Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life
by Elizabeth K. Wallace and James D. Wallace
(Beaufort Books, 2016, 250 pages)
Garth Williams, American Illustrator: A Life written by Elizabeth K. Wallace and James D. Wallace is a biography of the famous children’s book illustrator, Garth Williams. Garth Williams was born in New York City in 1912, but moved to England with his mother during his school years. His father was an artist, but was not around during most of his younger years. Garth Williams is an interesting man. Over the course of his life he had 4 wives, 6 children, and moved several times with his final stop being Guanajuato, Mexico.
At the beginning of his career, Garth Williams thought that he would illustrate children’s books to earn enough income to become a serious artist. Those children’s book illustrations not only provided an income, but made him internationally famous. Williams illustrated such famous classics as Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, The Cricket in Times Square, and The Little House on the Prairie series.
At the beginning of the book, the authors explain that it would be difficult to cover Williams’ life in chronological order. The book does some jumping back and forth and is a little repetitious. I found it a little distracting. However, the life and works of Garth Williams is interesting and worth a read.
A Complex Delight: The Secularization of the Breast, 1350-1750 by Margaret R. Miles
(University of California Press, 2008, 196 pages)
This is an interdisciplinary study of early modern European depictions of the breast. Miles charts the changing contexts of these images from their place in religious art to representations of the breast in medical and pornographic literature of the early modern era. Miles tells a story about the secularization of Europe through a historical and theological study of religious, anatomical, and erotic images. This book should be helpful to those with interests in art history or theology.
Sense and Spirituality: The Arts and Spiritual Formation by James McCullough
(Cascade Books, 2015, 146 pages)
This book is an exploration of the way that the arts can play a part in spiritual formation. McCullough uses diverse examples of modern and contemporary art, including the poetry of T. S. Eliot, the paintings of Makoto Fujimura, and the compositions of James MacMillan. If you’re interested in theology and aesthetics, this is a great book to pick up.
Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture-Book Teams Go to Work by Leonard S. Marcus
(Walker Books for Young Readers, 2001, 64 pages)
Side by Side looks at five different picture book teams who have worked together to create successful picture book collaborations. Each of the teams highlighted came into their working relationship in different ways and it was interesting to read about how they worked together. Prior to reading this I hadn’t realized that a lot of the time authors and illustrators don’t know each other in advance. Publishers will often read an author’s work and then reach out to an illustrator that they think would be the best fit for the feel of the story.
This book was interesting to me as a parent, picture book lover, and librarian, but it’s also accessible to younger readers who may have an interest in writing or illustrating children’s books.
A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard S. Marcus
(Walker Childrens, 2008, 64 pages)
I’ve always had a deep appreciation and love for picture books. This feeling has only intensified now that I have a young daughter who I’m eager to expose to new and classic titles. In my desire to gain a better understanding of what goes into making a picture book a success I’ve gone searching for titles that can speak directly to that – which introduced me to the work of Leonard S. Marcus. Marcus is essentially my go-to guy for all things related to picture books.
I read the second edition of A Caldecott Celebration which was published to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Caldecott medal. It highlights seven winners of the award (one for each decade) and looks at the process and inspiration that led them to create the books worthy of winning the medal. The illustrators highlighted in this title are: Robert McCloskey, Marcia Brown, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, and Mordicai Gerstein.
I came away from this book with a greater understanding and appreciation for the depth and consideration that goes into visualizing and creating the feel of a picture book. I’ll certainly be reading more of Marcus’s work… and spending a fair amount of my free time perusing picture books that catch my eye. It’s so easy to get caught up in them!
Vincent by Barbara Stok; translated by Laura Watkinson
(SelfMadeHero, 2014, 141 pages)
This graphic novel covers the final and most productive few years in the life of Vincent van Gogh. It depicts van Gogh in the countryside of Arles in southern France, frantically producing landscapes and trying to start an artist’s commune with Paul Gauguin. Unable to sell his work, van Gogh is supported financially and emotionally by his brother during this period, and Stok gives us a window into this patron/artist relationship through the letters they exchanged.
Stok’s artwork is simply rendered, and the colors are vibrant. She effectively portrays van Gogh’s frenetic energy as his creativity explodes and his mental health deteriorates. The dialogue communicates the essential points of van Gogh’s biography and artistic vision without becoming overly expository. I really enjoyed this quick read, and the final panels are particularly beautiful and moving.
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
(First Second, 2015, 487 pages)
If you’re a fan of graphic novels and comics you’re probably familiar with Scott McCloud and his classic book Understanding Comics. When it was revealed that he had a new graphic novel coming out this year people got pretty excited. After I finished reading it this weekend it was easy to see why. Despite it’s size this was a book I got through in just a couple days and I really enjoyed my time in the story McCloud crafted.
David Smith is a young sculptor in New York. He made a name for himself early but then lost favor in the art world after making the poor decision of bad-mouthing his patron. Struggling to make ends meet David isn’t sure how he’s going to survive and it’s at this point that he expresses he’d be willing to give his life for his art. “Luckily” for him, this is a deal he’s able to make. Now he has 200 days and the ability to mold any material with his bare hands to create and display his art. Once the 200 days are up, so is David’s time on this earth.
After making this agreement David meets a young woman named Meg. Her outlook on life is open and inspiring and David falls in love with her almost instantly. Now he is faced with the dilemma of how best to spend the days he has left – creating the art he feels called to create or relishing in the presence of the woman who has changed his life.
The Sculptor grabbed me quickly. Not only did I appreciate the story but I appreciated McCloud’s artistic approach with this graphic novel. Knowing how he approaches his craft really encourages you to pay that much more attention to the graphic elements in the book.