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Illustrator and writer David Hyde Costello paints films — and more — to life

  • A paper sculpture by David Hyde Costello stands beside one of his watercolors at Hope & Feathers Gallery in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • David Hyde Costello GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • As part of his exhibit at Hope & Feathers Gallery in Amherst, David Hyde Costello has made mini-notebooks with his art on the covers. Visitors are encouraged to write a one- to two-page story about the characters. Costello will choose three winners to receive framed reproduction prints. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • “Otter, Raccoon and Cat,” watercolor by the artist. Courtesy of David Hyde Costello

  • “Hedgehogs,” watercolor by the artist. Courtesy of David Hyde Costello

  • “Optimist,” watercolor by the artist. Courtesy of David Hyde Costello



Staff Writer
Saturday, April 01, 2017

Amherst artist David Hyde Costello sees himself primarily as a picture book author and illustrator. His first children’s book came out in 2004, and his newest, “Little Pig saves the Ship,” comes out in May.

But Costello, 45, also makes puppets, some of which he uses when he reads his books to kids at schools and libraries, and he studied acting in high school and college; he later painted scenery both for plays and movies, including “Amistad,” “Spider-Man,” “The Fighter” and “Heat.”

“There’s a smattering of various and changing other job titles in the mix,” he notes, but these days writer and illustrator are the mains ones.

Steve Pfarrer: Describe the work you’re doing now.

David Hyde Costello: I’ve painted small watercolors for a show at Hope & Feathers Gallery in Amherst. They’re all scenes of animal characters in my style of illustration. Each is made to look like it might be a page out of a picture book, and the gallery has put out notebooks where people have been writing down any story ideas the images inspire.

S.P.: Does your work start with a “Eureka!” moment?

D.H.C.: I don’t know the last time I had something I would describe as a “Eureka” moment. More often it’s a “Hmm, you know what might be kind of cool” moment.

S.P: How do you know you’re on the right track?

D.H.C.: When I’m working, really focused and immersed, the question of being on the right track disappears. That’s the zone I feel I have to be in to be productive. Sometimes I feel a lot of doubt, which I try to accept as just part of the process. Eventually I know I have to show someone what I’ve made, and then their reaction will tell me if it’s working.

S.P.: What do you do when you get stuck?

D.H.C.: Set a project aside for a little while. I have multiple projects going on, so there’s always something else to work on.

S.P.: How do you know when the work is done?

D.H.C.: With all my picture books, I can look at them and see something that I would do differently. But I do have a few pieces that I wouldn’t change or redo. It’s as much about stopping at the right moment before the painting becomes a record of your effort rather than of your joy.

S.P.: What did you do today that relates to your art?

D.H.C.: I bought a new pad of watercolor paper, a kind I don’t usually use, to try out. There are so many different kinds to try — and each one more expensive than the last.

S.P.: What is your idea of success?

D.H.C.: Artistically I’d define it as making art that means something to people. In terms of my career, I imagine it’s attaining a certain level of financial security, and with that an ability to make more and better art. It’s like a video game: the reward for winning is that you get to continue to play.

David Hyde Costello’s exhibit, “Miniature Menagerie: Stories in the Making,” runs through April 1 at Hope & Feathers Gallery, 319 Main Street in Amherst. His website is davidhydecostello.com.