From Jan. 17 to Feb. 24, the Museums of Los Gatos presents two concurrent exhibitions: Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration and Storytelling in Pictures: From Idea to Art.
Down Memory Lane
Draw Me a Story was organized by the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. The exhibit represents a nostalgic walk down memory lane of children’s book illustrators, many of whom children and adults will recognize. You’ll see original works of art by the best of the 20th century, including Chris Van Allsburg, Tomie DePaola, Maurice Sendak, William Steig and Rosemary Wells.
Bay Area Artists
The second exhibit, Storytelling in Pictures, features six Bay Area artists: Stacey Schuett, Susan Jaekel, Emma T. Capps, Bob Barner, Yuyi Morales and Thi Bui.
Museum Independent Curator Marianne McGrath said the museum “often features local and emerging artists in the Bay Area,” so she and her staff set out to bring local children’s book illustrators into the exhibit. “We chose artists whose work would appeal to a wide range of age groups, those just beginning to read and look at books up to teens and adults who would be more interested in graphic novels,” McGrath said.
Behind the Scenes in the Artists’ Studios
Storytelling in Pictures gives visitors a peak into the artist’s process with preliminary sketches along with the finished original art that is ultimately published in the children’s books.
Emma T. Capps, 15, was at the pre-opening reception and is the only non-adult artist in the exhibit. She’s intelligent, confident and obviously very passionate about her art: comics. Her comic, The Chapel Chronicles, is updated weekly on her website. The comic features “the adventures of the stylish Chapel Smith, her hedgehog sidekick Rupert, her brother Barnaby, and the trials and tribulations of being a hat-obsessed preteen.” Her comic has attracted many followers ranging in age from 5 to 85. When asked about her inspiration, Capps said, “Because I am a child myself, my work is naturally suitable for children and pertains to subject matter that children and young adults would enjoy.”
Author/illustrator Bob Barner works with collages, using various materials such as ribbon, shells and colored paper. McGrath pointed out how much dimension the original pieces have, and how, as beautiful as the images are in the published book, they lose some of that dimension. So it’s a treat to see his original, colorful art. Barner’s inspiration comes from a love of art, music and science. He said, “I thought I would be a teacher but with my nonfiction books I get to reach even more young students. My books are in Guam, India, France and maybe other places I can't even imagine.”
Stacey Schuett always wanted to be an artist and a writer, and found her niche in children’s books. She says, “I fortunately was given the chance to illustrate my first children's book shortly after graduation [with a Fine Art degree]. And I found that I loved the challenge of both enhancing the story-telling power of a book with pictures, and of conveying ideas or concepts without words.” Much of Schuett’s gorgeous art lends itself perfectly to children’s books with its softened, comforting textures.
John C. Agg, executive director of the museum, said when he first saw Susan Jaekel’s artwork, “it reminded me of my childhood and Beatrice Potter. Her work is amazing to look at.” Jaekel has noted that she is indeed inspired by Potter’s work. Using watercolor and colored pencils, her work is lovely—colorful and lively with incredible brush work. Jaekel said she “decided in high school that I wanted to draw for a living I loved it so much. While pursuing a graphic design degree with a concentration in illustration at San Jose State, I was captivated by the high quality of art and the imaginativeness of children’s book illustrations.” She also does illustrations for text books, Sunset books for gardening and cooking, children’s games and puzzles, and sticker designs.
Thi Bui is the author and illustrator of her graphic novel, The Best We Could Do. Bui was born in Saigon and raised in California. She says her graphic novel “is a 15-chapter immigration epic about my parents, their place in history, and my search for my place in my family.” Two chapters from her novel will be on display at the museum exhibit.
Award-winning author/illustrator Yuyi Morales is originally from Mexico, and as McGrath said, “her work reflects her memories of her childhood, her reminiscence of her experiences there, and her longing to bring what was familiar to her here in her new home.”
In fact, for some of her characters, Morales uses family members as inspiration. For instance, a fanciful painting includes three witches who have the faces of her aunts. Her imaginative paintings are bursting with color and filled with fun, interesting details.
McGrath said she “is hoping visitors will come away with an understanding of what it takes to create this beautiful art for the books. This is fine art.”
The entire family will enjoy both exhibits. The art in Storytelling in Pictures is purposefully hung low for children. Picture books featuring the artists’ work will also be available for viewing and purchasing.
The Art Museum of Los Gatos is a nonprofit organization supported by memberships, sponsorships, donations and the Town of Los Gatos. The museum’s mission “is to harness the power of art and history to enrich life. It aims to inspire and engage the region with innovative educational cultural experiences.”
The hard-working staff does a fantastic job of fulfilling the museum’s mission. Draw Me a Story and Storytelling in Pictures are two exhibits you won’t want to miss.
What: Exhibit of children’s book illustrators’ original art.
When: Jan. 17-Feb. 24, 2013 (See website for days and times of special activities.)
Cost: Free. Donations appreciated.