I have long considered adding a blog to this website, but was never sure what I would write on it. I like to write but I've never wanted to be posting about my artwork. Why would anyone want to hear about the paintings I'm working on or just completed? If you can't justify creating a blog about your work at an office somewhere, I shouldn't be able to justify creating a blog about my work at my easels. "I am having a difficult time with the north-facing facade in this house portrait," or "I focused on creating distance in the horizon of this oil sketch of downtown by adjusting the foreground palette toward blue-grey." No one needs to hear about that nonsense.
As some people may know, my ultimate goal is to work on illustrations for literature, children's or otherwise. That's not to say that I won't continue doing oil paintings of house portraits and people portraits for the rest of my life -- they are fun, an essential source of realism practice for me, and a fairly predictable source of income (very little at this point, haha). But I have always known that sooner or later I would try my hand at illustrating stories and, with time and practice, that could begin to occupy more and more of my time.
Thus, I have a professional interest in picture books. They may become my eventual "mode" or "genre" of art, and to that end, I could find edifying the process of reading (and studying the pages of) picture books with a critical eye. And since I am an artist who hopes one day to be making beautiful and effective illustrations for books, why not review the books that a group of 15 people have chosen year after year as the "best" picture books?
However, my professional interest in picture books is little compared to my awe for picture books. They are the essential medium. If only one form of art or literature were allowed to persist, I think someone could make an argument for why picture books should be the one chosen. I won't make that argument, but someone could and I'm sure it could be convincing.
If you have a moment and are interested in why picture books are critical for young people, read this list of 10 reasons by Lori Calabrese from Bianca Shulze's blog at The Children's Book Review.
And this is the ethical dilemma that a weh-blog like this faces. How can one in good conscience review any selection of a medium from which all selections are an invitation and opportunity for young people to read and experience a story? The least original, ugliest picture books are still books for kids. And the thing about kids is that, given the right circumstances, they will pick up and read anything. There will always be some person out there who read that predictable and garish picture book 20 times as 7-year-old and it helped her learn to read and she loved it. Who am I to criticize any literacy invitation?
So I won't be reviewing them, really, but more commenting on them. I have to call it a review because "review" makes people think it will be really exacting and that there will be a number of stars out of four. I know people are on the edges of their seats waiting to find out whether they need to rush to the library to check out the 1951 Caldecott entries or ignore them because they were pretty so-so. Additionally, commentary on books allows for easy segues into commentary on the market of books, the publishers of books, the abundance of certain types of books, the absence of other types of books. I have no ethical qualms about criticizing these things as they need more criticism.
Tentatively, every "review" will have four sections:
1. The writing and story
2. The illustrations
3. The synergy of story and illustrations
4. The soapbox
The soapbox will be a jumping-off point, or jumping-on as it were, from the book at hand to some element of picture books or story-telling or commercial art or fine art. Just an opportunity for me to make an unsubstantiated point or two.
The magic of the weh-blog is that some sort of dialogue might arise in the comments section. This would excite me to no end, especially if we started calling each other bad names.
Additionally, as I mentioned at the very top for the "Too Long; Didn't Read" community, I have created a chart of data about the Caldecott winners and honorees to which I will gradually add with each post. It is an OpenData chart from Socrata and I will embed it on my site. Feel free to comment on this, as I'd like to believe this could become something of use for a scope of people beyond the needlessly-picture-book-obsessed like me, such as teachers, librarians, academics, etc. I may eventually consider making it a "public" chart, or at least inviting people to add to it. As wikipedia has shown us, much good can come from crowd-sourcing.
You'll find in that chart that I have ordered it alphabetically by the last name of the illustrator. This ensures that I will be skipping back and forth between decades.
First on the line-up is "Houses from the Sea", written by Alice E. Goudey and illustrated by Adrienne Adams, who won one of the two Caldecott Awards conferred in 1960 for this title. Stay tuned for its SCATHING review!