The Bird King

and other sketches. How to review a book on art?

Shaun Tan’s Bird King book is so beautiful that I’d like to tear it to pieces. And then I’d frame the pages and hang them on my walls. But I can’t really do that. Can I?

Many of the pictures are well known, because they come from Shaun’s other books. Or they are sketches for those books, or for his film work. Sketches are interesting things. I’ve never understood how artists can make sketches not to be used, and then reproduce what they sketched for the ‘real’ piece. For me it would be luck if something turned out well. You can’t hope to have it happen again.

But it seems you can, if you’re a professional. Or even ‘just’ an artist. Someone who knows what they are doing.

For each of the ‘chapters’ of this book Shaun has written an introduction that explains how he thinks and how he works. For instance, he doesn’t feel that small sketches done on ordinary paper with a cheap biro belong in this book. But they are there, and just as interesting as the more ‘proper’ art. And I’m glad he mentioned sketches done in cheap biro, since I’ll be forever ashamed for having handed Shaun just that (cheap biro) when I asked him to sign this book for me. I suppose that makes it as much art as this whole book.

He has certainly ‘taken a line for a walk’ (Paul Klee) here. This book is full of the weird and wonderful world Shaun sees where the rest of us just don’t.

Perhaps if I buy a second copy, and rip it up?


3 responses to “The Bird King

  1. And WHERE are you going to hang all these images…??

  2. Uhmm. I do have a new room…

  3. I LOVE Shaun Tan. Haven’t heard of this one.

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