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What could you learn from a favorite artist this week? That’s what we’re talking about for this week’s Creative Play Challenge prompt.
If I were to ask you who your favorite artist is, what would you say? Does someone immediately come to mind? Are there several artists that vie for your attention?
For this week’s prompt, we’re going to learn from a favorite artist. You can choose the artist; I’ll supply the prompts.
Learn from a Favorite Artist
Gather several images together of your artist’s work. (You can also use Google images to search.) Now look through them. What catches your eye? Are there themes that you particularly like? What is it about this artist that makes them your favorite (or one of your favorites)?
Write these thoughts down. This is the beginning of your investigation.
Now take it a step further and ask yourself how you could incorporate some of your favorite artist’s style into your own work. We’re not talking about copying here, but for instance, if your artist uses a lot of red, maybe you could add a splash of red to your projects this week and see where it takes you.
Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged at this step. If your reason for liking this artist is because their art is more skillfully produced than yours, think about what steps you could take to increase your own skills. Do you want to draw more lifelike? Do you need to learn how to mix your own colors so you can produce a rich palette like your artist?
You could also explore the themes your artist is known for this week through journaling, collaging, art-journaling, or whatever it is you do to create!
I personally am drawn to (no pun intended) illustrator art, particularly illustrators of children’s books. I’m not ashamed to say I had quite a collection of favorite children’s books well before I even had my daughter.
For my artist this week, I chose Melissa Sweet, who has illustrated everything from children’s puzzles to board books to her latest, a biography on E.B. White. She uses sketches, watercolor, found objects, and collage to create her illustrations.
I first discovered her when I bought the book, The Boy Who Drew Birds, about John James Audubon. The story itself was fascinating, and I loved how she added little details like the silver thread in the image below to show how he tied a tiny thread onto a baby bird’s leg (to see if they migrated.) She literally drew the spool, wrapped thread around it, and then photographed it along with the drawn bird’s leg. Brilliant.
Another favorite is A Splash of Red about the artist, Horace Pippin. I had never heard of his work before and regret that since he was an amazing person. Through the image below I was reminded that showing the process of my work (or the illustrated person’s life) is just as important as the finished result.
Here’s a great image that depicts a quote from Horace. I like how she tucks in pieces of grade school writing paper in the collage. Have you ever illustrated a quote? What images come to your mind when you think of each word? Pull out your art journal, and go for it!
This next book is from A River of Words, about William Carlos Williams, the poet. His story particularly moved me because he was a full-time doctor throughout his life and wrote poems in the evenings. In this illustration, Sweet uses an actual book to draw one of the birds and leaves onto it. This reminded me I can illustrate on anything, and to be careful to not constrict myself to an, “I must have a special sketchbook in order to draw” mentality.
We received The Right Word for Christmas one year (my sisters know my love for books), and this particular spread shows how a bit of shading can make it look like the illustration is popping off the page. Also, I like the use of lots of different kinds of paper scraps. (This book is about Roget and his thesaurus, and it won a Caldecott for illustration.)
Finally, I’ve been perusing the pages of her latest book, Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White. The image below is the from the end papers. I can’t get over it. There’s the painted egg shell, the wooden something she found, a painting on the interior of a book cover, and all the pieces of quotes and words, many of them (if not all?) from the book itself. Beautiful.
My takeaway from this week is to definitely keep up with my art journal in a book, but to also take a moment to add other elements to those pages as well. I love collage but haven’t used it in my one work for a long time for some reason. Time to reintroduce it.
I hope this week is a rich one of discovering and learning more about your favorite artist. And by all means, if this initial exploration is not enough for you, keep on going with it. The more you learn, the better!