Both a fine artist and a children’s book illustrator, Wade has always loved to draw. But it wasn’t something that came easily. “In high school, I spent a lot of time in the art room,” he says. “Other students would just sit down and draw people or horses really beautifully. I would struggle to draw.” But Wade had passion, and the persistence to back it up. Recognizing this, his high school art teacher suggested he make a career of his art. The idea quickly took hold, and before Wade knew it, he was applying to art schools.
Since graduating from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Wade has been a full-time, professional artist. He got his start doing corporate commissions; his captivating pastel paintings, sometimes as large as 3 1/2 by 6 feet, have been commissioned by Boston Duck Tours, Bank of America, McDonald’s, HBO, Cinemax, and Family Circle and Sesame Street magazines. His work is also in the permanent collection of the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
But it’s children’s books that really nudge Wade out of his artistic comfort zone. Before Wade did books, he preferred drawing landscapes, cityscapes, and buildings. His first book, Window Music, pushed him to paint people and animals. Critics liked the result. Both Time Magazine and The New York Times cited Window Music as among the best picture books of 1998. Since then, Wade has illustrated five additional picture books, each of which challenged him in different ways. He enjoys sharing his creative process, challenges and all, when he speaks and conducts workshops at galleries and schools.
Wade works exclusively in pastel; he is drawn to the intimacy of the chalk and the ease with which he can blend colors. The magic happens in his studio, a converted shed just off his main house. The studio, equipped with 15-foot ceilings and a house gutter to catch all the pastel dust, is set on 5 1/2 acres of farmland in Lyman, Maine, just a few miles from the Kennebunk farm on which he grew up. When Wade needs a break, he goes for a drive to soak up the New England landscape—his biggest inspiration—or tends to his flowers, gardens, and fruit trees. Then he returns to his studio, refreshed and ready to make more magic.