February 19, 2020

Bible Prayers: The prayer-song of Miriam

Bible Prayers: The prayer-song of Miriam: In this Bible prayer, Moses’ sister Miriam not only praises God for freeing the Hebrews from slavery, she encourages the people to do the same.

February 6, 2020

Poetry Editor: The Poetry of Biblical Prophets

Poetry Editor: The Poetry of Biblical Prophets: [Note: This post originally appeared on Interlitq as Poets Who Make Us Better: the Prophets .]  

Some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible can be found in Isaiah and other prophetic books.

February 1, 2020

January 28, 2020

January 24, 2020

Illustrators draw on words and the world


Attending a private art school didn’t work out for me but state college did, so I changed my goals – from illustrating books to writing them. Many years and a few dozen books later, I began searching for “free art courses” and “classes in illustration” on the Internet where I found a wealth of colorful resources in videos and websites that described the many choices of mediums and demonstrated the many methods of drawing and painting.

During this search, I became aware of the Illustrators Annual 2019, published each year by Chronicle Books, who kindly sent me a copy to review. This large paperback book provides page after page of colored and black & white art with, as it says, “A Global Gaze on Illustration.

To take in that global gaze, five art experts from as many countries met a year ago “to examine the 14,505 illustrations – made by 2,901 illustrators from 62 different countries – who…submitted work… for the Illustrators Exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.” That “world in a room” gradually narrowed down to 76 artists whose work subsequently appeared in the Illustrators Annual.

These illustrations from around the world draw us into experiences and perspectives both familiar and unfamiliar, but whether a view reflects our own or differs from anything we have known, this variety of artistic expression increases our understanding of other people and expands our conceptual view of art.

As it turns out, the Illustrators Annual also encouraged me personally! Of all the artists considered, the person the jury chose to illustrate the cover of the 2019 annual did not go to art school. Instead, Igor Oleynikov graduated from the Moscow Institute of Chemical Engineering and briefly worked in that field before turning to art.

In the interview with him that begins the book, the artist was asked, “Do you think not having a formal artistic education has been a problem at some point in your career?” After answering “Yes,” and discussing that briefly, he went on to say, “No one has imposed his views about illustration on me; no one has tried to tell me how to draw and how not to draw.” Although Igor found teachers for whom he’s grateful, he also appreciates having “some freedom in my approach to illustration.” Apparently, this has worked for him well as he has since been invited to illustrate over 80 books for publishers around the globe.

Also in globally diverse places, the art from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair goes on exhibit, but with the Illustrators Annual we can see these illustrations, too, and how diverse they are – not only in style and themes, but the choices of materials used.

Throughout the book, textual notes identify those materials, which include pen, ink, colored pencil, markers, gouache, oil pastels, acrylics, crayons, watercolor, digital media, silk screen, stencil, and even embroidery.

Despite the wide range of art supplies, a quick flip-through of the book did not impress me! I guess I expected “pretty pictures” like those I grew up with but, instead, found a few illustrations that appeared to be no more than a child’s drawing or a badly smudged sketch!

Slowing down, I began to see the creativity displayed, but the interview with each of the five jurors opened my eyes much wider. For example, the interview with Maciej Byliniak in the “Juror Point of View” offered these insights:

If I had to choose the most universal quality I would say now that such an illustration should present itself as a work of an artist who masters his or her own visual language. Some of these languages may appeal to us more or less, depending on our aesthetical preferences. But if an artist can make the most of the language he or she decided to work with, it is a quality that cannot be neglected.

The same could be said, of course, for poets, writers, musicians, singers, and other creative people. In another “Juror Point of View,” Diego Bianchi Cblanki offered these words that will encourage those of us who haven’t had formal art training:

It doesn’t matter if it (the illustration) is technically excellent, because it also has to transmit, communicate and develop a theme in a clear way. You seldom linger over works that do not respond to these conditions.

In yet another “Juror Point of View, “Harriet Van Reek had this to say:

There are a lot of different qualities I can name, but an important quality for me is, that the image or images, are ‘open.’ That there is enough space for the viewer to get into the drawings, that the images stimulate the viewer to use her or his own imagination. Another quality I look for is the illustrator’s ability to develop individuality, a characteristic style, and the freedom in expressing her or his ideas.

Her remarks equally apply to poets and writers who need to be more focused and concise, rather than wordy. Then, juror Alessandro Sanna had this point of view, which could also be applied to writing, especially fiction:

The illustration that convinces me is one that carries with it a past and a present time. From the single image, you can get a glimpse of what came before and what came after. A good illustration should involve all the senses and also have strong energy that urges to seek it out even when it is not there before your eyes.

Juror Beatrice Vincent brought earlier comments together by saying:

“…an illustration should first of all be technically very solid, whether it is made with traditional or digital methods. Then it has to have a meaning, to tell a story, not just in a sequence of five images but also on its own, because every image should be legible individually, outside the narration into which it is inserted. It should also be original, bearing witness to the personal style of its maker.” She then disclosed this valuable criteria that all artists – visual, musical, or literary – do well to consider:

At the beginning, we discarded the works that were copied from others, or whose influences were too clearly visible. In the end comes the most subjective part, that of personal taste and emotions. I believe a good image should surprise us and shake us up a bit.”

The book closes with an interview of Seymour Chwast, who served as a juror almost twenty years ago and is well-known in the field of American illustration and graphic design. Having created over thirty books for children, he gave this helpful glimpse into his process:

I map out (design on paper) the entire book before I consider the illustration. I determine the page size, type size and position. I might review formats for other children’s books. When that is done I establish the illustrations.

That’s good to know, especially for those of us who are just starting to illustrate our own work or who are considering self-publishing. 

But why would any artist-writer want to go to the trouble of learning techniques, experimenting with all sorts of art supplies, or having to stress over things like fonts and layouts? Why would I? As Seymour said:

My desire is fueled by a need to prove self-worth and to affect, in a small way, the lives of children. However, I discovered that I need children more than they need me.







Bible Prayers: The prayer-song of Miriam

Bible Prayers: The prayer-song of Miriam : In this Bible prayer,  Moses’ sister Miriam not only praises God for freeing the Hebrews from sla...