This is the story of Eloise Wilkin, one of the most talented children’s book illustrators ever to live.
Eloise Margaret Burns was born on March 30, 1904 in Rochester, New York. Her home was full of love, with two older siblings and one more to arrive after Eloise’s birth. When she was two the family moved to New York City but summer vacations were spent with relatives in western New York State.
Eloise’s artistic talent emerged early in life. She won an art contest for NY children at the age of eleven.
Eloise attended the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute and graduated in 1923. That school, founded nearly a century earlier in 1829, is now better known as Rochester Institute of Technology.
This photo of Eloise Wilkin was taken soon after she graduated from college. At that time she and her friend, Joan Easley, set up an art studio together in Rochester. Joan Easley is not known for her art but is still remembered as co-writer of several books. One of her stories, The Visit, was illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.
Their art studio failed to bring in contracts while located in Rochester, so they moved on to New York City. There, Eloise got her first break. The Century Company, a subsidiary of Charles Scribner’s Sons (now known as Scribner & Scribner), asked Eloise Wilkin to illustrate The Shining Hours. I have not been able to find a trace of this book or the author. If you have any information about it, please leave a comment below.
Of course, at that time, Eloise was still known as Eloise Burns. She didn’t marry Sidney Wilkin until August 18, 1930. Then she took ten years off work to raise her four children: Ann Wilkin Murphy, Sidney Wilkin, Deborah Wilkin Springett, and Jeremy Wilkin.
I have more to write about Eloise Wilkin. She is one of my favorite illustrators of children’s books. But today I cannot finish this article due to time limitations. I will return to write more soon.
A wonderful video about Eloise Wilkin and her art, created by her local historical society:
Celebrating Eloise Wilkin’s Golden Career – article about a speech by her son.
Eloise Margaret Burns Wilkin – at the FindaGrave website.
Eloise Wilkin – Wikipedia page.
A Lovely Time Not Very Long Ago… Thank You, Eloise Wilkin – blog article.
Little Golden Books Timeline – at the Randomhouse book site.
Storybook House Connects Professor, Alumna – about Eloise Wilkin’s childhood home, featured in her art work.
Little Golden Books – Geneva Historical Society.
This article was written for the Insecure Writers Support Group share-day on April 6, 2016. I suggest we set aside insecurity in favor of confidence.
Today I shopped in Hobby Lobby, in Spokane Valley, Washington. I wish I could say I do this frequently, but I’ve actually never been in a Hobby Lobby store before. It was awesome – the perfect kind of place for a “creative” like me. I spent most of my time in the arts and crafts sections.
While roaming the store I saw a sign – it said, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Well, isn’t that inspiring? Why not just let ourselves be ourselves without wanting to be like anyone else? I love that idea.
Eloise Wilkin’s amazing art didn’t come about by trying to draw like anyone else. She had her own unique style and talent.
I bought some of the Little Golden Books she illustrated, and read them repeatedly to my young children long ago. After a while I noticed how idyllic the scenes were in Eloise Wilkin books, and how adorable the precious children! This is how I became aware of this amazing artist. And once I noticed the unique nature of her work and came to love the work she did, I bought more and treasured her art work.
If she’d tried to be like everyone else, what a talent we would have missed. What a joy to our hearts that she lived.
Like Eloise Wilkin, just be you. There’s no need to be like anyone else.