Amelia Bedelia artist Lynn Sweat has deep roots in Southeast Texas


The artist best known for her designs for the Amelia Bedelia book series, discussed by Zoom – her first time – from her home in Simsbury, Connecticut. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Lynn’s father was a construction worker and the family moved to Port Arthur when Lynn was around 4 or 5 years old. From there the family moved to the Netherlands where he grew up.

After high school, Lynn attended what was then Lamar Tech to study graphic design, where her teacher Myrtle Kerr encouraged her to take up printmaking. While there, he did graphics for the student newspaper. Sweat said he loves newspapers and has also worked at Mid-County Review doing camera work, layout and collage, which increased his love of newspapers and media by general.

One of his first jobs was at KBMT, then a UHF television station in Vidor. From there he moved on to KFDM making promotional flash cards. He also worked for the Beaumont Enterprise where he replaced Jack Shofner drawing editorial cartoons for a time. He was friends with Milton Turner in college, and Turner wrote some of the first articles about Sweat’s work.

Lynn had her first solo exhibition at the Beaumont Art Museum, now the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

“What’s great about being an artist, sometimes people react to your work in a crazy way, they love it,” Lynn said. “(Director) Jo Scurlock had seen my work and she said, ‘Lynn, you have to have a one-man show. And, you know, after that show, I made lifelong friends – I was selling paintings at very low prices.

Lynn laughed, as he often does. Each information is accompanied by an anecdote, many of which are accompanied by more laughs on both sides of the screen.

Eventually Lynn made it to Houston where, after working for a few studios, he was approached by Frank Tammen, the son of the man who founded the Denver Post. He invited Lynn to join his agency.

“He said to me, ‘Look, I have a small printing press here. You can become my partner,” Lynn said. “So, I took the plunge and did it. And we started printing material. So when I dropped out and moved to New York, I had a perfect portfolio to show off my work. For me. It was just awesome.

By the late 1960s, Lynn was married to Elynor Irene – “the lady behind the artist” – and the couple had two boys and two girls. He worked with the famous nature painter Jack Cowan and his work was beginning to be noticed further afield. A writer from ARTnews magazine told him it was time to go to a big city.

“I had a friend there who worked for an art studio in New York. His name was Tom Ballinger and he was a wonderful artist that I met. I’m in Houston,” Lynn said. “And so that was my contact. I put my family in my car and drove to New York. Yeah, you gotta be young to take risks like that, right?”

Lynn went on a reconnaissance mission and arrived in the Big Apple with $250 in her wallet. His wife said the Roosevelt Hotel, which is near Grand Central Station, would be a good place to stay.

“I took a taxi there and the guy gave me the price to spend the night,” he said. “I thought, ‘Uh, oh, my 250’s not going to last too long.’ So, I said, I’m going for a walk. I walked to the west side, across Madison Avenue, and I found a small hotel, which I never found, but it there were people who were blind with walking sticks. I think it was like 35 or 40 dollars a week, which is perfect.

Lynn gathered her wallet and made a few calls. He met a man named Alan Walski who offered him a chance to create material for a Sophia Loren film, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

“We worked for an entire week on a campaign,” Lynn said. “I finished my week and said (I) had to go back to Texas to see my family. He made a promise that everything was fine. So, I went back to pick up my family and came back. He s Turns out the campaign wasn’t successful (but) that’s how it started.

The film industry was in transition with studios using photography rather than graphics for posters, and soon after, Lynn found himself designing book jackets.

“I love covers,” he said. “Books are definitely one of the great loves of my life. I started doing book covers. One thing led to another, and it was a slow process, but it turned out well.

Along with the covers, Susan Hirschman, editor at William Morrow, saw a little book Lynn had made for her children called “Birds Without Words.” She suggested he try his hand at making a children’s book. Lynn’s first book was “Cluck the Captain’s Chicken,” which was picked up for television, he said. After that, he did a few more.

“One of the best was called ‘The Wonderful Hunting Dog,'” he said. “It was just the story of an old lady who had a hunting dog that hunted rabbits. And my editor was in women’s liberation (and) she liked the idea (that) the master was a woman.

Lynn said he thinks of his designs in terms of simplicity and graphic design. He is best known as the illustrator of “Amelia Bedelia” – he illustrated more of the classic series than any other artist. He remembers once when an editor made a suggestion.

“She said, ‘I have a great idea, Lynn, let’s do a parade on that last page.’ Well, I don’t do shows. I do singles. I don’t do ‘Where’s Waldo?’ you know?” he said with a small laugh.

Despite the simplicity of his illustrations, Lynn says he was inspired by the great masters, such as Caravaggio, Reubens and Rembrandt.

“At first I don’t know how things turned out, but even in high school I was watching Rembrandt and DaVinci,” he said. “So I was trying all of that early on. Someone says, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ And, you know, I’m always open to new ideas. Everywhere I look, I see ideas. I call it the hawk on the wing.

Today, Lynn produces small oil paintings, many of which are available for sale through The Art Studio, Inc. in downtown Beaumont. He donated the work to the organization to help with their fundraising campaign to repair the roof. He visited The Studio over 20 years ago when he was asked to judge their membership show. He quickly made friends and learned to work with clay thanks to Greg Busceme, Steve Herron and Pam Oneil – other people he considers lifelong friends.

“When I heard The Art Studio was having trouble with their roof, I said, ‘You know, I’m just going to donate some paintings,'” Lynn said. five paintings, and Michelle Cate was my contact. She made videos, opened the packages and immediately exhibited the paintings. And I sent him another batch. And if someone bought a painting, it would make that person holding it.

“And that’s the artist’s reward, when someone buys your painting.”

Lynn’s paintings are richly colored and seem to glow with an inner light. He said he is inspired by artist Paul Gauguin, who wrote about returning from an evening of painting.

“He described in a letter once, his response to color, which really stuck in my mind,” Lynn said. “It’s late at night, and there were these carved wooden clogs, clogs, and he said, ‘I’m looking for the sound of my wooden clogs against the ground.’

“I thought it was a wonderful image of color, for me it was this soft, muted color, the way he presented it was beautifully done. But a wooden clog hits the ground. It’s a crazy thing. It’s crazy, but it really hit me.

Lynn may be 88 years old, but his passion for art is as strong as his paintings, and he remains an advocate for the Southeast Texas art scene. He recalls a conversation he had with Lynne Lokensgard, a longtime art history professor at Lamar University, after lunch.

“We drive back and I said, ‘Lynne, you know, Beaumont is kind of like Florence, Italy,'” he said. ” What did she say ?’ I meant that Beaumont also had little artistic enclaves. It’s a unique thing that Beaumont had all these little works of art.

“There’s just an artist spirit there. There really are.

To see more of his work, check out lynnsweat.illustrator on Instagram.


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