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The Miscellaneous Club > September 2020: Art and Artists

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message 1: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Greetings everyone,
This month we will be discussing books for children about the visual arts: painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, illustrating, etc. These could be books about art history, biographies of artists, or books that instruct one on some aspect of art techniques.

message 2: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse is of interest to all age levels. My review:

Lovely. Accessible to preschoolers, effective for all ages. Even works well enough on overdrive/libby on the tablet, though of course I wish I'd been able to read the paper version.

I used to own Jazz. It would, of course, be a great companion to this.

I will consider reading these from the bibliography:

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors
Matisse Dance with Joy
A Bird or Two: A Story About Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse

message 3: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
For instruction, I highly recommend The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family's Life with Art and Creativity. Beautifully presented, includes not only how-to art instruction but excellent instruction for parents on how to encourage their young artists, invite art into daily life, and contains an extensive section with everything from suggestions for further reading to a list of the best art materials to have on hand for children by age group. Wonderful for first-time parents! There's also a website (TheArtfulParent) if you can't find the book.

message 4: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
For biographies longer than the picture book range, these popped up in my library search:

What's Your Favorite Bug? (and others in the series)

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace

Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood

Drawing from Memory

The "Who Was?" series has a few authors such as Who Was Dr. Seuss? and Who Was Maurice Sendak?.

message 5: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 02, 2020 07:34AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
The following two books might not have been specifically conceptualised with children in mind, but in my opinion, both Zen Doodle Unleashed: Freeform Tangle Art You Can Draw and Color (Tiffany Lovering) and Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil: A playful guide to drawing with colored pencil on the go! (Cara Hanley) would work very well for art instruction (both self guided and taught) for older children above the age of ten or so.

Zen Doodle Unleashed: Freeform Tangle Art You Can Draw and Color

So yes indeed, I especially appreciate the clear and concise step-by-step instructions that author Tiffany Lovering offers and presents in her Zen Doodle Unleashed and that she also does NOT EVER focus on only one or two mediums (from the various drawing tools one can use to different options for colouring and shading, Zen Doodle Unleashed provides essential information, but always and thankfully leaves the reader, leaves the potential zen doodler with a multitude of personal choices). And even though Tiffany Lovering is, of course, first and foremost providing details and guidance on how to draw and then colour so-called freeform tangle art, the manner in which she has shown and demonstrated her patterns (from simple to more complex and organic designs) also always leaves one with the option of only incorporating some of the patterns, of picking and choosing (and even avoiding the tangled and image-heavy aspects of this kind of drawing style altogether, namely taking just a few simple patterns and expanding on these, whilst actually keeping much of the page empty or perhaps shaded with and by more solid coloured hues). Highly recommended and oh so much potential fun (with the top ten tips at the back of Zen Doddle Unleashed and the removable, detachable black and white pattern templates being an added and much appreciated bonus, although personally I would very like and want these to be a bit larger and a bit wider, as that would make copying them by hand or even tracing much easier and less potentially frustrating).

Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil: A playful guide to drawing with colored pencil on the go!

Enjoyable, totally, utterly engaging, not at all and in any manner ever intimidating (read not openly didactic) and indeed also full of oh so much good advice, I certainly have found Cara Hanley’s Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil: A Playful Guide to Drawing with Colored Pencil on the Go an amazing art resource.

And yes, I really do very much appreciate that while Cara Hanley does of course and appreciatively provide many solid suggestions as to what kind of colored pencils, what kind of drawing paper etc. one could be buying, she also and clearly demonstrates that basically, in order to start, all one really requires is just a set of good standard drawing pencils and paper, either loose leaf or a sketch book.

A book that one can either follow slavishly from cover to cover or where a budding and interested potential artist might also decide to simply pick and choose, I love love love that in Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil: A Playful Guide to Drawing with Colored Pencil on the Go author/instructor Cara Hanley always seems to feature an attitude of being both encouraging and never in any manner a frustrating and annoying “my way or the highway” kind of individual, that she of course gives advice, but that her advice is always simply advice and not presented as being art orders set in stone so to speak and which absolutely need to be followed with no questions asked.

Highly recommended and indeed, it is especially that sense of having personal art and product choices and freedom and of being allowed to experiment and not to have to meticulously follow what Cara Hanley presents and features in Anywhere, Anytime Art: Colored Pencil: A Playful Guide to Drawing with Colored Pencil on the Go (as well as her sense of fun and lack of dour seriousness) that have made this book such a joy to read and so encouraging with regard to me trying out sketching with colored pencils (with no strings attached and with no feeling that there is only one way to proceed).

message 6: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 02, 2020 07:53AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Although I should perhaps consider also posting about William Kurelek's A Prairie Boy's Summer, A Prairie Boy's Winter and Lumberjack in the picture book club's topic for August, for me, the three books, whilst they indeed have totally wonderful illustrations (actually reproduced William Kurelek paintings), well, the accompanying text is in my opinion, more for middle glade onwards and a bit too dense and involved for the so-called picture book crowd (but yes, if Kathryn would also like me to post about the three books in the PBC topic, that would of course not be an issue).


While William Kurelek's Lumberjack is most definitely informative and generally pretty much interesting and engaging, his presented narrative, while not ever in any manner inappropriate or thematically problematic (read off-colour) is neverthless in my opinion often a trifle too advanced, too wordy and too minutely descriptive to be all that suitable for children below the age of eight or nine, especially for independent perusals (and really, even if parents, teachers or librarians are reading Lumberjack to a child or a group of children, the sheer amount of featured, of shown text could well and easily prove distracting and/or a bit tedious, especially for those kids with short attention spans). However, and that all having been said, the often full page accompanying paintings (also by William Kurelek and marvelously detailed, expressive, realistic, but at the same time representing a vision that always manages to detail, to show the majesty of Canada's North, even with its closeups, even with small individual renderings of life as a lumberjack in a logging camp), not only do they provide a visually stunning and shining mirror of and for the text, of and for William Kurelek's printed words, they also and actually tell the story of Lumberjack of William Kurelek's sojourn in a logging camp almost as thoroughly and with nearly as much detail as the latter, as the narrative itself (case in point, in 1975, a year before we immigrated to Canada from Germany, nine year old I both "read" and yes also pretty easily understood the general plotlines of Lumberjack simply by intensely and with attention to detail looking at William Kurelek's artwork, his pictures, not being able to read the actual text, as at that time, I did not yet know any English except perhaps a couple of curse words, a scenario that was indeed true, for once I had learned sufficient English and reread Lumberjack in the winter of 1977, the narrative really held no surprises at all for me, in other words, I already knew what William Kurelek's printed words were saying because I had previously looked at, had feasted my eyes on his expressively detailed illustrations).

Highly recommended, but with the necessary caveats that for one Lumberjack naturally features logging and clearcutting (which might indeed offend some readers) and that for two, there are also a couple of illustrations featuring brief nudity, including a closeup pictorial rendition of a lumberjack sitting with his pants down on the outhouse toilet seat (not horrible, but you do see the lumberjack's bare buttocks as he squats, and I for one have also always wondered whether the lumberjack using the so-called facilities might not have felt a bit uncomfortable being the subject of a painting, as I know I would have been).

A Prairie Boy's Winter

Famous Canadian visual artist (and writer) William Kurelek's (1923-1977) A Prairie Boy's Winter is both aesthetically and textually a glowing and engaging homage to and description of winter life on the Canadian prairies (in the early part of the 20th century, but indeed, even today, especially in the traditional farming areas of Southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, much of what William Kurelek describes as how winter arrived, for months strongly remained and flourished until slowly playing itself out in late March to the middle of April during his boyhood on the Canadian prairies is still relevant and often very much the truth).

Showing not only winter fun and games (ice skating, outdoor tag, skiing behind a hayrack, building snow forts and the like) but also pointing out the season's many potential hardships (the multitude of daily necessary farmyard chores and tasks, not to mention such dangers and threats as raging blizzards and dangerously freezing subzero temperatures that could freeze bare skin within minutes if not seconds) the combination of Kurelek's full page winter themed paintings (gloriously descriptive, especially capturing the abundance of snow, the vastness of the prairie landscapes) and his detailed narrational descriptions of each of the featured pieces of art (every one of them presenting a specific winter scene and scenario from Kurelek's own childhood remembrances, from his life as a so-called prairie boy and farmer's son), A Prairie Boy's Winter is most definitely both a feast for the eyes and an engagingly told and recounted historically accurate memoir of early 2oth century winter seasons on the Canadian prairies.

High recommended, but with the added caveat that the narrative of A Prairie Boy's Winter is most certainly rather wordy and dense and thus more suitable to and for older children and even adults, although in my opinion even younger children not yet reading independently would likely find the accompanying artwork so detailed, engaging and evocative that they might not even all that much if at all require the accompanying text (that they might in fact and indeed get oh so very much out of A Prairie Boy's Winter just from the visuals, just from simply poring over William Kurelek's totally and utterly amazing paintings).

A Prairie Boy's Summer

Now while in many ways, William Kurelek's A Prairie Boy's Summer is actually and indeed very much similar to his A Prairie Boy's Winter in general set-up and scope, and therefore should likely be regarded and approached as a companion piece (with twenty full page, full colour summer and for the majority of the post school scenarios summer farming themed paintings accompanied by textually heavy but always interesting and enlightening descriptions based on William Kurelek's own farming family boyhood on the Canadian prairies of the 1920s and 1930s), what has always struck me in A Prairie Boy's Summer with regard to both Kurelek's narratives and illustrations is that for farmer boys such as William and his brother John, summertime is in NO WAY EVER vacation time, but is a time for basically around the clock chores and much hard, often backbreaking toil (both on the fields and in the barn).

And in fact, aside from the painting of William and other local boys swimming (and stark naked, mind you) in the local swimming hole, basically ALL of pictorials of A Prairie Boy's Summer that do not deal with school, that take place come so-called summer vacation has commenced do present and feature scenarios of both field work and necessary farmyard chores (and as such, A Prairie Boy's Summer is actually and indeed very much different from A Prairie Boy's Winter, where aside from the required daily barnyard tasks, due to the fact that one does not and cannot work the fields during winter, there actually is also much more time and leisure to spend on such past-times as snowball fights, building snow forts, skating and the like). A great introduction to both summers on the Canadian prairies and also (and for me even more importantly) to the amount of work that farming generally always entails and demands (and from ALL members of the family), A Prairie Boy's Summer is highly recommended for both young and old (although I do leave the necessary caveats that Kurelek's text is most definitely wordy and dense, although still always approachable and uncomplicated in style and vocabulary choices, and yes, I guess I also should point out that the episode depicting and describing William and other local boys frequenting the swimming hole does indeed both textually and illustratively describe and show brief instances of general male nudity and that the boys have to keep their eyes open as sometimes their swimming place is visited by curious girls on their bicycles).

message 7: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 02, 2020 09:13AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Wanda Gag: Storybook Artist is definitely a pretty decent biography of Wanda Gág and also one that focusses both on her art and on her writing (similar to Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw but of course as a middle grade non picture book biography more extensive and wordy).

Now I have certainly from a general thematic and content-based point of departure very much appreciated Gwyneth Swain's Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist, as the author has in my opinion for the most part deftly (and without too much overly emotional exaggeration) managed to portray Wanda Gág as to who and what she was and to also glowingly demonstrate not only the many highlights but also the numerous lowlights of her life and career as both artist/illustrator and children's literature author (how Wanda Gág's artistic development was achieved, and especially, how supportive her own family always was towards her and that especially her artist father Anton was never critical of her penchant for daydreaming and openly, actively encouraged his daughter's drawing manias but always with the admonishment that Wanda should compose her own pictures, that she should draw and sketch what was in her mind, what she observed and never simply copy and imitate the work of others).

With Gwyneth Swain's text accompanied by numerous archival photographs, as well as a goodly number of examples of Wanda Gág's own artwork (and thankfully not just from her illustrated children's books), an appreciated (and to and for me always necessary and important with regard to non fiction) glossary, chronology, source notes and last but not least a detailed and well organised into individual sections bibliography, in many ways Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist is a wonderful and often even perfect general introduction to Wanda Gág's life, career and times (not only for older children above the age of twelve or so but also for interested adults).

And main reason I am granting a three and not a four star ranking to Wanda Gág: Storybook Artist is that personally, there are a few informational gaps which I for one would like to have seen filled in and dealt with (such as for example, some details on whether Wanada Gág and her family, seeing that they were German speaking and according to Gwyneth Swain also staunchly against WWI faced much anti-German animosity and bigotry in New Ulm, Minnesota due to their ethnic, cultural background and obvious pacifism), and that there are indeed also a few to and for me potentially disconcerting issues with Gwyneth Swain's writing style and vocabulary choices (like the author claiming how Wanda's father, how Anton Gág somehow looked like a "typical" artist and even more frustratingly and annoyingly, her making the rather majorly strange authorial remark regarding Wanda Gág's death of lung cancer in 1946 at the comparatively young age of just fifty-three that "even Wanda could not live forever").

message 8: by Manybooks (new)

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So I have decided to just mention the title of Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, as I both really have not all that much enjoyed either the text or the illustrations all that much and think that this is not really a book to truly celebrate Mary Sibylla Merian because NONE of Merian's own artwork is included).

For me, the best English language middle grade books on Maria Sibylla Merian I have encountered to date are

Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science

message 9: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer

For me, Sarah B. Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithamby's Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer is probably one of the if not actually the most extensive and intensive general illustrated biography of mid 17th to early 18th century German artist Maria Sibylla Merian (who is also now considered to have been one of the first entomologists and ecologists) I have perused to date. Readable, informative, featuring very much information and detail, but thankfully also without in my humble opinion ever getting bogged down with either too much art or science specific jargon, Pomeroy and Kathirithamby present a succinct (less than 100 page) but still always more than informative enough portrait of Merian's life and times (divided into five enlightening and interesting sections, from her childhood in Frankfurt to Maria Sibylla Merian's final years as a bona fide European celebrity, a single woman who with her daughter had travelled solo to the Dutch South American colony of Surinam and had then resided there until 1701 to collect, study and draw its many plants and insects, its varied and lushly tropical flora and fauna).

Accompanied by simply a plethora and aesthetically awe-inspiring smorgasbord of Maria Sibylla Merian's artwork (as well as diverse paintings depicting artist studios, a 1670 city view of Amsterdam etc.), Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer presents a truly wonderful, scientifically, historically and culturally sound and exceedingly well researched combination of text and images, an enlightening and approachable (but also narrationally dense and delightfully academic) introduction to a woman who in many ways was totally ahead of her time, who in mid 16th to early 17th century Germany, the Netherlands and yes Surinam was both an independent artist and indeed also a scientist (a botanist and entomologist). And although after Maria Sibylla Merian's death in 1717, while her drawings of flowers, insects and the like were certainly often used and consulted by the establishment, by scientists such as Carl Linnaeus, Merian herself and especially her scientific observations were generally both overlooked and disparaged simply because of her gender and also of course because she was actually and truly quite avant-guarde so to speak with regard to her approaches to biology, zoology, botany and yes even ecology, Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer shows and depicts that since the 1970s, Maria Sibylla Merian has thankfully and fortunately been increasingly feted and globally celebrated as not only an artist of talent and renown but also as one of the earliest scientific observers and and studiers of insects and their diverse life cycles.

Highly recommended (and with the supplemental materials at the back of Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer being appreciated added academic bonuses, especially the list of organisms that have been named after and in honour of Maria Sibylla Merian and the extensive bibliographic lists, which have, glory be, been divided into both primary and secondary resource sections), although I (personally) would definitely not suggest this book as a biography for readers younger than about fourteen or so (and no, there is nothing even remotely inappropriate or of questionable content and thematics with regard to Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer, just that Sarah B. Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithamby's presented narrative, that their printed words are in my humble opinion a trifle too dense, too academically involved, too potentially difficult comprehension wise for younger readers).

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The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science

While each chapter heading of Joyce Sidman's The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Marian's Art Changed Science features one of Sidman's signature (and as usual quite simply exquisite and magical) poems, I for one did not even really notice them all that much at first (simply because I was and yes remain so enchanted and delighted with and by the main narrartive, with the author's concise, readable and massively enlighteninging biography of Maria Sibylla Merian, a German artist of the latter 17th and early 18th century, who is now considered by many to likely also have been one of the first entymologists and ecologists).

Accompanied by an absolute treasure trove of Maria Sibylla Merian's signature, detailed artwork of moths, butterflies, flowers, trees and the like, as well as additional historical and cultural information on topics as diverse as the witch crazes in Europe from 1450-1750, the first museums, moth versus butterfly, slavery in Surinam etc., The Girl Who Drew Butterflies focusses on the main and essential points of Merian's life (from her childhood in Frankfurt to her solo travels with her daughter Dorothea to the Dutch colony of Surinam), presenting a both interesting and always engaging, approachable account (suitable for older children from about the age of eleven or so, but really, also of much potential interest to and for adults, especially since while in Europe, and especially in Germany, Maria Sibylla Merian's legacy and artwork are pretty well known now, this has not really and unfortunately all that much been the case in especially North America). Highly recommended (with the detailed bibliographical information, timelines and source acknowledgements being appreciated added bonuses, and indeed, the only reason, I am ranking The Girl Who Drew Butterflies with four stars instead of five stars is that the blurb regarding the witch crazes in Europe is in my opinion rather misleading, as Joyce Sidman seems to claim and insinuate with her words that this was only or at least mostly a phenomenon in Germany, which is patently untrue, as the rampant fear of witchcraft, sorcery and its resulting inquisitions were equally present in areas of France, Switzerland, Austria etc., that it was a pan-European and not just a German scenario).

message 11: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 02, 2020 09:35AM) (new)

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I really do wish that I could find a decent middle grade biography or biographical novel about Canadian early 20th century artist Emily Carr, for no, Jaqueline Pearce's Discovering Emily has definitely been rather a major met-down.

While in Jacqueline Pearce's middle grade biographical novel about Canadian artist Emily Carr's childhood, while in Discovering Emily I do both understand and also appreciate that the young Emily Carr finds the strict rules and moral regulations of both her staunchly and arrogantly upper class family and 19th century Victoria, British Columbia society in general difficult if not even impossible to accept and adhere to (and yes indeed, that I also do think many of the punishments Emily must endure for misbehaviour and wilfulness rather mean-spirited if not actually horribly degrading and abusive) that author Jaqueline Pearce seems especially in the beginning chapters of Discovering Emily so very much intent on totally presenting mostly what can only be called a gigantic grocery list of one Emily Carr "misdeed" after another, this does sadly and frustratingly begin to feel more than somewhat tedious and actually rather massively thus.

And while once Emily's artistic talents have been recognised and accepted by not only her father but also by her art teacher, Jacqueline Pearce's narrative does in fact pick up a bit of speed and become considerably more interesting and flowing, the rather one-sided Emily Carr versus her family and Victoria society beginning of Discovering Emily has certainly very much and lastingly lessened my general reading pleasure, as sorry, but even for novels penned for younger audiences, nuanced characters and scenarios are in my humble opinion essential and indeed even a must, and no, the chapters until in Discovering Emily young Emily Carr's artistic talents are recognised, they are just too blatantly stereotypical and monotonous for me to consider more than two stars (a high two stars, to be sure, but still not yet enough for me rate Discovering Emily with three stars).

And no, even though I have some of the sequels on my to-read list, unless I can find read them for free online, I am really not all that interested since Discovering Emily has not really been all that much of a reading pleasure.

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The Noisy Paint Box

Vasily Kandinsky's development as an artist and the struggles of both him (and many of his colleagues) to break free from the standard and "appropriate" (quotes are mine) dictates of what art, of what in particular painting was supposed to be, and this actually being the genesis of Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, of basically all abstract art in general, is glowingly and readably presented by author Barb Rosenstock in and with her brilliant and evocative The Noisy Paintbox.

The featured and assumed fact that Vasily Kandinsky (and even though in The Noisy Paintbox, he is called Vasya, I will use Vasily as that is the first name with which I am most familiar) most probably had synthesia, that he not only saw colours as red, blue, yellow etc. but that each colour also had an audible sound for Vasily, that his paintbox basically "sang" and that Kandinsky thus actually was often painting the sounds he heard emanating from said paintbox, the hisses, the whispers, basically the music of art, all this is not only a wondrous and magical reading experience, the author's printed words, in conjunction with Mary Grandpré's expressive and impressive accompanying illustrations not only show Vasily Kandinsky's life and his development as an artist, they also present the very essence of what made the latter such a novel and original painter, namely that Vasily Kandinsky was brave enough to break free, to use his synthesia as a tool, that he started to paint his emotions, the perceived colours he heard as sounds, as music.

And even though Kandinsky's family and even society in general were often both critical of his art, his desires and also at first tried to mould him into being a traditional artist who painted only realistically (imitating the so-called Old Masters), Vasily (after he had abandoned his law career and moved from Moscow to Munich) finally took the necessary step and painted what he desired and yes, even needed to render, to produce on canvas, on paper, sounds, music, feelings, abstractions, colour as an entity in and of itself, colour as a symphony (a necessary step for both himself and Kandsinky's colleagues, his artist friends, who were equally frustrated by the dictates and mandates of needing to paint, to produce art that with realism was supposed to only represent pretty landscapes, still-lives, portraits). And while I do in fact absolutely love love love Vasily Kandsinky's work (his art, his stylistics, his expressively bold paintings), for me, personally (and this also comes shiningly through in Barb Rosenstock's narrative, in the text of The Noisy Paintbox), even more important is the fact that in many ways, Vasily Kandinsky should be feted and celebrated as not only a talented and pretty much amazing artist, but as one of the main movers and shakers who not only created abstract art, but really was the instigator, the "midwife" so to speak of modern art as a genre and the acceptance of abstract art as actual art, as a satisfactory form of the same.

Now as much as I have indeed adored and appreciated the featured narrative of The Noisy Paintbox, for me, what really does make this book stand out and shine is the fact that Barb Rosenstock has not only included an informative and enlightening author's note (with appreciated and detailed source listings and suggestions for further study and research) but that she also has included four examples of Vasily Kandinsky's own work (so much better and also much more of an homage than picture book biographies of artists where, sadly, none of the artist's actual work has been included, which does seem to happen rather too often and frankly, I tend to find this hugely frustrating and annoying).

And finally, with regard to Mary Grandpré's accompanying illustrations, they are really, truly simply totally, absolutely spectacular, expressive, shiningly emotional, with a glorious sense of colour and composition, presenting, showing both Vasily Kandinsky's life story and also his oh so very much distinctive painting (artistic) style. In fact, Mary Grandpré's imaginative renderings of the artist's works could, in my opinion, have been created by Kandinsky himself (and that is at least for me on a personal level, the very highest praise I can give, as Vasily Kandinsky is one of my favourite 20th century artists). And really (although I do appreciate the fact that The Noisy Paintbox won a 2015 Caldecott Honour designation for Mary Grandpré, I am actually more than a bit miffed and disappointed that she did not win the actual Caldecott Medal (as I for one certainly do feel that Mary Grandpré's illustrations for The Noisy Paintbox were and are vastly superior to the illustrations for The Adventures of Beekle which were awarded the 2015 Caldecott Medal).

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Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art

Although I would not call Barb Rosenstock's Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art in any way a straight birth to death picture book biography, personally, I have absolutely and totally enjoyed (as well as appreciated) both Barb Rosenstock's presented narrative and Mary Grandpré's accompanying illustrations (and that they luminously and descriptively portray how Marc Chagall was from his boyhood in Belarus to his later years in Paris and the USA fascinated by views from and through panes of glass, with the author's text and the illustrator's images often if not even generally focussing on the latter and on what Marc Chagall saw and depicted trough windows, a tribute both poetic and aesthetic of one of the main tenets of Chagall's artistry, even if and while Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art does not really represent a specific and detailed biography of every of each and every scenario of Marc Chagall, his life, his times and his oeuvre). And with that salient fact in mind, although personally I do consider Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art a five star book, which to and for me totally captures and harnesses both textually and illustratively delicious and expressive tableaux of Marc Chagall's window-visions and snapshots of his life story (with the informative author's note at the back, three examples of Marc Chagall's actual artwork and last but not least a detailed bibliographical list of sources being both appreciated and the icing on an already delicious cake for me), if you are indeed looking for a straight forward picture book biography of Mark Chagall from his birth in 1887 to his death in 1985, you might want to look elsewhere.

Now there have been a number of reviews of Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art that criticise and even (in my opinion) seem to rather condemn that author Barb Rosenstock has seemingly portrayed how Moishe Shagal changes his name to Marc Chagall once he relocates to France as being entirely too positive and as though immigrants changing their names is being depicted as something entirely and inherently positive and even necessary. But personally and as an immigrant myself, I have found Barb Rosenstock's wording in Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art in no way problematic with regard to this. For she very distinctly and to and for me clearly shows and demonstrates that it definitely and certainly was entirely Moishe Shagal's OWN PERSONAL CHOICE to change his given name to Marc Chagall once he arrived in Paris, France and as such, this should and needs to be both accepted and yes also very much respected (as while yes, immigrants being forced to alter or being coerced into changing their given names to more French, English, German etc. sounding examples is certainly problematic and something that does need to be seen with a critical eye, immigrants who on their own accord and for whatever personal reason decide to alter their names or make their spellings more easy to pronounce in the language of their new country or area of residence, that is or at least should be seen and approached as mostly a matter of choice). And therefore, I do have absolutely no issues whatsoever with Moishe Shagal's name change to Marc Chagall, just as I also would have not had issues if he had in fact chosen to NOT alter the spelling of his name (as that was and remains entirely his personal desire and obviously what he wanted for himself).

And by the way, I also do NOT in any manner whatsoever think or believe that by becoming Marc Chagall, Moishe Shagal in any way was rejecting his Jewish culture and background. For while Marc Chagall obviously does not appear to have been a religiously observant Jew (and to have considered Paris, France as his real and true home) it is also and nevertheless pretty clearly shown in both the text proper of Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall's Life and Art as well as in Barb Rosenstock's author's note that Chagall's artwork regularly and often presents and features themes from Jewish and Russian history, culture and lore, and that at least in my opinion, this very much and obviously demonstrates that there never was an active personal rejection of his background and culture and indeed that Marc Chagall's Frenchified name is thus not and also should not be regarded as a potential problem or an act of background and cultural, ethnic rejection.

message 14: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 03, 2020 08:13AM) (new)

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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

In many ways, Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child is simply and gracefully a beautifully told account, presenting not only how and even why Jean-Michel Basquiat becomes an artist but also that art is for one in the eye of the beholder (and that what some might consider beautiful, others might not, although this could and should have been a bit more specifically and clearly demonstrated and pointed out by the author, as there exists in my opinion some potential areas of and for confusion) and for two that art and artistic expression can often also be a source of healing, of actual therapy (but also, alas, how individuals with an artistic mindset and temperament will unfortunately at times experience life both more intensely and more difficultly, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat's mother, who seemingly ends up institutionalised, breaking her son's heart, as Jean-Michel Basquiat and his mother Matilde are described as having been very close, as kindred spirits of the soul).

Now I have read a number of intensely negative reviews of Radiant Child that seem to take great umbrage at the fact that as a teenager and young adult Jean-Michel Basquiat goes out alone at night and draws, paints his art as graffiti on city walls, buildings, structures. And while I can to a point understand that some if not even many people might well regard graffiti as not really art but as vandalism, in my own humble opinion, art is art. And sometimes, public displays of artistic expression uncommissioned and perhaps even unwanted on buildings, walls and other public structures are actually what it takes, are necessary to make gallery goers, art aficionados, art dealers etc. (and the general public) take notice and become aware of a young or an emerging artist (and some artists do in fact both have the desire and often an intense personal requirement and need to produce, to create art anywhere and everywhere, that they are complelled, that they cannot resist the urge to engage in public displays of their artistic soul and talents).

Furthermore, and as someone who always tends to require both solitude and often silence when I am writing (or engaging in) anything even remotely creative, I do appreciate oh so very much that Javaka Steptoe has shown in his presented narrative of Radiant Child that art is often (and perhaps even mostly) very much a solitary action, that while the end result, the end product of artistic expression might well be public (and will even need to be public if an artist wants to be recognised and have his or her works displayed in art galleries and museums), the actual creation of art is often intensely private and that many, if not actually the majority of artists do indeed much prefer to work alone, without distractions, and often much require this for their creative processes to adequately come to fruition (and that too much social contact even prevents or at least can significantly hinder creativity).

But while I guess part of me does understand why the most troubling aspects of Jean-Michel Basquiat's short life have not been mentioned by Javaka Steptoe within the text of Radiant Child and just relegated to the back and his author's notes, another part of me does wish that even within the narrative itself, Basquiat's struggles with especially substance abuse had at least been alluded to, as for me, and after researching Jean-Michel Basquiat a bit online, it truly and sadly does in fact appear as though he possesed a rather fragile and easily shatterable soul and was probaly using drugs to self medicate when expressing his thoughts, his feelings, his fears and innermost self via his artwork was clearly no longer sufficient (and in my opinion, and although this is all troubling and sadly so, Jean-Michel Basquiat's ultimately unsuccessful struggles against addiction are as much, were as much part of his life as his paintings, his collages, his sculptures, and I strongly feel that this does need to be presented, warts and all, within the text proper of Radiant Child, and quite frankly, having this information only appear in the author's notes leaves me both rather disappointed and even a tiny bit insulted).

Now with regard to the accompanying illustrations that won Javaka Steptoe the 2017 Caldecott Medal, they are glowing, colourful, full of expressive emotion and indeed do a simply wonderful job illustrating, presenting not only Jean-Michel Basquiat as an artist but as a person (his life, his artistic oeuvre, his legacy), how he lived and how he worked, produced, created. However, as much as I have indeed and in fact liked and even loved Javaka Steptoe's pictorial offerings, I do have to admit that I am finding it supremely annoying that there are none of Jean-Michel Basquiat's actual works of art reproduced in Radiant Child (and while this might well be due to legal and copyright reasons, it is still a most lamentable shortcoming and frustration that has also at least somewhat lessened my reading pleasure, as what is a book about the life and times of an artist, without pictures of his or her actual work).

And finally, while I read Radiant Child as a download on my Kindle, I would NOT really tend to all that much recommend this book in an electronic format, as while the illustrations are indeed lovely and expressive even on the Kindle, the text is so small that reading it has proven very annoying and eye-strain producing, even with zooming in, even whilst wearing reading glasses.

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Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art
Eric Carle convinced 23 picture book illustrators to write a short letter to readers about their background and artwork, and to encourage readers in their own efforts. Several of the artists advise readers to ignore naysayers who may tell them they can't make a living doing artwork, but that they should follow their dreams. Readers are also assured that it takes practice and hard work, just like in any other endeavor. Each artist has drawn or painted a self-portrait, which faces the letter. On opening the self portrait's fold-out page, the reader can see photos of the artist's studio, and samples of their artwork. The back matter includes a couple of bibliographies of the books in which the various illustrators' work appears, and brief biographies of each one. This book should be a great encouragement to youngsters who want to have a career in art.

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Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

So yes, although I have certainly enjoyed reading in Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave how Dave is imagined by author Laban Carrick Hill creating and forming his distinctive pottery, and indeed how he, how Dave, is clearly and sweetly lyrically shown to obviously also achieve and receive very much personal fulfilment, pleasure and even joy from his art, I am sorry, but there is nevertheless just a certain something about Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave and in particular regarding Laban Carrick Hill's presented text which really does tend to make me more than a bit personally uncomfortable.

For albeit that Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave certainly does once or twice within the text proper mention Dave's status as a slave, I for one do not think that Laban Carrick Hill focussing with his lyrical verses almost entirely on Dave the artist and really almost never on Dave the slave is (and especially in a book published in 2010) the politically correct way to proceed. Because yes, it certainly does seem (to and for me) as though Laban Carrick Hill is rather whitewashing the realities and horrors of slavery when he with Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave focusses so exclusively on Dave's pottery and his artistic talents that one does kind of feel as though the author, as though Hill is (even if likely inadvertently) saying that Dave the Potter's slavery is not really so much of an issue, that the only thing really of significance is that Dave was a talented artist, potter and poet. And while Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave is certainly and definitely a lyrical celebration of Dave's artistry and of his attitudes towards his pottery being very much his life, with Bryan Collier's Caldecott Honour winning accompanying artwork totally visually and aesthetically reflecting and mirroring Laban Carrick Hill's poetry, for me, the decided lack of focus of Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave on Dave's life as a slave (that Hill and by extension also Collier) really are for the most part only concentrating on Dave's pottery and how he artistically sees himself and the world, that has certainly rather lessened my reading pleasure and thus, only a rather grudging three star rating for Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave.

message 17: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments I need to mention a book that's no longer in print but worth tracking down if you love art. Imagine the Girl in the Painting: Stories of Girls in Art Imagine the Girl in the Painting Stories of Girls in Art by American Girl This was once a regular feature in American Girl Magazine, before it became a tween version of a teen magazine. The editors choose a famous painting featuring a young girl. They ask you to imagine you're the girl in the painting. Who are you? Why are you posing for this picture? Who is the painter? What's going through your mind? How do you feel? They answer those questions from the perspective of the girls in the paintings. It was a really fun concept and I loved the magazine feature when I was younger.

message 18: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
QNPoohBear wrote: "I need to mention a book that's no longer in print but worth tracking down if you love art. Imagine the Girl in the Painting: Stories of Girls in Art[bookcover:Imagine the Girl in th..."

Oh that sounds wonderful. I will look for it, thank you.

message 19: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Cheryl wrote: "
Oh that sounds wonderful. I will look for it, thank you.."

If you find it, and it's a lot of money, I'll scan some of the magazine features so you can see what it's like. It was a nice way to bring famous paintings down to a child's level. I enjoyed it myself and I was a teenager at the time!

message 20: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "QNPoohBear wrote: "I need to mention a book that's no longer in print but worth tracking down if you love art. Imagine the Girl in the Painting: Stories of Girls in Art[bookcover:Ima..."

It does sound wonderful!

message 21: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (last edited Sep 15, 2020 11:54AM) (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
A Horn for Louis by Eric A. Kimmel

Kimmel doesn't just adapt folk tales into picture books. This is a short tale of a pivotal period in a boy's life, a boy who grew up from abject poverty to become one of the most famous Blues artists of the early & mid-20th century. Louis Armstrong deserved the luck that brought him such great friends in a family of immigrant Jewish people in New Orleans. And Kimmel tells the story with verve, distilling history, racism, bullies, humor, adventure, triumph, and a helpful author's note & glossary. Highly recommended to all families and school & public libraries.

message 22: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "A Horn for Louis by Eric A. Kimmel

A Horn for Louis by Eric A. Kimmel

Kimmel doesn't just adapt folk tales into picture books. This is a short tale of a pivotal perio..."

Sounds excellent!

message 23: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Imagine the Girl in the Painting: Stories of Girls in Art You can look inside on Amazon and see the artist biographies and some of the paintings used in the book. They didn't include all the ones in the magazines but it looks like they may have added others, or the one shown on Amazon is the one issue of the magazine I'm missing.

message 24: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
My library is closed except for curbside again, but they're offering Book Bundle service. So I asked for a bundle of assorted children's materials about Art and Artists. A very nice mix, including two instructional DVDs that look interesting, and worth mentioning here just for fun:

They're both published by North Light (or artistsnetwork?) (I don't know how to read credits/ data on DVDs). One is "Colored Pencil Workshop" with Gary Greene, and the other is "Landscapes in Living Color: Paints in Watercolor" with Stephen Quiller. They're both just shy of an hour, and look very appealing if you're into trying new media.

message 25: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (last edited Sep 15, 2020 11:51AM) (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Several of the books are easier picturebooks so I'll be reviewing them in the other Club this month, but I'll be reading
Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art,
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,
Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids Inspired by Artists at The Museum of Modern Art,
and Kenya's Art
for this club... hope I remember to come back with comments but anyway my reviews for them should be avl. in a few days. Also hope I remember to post about the last two in threads we've had about recycling and crafting!

message 26: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "My library is closed except for curbside again, but they're offering Book Bundle service. So I asked for a bundle of assorted children's materials about Art and Artists. A very nice mix, including ..."

Those sound very nice, Cheryl. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad the bundle was worthwhile!

message 27: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Glad to learn of the man and his work. What a moving set of quotations were used in the illustrations. And the fact that he shook hands with a white man and got his own show were awesome to learn about. Lots of enriching supplementary material including a photo of him and images of some of his most significant works on the last endpapers.

Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art
Wonderful. I love that the story is engaging; the layout of the biographical pages brings Cole's milestones, and inner spirit, to life. Several images of some of his most significant works are included... my favorite is the five-part "Course of Empire" series. A fairly brief book, but concisely and gracefully packed with information & insight.

The only other thing I'd consider wishing for is a bit more history of the era and some 'further reading' and/or other supplementary information. But really, this is a gem unto itself.

message 28: by Manybooks (last edited Sep 17, 2020 08:45AM) (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
I have a question. Does anyone know if there are any picture book biographies etc. that deal not with the artists but with the models the artists were using? For while of course most readers are primarily interested in the artists themselves, the models also have interesting stories and especially with the Impressionists, their female models often were the respective painters’ wives or mistresses.

message 29: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Hm. Sounds like a 'mature' subject for the picture book audience, at least in general. Maybe if we think about the artists who had a "muse" instead of a model/ mistress. After all, weren't most models almost anonymous, and not enough would be known about them to support a book?

Seems to me I did read something about a muse recently... oh, nevermind, it was in adult fiction, Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance. But thinking about it, the context & that part of the story could have been written at picture-book level.

Anyway, why do you ask? Do you have any names of models that we could just Google search?

message 30: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 1886 comments Not a picture book, no. Marie, Dancing is a YA novel about Degas's model for his little dancer sculpture.

message 31: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "Hm. Sounds like a 'mature' subject for the picture book audience, at least in general. Maybe if we think about the artists who had a "muse" instead of a model/ mistress. After all, weren't most mod..."

I am just also interested in the models the artists had pose for them.

message 32: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Kenya's Art is actually more of fiction story book, accessible to pre-schoolers through age 11 or so if used in a classroom.

Another book that emphasizes the 'artistic' merit of projects kids can do is Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids Inspired by Artists at The Museum of Modern Art.

If you don't like modern art, you might at least learn to appreciate what point the artist was making or why s/he produced the piece(s) represented here. I have trouble appreciating anything non-representational or avant-garde unless I see it in person, but this book helps.

More importantly, kids without preconceived notions of what kinds of art they like can have fun trying these projects. They're relatively easy to do, and the contents page has them sorted by what kind of thing the user might want to do.

Very cool book. Best for art rooms (do any public elementary schools have these anymore?) or families that already do some crafting, that at least own a pair of scissors and a glue stick. Not so much for regular classrooms. I enjoyed the concept and presentation, but as an adult w/out children at home I won't be trying any of the projects.

(I do have to say though that I liked learning that Kahlo gifted a friend with a self-portrait + a mirror, so they could be together in the friend's home even when apart. ;)

Cross-posting to three threads here.

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Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Christmas Remembered by Tomie dePaola
Christmas Remembered by Tomie dePaola
Tomie reminisces about 15 different Christmases throughout his life, from his childhood, to his teen years, to his young adult years, to his mature years. The reminiscences are accompanied by his signature artwork in double-page spreads, full page, and smaller decorations. A couple of his more unique Christmas memories were from his time as a monk in a Benedictine monastery; and the year he spent Christmas in Santa Fe, New Mexico with friends. In each memory, he tells how artwork (his own or others) was an important part of the celebration. This would be a great book for a family to share at Christmas.

message 34: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2502 comments Mod
Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Show and Tell Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Evans showcases the artwork of 12 well-known children's book illustrators: Hilary Knight, Trina Schart Hyman, Bryan Collier, Paul O. Zelinsky, David Wiesner, Betsy Lewin, Harry Bliss, David Shannon, Petra Mathers, Brian Selznick, Denise Fleming, and Lane Smith. For each one, Evans tells a bit about their childhood, the artists who influenced them, how they got into children's book illustration, and details about their artwork, using several of their published works for examples. Image credits and a detailed index round out this resource.

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Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod

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Kathryn | 6014 comments Mod
Beverly wrote: "Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
[bookcover:Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration|..."

That sounds great!

message 37: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Wilson (kellysclassroomonline) | 23 comments I've always been partial to The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla. The main character Gregory uses art as a way to manage his feelings and cope with some pretty crappy things happening to him.
The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla

Kelly Wilson
Teacher / Blogger

message 38: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "I've always been partial to The Chalk Box Kid by Clyde Robert Bulla. The main character Gregory uses art as a way to manage his feelings and cope with some pretty crappy things happen..."

Oh, yes, thank you for bringing this up. Bulla is less well-known than he should be, and this book needs to go on my to reread list.

message 39: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
A librarian pointed out to me that Bob Raczka not only has poetry collections, but has several books that bring art to life for young children. I only had a chance to glance through them, but they sure look intriguing. For example, More Than Meets The Eye Seeing Art With All 5 Senses and Unlikely Pairs: Fun with Famous Works of Art and The Vermeer Interviews: Conversations with Seven Works of Art, etc.

message 40: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 7886 comments Mod
Although The Many Ways of Seeing: An Introduction to the Pleasures of Art (which we are discussing this month in the Newbery Club) is in my opinion more suitable for adults than for children, I am still going to list it here, as it thematically fits.

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Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6470 comments Mod
Thanks - I was just about to do this!

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