Categotry Archives: Artists


Joan Root


Categories: Artists

Joan Thorpe Root, a British wildlife filmmaker and African conservationist, was murdered on Jan. 12. She was 69.

Born in Kenya, Root was the daughter of Edmund Thorpe, a British coffee farmer and safari guide. She always had a passion for animals and even raised an orphaned elephant calf. Although painfully shy, Root grew up to become an influential wildlife photographer and filmmaker known for her fearlessness in the field. During one shoot, a cobra spit in her face (luckily, she was wearing glasses or the venom would have blinded her). Her face mask was bitten off while filming a hippopotamus underwater, and she allegedly slept with a caracal just so she could capture it on film.

Joan wed Alan Root, an amateur filmmaker, in 1961. Over the course of their two-decade marriage, the couple collaborated on nearly a dozen critically-acclaimed wildlife documentaries and produced footage for the Anglia Television series “Survival.”
Their epic documentary “Year of the Wildebeest” (1975) recorded the migration of 1.5 million ungulates through Tanzania. The filmmakers hid cameras inside tortoise shells to obtain images of the wildebeests thundering over them. For the film “Balloon Safari Over Kilimanjaro” (1976), the Roots photographed the Masai Mara Game Reserve and the 19,340-foot peak of Mount Kilimanjaro — from a hot-air balloon.

The couple was best known for the film “Mysterious Castles of Clay.” The documentary, which was narrated by Orson Welles, showed the inner workings of a termite mound. To fully understand the life of termites, the couple trained their cameras on a termite mound for 30 days and filmed the winged stage of its life cycle. The film received an Academy Award nomination in 1978.

After the couple divorced in the 1980s, Joan moved back to Kenya and became an outspoken conservationist. She frequently railed against poaching and illegal fishing on Lake Naivasha, the Rift Valley’s only freshwater basin. Her 88-acre lakefront property also served as a refuge for orphaned animals, including waterbucks, dik diks, an aardvark, a hippo and an African porcupine.

Root was lying in bed inside her farmhouse when armed intruders broke the nearest window and fired an AK-47 assault rifle into the room. Two of the bullets struck her in the leg; one hit her in the hip. Root tried to staunch the bleeding with bed sheets, but died of massive blood loss. The assailants left the scene without taking any valuables. Kenyan police later arrested two men in connection with the slaying.

[Update – Feb. 2, 2006: Four men were charged with attempted robbery with violence in connection with the murder of British wildlife filmmaker Joan Root. The men deny any involvement in her death and police sources said there was not enough evidence to charge them with her slaying.]

[Update – May 23, 2007: Actress Julia Roberts has agreed to play Joan Root in a movie about her life, her efforts to preserve Africa’s threatened wildlife and her brutal death. The biopic will be produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title Films.]


Stan Berenstain

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Categories: Artists, Military, Writers/Editors

For more than 40 years, Stan Berenstain and his wife Jan entertained millions of children while teaching them how to read.
Stan and Jan were in their teens when they met in a drawing class at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. A warm friendship and a mutual love of art soon developed into a blossoming romance, but World War II put their relationship on hold.
Stan attended engineering school at the University of Maine, then served in a field artillery unit and as a medical artist at an Army plastic surgery center. At the same time, Jan worked as a riveter in an aircraft factory and produced engineering drawings for military contractors. Once Stan’s three-year tour of duty ended in 1946, the couple wed and began collaborating on cartoons and submitting them to magazines. Soon they were regular contributors to Collier’s, Good Housekeeping, McCalls, The Saturday Review and The Saturday Evening Post.
An editor at a New York publishing house saw their cartoons and asked the Berenstains if they’d like to do a book. Inspired by the birth of their first son, the couple published the “Berenstains’ Baby Book” (1951). It attained modest success and led to the publication of several family humor books.
The husband-and-wife team then pitched a book to Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), the editor of Beginner Books. With Geisel’s editorial guidance, Jan and Stan authored “The Great Honey Hunt” (1962), the first book in the Berenstain Bears series. Later stories, which featured the domestic adventures of Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister and Baby Bear as they did chores, visited the dentist, dealt with bullies, attended school and learned the value of sharing, captured the imaginations of generations of children. Stan and Jan Berenstain wrote and illustrated more than 250 books about the Berenstain Bears family, then expanded their literary empire to feature the Bear family in countless DVDs, a public television program and a Christmas musical.
The Berenstains sold nearly 300 million Berenstain Bear books and received numerous awards for their contributions to children’s literature, including the Ludington Award and a Children’s Choice Award. The couple’s sons, writer Leo Berenstain and illustrator Michael Berenstain, now help in creating the series. The couple’s life together was also chronicled in the 2002 memoir, “Down a Sunny Dirt Road.”
Stanley Melvin Berenstain died on Nov. 26 of complications of cancer. He was 82.
Watch a Video About Stan and Jan Berenstain
Watch an Interview With the Berenstain Family
Listen to a Tribute From NPR


David Sutherland

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Categories: Artists

David C. Sutherland III, an illustrator whose work appeared in the “Dungeons and Dragons” rule books and boxed sets, died on June 6 of chronic liver failure. He was 56.

Sutherland trained as a commercial artist at the Minneapolis Vocational-Technical Institute before serving as a military policeman in Vietnam. He worked odd jobs after returning from the war, then launched a career drawing fantasy art for the T├ękumel role-playing game, which was produced by Tactical Studies Rules. In 1974, TSR hired Sutherland to work on its “Dungeons and Dragons” games.

Although he would eventually become the artistic director at TSR, Sutherland was best known for spending 25 years drawing dragons, wizards, centaurs and knights for the D&D manuals. His artwork graced the covers of the “Players Handbook,” the Advanced D&D “Monster Manual” and the “Dungeons Masters Guide.” Sutherland drew dozens of intricate maps to help D&D players better understand the game’s intricate, fantastical worlds. He also created Morley, the wizard that served as the firm’s spokesperson in radio ads from 1977 to 1980.

Soon after Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1999, Sutherland lost his job. His health and spirits declined when he couldn’t find other artistic opportunities and his marriage failed. Several charity auctions offering Sutherland’s D&D memorabilia were held in 2004 and raised $22,000; that money will be used as a trust fund for his two daughters.

Roleplaying Game Credits


Joe Grant


Categories: Artists, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

jgrant.jpgJoe Grant, a pioneering Disney animator and writer, died on May 6 at the age of 96. He suffered a heart attack while working at his drawing board.
Grant was born in New York and raised in Los Angeles. He trained at the Chouinard Art Institute, then landed a job drawing caricatures for The Los Angeles Record. Walt Disney spotted Grant’s work in the newspaper and hired him to freelance on the animated short “Mickey’s Gala Premiere.”
Grant was brought on staff full-time a few years later. Over the next decade, he worked on “Alice in Wonderland” and designed the queen-witch character in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Disney eventually promoted Grant to head of the Character Model Department, which served as a think tank for future animated projects.
During World War II, Grant and animator Dick Huemer created gags and designs for many of Disney’s patriotic-themed cartoons, such as “Reason and Emotion,” “Education for Death” and the Academy Award-winning “Der Fuehrer’s Face.” Grant also co-wrote “Dumbo” with Huemer, and conceived “Lady and the Tramp” with his wife, Jennie. She died in 1991.
When the Character Model Department disbanded in 1949, Grant opened a ceramics studio (Opechee Designs) and a greeting card company (Castle Ltd.). He returned to Disney in 1989 to work on “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Pocahontas” and “Mulan.” The only Disney artist and story creator to work on the original “Fantasia” in 1940, and its sequel, “Fantasia 2000,” he also contributed to the 2004 Oscar-nominated short “Lorenzo.”
Grant was named an official Disney Legend in 1992. Four years later, his work was honored with a Ruben Award from the National Cartoonists Society. More than 70 of his caricatures appear in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institute.


Libby Dengrove


Categories: Artists, Media

Ida Libby Dengrove, a courtroom artist who won two Emmy Awards for her illustrated coverage of the “Son of Sam” trial of David Berkowitz and the “Murder at the Met” trial of Craig S. Crimmins, died on April 13 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 86.
Born in Philadelphia to Russian immigrants, Dengrove attended Moore College of Art and studied in Europe on a John Frederick Lewis Memorial Fellowship. She honed her skills during World War II by drawing portraits of wounded soldiers and Army recruits for the U.S.O. In the midst of her war-time travels, she also met her future husband, Edward Dengrove, a psychiatrist who served as a surgeon in China.
Upon their return to the states, the couple wed and settled in New Jersey. Edward opened a home-based practice while Libby raised their three children and continued her training in an upstairs studio. They were married for 64 years, until his death in 2003.
In 1972, NBC News advertised its need for a courtroom artist. Dengrove heard about the job, grabbed her sketchpad and hopped on a Manhattan-bound train. She didn’t bother to set up an appointment; she just walked into NBC Studios and requested a try-out. During her job interview, Dengrove drew sketches of the person in front of her.
She was hired on the spot.
For the next 15 years, Dengrove’s artwork accompanied the network’s trial stories, including the Jonestown massacre, the Mafia and John Lennon’s deportation. As America’s first courtroom television artist, she was able to work around a judicial ban on cameras and efficiently record famous cases in inks and oils. Dengrove discussed her broadcasting experiences in the 1990 memoir, “My Days in Court: Unique Views of the Famous and Infamous by a Court Artist.”
In recent years, Dengrove suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She never stopped drawing, however, and was known for creating portraits of the people living in her nursing homes.

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