The famous American cartoonist Shel Silverstein, born Sheldon Allan Silverstein, was born on September 25, 1930. He got his start drawing at the age of five, when he amused himself by tracing the drawings of Al Capp. While not being talented at sports or popular in school as a young teenager, Silverstein found a niche for himself in art, so he kept drawing. He also took up writing, which combined with his artistic skills would form his very popular and original works.
Silverstein briefly attended the Art Institute of Chicago, then served in the military during the Korean War. Upon his return to Chicago he made his living by selling record amounts of hot dogs at ball games, while attempting to publish some freeland cartoons in magazines. Silverstein had already published a book entitled Take Ten, a series of military cartoons, in 1955, but it was the next year when it was republished as Grab Your Socks! in 1956 that it received wide attention. He then began a career as one of Playboy Magazine's top cartoonists, for which he traveled worldwide crafting a travel journal accompanied by his own illustrations. This successful venture led to his start as a childrens' author. Although he did not intend to do so, Silverstein's editor Ursula Nordstrom was convinced that it would be a good fit for him with his offbeat poetry and unique illustrations. Since then Silverstein has released such favorites as The Giving Tree, A Giraffe and a Half, and A Light in the Attic, among other numerous works.
Aside from his chilrens' books, Silverstein proved to be an artistic jack-of-all-trades, from literary arts like short stories, plays, and poetry to music. He maintained an individualistic attitude toward art, believing that an artist should simply do what he does without reference to popularity or other artists' work. Silverstein of course hoped that others would find his work meaningful, but ultimately each artist must do his own work without being preoccupied with that of others.
Shel Silverstein died at home of a heart attack in Key West, Florida, where he was found by his housekeepers on May 10, 1999. He had two children from two separate relationships: Shoshanna, born on June 30, 1970, who died of a cerebral aneurysm when she was eleven; and Matthew, born in 1983. Two of his books were dedicated to them respecively, A Light in the Attic for Shoshanna and Falling Up for Matthew. Silverstein was very active in all his artistic pursuits until his death, and his drawings, literature, popular music, and especially his childrens works have indeed remained popular and inspirational for their quirky creativity.
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