Jessica Szafoni | June 24, 2011 | The Morning Call
Jim Thorpe artist Victor Stabin tapped in to his love for words, talent as an illustrator and desire to expose his young daughters to a rich vocabulary to create his new book, Daedal Doodle.
A self-proclaimed eco-surrealist, Stabin defines at least two outlandish words per letter of the alphabet and adds corresponding doodles for each, resulting in an inventive ABC book that ignores expectations. Daedal Doodle contains extraordinary illustrations, unexpected alliterations and an intricate relationship between the two that lets readers learn unusual words.
Published by Victor Stabin Books ($24.99), the book contains 27 pages of fantastic images and learning opportunities.
Stabin, who was born in New York City, has a few claims to fame. He created artwork for U.S. Postal Service stamps, including a portrait of music composer Henry Mancini. He designed an album cover for Kiss, "Kiss Unmasked."
With his wife Joan Morykin, he renovated a 15,000-square-foot factory building in Jim Thorpe originally constructed in 1850. Now called the Stabin Morykin Building, it includes art galleries, art workshop space, a theater and the farm-to-table restaurant Flow.
Stabin, 57, shared some of his feelings about the creation of Daedal Doodle. If you visit his book release party Saturday, you can learn more including: what are ganoid gubbins and quodlibetical quahog?
Q: Have you done work like this for children's books before?
A: Well, I don't know if this is a children's book. I show it to people and no matter who I show it to, they think it's something other than what it is. It could be a teaching tool, and it strikes everyone differently. Some people looked at the book and just got giddy, and some people didn't know what to make of it.
Q: What made you want to put a twist on typical ABC books?
A: It started with this mean girl I went out with like 30 years ago. I was reading and didn't know about five words on the page and she was like, "You're stupid." So then I would read with a dictionary by me and look up every word I didn't know. I realized the dictionary is the universe alphabetized. It's like a mini encyclopedia.
Q: After reading about 8,000 pages in dictionaries, how did you choose which words to include in Daedal Doodle?
A: I would read words, and as I read I had a legal pad and I'd look for adjectives and nouns. I would get about 60 words, then that would get turned into 30 words, then I kept narrowing it down and things just clicked. I wrote down words and some would just say, "Use me, use me." I wanted words that sounded cool, then I wanted to get words that sounded cool and that I didn't know.
Q: Have you always loved words this much?
A: Well, since that girl told me I was stupid. And I read the autobiography of Malcolm X. He was in jail and realizes he has to educate himself, so he starts copying the dictionary. He realized the dictionary is a mini encyclopedia, so actually I took his thought. And Winston Churchill said, "It is a good thing for an educated man to read a book of quotations," and I believe him. It makes you more intelligent. So it comes from Linda, Malcolm X and Winston Churchill.
Q: What did you most enjoy about the process of creating this book?
A: I like getting the idea and finishing the job. And everything in between is almost like being an insect, like how ants work and work and work. But then I feel like a creative genius when I'm done, and that moment is very satisfying.
Q: Are there any common themes in Daedal Doodle that reflect your previous work?
A: I see the connection but nobody else does. As an artist, you get this kind of shape design that just comes out of your wrist almost. One of the things I like to do always is invent little things, things you won't see in life. Artists make a living by creating a style, but even more important to me was to stretch my abilities with this than to stay in a box.
Q: What makes this a "book for the ages"?
A: The fact that a pregnant woman bought it for her unborn baby and an 80-year-old man bought it the same day. When I do work I want people to understand a narrative, and I feel it's important to have as much creativity as you can and have as many people understand it as possible. I want a broad spectrum of people to understand it. I'm trying to get people with the funny, the esoteric desire to learn words and the drawings.
Q: What's the final verdict? Do your daughters like the book?
A: I asked them if they liked it, and they said, "A lot." They watched me make it for like five years, so they saw many versions of it.
Q: Do you plan to create any other works like Daedal Doodle?
A: I have other books in me that would be doodle-ish, but they wouldn't be exactly the same thing. I intend to do a book tour now. One of the things I want to do this summer is get in a car and just stop at bookstores and do signings in like ten cities or something.