Thursday, March 10, 2011

Artists in the making

I’ve just previewed two new and very different picture books that both touch on the creative process.

Ready to dream by Donna Jo Napoli and Elena Furrow (823 N162R PIC BK) is about a young artist traveling to Australia for the first time.  Ally tries to capture in her paintings what she sees and experiences.  But it’s not until she meets Pauline, a local Aboriginal artist, that she begins to see beyond her initial impulses, realizes that art can be created with more than just pencils, paper and paint, that mistakes can lead to interesting tangents, and understands the importance of imagination and being open to what is around you. 

The story does have a bit of a ‘mystical’ vibe about Ally’s journey; there is something spiritual at play here.  This mostly comes from nature of Pauline’s character, She encourages Ally and prompts her to create her art more thoughtfully, to reflect the deeper nature of the animals she draws. This is really driven home when she tells Ally that she’s now ‘ready to dream’.  No real mention in the book about the importance of dreamtime in Australian Aboriginal culture; it’s just alluded to this one time.  I loved the folk-arty illustrations by Bronwyn Bancroft (an Aboriginal artist) that use the art style often employed in traditional Aboriginal art.
The second book is quite different and a lot more playful.  I love most of David Wiesner’s work for exactly this reason.  In Art & Max (823 W6373A PIC BK) a teacher and a somewhat over-enthusiastic student both learn more about the creative process. In this ‘colourful’ adventure, Art is the teacher and Max, the student. Max is ever-so-keen to paint but comes up dry for ideas of what to paint.  Art suggest that Max paint him and an inspired (if very literal minded) Max does just that.  Art becomes a brightly, multi-coloured (and outraged) lizard.  Max makes several attempts to rectify the problem, resulting in variations of the same problem.  The best bit for me is when the colour washes out of Art and all that is left is a black outlined image of him that becomes unraveled. It’s up to Max to reconfigure his teacher with comical results.  All ends happily enough, with Art also learning a lesson about creativity. Overall, great fun.

I recommend both books for elementary grades.


Template Design | Elque 2007