difficult time getting work because he was black (this was in the 50s). Another instructor told Diane he hated to teach talented girls because they just got married and had babies. They didn't discourage us. When we started out, there were times we had biscuits and tea for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but we wouldn't give up our dream."


© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

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