Chuck Galey likes to hook children from the first page. Through his lively, colorful, detailed and imaginative illustrations, he does just that in the dozens of children’s books he has illustrated over the years.
“My goal as an illustrator is to encourage young folks,” Galey said. “It leads the child to becoming a lifelong reader.”
His illustrations fuel young minds and foster a love of reading, not to mention bonding families through books.
While drawing always came naturally to Galey, as a child he did not have role models he could look up to.
“I didn’t realized that people could make a living creating art,” Galey said.
His parents sent him to art classes in his hometown of Greenwood, Miss., where he studied under Lenny Wacht, a German immigrant who played classical music records while her students worked. Yet when it came time to go to college, Galey chose to study oceanography at Mississippi College. He had learned to scuba dive in a swimming pool in the Mississippi Delta and followed his lifelong passion for the sea. The only problem with that was after two summers aboard a marine research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, he could never quite shake the overwhelming seasickness that engulfed his body. That led to a change of college and major. Galey graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in graphic design.
Armed with a degree and a natural talent, Galey worked for several advertising and public relations firms, but he became discontent with that work.
“An advertising illustration only lasts until the next ad campaign, and I wanted something more enduring,” Galey said.
His son, Sean, was born in 1987, and Galey and his wife, Forrest, bought the child several illustrated children’s books.
“We would read him books at night, which is a great bonding experience with a child,” Galey said. “As I turned the pages and looked at the beautiful pictures, I realized I could do that.”
Galey opened his own illustration studio in 1985, and began looking into illustrating children’s books. Galey designed covers for several children’s book series including R. L. Stine’s Fear Street and Beverly Cleary’s Ribsey and Henry Huggins for Recorded Books.
Galey continued to hone his skills as a children’s book illustrator.
“I began to realize that through illustrating, the mood of the story is set,” Galey said. “I create the characters kids can follow throughout a story.”
For years, Galey has illustrated books for children’s authors, including “Rock ‘N’ Roll Dogs and Jazz Cats” by David Davis, “Jay and the Bounty of Books” by Randall Ivey and “The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair” by Dotti Enderle. Jazz Cats was honored by the Miss. Library Association in 2003 with a special recognition of illustration in children’s literature.
“Fun Day in Mrs. Walker’s Class” by Robert Little was chosen to represent Mississippi in the 2006 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Galey also does illustrations for Highlights for Children magazine, including the hidden pictures spot. After taking a writing class with author John Floyd at Millsaps, Galey wants to pursue writing children’s books.
Galey has been an active participant in the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi for many years, presenting programs and workshops. Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection said Chuck Galey, aside from being an accomplished illustrator, is a great friend to the de Grummond Collection.
“He has been a valuable contributor to the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival for many years, so we are delighted to have an exhibit of his original work here,” Kaigler said. “Our art students interested in learning illustration will benefit.”
The work of Chuck Galey can be seen on display at the Cook Library on the Hattiesburg campus of the USM from Oct. 4 through 31, with a gallery talk the afternoon of Oct. 6 at 4:00 p.m. There is no charge, and the public is invited to attend.
“The Cook Library Art Gallery has been fortunate to showcase many quality exhibits from various types of artists, and we are thrilled to have Chuck Galey’s exhibit this fall,” said Dawn Smith, Assistant to the Dean for Publicity and Outreach. “The de Grummond Collection is home to some of his papers and drawings so its only fitting we showcase his pieces.”
The Cook Library is located on the campus of USM in Hattiesburg. Check their website for library hours (http://www.lib.usm.edu/) or call 601-266-4250.