The remix artist Maira Kalman

Self-portrait by Maira Kalman, Beloved Dog
Self-portrait by Maira Kalman, Beloved Dog

The Cut interviewed the renowned artist and writer Maira Kalman at her New York apartment. Although most fans think of her primarily as an illustrator, she often emphasizes the writer part.

“How do I combine this writing and this art to say as much as I can with as few words as I can: I knew I wanted to do that, and there’s a history of that, especially in children’s books, where you have a certain kind of freedom to play that you don’t have as much in working for adults.”

Kalman is a remix artist who combines images and words. Early in her career, those disciplines led to advertising. However, after she had children she decided to write kids books.

“When Lulu was born, I said, ‘Now I know why I’m alive.’ Everything before that seemed pretty fine, but to have a child seemed … Now I know what this is all about. So when Alex was born, the house was just fantastically imaginative, and we’d turn all the furniture upside down and make forts in the room and things that would last for days. There was a sense of play that was very active and very real for me.”

These days she does a lot of her thinking while walking. “I walk everywhere in the city. Any city. You see everything you need to see for a lifetime. Every emotion. Every condition. Every fashion. Every glory. Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.”

Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty.

Maira Kalman

Maria Kalman is the most recent author of Cake.