In the opening sentence of his 1993 autobiography Ted writes, In the summer of 1952, at the age of seventeen, I became a professional wrestler. Ted goes on the explain My two brothers, Donn and Mark, were also professional wrestlers, as was my brother-in-law, ‘Dangerous Danny McShain’ I guess it was just a family thing. Another family thing is art, more specifically, the fine art of illustrating and writing books for children. Ted and his brilliantly talented wife Betsy are both successful and enormously prolific author/illustrators. Each has been awarded Caldecott honors for their illustrations and both have won Silver Medals at the Society of Illustrators. This year, Ted is the recipient of the Hamilton King Award. This award is for the best illustration in the annual show by a Society of Illustrators member. The breathtaking piece that won the award is a painting from The Worlds Greatest Elephant, one of the 115 books that Ted has illustrated, 20 of which he has also authored. Although they live and work in a beautifully restored, landmark brownstone home in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, one short block from Pratt Institute, their Alma Mater, the Lewins seem to be rarely at home. Simply put, they are addicted to travel. One modest-sized duffel bag, a toothbrush, and a couple of airline tickets and they are off. They have criss-crossed the globe for both inspiration for their book projects and simply for the joy of travel. They visited Botswana in 2007 and their 2004 trip to Mongolia led to the creation of another book. Among places they have visited are the Amazon River, the Sahara Desert, Egypt, Peru, India, Lapland, and Ecuador. They traveled to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas and, in India, watched from atop an elephant as a tiger made a kill. I think the only place that still beckons is Antarctica. By now you may have guessed that the Lewins are not your average, sedate, genteel, stay-at-home artist/authors.
Ted is the consummate artist/journalist. He has a finely tuned ear for dialogue and the ability to create a visual narrative that flows with ease and grace. Teds mastery of watercolor, that most difficult of mediums, equals that of John Singer Sargent or Winslow Homer- or anyone who employs that mercurial medium.
When Ted tackles a subject, he is not merely an observer; his work ethic demands that he approach it as a participant. He literally becomes part of the action. His illustrations have absolute accuracy and authenticity, but they are never prosaic or banal. They are the fruit of keen observation, thorough research, and pure technical skill.
I am a close friend of Teds as well as an admirer of his work. I have also had the added privilege of working with the Lewins and watching them mesmerize a class of Masters students at the University of Hartford, where they teach a book illustration course. All of Teds abilities come into play in the classroom. His ability to articulate, his energy, and his passion and openness, make Ted an inspirational and nurturing mentor.
I was well aware of Teds work for many years before we eventually met at a Presidents Dinner at the Society of Illustrators. A close friendship developed from there. I truly believe that Ted is one of the most complete artists as well as one of the most complete human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know.
So, congratulations, Ted, for this latest and most prestigious honor, and I am certain that there are many more to come.
Murray Winkelman Hartford Art School, University of Hartford