Saturday, March 24, 2012

Camouflage Artist | Ezra Jack Keats

Ezra Jack Keats (from Keat's Neighborhood)

Like Robert Lawson (who illustrated The Story of Ferdinand in 1936), his acclaimed predecessor in writing and illustrating children's books, award-winning artist and author Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) was also a camouflage artist. Lawson had served in France in the US Army's American Camouflage Corps in World War I, while the younger Keats (known then by his birth name, Jacob Ezra Katz) designed camouflage patterns during World War II in Tallahassee FL for the US Army Air Corps. Before the war, he had worked as a mural painter for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and as a background artist for the Captain Marvel comic strip. At war's end, searching for employment after receiving an honorable discharge, he was so dismayed by the prevalence of anti-Semitism that he changed his legal name to Ezra Jack Keats. He began illustrating children's books in 1954. According to his obituary in the New York Times, in the last three decades of his life, he illustrated 33 books, 22 of which he also wrote.