Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Each One Reach One

I recently taught a Role Model Workshop, The Secrets of Illustration and Graphic Design at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in downtown Washington D.C., designed to introduce teens to art careers, the day to day work of an artist and give an opportunity for young people to create original art.

Because I wear a lot of hats as an artist – that of a children’s book illustrator and author, graphic designer and teaching artist, I started off with an introduction to each and what the requirements were to work in each arena. As a children’s book illustrator I showed some of my picture books and discussed step by step the collage method I use to create the illustrations.

As a graphic designer I showed examples from my portfolio of publications I have designed over the years. But nothing captured the participants more than when I pulled out a plush girl clown that I designed recently for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus. I showed preliminary sketches of the clown and the rounds and rounds of revisions I went through to get to the final approved design.

Equipped with paintbrushes, liquid watercolor, tempera paints and other art supplies, the teens then had a chance to dive into their art making. I demonstrated three paper decorating techniques that I often use in the art for my books. One, called paste paper, involves mixing tempera paint with wall paper paste and painting directly onto a sheet of paper. After that we used various tools like a comb, to work through the paint, making rhythmic marks.

Liquid watercolor paint was manipulated with plastic wrap and salt in two other techniques I demonstrated, to create organic textures. The students created very striking, colorful designs.

Finally, at the end of the afternoon the students were able to use the papers they decorated as well as other papers to create their amazing collages, using scissors and glue. The teens left that day with the papers and compositions they made and hopefully a lot of information and a detailed look at the work of one artist.

Posted in March, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

China Town Treasures

I remember taking my daughter and niece to Chinatown in New York one spring. We drove to New Jersey from Northern Virginia and then took a train to Chinatown. We spent hours walking city block after city block admiring the colorful purses, shirts, watches and other moderately priced wares displayed on packed stands on the sidewalks. The girls then only 12 and 13 years old, had their own money – saved for this very day. They couldn’t wait to spend every dime. At the conclusion of the day each had 4 to 5 large black plastic bags filled with their goodies. We had walked no less than 5 hours up and down the streets of Chinatown that day, til our feet ached. The girls were thoroughly satisfied as we rode the train back to Jersey that evening and fell asleep clutching their bags in their hands.

Though Yangsook Choi’s book Gai See: What You See in Chinatown setting is a marketplace in China, it reminded me of our trip that spring to New York. Gai See, a Cantonese word meaning “street market” recalls a young boys trip there each season with his family, and all the remarkable objects and treasures he finds. There are wonderful treats found that begin on a warm breezy springtime morning. Other pleasures are discovered including those to celebrate New Years. Gai See by award-winning author Roseanne Thong and celebrated illustrator Yangsook Choi offers a delightful tour of Chinatown and a peek at Chinese culture.

Adjoa Burrowes

Posted in March, 2008