We've been hugely inspired of late by the book Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art. I had originally picked it up at the library a year ago and loved it, but never quite had the time to share it with the kids as I had hoped. And then, my attention to it was diverted once again when our plans to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (and purchase this book) were thwarted earlier in the year (oh, those silly brakes).
But no longer. A copy is happily in our hands. Not on our bookshelf, but literally in our hands...and often. First it was me inspired by it's pages. A visual feast, the book includes a letter from each illustrator to children, a self-portrait, a photograph of the artist (sometimes as a child), and a sampling of their work. I love that the letters to the children are as diverse and varied as the artists themselves. And yet - there are common themes, and recurring messages that shine throughout. Childhoods spent full of freedom to play and explore, an early love of art and drawing, creativity as an expression of self, etc. I find my ideas of children and art confirmed as I nod my head at each artist's thoughts on the subject, such as Ashley Bryan who says:
"In our earliest years there's no how? to our plunge into art. The doing gives the answer. There is no one way. Your work in art is original and there is no end to the adventure...HURRAH!"
It wasn't long before the curiosity of the little ones in my house was piqued by this book - largely by recognizing so many of the illustrators from books on their own shelves - Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola, Quentin Blake, Mitsumasa Anno, Maurice Sendak and so many more. I suggested we take the book on as a project - reading the section on each artist, and then search our bookshelves (and maybe the library) for the books illustrated by said artist - to give a closer look to and study their style.
We began, and quickly, they came up with an idea much better than my own. They decided that after reading about each artist, and finding books by them, they'd make their own book, inspired by the artist. Ezra chose Eric Carle to start with - entirely inspired by the photo of Carle in his studio - surrounded by scraps of paper on the floor. Creative chaos just like his own - yes, indeed.
After a trip to the art store for a new pile of blank books (we like to make our own, but we're also big fans of Bare Books for this sort of project), the reading, the studying, the painting, the cutting and writing commenced.
And thus, book #1 in this artist-inspired series by Ezra has begun. Mister Cook (different from his previous titles, "Mr. Cooker", "Restaurant Man," and "Farmer Cook" - the boy's inspired by food, clearly), a story in which a restaurateur prepares for a crowd, presents a feast, unleashes a giant spider on the crowd and then wonders why no one understood his practical joke. Ah. And all in the 'style' of, and with great inspiration from Eric Carle.
While I definitely can't take credit for where Artist to Artist has taken us, I do think it might be a great project other kids would be into as well. I can see it working at home, in a homeschooling plan, or in a classroom as well. And even if it doesn't become a grand project such as this, there is much to be inspired by in it's pages for young and old alike.
The generous folks at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art have given me a copy of Artist to Artist to give away here. If you're interested in the book, leave a comment in this post, and if you have a favorite children's illustrator, I'd love to hear who that is! I'll select a random name from the comments on Friday, 8am EST.
And if you'd like to just purchase the book yourself, it's here on Amazon, and also available at the Museum's Shop, in addition to your local bookshop or library, of course!
Thanks to everyone for playing along and for sharing your suggestions! The random number generator found the winner, Maya.