Nonfiction Monday – Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art


My son has been enamored of art, looking at it and creating it since he could pick up a crayon and scribble. He’s particularly interested in how pictures tell stories and how they are created, so reading Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art with him has been particularly enjoyable.

This anthology begins, “Dear Young Artist…” What follows is a letter from one of 23 artists (with the exception of Lionni, whose letter is written by his granddaughter) about how and why they became an artist and their thoughts on their chosen profession. The letter is followed by a self-portrait of the artist on the outside of a gatefold. The fold-out pages include studio photos, sketches, examples of the evolution of a piece of work, and much more. Most artists have also included photographs from their childhood.

The letters are as different as the art created by these talented folks. In reading them, we learn about hope, inspiration, and dreams. We also learn about art itself. Here are some examples.

Mitsumasa Anno – “But in developing one’s own individual artistic style, I believe that the culture that is part of your being from childhood is of great importance. If you look deeply into the culture you were brought up in, you will find there the inspiration and the roots of your own power to create good pictures.”

Nancy Eckholm Burkert – “Artists observe. The trajectory of a ball, the thrust of a twig, the enigma of fog, patterns in the sand, the uniqueness of every cloud, the convolution of an ear, the mood on a friend’s face … everything has meaning to our eyes.”

Mordicai Gerstein – “What I always wanted to do in my pictures was to express my feelings about something — a mood of some kind, or a piece of music, or how I felt about some event or person. That’s what I still try to do. I try to make pictures that aren’t about something, but that make you feel something, — about an event, a person, or maybe just the picture itself.”

Rosemary Wells – “Draw from your life. Draw all the time. Expect to be different from other kids, because if you are an artist, you are different. Sometimes it’s hard to be different. Sometimes it hurts when people don’t understand you or laugh at you for not being cool enough, but stay the course. Believe in yourself. Believe in the paintings and drawings that come out of your mind and your hand.”

Illustrators featured in the book include:

  • Mitsumasa Anno
  • Quentin Blake
  • Ashley Bryan
  • Nancy Ekholm Burkert
  • Eric Carle
  • Tomie dePaola
  • Jane Dyer
  • Mordicai Gerstein
  • Robert Ingpen
  • Steven Kellogg
  • Leo Lionni
  • Petra Mathers
  • Wendell Minor
  • Barry Moser
  • Jerry Pinkney
  • Alice Provensen
  • Robert Sabuda & Matthew Reinhart
  • Maurice Sendak
  • Gennady Spirin
  • Chris Van Allsburg
  • Rosemary Wells
  • Paul O. Zelinsky

These letters are gifts from the heart of the artists, who share bits of their souls with readers. For children interested in how books are made, how art is created, or just crazy about creating art of their own, this book will help them recognize that becoming and artist is not only a process that requires dedication, practice and passion, but also an endeavor that can last a lifetime. I recommend this for readers of all ages who share a passion for the art of storytelling in pictures.

Book: Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 114 pages
Grades: 3-12
ISBN-10: 0399246002
Source of Book: Personal copy purchased from local independent bookstore.

This review was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

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