Twenty years after he published a popular children’s book based on his experiences growing up in New London, Mark Shasha has brought a display of the book’s illustrations and other artwork to the city.
“Moonjellies and Daydreams: The Art of Mark Shasha” is currently on display at the . It features art from the stories penned by Shasha and his more recent paintings of landscapes and seascapes.
“I’m still doing that same daydreaming that I used to do as a kid, but now I’m doing a different thing,” said Shasha.
After attending the Rhode Island School of Design, he moved to Boston to begin work as a full-time illustrator for newspapers and magazines. Shasha has lived in the city since 1983, but frequently returns to New London to visit friends and family.
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In 1992, Simon and Schuster published Shasha’s first children’s book, Night of the Moonjellies. The story is based on his memories of helping his family run Mar-Gra’s, a Pequot Ave. eatery and the predecessor of . Two years later, Shasha published Hall of Beasts, which relates the daydreams he had while walking through the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park.
“That book became a book about the magic of art,” he said.
Clock Tower Days, a third children’s book which took as its inspiration, was never finished. However, the show includes completed illustrations such as a view of the crowded boardwalk on a summer night. Shasha said most of the people appearing in this piece are portrayals of people he knows.
Since leaving his illustrating job 13 years ago, Shasha has painted full time. He said he frequently travels the New England coast looking for inspiration, whether it be the way the light is hitting the water or how the boats are moving offshore.
“I look for things that catch my eye, something that sort of insists on my attention,” he said.
Shasha, who is represented by the Willoughby Fine Art Gallery in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, said he typically makes a small pastel painting and will expand it to a larger canvas if he likes the result. He said illustration typically involves more multimedia, has to be delivered quickly, and is incomplete until it is connected with text or another element. By contrast, he said, landscape paintings must stand on their own.
Shasha said he enjoys both styles of art, and appreciated that the Custom House was able to showcase the different parts of his career by displaying both his illustrations and paintings.
“If there was time, I would do both,” he said.
Shasha’s artwork will be on display until Sept. 15. He said he also hopes to return for an artist’s talk in August or September.