The Art of Picture Books at Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery
November 8, 2013 to January 31, 2014
The Arts Council of Greater New Haven invites you to The Art of Picture Books: Creative Process in Visual Storytelling . The exhibition will run from November 8, 2013, through January 31, 2014 with a book signing and artists’ reception on the evening of November 7, 2013. Eight award-winning children’s book artists from the New Haven area, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, have curated an exhibition of their work, with an eye toward revealing the fascinating process of creating original work for young readers. The exhibition features the work of Doe Boyle, Frank W. Dormer, Deborah Freedman, Lynn Reiser, Sanna Stanley, Marcela Staudenmaier, Jennifer Thermes, and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace.
In this exhibition, the eight diverse authors and illustrators, working in a variety of media, have pooled talents to showcase the many inventive ways that artists reach the imaginations of children. Each artist will present work that illuminates a single aspect of developing a picture book that creatively melds words and pictures into a seamless unit. Long a literary staple as well as a first introduction to the dramatic and engaging world of art, picture books are a memorable element of childhood, carefully designed to entertain and/or educate audiences of eager listeners and emergent readers. The creation of such a finely balanced work of art requires a particular magic, and these seven illustrators will unveil the precision and intuition that goes into every picture story.
Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, for instance, uses found and recycled materials to create the striking and colorful cut-paper collages that are the trademark of her nearly thirty picture books. Her portion of the exhibition invites viewers to look at swatches of her recycled materials and find them in her illustrations. Once-upon-a-time architect Deborah Freedman, who now builds new worlds in children’s books, will display works that showcase her drawing and watercolor techniques, used to fabulous effect in such early-childhood tales as Scribble (Knopf, 2007), Blue Chicken (Viking, 2011), and The Story of Fish and Snail (Viking, 2013). The secret to her success is a modern-day piece of equipment: a scanner, which she uses to combine separately created images done in pencil and watercolor. Old-school techniques can be found in the work of printmaker Sanna Stanley, who collected mental images of the Congo during her own childhood there. She will display the many-layered effects of the delicately etched and hand-painted chine collé prints she has made for such African tales as Monkey for Sale, Monkey Sunday (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), and The Rains Are Coming (Greenwillow).
To delightful effect in more than two dozen books that capture the essence of childhood, Lynn Reiser uses materials found in most households: Post-it Notes, Sharpie markers, Wite-Out, Scotch Magic tape, scissors, and watercolors. At the exhibition, visitors will see that, with these ubiquitous materials, Reiser can draw a puppy—lots of puppies—more charmingly than one might imagine is possible. Ordinary ink and watercolors are also the media of Frank Dormer, whose many books feature engaging characters that children can’t resist. Among his latest books is The Obstinate Pen (Henry Holt, 2012), which tells the tale of a decidedly extraordinary fountain pen that has a mind of its own. Jennifer Thermes, also the author of stories about such inanimate objects as a house and a pair of shoes, has recently illustrated the picture books The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! by Rebecca Rule; Helen Keller’s Best Friend Belle by Holly M. Barry; and There Are No Moose On This Island! by Stephanie Calmenson. Jennifer loves the variety of creating art in both black & white and color, using pencil and watercolor paint, and she intends to show how she relies on frequent re-sketching to develop her books. “Sketching is my way of problem-solving and thinking through the issues unique to each story,” says Thermes.
Marcela Staudenmaier, who spearheaded this exhibition, also begins with detailed pencil sketches, but then she cuts out all the elements of the composition from sheets of colored paper. She curls, bends, scores, folds, and overlaps these paper pieces to create the illusion of depth. When she is happy with the results, she glues down the pieces. Once this three-dimensional collage is ready, she takes a photo that becomes the final illustration.
In words and pictures mounted in the Sumner McKnight Crosby Gallery and on the corridor walls of the Arts Council, each illustrator will reveal the special balance that sets picture books apart from all other works of literature. A work-in-process from children’s book author Doe Boyle will also appear on these walls, revealing how writers choose every word in a manuscript with exacting precision, in hopes that a visual artist will bring the bare-bones text to life in surprising ways.
All picture-book readers–families, students, teachers, librarians, illustrators, and writers—are invited to attend the opening of the exhibition on Thursday, November 7, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Sumner McKnight Crosby, Jr. Gallery, 2nd floor, at 70 Audubon Street in New Haven. Refreshments will be served, and R. J. Julia Booksellers of Madison will provide books for sale; the illustrators will be happy to sign books. A limited number of original illustrations or prints may also be available for purchase. The exhibition will also be open to the public during regular office hours of the Council, from Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. No fee is charged to attend either the opening reception or to view the exhibit at any other time. Group visits can be arranged, by advance appointment, by calling the Arts Council at 203.772.2788.
Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery, a program of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, is located at the Arts Council offices at 70 Audubon Street, 2nd floor. The gallery features regional artists in group and thematic shows. Hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
If you would like to be considered for an exhibit at Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery, please send images, résumé and bio to: Arts Council of Greater New Haven, 70 Audubon Street, New Haven, CT 06510. For more information, call Debbie Hesse at 203-772-2788 or email dhesse [at] newhavenarts.org.