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New York City mother of two Stefanie Trilling is aiming to bring a little joy to the world during the pandemic by parodying classic children's book covers. A lawyer by training with no artistic background, her paintings have gone viral on social media. NewsHour Weekend's Megan Thompson spoke to Trilling to learn more.
During this period of sheltering in place, some of us have been able to pick up old hobbies, or maybe try something new. NewsHour Weekend's Megan Thompson brings us the story of a mom in Manhattan who discovered a new artistic talent, while also bringing some smiles to her followers on social media.
Back in March, when Stefanie Trilling's family was newly confined to their apartment in Manhattan, her young daughter Shira had a lot of questions.
We live in very close proximity to four major Manhattan hospitals. And in late March, we'd hear sirens all the time. And my five-year-old daughter's in kindergarten. And she would often ask us, well, we hear sirens outside. We see ambulances. Does that mean someone inside the ambulance has coronavirus? Are they going to be OK? And these are really tough questions. So we were sitting there and to alleviate the stress, I brought out the really high value fun activities — the paint set.
Trilling – a lawyer by training who works in communications – picked up a brush, too.
So I just started painting characters from the first book I saw, which was "Elephant and Piggy Biggie," by Mo Willems. And I started painting cartoons of coronaviruses into the picture.
She posted her painting online, and people started asking for more. Soon she was painting all kinds of children's book covers, reimagined for pandemic times.
I think I've gotten the largest response from "Good Night Zoom," which is a parody of "Goodnight Moon." And "Oh, the Places You Won't Go," which is a Dr. Seuss parody. Those have been my two biggest hits. People also really like "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 2020."
Trilling calls the project, "Children's Books for Pandemics." There's "Masks for Sale" … "The Poky Little Vaccine" … and "What Do People Do All Day… At Home." In trilling's world, you don't pat the bunny. Frog and Toad are social distancing. The Little Engine is carrying PPE. And the Magic School Bus has landed deep inside someone's nose. Trilling posts a new book cover each day, and the response has been tremendous … nearly 15 million people have seen her work on Facebook alone.
And it the interest grew exponentially and it really put context to what going viral really means.
You're literally going viral.
No pun intended, but yes. I've gotten such support from people I've never met telling me that it's really bringing them a sense of joy and giving them something to look forward to when what's coming next is so uncertain. Most of us can't leave our homes. Most of us can't see our loved ones. Most of us are having trouble buying yeast and toilet paper and cleaning products. And the fact that what I'm doing is so universal is what's resonating with people.
Ttrilling is working to partner with a nonprofit to figure out how to sell the prints and donate the proceeds to charity.
Do you have a background as an artist, are you trained as an artist? Have you studied painting or drawing?
I have no art experience. I've never painted before. This was -this was just a lark. So this has really been a wild ride for me and I'm learning a lot as I go.
And you're doing all of this while parenting full time and working full time, right?
That's right. What I'm doing is at night after everyone else goes to sleep, I sit down with my paints and my pencil and my paper and I get to work. We may be socially distant right now, but that does not mean we need to be apart. We're all going through different things in similar circumstances. And this is bringing us together.
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Megan Thompson shoots, produces and reports on-camera for PBS NewsHour Weekend. Her report "Costly Generics" earned an Emmy nomination and won Gracie and National Headliner Awards. She was also recently awarded a Rosalynn Carter Fellowship to report on the issue of mental health. Previously, Thompson worked for the PBS shows and series Need to Know, Treasures of New York, WorldFocus and NOW on PBS. Prior to her career in journalism she worked in research and communications on Capitol Hill. She originally hails from the great state of Minnesota and holds a BA from Wellesley College and a MA in Journalism from New York University.
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