We’re very excited about our new release, Mishkan T’filah for Children, edited and with texts by Michelle Shapiro Abraham with art by Katie Lipsitt. We took this opportunity to speak to the artist about her work.
CCAR Press: Let’s start with an introduction. Tell us about your background.
Katie Lipsitt: I was born in NYC and raised in Brooklyn. I went to Saint. Ann’s School (a private, secular school) and then Barnard College in Manhattan, where I truly discovered my love of making art! After college I moved to Los Angeles to study fine art at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena and to be with my then-boyfriend/now husband. But after a year I found myself production designing student films at USC, and before you knew it, I left art school and was working full time as a set decorator in TV and Film! After having children, I became an elementary school art teacher, then became an art teacher at Environmental Charter middle school here in LA, and made more time to create my own collage art!
CP: How did you become interested in art?
KL: There was never a time that I wasn’t interested in making art! I grew up surrounded by artists and creative people. My mom was a fashion designer and is an artist. My Dad was a creative director of an ad agency. Being interested in art is just in my blood!
CP: Tell us about being chosen to do the art for MT for Children
KL: When I was chosen to illustrate the Mishkan T’filah for Children, I was just THRILLED! My personal Jewish journey has been so enriched by sharing in my children’s experiences at Jewish preschool and later, Hebrew School. It felt so significant that I would get to make images for OTHER children to enjoy during prayer at religious school and family services.
CP: What did you learn in the process?
KL: For the first time, I learned something about what the prayers actually MEAN. Now, when I’m in synagogue, I imagine my own illustrations and understand the services more deeply.
CP: What do you think is important about art in a prayerbook for children? What does it add to their prayer experience?
KL: I think that artwork in a prayerbook for children needs to be simple, bold and graphic. It needs to bring the essence of the words to life in a way a child can comprehend.
CP: It’s interesting to note that the people all have different skins tones and looks, and there aren’t any “traditional” families. Why did you choose this approach?
KL: I wanted the depiction of the children to reflect the more diverse Jewish community that one finds in the Reform Movement today. I wanted no child to feel excluded. I wanted it to represent the reality of the families who belong to synagogues and are raising Jewish children.
CP: How did being a mother and a teacher impact on the choices you made in creating the art?
KL: Both of those helped me to truly imagine how a child would experience this prayerbook. I could imagine my own children’s reactions and associations to imagery, as well as those of my students.
CP: Can you describe the technique that you used to create the art? And who are your artistic inspirations?
KL: The technique I used to create the illustrations was collage and where needed, a bit of watercolor, colored pencil and pen. The simple, fluid lines of Henri Matisse’s late collages and the layered, bold cut paper technique of Romare Bearden were my artistic inspirations.
CP: Which is your favorite image and why?
My favorite image is the image of the girl reading a prayerbook. She looks so much like my daughter, Lucy, and she has the same intensity and focus that Lucy has when she is in T’filah!
Mishkan T’filah for Children is available at a special discount of 25% through July 15th.