Guest writer &Illustration &SpornFilms 09 Sep 2010 09:28 am

Patti Stren

- I got to know Patti Stren well when we worked together making the short film, MONA MON AMOUR. This was something that Patti had developed as a print piece, and we jointly came up with the idea of making a short. We financed it jointly and love the end product. It’s the film that probably got the most laughs when I saw it projected at the Museum of Modern Art. I was quite proud of it then.

I’m going to turn this post over to Patti to showcase some of her past work including a couple of the many books she’s written and illustrated, some of the print ads she’s done, the post Mona artwork she’s done with the characters, and other material.

I hope you enjoy it.


Often my Canadian friends and here, many of my colleagues; but especially my Mama’s mahjong buddies in their 90′s who watch MONA MON AMOUR every day, as if it were a new film -ask me how did this Michael Sporn and I meet? Then collaborate and then become good friends. Well, for sure I immensely respected Michael’s work. And Michael said some lovely things about mine. Coincidentally, my best friend in Paris, Tana Hoban was the sister of one of Michael’s most beloved Children’s Book Writer Russell Hoban. Of which he animated. The Marzipan Pig exquisitely.

Tana Hoban’s photo of Patti for a flyer.

Actually Michael and I were introduced by the Executive Producer of Babar and Father Christmas to work on a project, that sadly fell through. And then one day Michael invited me into his studio after some wonderfully funny phone calls about work and stuff. I remember telling him,” I’ll bring in my portfolio,” and he said, “don’t.” And I did.

I remember the visit exactly. Michael opened the door to his 632 Broadway studio. He was very tall and I was very small. I was very nervous and said: “I am nervous, and I’m probably going to talk and talk and talk a lot.” And he said: “‘That’s okay. Everything you’ll say will be IMPORTANT.” IT wasn’t that a Large Capital Letter bubble came out of Michael’s head. But when Michael spoke I could tell what he meant in Capital letters! Then Michael led me straight back to the long table at the end of the studio. Where I proceeded talking and talking and talking while showing Michael my Portfolio.

An article from Maclean’s Magazine about Patti.

And, the coincidences in our careers were astounding to me.

I had abruptly come to New York City on a quest to study with R. O. Blechman in a night class at The School of Visual Arts; taking a leap of faith from my first year at The Toronto College of Art. I don’t remember if I showed Michael or told him about my submission for R.O. Blechman’s class book contest: “DRAW the UNEXPECTED.” But I’m Including the illustration now. I had faxed home roughs to my Mom’s mahjong buddies and they had responded to: “not to forget to draw ‘the dangling participles!’”

(Click any image to enlarge.)

Suddenly Michael was telling me that when I was studying with Bob Blechman at SVA, he was either working with Bob or had just opened up his studio around the same time. I was so elated, since I had shyly, after the class had ended, shown HUG ME (the moment it came off the presses), to R. O. Blechman, one evening when he was lecturing. And, later, Bob had redesigned the cover for my second book since the publishers design was hideous. And . . .

I was so nervous we knew the same person I kept turning pages of my portfolio and forgetting to breathe as I was talking. Michael offered me a glass of water. Since Michael had seen all my children’s books he was very patient with the work I was showing. I turned the pages to my favorite MS Magazine illustration I did for them. The Subject: MEN – The Case for Remarriage. . . Among Friends by John Leonard.

The John Leonard article with illustration.

Then In one of the side pockets in my portfolio I pulled out MS MAGAZINE, Sept/1978/, that had the Prestigious Selection for STORIES FOR FREE CHILDREN. And HUG ME was in that section.

HUG ME book cover and two page spread (below).

Michael and I had already talked about HUG ME, my book published by Harper & Row at the time. And . . .

Producer Nick Bosustow animated HUG ME as part of the CBS LIBRARY SPECIAL called 4 WISHES. Winning 1st Prize at Zagreb Film Festival in Children’s Film Category in 1984.

a b
a. The back cover of the video cassette.
b. The front cover of the audio cassette.

Michael seemed to know everyone I talked about in the business of film. HE had this way of making me feel comfortable, and I kept talking and talking and I confided to Michael that when writing for children I never really try to just write for children but for myself. And I never really planned things out. And Michael described how he created spontaneously in his films. Especially describing the broom closet scene in Lyle Lyle crocodile. . The more he spoke the more Michael reminded me of another gentle genius writer I knew. The wonderful and understanding and exceedingly exciting Writer John Gardner. Who always used to tell me to ignore intellectuals snobs that would act superior and to promise to be myself. Then Michael told me, that not only did he know John Gardner but that he illustrated for John Gardner too. And then we both discovered that John had sent us to the same Random House art director to be published by them. And how we’d both been sent away The coincidences kept adding up.

Blythe Danner and Patti Stren

Then Next in my portfolio were the most wonderful photos of Blythe Danner and myself. Always to remind me how happy I am that Blythe Danner Narrated the recordings of HUG ME and Other stories of Patti Stren.

Michael seemed pleased to see Blythe, since he had been really wanting to work with her, but the times had never coincided. Now I have all the rights back for the recording, and I am hoping to get Hug Me animated with the pages turning with Blythe’s narrating. Hopefully with Michael animating. And hopefully with a grant again as with many of my projects.

(above) The two page book cover for another of Patti’s books, SLOAN & PHILAMENA
(below) and two sample pages.

Finally I showed Michael my Secret Book Jacket Cover to my next Book in The Works! Therapy. Sex and Shopping. What Else is There in New York City. ( Except Alternate Side Parking!)

Sample covers.

Little did I know showing my main character MONA MON AMOUR with the caption underneath her saying: Mona was convinced that she’d lost the meaning to life. Her therapist told her she’d just misplaced it –Would lead to our collaboration.

Patti’s creativity with Mona is endless.

And when I stopped talking to Michael Sporn about all these ideas I had; I thought I was going to faint. . . . I’d forgotten to breath. And when Rich my husband picked me and my portfolio up in our car; I had no idea Michael would want to make a film with me. But I knew if he did – I’d say yes!

And Now heaps of years in the business, 1′m still having fun designing animated shorts, (the latest animation for Michael again), working on books (both adaptations from the two short animations, MONA MON AMOUR and the little genius Mozart).

A scene from the Mozart film.

And I’m back to my Commercial Art Career. I’m available 24 hours a day, now designing for Eppes Essen Deli, in N.J. in hopes that Eppes will Fed Ex me Heaps of Chopped liver!

The Eppes ads.

Vanity Fair illustration

20 Responses to “Patti Stren”

  1. on 12 Sep 2010 at 1:22 am 1.misabella murgatroyd said …

    This is terrific!

  2. on 14 Sep 2010 at 12:49 pm 2.Santiago Cohen said …

    I am a big fan of Patti Stren, Thank you for sharing this

  3. on 10 Oct 2010 at 2:50 pm 3.Lisa Goldman said …

    I think Patti Stren is brilliant. Whatever I see of hers whether illustrations, books, or film — I always want to see more! More films would be amazing…hint, hint! It was a treat to see all of this Patti Stren art, thanks!

  4. on 10 Oct 2010 at 3:57 pm 4.cynthia said …

    This was so entertaining! I always admired Patti Stren, but I learned so many new things about her from this blog, that, now, I am even more impressed! My son grew up reading Patti’s wonderful stories. She captures the essence of children’s hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes. Children reading her books gain new-found confidence; through Patti’s wonderful assortment of loveable characters,they realize that kids and other beings share the same feelings of being scared, worried, left out, different, unloved. With an incredible depth of understanding and empathy, Patti tackles subjects as diverse as fear of the dark, sibling rivalry, inadequacy, being overweight, “busy” and absentee parents, and being different, whether in thoughts, looks, or actions. Her work is, to me, on par with the best of the Classics. Like little David, who slew the mighty giant Goliath, and Dumbo the Elephant, whose long, flapping ears made him the object of ridicule, Patti’s seemingly inadequate characters go on to win the day. I am sure that there is not a child, or an adult, for that matter, who has never felt inadequate, dumb, or unloved. To the unloved, the overweight, the fearful, the underachiever, the different, Patti gives new hope and inspiration to overcome obstacles and achieve new heights. I love that woman!

  5. on 11 Oct 2010 at 7:21 am 5.Patti Stren said …

    Merci beaucoup for including me in your Splog, Michael. I’d like to share now with the other readers of your Splog how unbelievable it is to have collaborated with such a generous, and begin-anywhere-
    in-an-idea-true-genius Michael Sporn is. When our collaboration began, as Michael turned on the tape recorder and as I took the role of Mona Mon Amour,-I remember thinking: trust this director and let yourself fall backwards off a cliff. Two hours later there was a rough soundtrack. Michael’s smiling, laughing, intuitive and imperceptible direction had carried me along. The rest is history.

    Sporn is an illustrator’s dream.

  6. on 11 Oct 2010 at 10:28 am 6.Helena Hanley Johnson said …

    I first met Patti in the Fall of 2000, through an organization CROC , (Citizens Reunited To Overcome Cancer). I was going through treatment for Breast Cancer at the time. Patti’s husband Richard Cohen was my loving Doctor.
    I was invited to a Dinner Croc was hosting. I was led to a safe haven of friends, where Love is Abundant and Unlimited.Where my broken spirit was nurtured and embraced. I consider Croc my extended family and I am graced by their presence in my Life.

    It’s efforts date to 1999 when a few patients of oncologist Dr. Thomas R. Eanelli banded together to raise each others spirits during treatment. Inspired by the special bond shared between these patients and their strength and courage, CROC was founded.

    Patti is CROC’s Artist at Large. Her work includes a comical Crocodile as Croc’s Mascot. Croc’s website features Patti’s brilliant, beloved, work.

    Patti has touched many lives both young and old,and given of herself in countless ways. Thank you Patti for your LOVE !

    Patti is the Artist at Large .

    Her art work includes a beloved Crocodile as Mascot

  7. on 11 Oct 2010 at 8:54 pm 7.Victoria Johanet said …

    Patti is enormously amusing in her writing and illustrations. We all have need to get in touch with the Mona in us. She is the Woody Allen of animation.

  8. on 12 Oct 2010 at 10:44 am 8.Dan said …

    I’m delighted to see Patti receive some much-deserved acclaim!

    Patti’s work has brought me tremendous pleasure since I was first introduced to “Hug Me” as a child. I have always looked to Patti’s illustrations when I needed a smile or a little joy.

  9. on 12 Oct 2010 at 2:30 pm 9.rosemary allison said …

    Rosemary Allison – I had lost sight of Patti Stren for a number of years, too many to
    count. We were at The Ontario College of Art at the same time and we
    used to create children’s books together. Sometimes her illustrations
    were the impetus for the words I would put down. We even had a small
    publishing company called Flying Rabbit. I am so thrilled to find her
    again and to see all the different things Patti has been creating. I
    have especially taken to watching Mona Mon Amour every so often
    because it reminds me so much of my warm, intelligent, sensitive
    friend Patti.

  10. on 12 Oct 2010 at 7:42 pm 10.Gloria Taylor said …

    I know Patti through CROC…she is a great friend and is always there for you….She is a beautiful person and I am so blessed to have her in my life…My son Stephen died in 2007 and Patti has kept his memory alive with her drawings and “Stevie Rocked” Thanks Patti for being the person you are and I will always be happy that you are a very good friend

  11. on 13 Oct 2010 at 11:11 am 11.patti stren and Richard Cohen said …

    Patti Stren– Thank you Helena Johnson and GLoria Taylor for your LOVING thoughts. For other readers of Michael’s Splog- you can go to– to learn more about this wonderful charity I’ve been involved with for the last 10 years.

  12. on 13 Oct 2010 at 12:52 pm 12.Phyllis Green said …

    Patti Stren illustrated my book, EATING ICE CREAM WITH A WEREWOLF (Harper & Row). I was (and am) (and always will be) so charmed by her delightful drawings. They perfectly captured my characters and made the book come alive. Patti’s drawings always make me smile whether it is the adorable Mona Mon Amor or the helpful Schlepman from the deli. She is truly a marvelous, unforgettable talent. Edward Lear–you have competition.

  13. on 13 Oct 2010 at 10:00 pm 13.Joya Mitrano said …

    Patti Stren is awesome! I’ve known her since I was a little girl and she’s my mentor. I love all the art and cartoons she creates. Patti Stren is the kind of person that makes you smile and she expresses happiness in her art. Patti Stren inspires me, encourages me, and taught me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. When I grow up I want to be as flamboyant, creative, and benevolent as Patti Stren.

  14. on 14 Oct 2010 at 4:31 pm 14.Ishiuan Hargrove said …

    Patti Stern is one of the kind illustrator. My husband and I fall in love with “Hug Me” before we even have our first baby. She is funny, very entertaining and talented. Her drawing is full of emotion. On our move from New York back to GA, we saw on the window of a local book store featuring her “The Mysterious Misadventures of Foy Rin Jin: A Decidedly Dysfunctional Dragon” and “For Sale: One Brother”. We snatched them right away. Even though we know it will be awhile before our little boys can read these, we love to read it for ourselves. That’s the kind of artist she is – both for kids and adults.

    We bought the new 2001 Hug Me edition for our two little boys to read so we can preserve the original copy of “Hug Me” that we owned. We want to personally thank Patti for autograph her books for both of our boys. They love her drawings. Her unique style of drawing makes her art work stand out among other illustrators. We can look at a cartoon and tell right away when it was made by Patti. I am from Taiwan. I sure hope there will be a possibility to see her books published in Chinese so kids in my homeland can enjoy her works as much as I do.

  15. on 17 Oct 2010 at 9:32 pm 15.Sara Helman said …

    What a fabulous splog! Love it! I’ve always been a huge fan of Patti’s work…I literally grew up on Hug Me. And Patti’s been offering me dating advice, well, since I was old enough to know that boys stink. Huge congrats to Patti and Mona!! xoxo

  16. on 19 Oct 2010 at 5:12 pm 16.Howard Beckerman said …

    This is about the Patti Stren posting. I’ve known Patti since the late ’70s
    when she took my History of Animation class at School of Visual Arts. Soon after her time at SVA she published Hug Me which afforded a view of her individual approach to characters as design as well as personality. Since then I’ve seen her subsequent books in which the protagonists follow their quirky roads to fulfillment via Patt’s unique abillity to project them from her own daily concerns through squiggly line illustrations. The Mona Mon Amour collaboration between Patti and Michael reveals the importance for independent animators to look beyond their own navels toward character emotion in the work of other creative talents like Patti Stren.

  17. on 22 Oct 2010 at 12:16 am 17.hari anand said …

    patti is a creaative genius and i share the nostaliga when i read her FOR SALE ONE BROTHER… she is a great human and all her work is very well composed from life

    i am a BIG FAN

  18. on 23 Oct 2010 at 9:52 am 18.Cara Z said …

    I was lucky enough to grow up with Patti in my life as well as her books and illustrations. Growing up in the early 80s, her books practically defined my childhood! I can’t imagine being a kid without reading Hug Me every night before bed. Needless to say, I’m a huge fan!

  19. on 21 Nov 2010 at 10:30 am 19.thomas eanelli said …


    thank you for including this piece about patti stren on your “splog”

    11 years ago, before anyone decided it was the cool and chic thing to support and endorse cancer survivorship advocacy, i started a small grass roots organization aimed at helping and empowering cancer patients both during their treatments, but more importantly, through the black cold and empty void after treatments ended.

    i had the idea, but what i didnt have was a conduit to make my idea come alive.

    it just so happened that my partner, dr richard cohen, was married to an illustrator, patti stren, and the rest is history.

    Although I did not know it at the time, it was the beginning of a very magnificent and lifelong friendship and relationship.

    patti literally “pinnochioized” my idea and created the warm and fuzzy CROC crocodile,which not only branded my organization, but actually set the tone of empathy,devout friendship, loyalty and light heartedness which remain alive 11 years and counting.

    CROC has evolved into more than an organization. it has become a safe place for patients to pilgrimage, and much of the success belongs to patti and her fabulously talented doottles and sketches and drawings.

    to say patti is generous in her work is perhaps the greatest understatement of all time.

    when i need an idea worked up, it is not uncommon for me to receive 100′s of pieces to review and work with and i know for a fact that her creative birthing is no less painful and cathartic than actually physically pushing out a baby. as a matter of fact, i have seen her work almost bring her to the brink of life and death.

    amazingly, patti puts this amount of effort into all aspects of her work and her life. her mona piece, video work, and voice overs are compelling and peerless. but most importantly, she puts this much effort into her relationships. when you become patti’s friend, she will fiercley and dynamically be your friend forever, not just in the good times. she is a marvel, she is an original, she is a genius. she is stren!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. on 15 Dec 2010 at 12:31 pm 20.Michael said …

    Tom: Thank you for writing to my splog. I agree with everything you say about Patti Stren.

    I also want to thank you for your contribution in the form of a grant to Patti’s and my film, Mona Mon Amour. It came at a great time. . . just in time for the final editing of the film. If anyone wants to see, fast forward to the end of Mona Mon Amour, and you’ll see the credit as follows:

    A special thanks to CITIZENS REUNITED to OVERCOME CANCER at

    Dr. Eanelli created the CROC Charity 11 years ago. . Croc stands for CITIZENS REUNITED TO OVERCOME CHARITY. It’s no wonder that he wanted to donate the grant towards Mona Mon Amour in Patti Stren’s name–because for the past 11 years, Patti has given her time and talent free. She invented their logo, the most endearing crocodile.

    Dr. Tom Eanelli stands as a true hero to me.

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