Star-Bulletin Features


"Sleigh Ride in the Clouds" is an illustration from William Joyce's book "Santa Calls" and one of his pieces on display at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Artistic flights of fancy

Author-illustrator William Joyce
exhibits some of the pictures from
his popular children's books

The wonderful world of William Joyce

By Nancy Arcayna

Fortunately, William Joyce's parents encouraged his artistic, if somewhat strange, talent. Without the pressure of conforming to any professional expectations, his vivid imagination ran wild, and the resulting illustrations can be seen in the Honolulu Academy of Arts exhibition "Dream Worlds -- Real Worlds," which shows his progress from childhood to today.

He said he was never interested in drawing things as they are, and that is evident in a drawing of a cow on stilts, which he created at age 5.

"I loved monsters as a kid," said Joyce, and while some of his work depicts strange insect worlds, his really gory stuff is not displayed. One drawing viewers won't see, for example, is a caveman being ripped into pieces by a dinosaur.

"I was always creating sister-eating dinosaurs," he chuckled. "I always ran out of red crayons and red pens first. Kids don't really understand violence."

The artist's drawing of a cow on stilts, done when he was just 5 years old.

His "progressed" to other questionable work. "I could draw naked women (don't worry, these are not in the show either) better than anyone else. It was a great icebreaker," he said. By the time he was 17, he was creating highly detailed sailing vessels and vampire illustrations.

The academy exhibition includes drawings and paintings inspired by some of Joyce's popular books, including "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," "George Shrinks," "Santa Calls" and "Bob the Dinosaur." And we can't forget the round, cheerful robots, Rolie Polie Olies.

While Joyce is quite respectable today -- having graduated from Southern Methodist University, where he studied filmmaking and illustrations, and with a wife, 7-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter -- he hasn't lost his childhood sensibilities. His illustrations are packed with odd "thingamajigs" that most children would consider perfectly normal.

The cover illustration for Joyce's book "George Shrinks."

To augment the work, Joyce offers commentary about their origin. "Santa Calls" is the result of Joyce's Christmas letters to his nephews detailing Santa's adventures in the North Pole. The "Leaf Man," another character in Joyce's books, was inspired by a metal figure he purchased at an antique fair and a story he told his daughter in the garden.

Like his parents, he places no pressure on his own children. "Both of them enjoy drawing and storytelling. I don't know what they will be when they grow up -- I just hope they are happy," he said.

'Dream Worlds -- Real Worlds'

Featuring the illustrations of William Joyce
Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts
When: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays through July 14
Admission: $7; $4 for seniors, students and military; free to members and children 12 and under; free the first Wednesday and Sunday of the month
Call: 532-8700
Note: Keiki can pull up a chair and create their own masterpiece for display. At the end of the exhibit, the best drawings will win a William Joyce book prize for their creators.

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