I am not quite sure what hit me the other day, but I wandered off to the local library to look at kids’ books.
Where I live, we are fortunate to have a well-run, financially sound (so it seems) library system. There are about 130 K people here, and only two libraries to serve the population, but both libraries are well-designed, light, airy, and busy. Busy meaning there are kids and teenagers and adults, as well as scheduled activities, such as lectures and movies.
The children’s section of the library is separate from the adult. There are sections for young adult, for research, for youngish readers (8-12?), and for non-readers and beginners. The shelves are the right height for kids, and topped with books and displays to catch the eye.
Okay, so what does this have to do with drawing? A lot! Good illustrations add so much to a story, for both children and adults. Textbooks without illustrations are unattractive. Color adds more. And children’s books need pictures – just like Alice said, “What is the use of a book if there are no pictures?”
Yeah, there is a lot of use for pictureless books – but they are even more useful with illustrations.
So, here I am, wandering through the children’s section, looking at this book and that. Most books had written words with pictures to illustrate them. And then I came across Clown by Quentin Blake. Blake is the illustrator for many of Roald Dahl’s books (you know, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Clown is a story without words, only pictures. I had a few good laughs as I “read” the book, and totally enjoyed the illustrations.
Blake is the master of light mood, caught with pen and watercolor. A loose style that, nonetheless, is filled with details. When the clown wriggles out of the garbage can, you have to look to see it happening – but you do! When I looked again and again, so many things showed up.
Then I looked at more of his books. Cockatoos had me laughing out loud. Illustrations and story worked so well together – I loved to see all the cockatoos hiding, and I loved the last line in the story.
I blither about art, and drawing, and writing, a lot. The mental arguments are strange and annoying. I put up barriers and fill time with meaningless twaddle when I could be out doing something. I have fought with myself over and over again about my “style” in the painted, colored, drawn world. It was never technically accurate or realistic enough. I am confident about my writing style – academically, I can crank out papers at an appalling rate – but with drawing, I drag my feet, tormenting myself with my perceived failures and inabilities.
The light bulb went on with Clown. I love that loose, fun style. Is it “art”? Probably not – but why should that matter? If it brings pleasure and communicates, I guess that is definition enough.
Yesterday, I took out my own pen and ink and began to doodle. I didn’t care what I drew. My imagine was allowed to play without rules.
How I love paper and pencil and ink!