Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hunger for Hand-Drawn Art

Children’s book illustrator Shirley Hughes, in her memoir A Life Drawing, reflects on the importance of book illustrations in the lives of young people growing up without much other hand-drawn art around them:

“It may be that picture books offer the only drawn imagery that some children will really come to grips with. They have such good visual memories, far better than most adults. It may be someone’s only glimpse of the work of someone’s hand.”


Erik Bongers said...

That's an interesting thought.
We know we have to learn children at the earliest age possible the taste of 'real' food like fresh fruit and vegetables.
The longer you wait, the more difficult it will get...

So what about 'brain food' or specifically 'visual food'?

Are hand drawn images 'fresh visual food'?

What about making a drawing deliberately look more 'hand drawn'?
E.g. by showing the underlying pencil drawing, the brush strokes, the texture of the paper/canvas?
Yeah, I know JG does all that, but generally: can we/should we teach children to appreciate the physical tactile aspects of art?

Little anecdote: my father once gave some people a pen/ink drawing. Afterwards he heard that they were a bit disappointed that he 'hadn't erased the pencil drawing underneath'.

James Gurney said...

By hand-drawn art, I'm guessing she just means a drawing, watercolor, or oil painting that gives some idea that it was made by a human--as opposed to a photograph, a wallpaper design, a digital rendering, or a video. Her own work has a wonderful sketchbook freshness, but I don't think she's advocating sketchiness for its own sake.

She also makes the point that people shouldn't err in the opposite direction and ONLY surround children with children's art. She has visited a lot of school classrooms where there is only kid art and no artwork by adults.

I think kids should see not only Rembrandt, Rockwell, and Escher, but also drawings by teachers or other adults in their life who draw for fun.

I'm told that in Russia, children are exposed early on to large, high quality reproductions of great Russian landscape paintings, which not only awakens their love of art, but also of nature.

Beck said...

I, wholeheartedly, agree with your sentiments here. I'd like to bring to your attention the "Babybug" and "Ladybug" kid's books that are sold monthly. My kids (5 and 2) can recognize different mediums used to create the illustrations. I LOVE looking at the illustrations myself. I especially love the imperfect ones. I guess because it makes one realize it was done by hand and not a computer.

Stories are also fabulous.

David Still said...

A lot of my favorite artists from history were really good already at young age. I don't think that was only because they had a lot of talent, but because of the culture back then. I think learning to draw was much more important before, even if you weren't going to be an artist. What of the next generation of exposed to a lot of art and art training from a young age? What wonderous pieces of art will we see then?

Erik Bongers said...

Ah, yes.
"Childish drawings for children, grown up drawings for grown-ups".
A very persistent tendency indeed.

I believe there are about 4 filters that a children's book must pass before it reaches the final destination - the child.
1. The author that may have his/her own presumptions about what a child likes/needes.
2. The publisher, obviously.
3. The bookstore's 'buyer'.
4. The parents/adults.

I probably said this before, but I'm uncomfortable with the fact that a book can be recognized as a children's book from miles away.
It's a symptom that too much filtering has been going on.

Michael said...

I think it's important to support children's books with hand-drawn illustrations as there is a lot of competition from the mega-franchises out there. Our kids love Bob the Builder and Thomas the Tank Engine but most of the illustrations in those books are just stills from the TV shows (not that the people who make all those model trains for Thomas don't do a lot of hard work).

Some of my personal favourites (as someone who gets to read a lot of stories to small children) include Benedict Blathwayt's Little Red Train series - incredible rich detail in every picture - and Graham Oakley's Church Mice series - again lots of detail, with some pretty barbed social commentary hidden away for the adults.

Tanja said...

I still remember when I was a tot, spending hours laying on my stomach on the floor in the corner behind my father's large chair, slowly turning page by page the fascinating book of Audubon bird paintings. :)