In this digital and high-tech era, we are reflective of the day’s happenings, writing small notations and taking photographs of things that are worthy enough to be deemed interesting. Even though there is a plethora of those who cannot envision themselves living without the constant want for the best and newest technology at our fingertips, there are people who are capable of using their cameras for reasons other than updating their online profile pictures.

Maira Kalman is one of those people. As an artist, author, designer and illustrator, it’s apparent Kalman does not observe the world around her lightly and, she uses her camera to document and shed light on issues that arise in a very extraordinary way without any formal training. To fully understand Kalman as the creative person that she is, you must be clear on what catalysts shaped her life for better.

Though Kalman was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, her family immigrated to America in the ’50s and settled in hectic New York City. Kalman attended the High School of Music & Art on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

“It was wonderful,” she says, “because in high school you are surrounded by musicians and artists, and even though they are teenagers, there’s a lot of intensity and beautiful stuff to be surrounded by.”

After graduation, Kalman would continue her education at the prestigious New York University, but would pause her writing career. During these formative years as a fledgling adult, Kalman’s attention seemed to stray from her studies and she dropped out of NYU.

“I decided I was going to be a writer,” she states. “So when I left college I decided my writing was really awful and that I would prefer to tell my story in pictures, cartoons and narrative illustrations and that seemed like a good way to do it.”

To this day Kalman draws family and friends, but she also walks the streets of NYC sketching and observing particular people and things she finds interesting. These illustrations and compositions serve as a colorful journal. Her current exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center showcases a bulk of her creative endeavors, which include early sketches, paintings, the 12 children’s books she has written and illustrated, multiple fashion items designed for Kate Spade and her 11 The New Yorker magazine covers.

“I prefer to use less, it’s a little bit touching on the world of poetry,” explains Kalman. “It’s combining journalism and poetry and trying to convey a message that isn’t pretentious. It’s just about life with a sense of humor and a sense of the absurd.”

The collection also includes various items from M&Co, a design firm created by her late husband, as well as onion rings they collected from restaurants they visited and a pink package containing bangles and wrapped in a pink paper that has never been opened.

It is plain to see why so many children and adults alike are enamored with her work, because it calls attention to things that most busy individuals overlook and take for granted. Kalman has a definite skill for finding and interpreting visions that others are too bogged down to notice and broadcasting them in a light that is intriguing.

“I think of myself as a traveling artist at large or journalist, and basically what I like to do is walk a lot,” says Kalman, adding, “I walk around, which gives me a lot of peace of mind and gives me a lot of ideas. I’m really looking at the people who are around me because I have a lot of compassion for how vulnerable everybody seems. We all have to eat, we all have to sleep, we all try to get from point A to point B and try to function. I’m constantly overwhelmed by how brave everybody is, and I’m really looking a lot at stuff, and I fall in love with something, and so that’s when I think, ‘Oh, this is something I’d really like to paint.’ A person or a thing, and that’s really what guides me through half the day. When I fall in love, then I know that I’m OK.”

Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, visit