Mt. Airy artist's whimsical illustrations depict how children coped with the COVID epidemic.
I still cannot get out of my mind the stunning, compelling portrait of murder victim Lylliana Mendoza Torres by Mt. Airy artist Rebecca Hoenig, part of the breathtaking "Souls Shot" exhibit at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill in 2019 that showed the individuality of each victim of gun violence that year. The church has had similar exhibits each year since 2019, with a portrait by Hoenig.
Now, however, Hoenig is using her art for a much less somber purpose. Her whimsical illustrations are included in a just-released (April 25) children's book, "The House We Sheltered in and the Masks We Wore: A Pandemic Picture Book," by Freeman Ng. Published by Three Daughters Press, the delightful book tells a story in pictures about how children across the country were able to cope with COVID.
“As someone who has been dreaming about illustrating children's books for many decades,” Hoenig said last week, “I had been to many [Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators] events and knew how hard it was to break into this business. I have been working on my portfolio for years and recently started writing some of my own children's books.” (Last year, Hoenig won the Society's fall/winter 2022 Eastern Pennsylvania Banner Competition.)
“Out of the blue, I received an email from [Ng] asking me if I was interested in illustrating for the project,” Hoenig said. “At first, I assumed it was a scam because it seemed too good to be true! I took a closer look at Freeman Ng's email and googled him to ensure he was a legitimate published author. Once I confirmed it was a real request and received a contract from the author, I was eager to begin.”
Hoenig, who grew up in Germantown but has lived in Mt. Airy for 33 years, is a full-time artist and art teacher whose work has won many accolades and been seen in numerous exhibits throughout the Philadelphia area. She is currently teaching two classes in person through Mt. Airy Learning Tree. "Fun with Watercolor Techniques" meets at the Center on the Hill on Friday mornings, and "Expressive Collage," on Tuesdays at Summit Presbyterian Church in West Mt. Airy.
Hoenig earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1981 as an art history major and her MFA from the University of the Arts in book arts and printmaking in 1993. She also attended Tyler School of Art from 1981-1982 and now occasionally teaches private art lessons as well.
Her whimsical sculpture of “Daisy the Pig” has produced thousands of smiles from those who have seen it on the roof of the Market at the Fareway. “She is still on the roof,” Hoenig said, “unless pigs really can learn to fly.” (The life-size pig sculpture was auctioned off several years ago to benefit the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and Philadelphia Zoo.)
Hoenig also spent more than 20 years as a museum educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she had the opportunity to write many educational materials for children. She also illustrated a coloring book that has been reprinted several times and given to thousands of preschool students before their visit to the museum.
For more information on "The House We Sheltered in and The Masks We Wore: A Pandemic Picture Book," visit rebeccajanehoenig.com or threedaughterspress.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.