Vitale, Stefano 1958-

views updated

Vitale, Stefano 1958-


Born August 27, 1958, in Padua, Italy; son of Guido Morassutti-Vitale (a landowner) and Carla Vitale (a homemaker); married Pamela Berry (an art director), May 28, 1988; children: Gianmarco, Anna. Education: Attended Bell School of Languages (Norwich, England), 1978, University of Venice, 1979, University of Verona, 1980-82, and University of California, Los Angeles, 1982-83; University of Southern California, B.S. (economics), 1984; Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), B.F.A., 1987.


Home and office—49 Sandy Hill Rd., Oyster Bay, NY 11771. Office—Agent—Lindgren & Smith, 250 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10107. E-mail—[email protected]


Freelance illustrator. Advertising clients have included Absolut Vodka, Mercedes-Benz, Xerox, Marriott Hotels, and New York University. Exhibitions: Work has been exhibited at Ursitti, MacGuiness Gallery, Washington, DC, 1988; Art Director's Club, New York, NY, 1993; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, 1996; New York Public Library, 1997; Delaware Museum of Art, Wilmington, 1997; Schloss Maretsch, Bolzano, Italy, 1998; Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Cedar Rapids, IA, 1998; Galleria Civica, Padova, Italy, 1999; and other galleries and museums.

Awards, Honors

Three-dimensional Illustration Award, 1992; Society of Publication Designers Spot Competition awards, 1993, 1994, 1998; Children's Book of Distinction designation, Hungry Mind Review, 1993, for The World in 1492; certificate of merit, Society of Illustrators, 1993; Society of Newspaper Design award, 1994; Notable Book designation, American Library Association, 1995, 1997; Picture Book Silver Honor, Parents Choice, 1996; Aesop Prize, American Folklore Society/Library of Congress, 1996; Storytelling World Award honor book, 1998; gold award, National Parenting Publications, 1998; Reading Magic Award, Parenting magazine, 1999; seven American Illustration awards.



Jim Aylesworth, The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

Jean Fritz, Patricia McKissack, and others, The World in 1492, Holt (New York, NY), 1992.

Nancy Jewell, Christmas Lullaby, Clarion (New York, NY), 1994.

Angela Shelf Medearis, Too Much Talk, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 1995.

Charlotte Zolotow, When the Wind Stops (originally published 1962), new edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.

Judy Sierra, adaptor, Nursery Tales around the World, Clarion (New York, NY), 1996.

Valiska Gregory, When Stories Fell like Shooting Stars, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.

Aileen Fisher, The Story of Easter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.

David Kherdian, The Rose's Smile: Farizad of the Arabian Nights, Holt (New York, NY), 1997.

Edward Field, Magic Words (poetry), Harcourt (New York, NY), 1998.

Nancy Jewell, Sailor's Song, Clarion (New York, NY), 1999.

Charlotte Zolotow, Sleepy Book (originally published 1958), new edition, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Judy Sierra, adaptor, Can You Guess My Name?: Traditional Tales around the World, Clarion (New York, NY), 2002.

Charlotte Zolotow, If You Listen, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Alice Walker, There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Alice Walker, Why War Is Never a Good Idea, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.


Illustrator of The Creation Creation (video), music by Bela Fleck, narrated by Amy Grant, Rabbit Ears. Contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Town and Country, Reader's Digest, Glamour, and Metropolitan Home.


Stefano Vitale is known for creating folk-art-style paintings that, in addition to earned him numerous awards, have brought to life stories by a variety of children's book authors. Beginning his career as a fine-art painter of large canvases, Vitale moved to a smaller format when he refined his characteristic style: a primitive look that echoes the folk art of Mexico and the American Southwest and incorporates wood-grain texture and flat, saturated colors. Vitale's art has appeared in numerous picture books, among them Jim Aylesworth's The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC, Charlotte Zolotow's award-winning When the Wind Stops, Nancy Jewell's Sailor's Song, David Kherdian's The Rose's Smile: Farizad of the Arabian Nights, and Alice Walker's whimsically titled There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me.

Born in Italy in 1958, Vitale began his college education in the social sciences, graduating from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1984. Within the next three years he had refocused his interest, and in 1987 he received his B.F.A. from Pasadena, California's prestigious Art Center College of Design. Married the following year, Vitale marketed his artistic talents to advertisers, creating designs used in selling everything from hotels to motorcars. In his free time, he channeled his creative energy into the large-scale oil paintings that allowed him true artistic expression.

"I began my illustrating career to finance my large-scale paintings," Vitale once told SATA. His first published illustration project, Folks in the Valley, appeared on bookstore shelves in 1992. Featuring a rhyming text, the book is "illustrated … with wit and naive charm," according to Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan. Other book illustration assignments have followed, among them Christmas Lullaby, When the Wind Stops, and Nursery Tales around the World, the last a story collection edited by Judy Sierra. Focusing on the never-ending, cyclical characteristics of the natural world, When the Wind Stops is one of several stories by Zolotow that Vitale has re-envisioned for a new generation of young children. His update of the 1962 original features "exquisite" full-color illustrations that "gloriously depict heaven and earth and give concrete meaning to abstract concepts," according to Booklist contributor Lauren Peterson. Commenting on the visual references to Old Masters painters Vincent van Gogh and Marc Chagall that appear within the book, School Library Journal contributor Virginia Golodetz praised them as an "interesting detail." Using deep-hued oil paints to reprise Zolotow's 1958 picture book Sleepy Book, the illustrator creates a dusky, lullaby feel through the use of muted warm colors.

Noting that Vitale's use of color demonstrates "great sensitivity" to the medium of oil paint, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan wrote of the artist's contribution to Nancy Jewell's Christmas Lullaby that he "uses line, color, and composition to achieve many different effects." Also admiring the illustrator's work, Cynthia Zarin commented in her appraisal of Christmas Lullaby for the New York Times Book Review that the book's "clear, enchanting illustrations are … [rendered] gracefully, without a trace of heavy-handedness." Another original story featuring the artist's work, Walker's There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me is transformed into what a Publishers Weekly described as "an illuminated prayer" by Vitale's inspirational images. A book that focuses on a young girl who is pondering the interrelationships that exist in the natural world, the work was hailed as "poeetic in its appeal" and "artistically stunning" by School Library Journal contributor Mary Elam.

Discussing Vitale's artistic contribution to Sierra's Nursery Tales around the World Mary M. Burns noted in Horn Book that his "folk-art style done in oil paint on wood panels, illuminates the collection's multicultural roots; intricately designed borders incorporate motifs" drawn from the cultures represented in Sierra's selections. Another anthology by Sierra, Can You Guess My Name?: Traditional Tales from around the World, also benefits from the Vitale touch. The fifteen tales included in the book are divided among the five traditional motifs embodied in "The Three Pigs," "The Bremen Town Musicians," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Frog Prince," and "Rumpelstiltskin." Discussing Vitale's contribution to the book, John Peters wrote in his Booklist review of Can You Guess My Name? that "Vitale paints

on rough wood to add visual effect," enhancing each image with unique painted borders and "scenes of stylized but easily recognizable figures." Vitale's borders, described by a Kirkus Reviews writer as "vibrant and detailed," serve as "a strong component" of the book, and work to "create a mood and complement the [artist's] gloriously executed illustrations." "Beautiful to look at, [and] appealing in tone," Can You Guess My Name? "is an outstanding example of what folklore collections for children can and should be," concluded Burns.

Vitale's painted illustrations have found a welcome place in many other books, from Edward Field's poetry anthology Magic Words to several collections of folk tales and legends. In Angela Shelf Medearis's Too Much Talk his paintings bring to life a West African tale about a group of local neighbors who suddenly find that all manner of animals and vegetables around them have been given the gift of gab. Praising the book's illustrations, Booklist contributor Julie Corsaro noted that Vitale's "subtly colored spreads have stylized figures that evoke the region and flowing lines that echo the cadence of [Medearis's] text." A Publishers Weekly reviewer was even more enthusiastic, writing that, "even with lively, kid-pleasing narration, Vitale's … glowing, oil-on-wood paintings steal the show in this animated tale."

Deeming Vitale's illustrations "enchanting," School Library Journal critic Judith Constantinides also praised the artist's contribution to The Rose's Smile, Kherdian's reworking of the classic Arabian Nights saga for young people. Vitale's evocation of Persian miniatures and his use of "lush colors" elicited Constantinides' approval; as the reviewer noted, "each page is elaborately framed and, as with medieval and Eastern art, sometimes depicts more than one scene from the story—a nice touch." "The story moves quickly," agreed Karen Morgan in Booklist, the critic going on to write that "its appeal [is] magnified by Vitale's rich illustrations, which are lushly imbued with details of street and palace life and splendid gardens."

"Through the books I illustrate, I try to convey the images that the text suggests to me," Vitale once explained to SATA. "My working habits are like a nine-to-five job, interrupted by an occasional walk in the woods where I feel at peace." His advice to aspiring young illustrators? "Write your own stories and try to ignore this obsessive desire to be recognized."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, May 1, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Folks in the Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch ABC, p. 1598; October 1, 1994, Carolyn Phelan, review of Christmas Lullaby, p. 333; July, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 1879; January 1-15, 1996, Julie Corsaro, review of Too Much Talk, pp. 840-841; December 15, 1996, p. 729; January 1-15, 1997, p. 860; September 1, 1997, Karen Morgan, review of The Rose's Smile: Farizad of the Arabian Nights, p. 114; October 15, 1998, p. 414; November 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of Sleepy Book, p. 480; November 15, 2002, John Peters, review of Can You Guess My Name?: Traditional Tales around the World, p. 599; April 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, p. 47.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2003, review of Can You Guess My Name?, p. 211.

Horn Book, March-April, 1993, p. 226; May-June, 1996, Mary M. Burns, review of Nursery Tales around the World, pp. 343-344; January, 2002, review of Sleepy Book, p. 49; October 15, 2002, review of Can You Guess My Name?, p. 1538; January-February, 2003, Mary M. Burns, review of Can You Guess My Name?, p. 87.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2001, review of Sleepy Book, p. 950; October 15, 2002, review of Can You Guess My Name?, p. 1538; April 15, 2006, review of There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, p. 418.

New York Times Book Review, December 18, 1994, Cynthia Zarin, review of Christmas Lullaby.

Publishers Weekly, October 23, 1995, review of Too Much Talk, p. 67; January 27, 1997, p. 97; September 7, 1998, p. 95; March 1, 1999, p. 67; September 3, 2001, review of Sleepy Book, p. 90; May 8, 2006, review of There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, p. 64.

School Library Journal, May, 1992, p. 96; August, 1995, Virginia Golodetz, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 131; April, 1996, p. 130; October, 1996, p. 94; November, 1997, Judith Constantinides, review of The Rose's Smile, p. 109; December, 1998, p. 135; May, 1999, p. 91; August, 2001, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of Sleepy Book, p. 174; November, 2002, Lee Bock, review of Can You Guess My Name?, p. 148; May, 2006, Mary Elam, review of There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me, p. 118.


Lindgren & Smith Web site, (May 15, 2007), "Stefano Vitale."