An affecting account of overcoming despair and triumphing as a painter.




An American artist recounts his hard journey from a troubled childhood to a successful career in this debut memoir. 

In 1957, when Ecke was only 4 years old, he was sent to live with foster parents, who immediately established themselves as cold disciplinarians. According to the author, he and his two sisters, Gail and Tina, were fed less well than the couple’s own daughter; forced to perform dreary chores; and forbidden to speak unless spoken to or to cry. Ecke lived in that state of affectionless “imprisonment” for 15 months until he finally was sent home to his parents. He had no idea at the time that his mother had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of abuse at the hands of his father or that she had spent nine months as a “voluntary resident at the mental hospital.” Ecke discloses that his father was an incorrigible philanderer who eventually left the family, and his mother grappled with depression. The author poignantly depicts his volatile upbringing as well as the challenge of fully accepting his gay sexuality (He had “struggled with” his sexuality since he “was a child”). At one point, he even submitted himself to the mortification of “aversion therapy” during a time when his sexual orientation was routinely treated like a curable disease. But he was able to find love in a healthy, stable relationship and finally pursue a career in art, which he always pined for, earning success as a painter. The author is courageously forthcoming about his personal struggles, and his story, though often heartbreaking, is ultimately an inspiring one. He beautifully describes the retreat he took as a child into his own imagination, a precocious sign of his life as an artist: “With no books or toys to occupy my time, I would escape into a vibrant fantasy world, where anything was possible.” And though Ecke has learned he has advanced prostate cancer, he refuses to harbor any defeatism. The book includes personal black-and-white photographs of the author and his family as well as his art and studio. 

An affecting account of overcoming despair and triumphing as a painter. 

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73232-921-8

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Morrison Meyer Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.



Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.


A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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