I love art–creating it and looking at it. Two recent picture books will encourage a love of creating and appreciating art in readers–Andrew Drew and Drew and A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin. The first is more playful and fun, encouraging readers to doodle and draw and have fun with art, the second is more serious and thoughtful, helping readers know that anyone can create meaningful, moving art, even without training or much equipment. Both are books that encourage a love of art and creativity, and will inspire many readers.
Andrew Drew and Drew
Written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg
Published Oct 2012 by Abrams Appleseed
Age Range: 3 – 6 years
Source: I purchased it myself
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
In Andrew Drew and Drew, Andrew loves to doodle. He begins with nothing but a line, and ends up with fantastical creatures and things he both imagines and sees. The book is a delight to read. What really makes this book work is the combination of simple, vibrant drawings, and the innovative way they are laid out.
The book has flaps that cover parts of the drawings, and flaps that you unfold to see entire drawings, which allow the reader to see what Andrew’s doodles began with, and then start to turn into, and then end up as–each of them different than you’d expect, and each of them making up the whole. This brings a feeling of magic and freshness to the book, and will delight child and adult readers alike. For instance, what starts out looking like a set of stairs, and then Andrew hanging off the stairs to get to the ground, turns into a dragon with scales on his back–all without changing the original part of the drawing. Kids will want to quickly turn the flaps again and again to see what the simple lines become. Andrew Drew and Drew reminds me of one of my favorite books, Harold and the Purple Crayon, while still retaining its own voice and magic.
The text is simple and clean, all about the magic and possibilities of drawing. The text and the illustrations work beautifully together. This book made me want to draw, and I had so much fun seeing what Andrew’s drawings were turning into. I think this book will delight any reader, and encourage an interest in creating doodles or drawings, without feeling like the drawings have to be perfect (so taking the pressure away, and making art fun). Saltzberg did an amazing job with this book; it’s one of my new favorites. I highly recommend it.
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published January 2013 by Alfred A Knopf Books For Young Readers (Random House)
Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin tells the story of artist Horace Pippin and some of the hardships he endured–being poor and not having the money for art supplies or art training, being Black in a racist society (though this is only hinted at with the mention of his grandmother being a slave), going to war and seeing horrible things happen, injuring his arm that he used for art–and yet how he still found a way to make art that moved people and that was recognized by other people in the art world.
Bryant makes Horace Pippin’s life story interesting to readers, showing us regular, everyday things from Horace’s life–being poor, jobs he did to help his family, the way he loved to draw with charcoal and the way drawing made him happy. She makes readers care about Pippin. I love how Bryant showed that Horace Pippin used art to help him cope with and heal from traumatic events–the war. Art (and writing) can be powerful outlets to help with trauma, and at the same time powerful ways to communicate with others. I also love that Bryant shows us how Horace Pippin created art that people were moved by and admired, even though he didn’t have enough money for art supplies, was completely self-taught, and didn’t create his first oil painting until he was forty. Horace Pippin went from hanging his art in shoe-store and restaurant windows to real art galleries and museums, finally gaining success. At times I wanted a little less information in the text, especially in the early years, but most was very interesting and created a good picture of the artist and his life.
Bryant includes a historical note at the back of the book telling us more about Horace Pippin, as well as providing a resource guide at the back of the book.
Sweet’s art–done in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media–draws the reader in, moving from farther out views, such as Horace outside his house with a horse and carriage, to closer where we see Horace sitting on the floor drawing charcoal. This movement in perspective helps create visual interest, and so do the varying sizes and shapes of the illustrations, with full spreads on some pages, rounded illustrations on others, borders on some, and what looks like the use of paper in many. Sweet brings elements from the text on the page, weaving them together, such as wood that Horace had gathered sitting beside him while we see him draw his charcoal drawings. I love the layers in the illustrations–like when we see silhouettes of Horace, some classmates, and his teacher through a school window and the brick around it, and then below and partially overlapping it and the text, we see Horace’s spelling lists where he draws pictures beside the words. I also love how quotes from Horace Pippin are interspersed throughout the artwork in various colors and styles, all hand drawn. The quotes add to the story and help us understand Horace Pippin more. I especially love (and identify with) “If a man knows nothing but hard times, he will paint them, for he must be true to himself…”
A Splash of Red is a moving reminder that all of us who want to create art or follow our dreams can, and that what matters is the desire and determination to create it. It also lets readers know that even if they don’t have art training or the right art supplies, they can still create art and it can reach a wide audience; they just have to not give up. Recommended!