-By Dan dos Santos

I went to Barnes & Nobles the other day with my family. As per our usual routine, I sat with my kids in the children’s section while my Wife used the brief respite to look at some books in peace and quiet. While killing time in the play area, I spied a Scott Gustafson book on a nearby shelf that I had been meaning to pick up for a long time. I flipped through it, and was quickly reminded why Scott is at the top of my favorite artists list.

Scott Gustafson’s ‘Classic Fairy Tales’ retells childhood classics such as Snow White, Goldilocks, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and several more. The stories are obviously wonderful, but honestly, it’s all about the pictures for me. The book boasts 75 original paintings, almost all of which appear to be done in oils, and man are they good! They are beautifully rendered, colorful, and have a wonderful sense of depth and ambience.

Scott’s work is rendered realistically, but drawn with real whimsy… resulting in a painting that is expertly balanced between a playful and believable nature.

For instance, blending a realistic little girl, and a Pixar-esque wolf, into a single cohesive image is tough feat to pull off. Make the girl too cartoonish and the image loses it’s sense of realism. Make the wolf too realistic, and you’ve got a girl who should be crapping her pants. It’s Scott’s obvious grasp of light and color that allow him to pull that balance off so beautifully.

That balance is something I have been struggling with in my own work of late, so I find this book to be particularly inspiring. I only regret not picking up eight years ago when it first came out. Better late than never, I guess!

Over the nearly twenty-five years that span Scott’s career, he has had the opportunity to fulfill commissions for a number of varied clients and publishers, including: Celestial Seasonings, Playboy magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, The Bradford Exchange, Dreamworks and The Greenwich Workshop.

His illustrated books include The Night Before Christmas, Peter Pan, Nutcracker, as well as two original titles, Animal Orchestra and Alphabet Soup. His book of Classic Fairy Tales, released in the fall of 2003 by The Greenwich Workshop Press, was awarded a Chesley award for best interior book illustrations from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.

His latest release, Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose, was released as a companion book to the fairy tale book in the fall of 2007 by The Greenwich Workshop Press,  and features over 45 color illustrations. This book recently won a Silver in the category of Best Children’s Picture Book by the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

For those interested in the more technical aspects of Scott’s work, check out his website where he has a pretty thorough step-by-step detailing his artistic process.