Obituary

Jill McElmurry

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Jill McElmurry

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Illustrator of the best-selling “The Little Blue Truck” series of children’s books, died Aug. 3 at her home in Taos, New Mexico, of breast cancer. She lived in Taos from 1962-1968, and subsequently for brief periods in the 1970s, 1980s, and most recently from 2015 to the present. She was 62. “The Little Blue Truck” series has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. A Chinese edition was published in 2017. “Little Blue Truck’s Springtime” will be released in January, 2018. Working primarily in gouache for her children’s books, McElmurry had a playful, animated style. “McElmurry's highly energetic illustrations have an accomplished retro feel, yet they explode with her own brand of zany details,” said Publisher’s Weekly in a review of “Mad About Plaid” (HarperCollins; 2000), her first children’s book, which she also wrote. Among Ms. McElmurry’s other successful books were “The Tree Lady” (author Joseph Hopkins, 2013, Beach Lane Books), whose many awards included the California Library Association’s Beatty Award. “The Tree Lady” has been translated into several languages. Examples of  McElmurry’s illustrations were shown at group exhibitions at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. Later in life, Ms. McElmurry established a second career as a painter. At a friend’s suggestion, McElmurry began painting the New Mexico landscape in 2009. Represented by the Mission Gallery in Taos, her paintings sold briskly: One landscape, “Rio Grande No.2,” became part of the Gus Foster Collection at the Harwood Museum in Taos, and was displayed in the “Continuum” from October 2016 until May 2017. In recent years, she expanded her subject matter to include the Northern Minnesota landscape. Jill McElmurry was born November 3, 1954, in Los Angeles to Charles McElmurry, Norma Larrinaga, both commercial illustrators. The family moved to Taos in 1962, where she lived until 1968. McElmurry moved to Santa Barbara, California with her mother in 1968; she graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1971.  McElmurry attended the State University of New York at Purchase and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She lived in Manhattan and in Hamburg, Germany, for a few years, illustrating magazines, book covers, posters and design projects for clients in the United States and Germany. Returning to the States from Germany in 1989, she lived briefly in San Francisco, before moving to Healdsburg, California, in 1991, where she met her husband, Eric. They were married in 1993 in Dunsmuir, California, where they had moved in 1992. From 1992 to 1998, she and her husband owned and operated Nutglade Station, a hotel, cafe and bar; while there, she began writing and illustrating children’s books, a lifelong dream. Between 1998 and 2005 she lived in Takoma Park, Md., and Saint Paul, Minn. In 2005, she moved to  Albuquerque, and, in 2015, to Taos.  She is survived by her husband Eric and dog Harry.

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