Mary Engelbreit Case Study

Pages: 6 (1565 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Children

Mary Englebreit

"Originality can lead to success." Mary Engelbreit offers that simple observation on her website to aspiring artists. It is a formula that has served Engelbreit well for more than thirty years. Her unique style, with its bright colors, stylized flowers, and deceptively simple subjects, is instantly recognizable. Her designs are licensed on a staggering array of products, from books, calendars, posters and greeting cards to three-dimensional items such as mugs, teapots and dolls. She also has a line of cotton fabrics that are used by home seamstresses for quilts, home decorating items, and clothing. Her success story is a shining example to aspiring artists.

Engelbreit had no formal training, just a love of drawing from the time she was a young girl. She spent hours and hours in a little art studio her parents converted from an unused closet. At eighteen, she traveled halfway across the United States from her home in St. Louis, Missouri, to New York. What courage it must have taken for a young woman to make such a trip! With work samples under her arm, she met with several publishers who were kind enough to offer advice even though they were not interested in buying her work. Engelbreit was told she should focus on designing greeting cards; what she really wanted to do was illustrate children's books. Engelbreit refused to be discouraged. More than thirty years later, she is a household name, a distinction that can be claimed by relatively few contemporary artists, no matter what their genre.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Case Study on Case Study of Mary Engelbreit Assignment

Another reason Engelbreit is a model for success is that her work is instantly recognizable. Her work is the antithesis of the illustrations in children's book she would have enjoyed as a child. Most illustrators in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, used soft colors in children's books. Eloise Wilkin, famous for her illustrations of the popular Little Golden Books, painted cherubic children in a very romantic style ("Eloise Wilkin -- Little Golden Book Illustrator" 2011). Bold colors simply were not used. Even Dr. Seuss, who drew wild, fanciful characters, used primary colors that were somewhat muted. Engelbreit manages to use bright, bold color in a way that is both clean and modern, yet warm, cheerful and nostalgic. There is no one else who does what she does.

1. My Fabric Works

My work is more fanciful than Engelbreit's and uses humor in a different way I admire Engelbreit's bold use of color, but I like soft pastels and believe they properly convey the warmth and tactile appeal for which I strive. I like to use animals as my characters and personify them by adding clothing and engaging them in human activities. By contrast, Engelbreit uses only human characters. When she uses animals in her work -- often a black Scottie dog named Henry -- they look and behave like real animals. Engelbreit never humanizes them. The characters Engelbreit uses often recur in her work. A prominently featured character is Ann Estelle, who is modeled after the artist herself. Ann Estelle has a blonde bob, big glasses (which the illustrator also wore until having corrective lasik surgery more than a decade ago). Ann Estelle is also famous for her sassy attitude and quotes from this fictitious character are often featured prominently in Engelbreit's work. Ann Estelle calls herself "Queen of Everything."

My work is meant to be touched. The tactile experience will inspire children to make up their own stories rather than become immersed in someone else's. My characters sometimes have names, but they are not meant to be readily identifiable. Again, they exist to fuel children's imagination so children can interact by touch and create their own world.

1.Briefly explain the basis of my interest in these practitioners

Mary Engelbreit is known throughout the world for her distinctive illustration style, imbued with spirited wit and nostalgic warmth. Mary fulfilled her dream of illustrating children's books, and is now one of a select few artists with three New York Times children's bestsellers. Her work is very different from mine for several reasons, most notably her use of color. Although some of her motifs have been translated into fabric and home accessories, she is primarily an illustrator. Englebreit often uses single frame paintings, rendered with marker and colored pencil, to tell a story. Many people find Engelbreit's work very warm and charming, and for this reason she serves as a wonderful role model for any prospective artist who seeks success in the world of children's books.

Her fabric designs use colors that are much more muted than those featured in her paintings and many of the products in her merchandise lines. For example, the owl project in Stitched So Cute features instructions for an owl that is rendered in colors. (Engelbreit 2010). What is particularly interesting about this project is that Engelbreit shows three ways of making the same design. In one version, she uses markers to color a two-dimensional owl sitting on the branch. In another, she uses fabric applique, closely matching the fabric colors to the ones in the illustration. In the third version, she makes the owl from felt. It is a three-dimensional, touchable toy that seems to have leapt from the pages of her illustration. This example shows it is possible to translate from two dimensions to three and make artwork that has tactile appeal.

In my project, I have strived for designs that are imbued with that same warmth and happiness. I have added a textural component so that children cannot only see images, they can touch them and thus experience them with another of their senses. I have also drawn on the Daisy Kingdom fabric line and the work of Joan Walsh Anglund, both of which use the pale colors and ribbon and lace looks that I have incorporated in some of my work (see "Shorty."

For the knitting sheep in "Myriad," I invoked a retro feel with the ink drawing and the use of bright turquoise and yellow. Still, although these colors are bright, they are not the bold primaries featured in Engelbreit's work. They are much bolder, however, than anything used by Daisy Kingdom or Anglund. My felt letter characters have a whimsical Dr. Seuss quality, particularly the character with the tall spiral of purple hair.

2. Analyse those aspects of the practitioner's work that are most important to me

The aspect of Engelbreit's work that is most important is her distinctive style. Her work is immediately recognizable. The viewer knows at once whose work she is observing. Few artists have been able to achieve that distinction. Particularly with children's illustration, the work of one artist can look much like another's. It is difficult to create unique characters and a truly distinctive look. That she has been so successful in doing this is what makes Engelbreit an important case study for children's illustration.

Engelbreit's work also has very broad appeal. It is enjoyed by children but it is not just for children. In fact, much of Engelbreit's career has involved drawing and painting for the adult market. It is only fairly recently that she broke into the world of children's publishing, even though that was her original goal. By demonstrating the wide appeal of her characters and style, made popular through her merchandise, crafts books and the lifestyle magazine published for approximately ten years. Engelbreit's brand has been so thoroughly established that her legions of fans will likely buy anything that has her name on it, including children's books. This is not to take away anything from Engelbreit's phenomenal achievements, but only to point out that her success as an illustrator of children's books came later. My hope is that I can find my way into children's publishing on a path less circuitous than Engelbreit's.

3. Lessons learned


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How to Cite "Mary Engelbreit" Case Study in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Mary Engelbreit.  (2011, May 13).  Retrieved January 26, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Mary Engelbreit."  13 May 2011.  Web.  26 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Mary Engelbreit."  May 13, 2011.  Accessed January 26, 2021.