By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
Wendy Plumb and Elisabeth Anisimow make a natural creative pair.
Plumb is a devoted writer and storyteller, capable of spinning her life experiences into relatable narratives about life and love. Anisimow is a practiced artist, a brilliant painter who transfers colorful scenes from her imagination to canvas. Given that they both live in Pacific Palisades, the duo’s collaboration on a new project—soon-to-be published children’s chapter book “ZZ Black”—seems like a foregone conclusion.
Except for the fact that while born-and-raised Palisadian Wendy Plumb is a single mother who’s raising a daughter and has trotted the globe, Elisabeth Anisimow … well, she’s a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Corpus Christi School.
“I like to call it a ‘collaboration of generations,’” Plumb told the Palisadian-Post.
It all started when Plumb’s daughter, Vienna, announced that she’d like a playdate with a new girl at school. That girl was Elisabeth, and as a friendship quickly formed between the two second-graders, so did a bond between Plumb and Elisabeth’s mother, Ekaterina.
One year and countless playdates later, Plumb—now Elisabeth’s godmother—was hard at work on her passion project, a short novel for children about a girl and her horse. The author was so immersed in the writing process that she hadn’t yet thought to look for an illustrator. Ekaterina reminded her that she already knew one; she was out playing with Vienna as they spoke.
The author was surprised that she hadn’t thought of the idea herself. Elisabeth is no average young artist. She’s the creator of an impressive body of work, produced in a variety of formats and styles, which interior designers and art collectors proudly display. In the Palisades, you can see Elisabeth’s work hanging on the walls of Café Vida.
Plumb knew it would make a perfect match. And it did.
“I’d give her a scene, tell her ‘I need a picture of this, that or the other,’” Plumb said, “and then ‘boom,’ she’d send it back to me.”
Elisabeth told the Post it was challenging fun to take the animal-filled pages of Plumb’s tale and bring them to life with gouache, a water-based paint. After all, the young artist said, “ponies and puppies” are her favorite subjects.
Elisabeth’s love for animals is familiar to anyone who knows children her age, but the knowledge and attention to detail she applies to painting those critters is impressive and unique. The artist spent countless hours perfecting the cast of farm animals that inhabit Plumb’s book, explaining that gouache allowed her to use pencil to detail with precision.
“The paint does all the work,” Elisabeth explained, with the kind of matter-of-fact confidence that accompanies hours spent on a beloved craft.
The sum of Elisabeth’s art and Plumb’s tale is “ZZ Black,” a brightly illustrated, 40-page novel. Plumb described it as a “love story for children.” It takes lessons that Plumb herself has learned about relationships and love, and then distills them to an age-appropriate, accessible tale.
“You know, no one wants to read another love story,” the author said with a laugh, explaining that her daughter’s imaginative mind and obsession with animals gave her an idea for a fresh take on the personal love story.
So the tale of a difficult relationship—the kind where even true, enduring love can’t reconcile the differences between two people—became a story about a girl and her love for a stallion that resists the urge to be tamed. The warmth and guidance of friends—the kind that Plumb said have helped her deal with life’s trials more than once—became the colorful cast of farm animals who serve as the protagonist’s confidants. “Another love story” became something new entirely.
Plumb said parents will be tempted to read the book with their child, but it might be better to let them explore the ideas within alone. The story is just as much about relationships as it is about independence and self-love—themes kids might best engage with some independence of their own. She said she believes it’s a perfect tale for children aged 9-11, a range that not-so-coincidentally includes Elisabeth and Vienna.
With the book set to publish in the coming months, artist and author took their crafts on the road last weekend. They each presented their own work at “Life is Beautiful,” a massive music, food, and arts festival in Las Vegas, from Sept. 23-25. Elisabeth assured the Post that she was “the first kid to ever go there … ever.”
She took to the festival to present a project entirely separate from her work with Plumb—yet another testament to her prolificacy. The 18-piece exposition, titled “Circus, Ballet, and Music,” is composed on canvases the size of a door (“They’re bigger than me,” Elisabeth squealed).
The exposition revolved around a self-portrait of Elisabeth donning a hat with mystical powers. Each of the corresponding pieces surrounding the portrait represented a different episode that springs forth from the hat—vibrant scenes of dance, circus and animals. It’s a dizzyingly complex concept that took months of working five or six hours at a time, but Elisabeth summarized the exposition simply: “It’s all things that make people happy.”
Meanwhile, Plumb attended interviews to promote “ZZ Black.” The festival represented one of her last big moments with the story to herself before it hits stores. It will be an emotional moment for Plumb, who said finishing the story and releasing it for others to enjoy was a lesson in love of its own.
“The ending was really hard for me—it was really me saying ‘goodbye,’” Plumb reflected, explaining that she felt stuck writing the final chapter for weeks. Ultimately, though, she said Elisabeth’s hard work helped inspire her to pen the emotional ending to her tale. It made a fitting final push for a story so deeply entangled in the struggles and triumphs of its creators.
For author and artist, life is beautiful, even when some of its greatest joys must eventually come to an end.
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