Tag Archives: Art

Numbers, or is it art?

One, three, forty, eighty, one hundred. This Numbers book by artist Paul Thurlby might be ‘simply’ a children’s picture book to teach them numbers.

Paul Thurlby, Numbers

But I don’t think so. It’s art. The adult in me could – almost – be willing to tear the pages out and frame them. Luckily I have no wall space left.

Most books that teach young children numbers go to ten. This one goes to one hundred, by doing one to ten and then the tens up to a hundred. (So you get more for your money…)

Paul Thurlby, Numbers

There is nothing average about these pictures. Take four, for instance. You get the Beatles, the Fab Four, no less. (I just have to tear that one out!)

I know nothing about retro-modern Paul, but it seems he’s also responsible for Alphabet, and I bet that’s wonderful to look at, too.

You don’t need a child for this book.

Katie and the Impressionists

I suspect Grandma. Too much funny business happens when Katie is with her. This time it’s her birthday, and Katie wants to find some flowers for Grandma. Where better than in a work of art?

James Mayhew, Katie and the Impressionists

I can’t think of a more fun way of introducing young readers to classical art than to show them James Mayhew’s books. They will learn without even realising.

In this book Katie jumps in and out of Impressionist paintings, covering quite a few famous works of art. I wish I’d known it was possible to do this, back when I used to return to the Courtauld Insititute every time I was in London. Those were the days!

It’s so interesting the way James can shape an actual story out of several paintings, making a coherent plot as Katie falls in and out of masterpieces. The last tiny picture is really very clever indeed.

Happy New Bear

We all – well, most of us – have, or have had, a bear in our lives.

In Something About a Bear Jackie Morris uses her customary fabulous art to tell the reader about bears. It’s not so much a picture book as art, really. (With a bit of reference on the side.)

On eight double spreads, Jackie introduces the reader to eight different wild bears, shown in what I take to be their natural habitats. And at the end of the book she has written eight short paragraphs of facts about these beautiful creatures.

But as she so rightly points out, we generally have a bear that is most special to us; our very own teddy bear. That is the best bear of all.

Jackie Morris, Something About a Bear

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

Dragon at the Scottish Storytelling Centre

Roy Gill

I should have known. I was reading Lari Don’s book on the train to Edinburgh yesterday, and it features a boy called Roy (which is a less common name than you’d think). Clearly it was there to warn me that within a few hours I would behave really rudely towards another Roy (Gill) in a way that can best be described as that unpleasant way older women say things. I shall henceforth strive for young age and better judgement, not to mention hearing. Possibly thinking before I speak.

Anyway, I’ll blame it on Kirkland ‘Him Again’ Ciccone. It’s the accent. It gets me every time.

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

Dragons, Selkies and Fairy Princes

So, there we all were, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, to admire the art by three young illustrators, who have made fantastic pictures which accompany three traditional stories by Theresa Breslin (The Dragon Stoorworm), Lari Don (The Tale of Tam Linn) and Janis Mackay (The Selkie Girl), published by Floris. The exhibition will be on from today until the 24th January next year. Do go and see it, and have some tea in the café, which I’ve been assured is lovely. I’ll be trying it myself one of these days.

Lindsey Fraser and Kathryn Ross

The ‘usual’ lot of Edinburgh literary people were present. The further west you came from, the less likely you’d be to have managed to get there, seeing as we were blessed with a bit of a storm. Not so much that the ferris wheel stopped for long, but enough to flood things and prevent certain people from travelling. Kirkie even checked with me to see if I thought we’d be unable to go, but the Resident IT Consultant could foresee no problems.

Matthew Land and Theresa Breslin

Speeches were made, and crisps were eaten, washed down with wine and juice. Theresa talked about her story while her illustrator Matthew Land told us about how he went about doing the pictures. Apparently a green dragon against the green hills was, well, too green. The dragon is now red.

Lari Don and Philip Longson

Lari wanted to thank people involved in making the books, including one person who she said she didn’t know what they did, but still. Her illustrator Philip Longson was saying how he’s not used to being with people or make public speeches. Illustrators sit on their own, working quietly.

Janis Mackay

Janis is the kind of woman who has seals born in her garden. She also made sure that us short ones at the back could see a little, by making the crowd part down the middle. Her illustrator, Ruchi Mhasane, was home in India, and had sent a message, which Janis read out.

Janis Mackay

Then there was signing and pictures were bought as well as books. With my distinct lack of wall space I merely looked and admired, but I could tell that other, less afflicted, people were buying some nice prints for Christmas.

Theresa Breslin's shoes

After admiring Theresa’s shoes (New ones, again! Why Mr B doesn’t put his foot down, I don’t know. He, in turn, wore one of his very fetching ties, and I told him about the wooden ties I’d just seen in the Christmas market.) I decided it was time for tired witches to go home, before more feathers were ruffled.

Kirkland Ciccone and Roy Gill

Kirkie decided he’d walk me to the station, only to discover – to his horror – that he had to travel on the same train. That should teach him. (It was raining, so he had to stuff his faux leopard into a carrier bag, floppy ears and everything.) He really wanted fish and chips, but all I had was humble pie, so he had to starve. That’s Kirkie, not the leopard. There was no Irn-Bru, either. I did offer my tale of not going to Linlithgow, however, so there was something.

James Mayhew at the Scottish National Gallery

Or was he?

Someone didn’t seem to think so. When I got to the foyer of the Scottish National Gallery on Thursday, I thought I’d save myself some time by not wandering aimlessly through the whole place, searching for the James Mayhew exhibition. I knew it was on (until 1st March), and I’d read the press release and everything. But the greeter by the door had not heard of James and looked at me pityingly, as it was clear I’d come for the wrong thing. I insisted. She leafed through their current brochure, and when I saw Grandma on the back of Nessie, in the doorway of the gallery, I stabbed my finger at the picture and said ‘that’s what I mean.’ ‘Oh, that one,’ she said. She knew where it was. (Garden level, next to the café, the shop and the toilets. Very convenient.)

It was lovely! Small, but perfect.

There were framed illustrations from several of James’s books, and they had his real sketchbooks on display, to show us how a book is born. Seems there is a lot more work than just sitting down to draw pretty pictures. Very interesting, very professional.

James Mayhew - dummy book 1985 slide 2

I’m the type of gallery visitor who tends to avoid the video shows, but in this case I was happy to make an exception, even wearing headphones and sitting down to my ten minutes with James.

He paints upside down. That’s so clever. He had been filmed talking to a group of children, and he drew as he talked, making it the right way round for his audience. It was some tall story about his Uncle Henry and the pirates from Treasure Island. As if that could be real! And who’s to say that the real shark’s lens he had in a box was a real shark’s lens..? Hmm?

They have a reading corner, with a couple of nice rattan chairs and samples of James’s books to read.

I went and had some tea in the café, and then I returned to look at the exhibition once more.

A James Mayhew van Gogh, with Katie

You know, were it not for a distinct lack of wall space, I could see myself having a real Mayhew van Gogh or Turner (or Monet or Renoir) on my wall at Bookwitch Towers. Anyone who believes that picture book illustrators are merely people who can do passable and childish pictures of small children and dinosaurs, need to get better acquainted with James Mayhew (yes, he does exist) and his books. He’s proof that you need to be a pretty capable all-rounder in order to make those ‘simple little illustrations’ in children’s books.

(Naughty Saint George! Forgetting everything for Mona Lisa…)

Papa Chagall

I knew less about Marc Chagall than I wanted to admit. Sometimes the names of these big artists just blend together and you know they are great, but who painted what, exactly?

Now I know, because I have been properly introduced to Marc Chagall and his paintings and his life story, all in one fell swoop through the medium of a children’s picture book. They are often the best.

In Tell Us a Story, Papa Chagall, Laurence Anholt paints pictures of Chagall and of his paintings, with ‘real’ paintings used every now and then to illustrate parts of Chagall’s life. They are truly weird, but very appealing in a childish kind of way. What’s not to like about beautiful women and flying cows? In the same painting.

Laurence Anholt, Papa Chagall

His grandchildren come and see the great artist in his studio, and like children do, they insist on being told a story. And he tells them about his life, about his childhood in Russia, about how he met their grandmother and what happened in the war (WWII).

They are touching stories, and help you understand him and sympathise with how his life turned out. But no matter how hard it was, Papa Chagall has time for his grandchildren, and time for one more story.

Rather wonderful.

Bone Quill

This second instalment in the Barrowman siblings’ trilogy about escaping into art, takes the reader places they won’t be expecting. At least, I didn’t.

More fun than book one, because we know who’s who and what people can do and why. Twins Em and Matt are confident in their ‘draw a picture and disappear into it’ abilities. They know their friends, and they know who their enemies are. Admittedly, their mum has disappeared, probably into a painting. But they’ll find her.

And for hopeless people like me, there is a very useful – and blissfully short – reminder of what happened in Hollow Earth.

John and Carole E Barrowman, Bone Quill

Matt is more hot-headed and does things without thinking for as long as he ought to. But both children, along with their friend Zach want to put things right. And that does not include unbinding the twins’ dad, who has the wrong kind of ideas about stuff.

This time their art travel has another dimension added, and they do find a few unexpected people. We see more of the monks in the Middle Ages. They are all more closely connected than we previously thought.

It took me a while, but I began to see roughly how this book must end. There is a cliffhanger, but it involves warm fruit scones, so all is not lost.

No reader will want to stop here. While we enjoy our scones, we expect John and Carole to get on with the happy ending.