ILLUSTRATIONS FOR CHILDREN'S PUBLICATIONS: 1937-57
In the mid 1930's, Buff began selling silkscreen prints for extra income. Mary Buff promoted the prints at various venues including local libraries and schools. One school administrator told Mary that the schools needed books that promoted a positive image of Native Americans. The Buffs sent a print to the Viking Press in New York City and the press agreed to publish a book for children on Native Americans. Mary and Conrad Buff’s firsthand study of the Navajos resulted in the first book they made together, Dancing Cloud, published in 1937. Conrad’s skill in illustration paired with Mary’s skill in writing and research opened new possibilities for the couple.
Their next book focused on a young boy growing up in Switzerland. The book presented the childhood Conrad wished he had and provided incentive for the couple to visit Buff’s hometown of Speicher, Switzerland. In 1938, the family took a boat to France then traveled by car through Europe to Switzerland. The trip must have been powerful for the artist, to return to the scenery that inspired him as a child while also recalling the discontent he faced there. On his return home, Buff focused on paintings for the book, but he did paint a number of Plein Air paintings and larger paintings upon his return to Europe in 1947.
In addition to easel painting, Buff continued to write books with his partner and wife. In 1942, Mary and Conrad Buff published their third book together entitled Dash and Dart. The charming book told a story about deer and other animals that Buff often painted and that he and Mary enjoyed. Another book published in 1949 entitled Peter’s Pinto, recounted a young Mormon boy’s adventures in Southern Utah. The book received praise for its gentle stand for religious tolerance. In addition, they wrote a book that explored the Colorado River which Buff believed was integral to the Western Landscape.
The royalties from the publications helped supplement the family’s income while writing also gave the Buffs a chance to share their appreciation for nature and humanity. So successful had the pair become that after writing more books, they accepted an invitation to attend the 29th annual International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists Congress in Tokyo in 1957. Buff was enthralled with Japan's people, culture and geography, and he completed a series of paintings documenting his experience.