This year, we are doing artist studies in a way that highlights just one artist per school term… a new painting each week. In our home, it looks a lot like this. Anyway, to get my boys excited about art in general, I knew I had to introduce them to a very boyish, exciting artist first, before getting into things like Degas and the ballerinas. Enter N. C. Wyeth. He is an extremely prolific and wonderfully exciting artist for young boys (think pirates, cowboys and knights) and we had a lot of fun appreciating his work. The problem is that there exists very little literature that tells us about the artist himself in a child-friendly way, and no real compendium of his work in the picture book world. Or so I thought. I just discovered N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims which is an out of print (but readily and economically available used) story of Thanksgiving from the perspective of his happy paintings and cheerful characters (Wyeth was a consummate American, even if this meant overlooking some of the darker realities of the Thanksgiving story). We actually have a number of Thanksgiving books and weren’t necessarily looking for more– but this popped onto my radar just last week– and I had to buy it. Even if we have moved onto Rembrandt (to correlate with a visiting exhibit coming to the Seattle Art Museum soon), the boys were excited to peruse the book and see some more paintings by this artist, larger than the 4 x 6’s I’ve been pinning on our board. The story itself by Robert San Souci is fairly typical. But the art is classic, and the notes about Wyeth in the end are great. I’m surprised to not see it mentioned more often either in conjunction with artist studies, or with Thanksgiving itself.
Washington State has produced a couple great children’s book author/illustrators (including my very, very favorite, Doris Burns), with the latest being from Olympia– the excellent Nikki McClure. She is famous for her intricate, yet deceptively simple looking paper cut illustrations in her titles for very young children. Her first attempts at paper cut illustrations gave birth to a little, homegrown book that was distributed locally in 1996. Apple is the new reprint of that effort, now available to the masses! It is lovely, and begins with the play on words: “Fall”… as you see an apple falling from a tree. The book continues with a single word on each page, documenting the life of the apple as it goes through autumn and is composted into the ground before giving new life the following spring. The book would make a great springboard to inspire budding artists or writers with the art of paper-cutting. Here is a great little tutorial on that. The little write ups in the back about the life of apples and about composting are just as excellent as this juicy, little morsel of a book itself and I highly recommend it for your early reading pleasure.