Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holling Clancy Holling and me

Holling Clancy Holling and me

On my 7th Birthday my Grandfather, Henk Oostenrijk from the Netherlands, sent me a book voucher.

My Mother and Father took me to a book store in Auckland City where I chose “Seabird,” a beautiful, hard cover book for children written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling and published by Collins on the subject of Whaling. My Mother dedicated the book for me by writing my birth date and my Grandfather’s name on the flyleaf.

I no longer have that original copy. It was donated without my knowledge or approval to a local school, fund raising book auction when my children were still attending primary school.

It did solve my Father’s problem of what to give me for my 8th birthday. My obsession that year with “Seabird” gave him the cue. I received from him a copy of “Paddle to the Sea.”

The following year it was “Tree in the Trail”

Those three books changed my life forever. Long before I fully appreciated the literary contents of those books I was gazing in awe at Holling’s illustrations, many of which I copied. Not only that, I began to build my own canoes, models at first and then, on to the real thing.

Like Holling, I had a curiosity about many things and this lead to an interest in the canoes and the people of the Pacific Ocean.

I was compelled to make sailing models of outrigger canoes, whittled out of the dry, woody flowering stems of the flax plant that flourishes in the coastal areas of New Zealand. My friends and I would send them racing across the bay and watch them diminish, longingly, wondering where they might eventually end up, as they dwindled from sight; out to sea.

My first real canoe was designed by New Zealand designer, Frank Pelin and built to his plans by my father and me. That canoe was a 15 foot, plywood, hard chine adaptation of an American Indian birch bark canoe. I named that canoe “Seabird,” the canoe taught me about boat handling from a very young age. I used two types of paddle, the double Eskimo kayak style and the other, the traditional single paddle. My friends and I cruised the sheltered local waterways north of Auckland where we fished and camped all summer long.

Again much influenced by Holling’s realist style and parallel to his path, I chose a career as a commercial graphic artist and mural painter, which eventually lead to sculpture as well. These activities, though not my true passion, helped me to put food on the table for my family.

As I write this I am now in my 50’s and I still cherish and collect copies of Holling’s work. I haunt the children’s section of secondhand bookshops and charity shops always on the lookout for another, yet unseen Holling publication. In this way I have found a 1935 first edition of  “The Book of Indians” a later Collins republication of the same title and a 1948 fist edition Houghton Mifflin copy of “Seabird”.

My continuing curiosity about Holling lead me to Walt Giersbach’s blog which seeks to illuminate that which was previously unknown about the life and work of Holling C. Holling and his wife Lucille. Now, thanks to the efforts of people like Joan Hoffman of Michigan and others, details and artifacts from Holling’s life are being collected, displayed, recorded and published so that more may benefit from Holling’s rich legacy, the body of work that he left for our benefit and enjoyment.

Thanks Holling C Holling for daring to follow your dream and so influence the lives of people like me so far away here in New Zealand.

Joan Hoffman, Holling’s biographer wrote me recently:

August 2010


Glad you made contact with Walt.

You and Holling would have had much in common. He had an early interest in canoeing and became very skilled at it. In the Holling Collection is one of his early drawings of a horse drawn at age three.

Holling became a bit better off financially after he wrote and illustrated Paddle-to-the-Sea and the four Houghton Mifflin Co. books that followed (Tree in the Trail, Seabird, Minn of the Mississippi and Pagoo). Before that he did a great deal of advertising and commercial art to put food on the table. He even worked for Walt Disney at times for a pay check. The children's books he wrote before Paddle were done as a sideline. There are about 20+ books Holling either wrote and illustrated or others he illustrated for other authors.

Holling was a talented writer as well as an artist. He wrote some poetry. One of his great assets was a supportive wife. She helped in so many ways. And he had an outgoing personality and could talk with young and old in all walks of life. He had a curiosity about many things.

You won't see any of Holling's work after Pagoo (published in 1957), although he lived until 1973. Unfortunately he developed Parkinson's with dementia. He worked on several other ideas but never completed them.

Joan Hoffman

Here is a link to for a complete thread of posts relating to HCH and his wife Lucille.

Four new boat portraits.

Water colour on paper. A4 size Water colour on paper. A4 size Water colour on paper. A4 size Water colour on paper. ...