Abstract Painter Sean Scully Turns His Talents To A Children’s Book, Written With A Very Special Collaborator—His Son

When embarking on a new venture, the famed artist didn't need to look too far for help.

Irish artist Sean Scully photographed in his studio in Manhattan, NY. Photo by David Howells/Corbis via Getty Images.

When renowned abstract painter Sean Scully wanted to embark on a new journey into the world of children’s literature, he decided to consult someone who was familiar with the world and whom he knew quite well: his son, Oisín, now age 14. The result is Jack the Wolf, a whimsical and enchantingly illustrated fairytale aimed at children ages five to seven. It marks Scully’s first venture into art aimed at children.

“I think fables and fairy stories are very important for children,” Scully told Artnet News in an exclusive interview. “The Irish are very good at telling stories, I grew up with stories being told like this. So with Jack the Wolf, I created my own fairy tale in the European tradition, of a world in which there are mistakes made. It is a moral tale, we are promoting vegetarianism, and advice is imparted, through the partnership of men and women. Eventually, harmony is achieved. Harmony is very important for a children’s book.”

Sean Scully and his Oisin collaborated on the children's book <i>Jack the Wolf</i>.

Sean Scully and his son Oisin collaborated on the children’s book Jack the Wolf.

The genesis of the book came when Oisín was five years old, and experienced separation anxiety when his father would drop him off at school. Instead, Scully would linger at the school, and think of the many stories he would tell Oisin later to help him fall asleep.
“I made up quite a few stories,” he said. “This is just one of them, and I could have made more, but I decided on one. So I wrote it up at his school.”

A page from Sean and Oisin Scully’s new children’s book, Jack the Wolf.

The book follows the adventures of Jack, a gray wolf who lives in a cozy cave-top dwelling surrounded by towering, emerald-green trees. Life is good for Jack, as he embarks on a secret adventure every night, sneaking into a local town to swipe chocolate from one of the brightly painted houses. However, when Jack discovers that the local children are being blamed for his escapades, he enlists the help of some woodland creature friends to help rectify the misunderstanding.

“Having written the story, I then thought I might as well make the pictures for it, some drawings, and I thought it would be nice to include Oisin, as he was the cause of the story, the inspiration, the muse, and he made some additions to the drawings that are quite charming,” Scully said. “I think you can see the difference between the two ages. He made the additions to the drawings when he was about seven. So he made the flowers, the grass, that kind of thing, and of course, I made the wolf and the landscape and so on.”

A page from Sean and Oisin Scully’s new children’s book, Jack the Wolf.

The story and collaboration is especially poignant, since Scully lost another son, Paul, in a car accident when he was just 19. In 2019, the artist showed some rare figurative works in Venice that were, in part, a memorial to his late son. The abstract work Paul was was painted a year after his death in his memory. Jack the Wolf is, in a way, the ongoing demonstration that life and art are inexorably entwined, and that art can be a place of great healing and communion.

“As with any kid, I would have to pick my moment with Oisin, to get him to participate,” Scully said. “We made some of the drawings when we were on holiday together, and he would spend about ten minutes at a time, adding to them. For example, in the one with the cupboards, I painted the drawers and Jack the Wolf, and then Oisin drew in the little jars and the chocolate bars. The jar that sits on top of the cupboards, the one that breaks the picture frame, that was drawn by Oisin too.” 

Jack the Wolf is published by Callaway Arts & Entertainment and can be purchased on Amazon or independent booksellers like sandmanbooks.com

More Trending Stories:  

News Icon Barbara Walters’s $8 Million Estate Hits the Block at Bonhams, With Her ‘Audacious’ Jewelry Taking Center Stage 

There’s Much More to Caravaggio’s ‘The Cardsharps’ Than Vice. Here Are Three Facts That Offer a New Perspective on His Early Masterpiece 

Here’s Your Guide to the Priciest and Most Sought-After Artworks for Sale During New York’s $2 Billion Fall Auction Season 

Revealed: The Major Mystery Consignors of New York’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Fall Auction Season 

A Secret Room in a 16th-Century Italian Chapel, Where Michelangelo Hid—and Drew—for Months, Opens to the Public 

Christie’s Pulled Two Works by a Prominent Middle Eastern Artist From Sale After a Complaint 

A Nautical Chart Sold at Auction for $239,000 Is Revealed as the 4th Oldest of Its Kind and Is Now Tagged at $7.5 Million 

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.