Discovering the World with Peter Sis
Peter Sís’s artwork is filled with originality and creativity. His picture books for children are intricately drawn with graphic elegance and complexity that make them appealing to everyone. They cover topics ranging from his father’s experiences in Tibet to the persecution of the astronomer Galileo to Darwin’s travels aboard The Beagle. The stories and illustrations invite the viewer into a richly detailed visual world and show how exciting and magical our world can be.
The internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker, was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1949. His mother was an artist and his father a filmmaker. Sís was a natural artist.
“I started to draw at an early age. I drew all the time, on every available surface. Graduially I decorated the whole house, the light switches, the chairs…,” Sís said.
Sís attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague from 1968 to 1974 and the Royal College of Art in London in 1977. His first solo art exhibition was held in Prague in 1974. In 1975 he began his career as a filmmaker and won many awards. In 1982, Sís was sent to Los Angeles to produce a film for the 1984 Winter Olympics. The film project was canceled, but Sís decided to stay in the United States where he was introduced to children's book editors in New York. He moved there in 1984 to begin a new career. The first book he illustrated was Bean Boy by George Shannon. He also began doing illustrations for The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Time, Newsweek, and other leading newspapers and magazines.
Sís’s first acclaimed work was illustrating the 1986 Newbery Medal Winner, The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleishman. With more than twenty books to his name, Sis is a five-time winner of The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year for Rainbow Rhino, Beach Ball, Follow the Dream, Komodo!, and The Three Golden Keys. Komodo! and A Small Tall Tale from the Far Far North were each named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book, and he has won a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for Komodo! and a Silver Medal for The Three Golden Keys. Peter's book Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei was a 1997 Caldecott Honor Book. In 2003 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. He has published nearly 1,000 drawings in The New York Times Book Review and has designed many book jackets and posters.
Many of Sís’s illustrations and stories reflect his experiences growing up. His picture books Waving and Growing Up! tell the story of his life since moving to New York City. His illustrations for Sleep Safe, Little Whale were influenced by his personal awareness as the father of a young child. Some of his books pay homage to people and places in his life. The Three Golden Keys features Prague and Madlenka features his family’s current Manhattan neighborhood. He also enjoys writing about and drawing historical figures that fascinate him. Starry Messenger honors Galileo Galilei, Follow the Dream pays tribute to Christopher Columbus and The Tree of Life is about Charles Darwin. The complex volume Tibet contains multiple tributes to his father’s life and work. Peter Sís lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Terry Lajtha, a documentary-film editor, and their daughter, Madeleine, and son, Matej. He works out of his studio in New York City.