Lessons in Art and Piano

Pure exhaustion made me miss my “Focus on Black” post last Friday, so I’m posting this morning to avoid the same mistake this week.

Today, I’m using children’s art to “introduce” African American artist Romare Bearden.  Even though Bearden is far from an “unknown” artist, few people know who I’m talking about when I reference his work:

Considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century, Romare Bearden’s artwork depicted the African-American culture and experience in creative and thought provoking ways. Born in North Carolina in 1912, Bearden spent much of his career in New York City. Virtually self-taught, his early works were realistic images, often with religious themes. He later transitioned to abstract and Cubist style paintings in oil and watercolor. He is best known for his photomontage compositions made from torn images of popular magazines and assembled into visually powerful statements on African-American life.  -from Biography.com

Last year, my favorite (now retired) second grade teacher, Mrs. Crarey, introduced her students to Bearden’s work. They studied his art, noted his interest in jazz music–which influenced some of his art–learned about his collage technique and then created their own Bearden-esque masterpieces. [Click an image for a closer look]

The children used rulers, pencils, Sharpies, crayons, and markers to imitate Bearden’s collage style. As you can see, they used piano keys patterns for their borders.

I pretty much love everything Bearden created.  The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou is my favorite, probably because it was the masterpiece that inspired African American playwright August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, one of my favorite plays.

The piece was inspired by jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams who collaborated with Bearden’s wife, Nannette, on a musical and dance composition.  If you are familiar with Henri Matisse’s The Piano Lesson and The Music Lesson, you will see his influence on the work as well.

There are two versions of the work–the original:

Romare Bearden’s  “The Piano Lesson: Homage to Mary Lou” (popularly known as “The Piano Lesson”). Watercolor, acrylic, graphite and printed paper collage on paper.

And a signed lithograph:

Romare Bearden, “The Piano Lesson,” Lithograph

For more about Bearden’s life and influences, click the links below:

The Bearden Foundation’s page features more resources such as a timeline and an impressive collection of Romare Bearden’s artwork.

Until next time…

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards: From NZ to the USA

Since today begins Black History Month in the United States and since I’d planned to blog about children’s book illustration postcards today, I was curious about whether I have any children’s books postcards featuring the work of African American illustrators. I went through every postcard in my collection and, as suspected, I do not have any illustrations by African American artists. Then, I “googled” and found nothing.

Considering the high number of popular African American children’s authors and illustrators, I find this odd.  [Insert appropriate emoji here].

I’ll keep looking…

For now, let’s enjoy the eight children’s book illustration postcards I received for Children’s Book Illustration Postcards swaps 17-20.

From Pikkis in Finland, I received an illustration from the Finnish fairy tale Goldfish, written by Raul Roine and illustrated by Rudulph Koivu.

Swap 17: From “Goldfish” by Raul Roine. Illustrated by Rudolf Koivu

I’m not familiar with this tale; that might be because, as Pikkis points out, the fairy tale hasn’t been translated in English.

The postcard below came all the way from New Zealand.

BLC Swap 17: The Honour of the House by E.M. Channon

CindyST sent an “old fashion” book cover because she loves retro covers and illustrated books.

Lihior, of Israel, sent another postcard from the fairy tale collection that gave me The Frog King postcard featured in the previous Children’s Book Illustrations blog post

Swap 18: Hansel and Gretel. Illustrated by Aurélie Blanz

I was pleased that I could see the name of the illustrator, Aurélie Blanz, on this card.  It was nice to “discover” and explore Blanz’s brilliant work. I found another artist to love.

BLC Swap 18: Illustrator Fiep Westendorp

The postcard above, from Sammoning in the Netherlands, features an illustration by Fiep Westendorp, known for Jip en Janneke, Pluk van de Pettenflat and others.  Every year, “kids go door-to-door to sell card sets and [matching] stamps” for Kinderpostzegels–to support educational and children’s charities.

It’s always nice when a bear shows up in my mailbox.

Swap 19: Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer

Lars, the “little polar bear” came from Sissi, also in the Netherlands.

BLC Swap 19: The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

The postcard above, from HelenGB in Canada, features the cover of the first Frederick Warne edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, 1902.

Alice in Wonderland postcards are a special treat because I love all the different artistic interpretations of the story [I won’t mention that I have a whole box of Alice postcards that I have trouble sharing].

Inger sent this one from Sarpsborg, which is in the south-east part of Norway.

Swap 20: “The cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked goodnatured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth.” Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by Sir John Tenneil

Her postcard also featured children’s book illustration postage:

And finally, Marinda in the United States sent an illustration from one of the sweetest tales I read to my little one when he was a baby, Guess How Much I Love You.

BLC Swap 20: Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Illustrator Anita Jeram

As always, an eclectic selection, but a feast for the eyes and warm fuzzies for the heart!

What About the Children?

Photo from Pixabay

I’m having another super busy Monday, but it’s been weighing heavily on my heart to share the powerful message about children and homelessness my sister-friend Takiyah Franklin (Tk) recently recorded.

In sharing why she recorded the song, Tk writes:

The homeless crisis is getting worse . . . and while I want to see more action from [our] city [and state] officials, we the people have to act as well. I definitely don’t have the solution to the housing crisis, but I know I’m not so far removed from the realities of poverty to not care. Music is one way to raise awareness, so I choose to lift my voice as a tool for social justice.

In speaking specifically about the situation in Oakland, California, Tk reminds:

It is our duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is our duty to hold local and state officials accountable for working with the community and the corporations taking over to find solutions to homelessness and poverty.

The song, called “Homeless Children,” is the result of the collaboration between  Dan Zemelman (pianist and co-writer), Albert Greenberg (co-writer), Alberto Hernandez (engineer), Julie Wolf (producer), and Tk (vocal artist).

Click the image to listen to the song:

“Homeless Children” Recording. Photo by Pat Augsburger. Used by Permission.

For more information about childhood homelessness and to find ways you can help, see the following:

Be sure to check out local missions and programs to help with the the homeless crisis in your area.

It is my hope that homeless children–indeed all homeless people–will get the assistance they need  to improve their circumstances on this side of heaven.

First Day!

Image from Pixabay

I’m amused.

Today was the “first day of school”–the international holiday (of varied dates) for parents everywhere. I laughed at how my son was so excited for this day that he could hardly get to sleep last night. I chuckled over the number of times this morning I had to dodge a preteen in hot pursuit of a sorely missed friend.

I was further tickled by how each group had its own personality: Elementary students super excited and not afraid to show it. The whole body of Middle School cautious, uncertain of the “appropriate” public response–not too little, not too much. High Schoolers, too cool to show any enthusiasm or interest in any of the morning exercises. Student Council openly enjoying their dual role as ambassadors and spirit squad.

Almost everyone was thrilled on the “first day” to see peers, to get back into a regular routine of study and learning, school sports, and so much more.

What amuses me most is that on the “first day,” it seems every child was running toward the school building, buzzing with energy, ready to tackle the year ahead.  But by the last day…

These same children will be running in the opposite direction–arms flying in the air–away from school and friends, drunk on the possibility of two and a half months of freedom. From school.

K-12.  A funny little bunch.

Freedom Quilt Patterns | Farewell, Mrs. Crarey

(Log Cabin)

School ends in a few days and Mrs. Crarey, my favorite second grade teacher, is retiring.  I’m sad for all the children who will miss the opportunity of learning under such an amazing person, but I’m happy for her.  She’s earned her retirement and  she will certainly make deep impressions wherever she goes.

Mrs. Crarey is simply awesome.  Even with a classroom full of many different personalities and learning styles, she has a way of dealing with her students as individuals and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.  I love her not only because she is awesome but because she just loves my son, and even today–three years after he finished second grade–she is a friend of his heart.

I will always be grateful for the way she kept his curiosity piqued and gave him more challenging work when he surpassed benchmarks.  She used his love for reading, robots, science, animals, Star Wars, and mystery to keep him engaged.  That meant a lot to this mom who was uncomfortable in a newish environment with a kid who was pining for home (New Orleans) and still adjusting to a school day structure and approach to teaching and learning that were very different from the Montessori curriculum of his previous experience.

When I blogged about the fifth grade African masks a few months ago, I mentioned there was so much more art to see–much more than I can cover in a couple of blog posts.  But in honor of Mrs. Crarey’s retirement and the tremendous gift she has been to the school, this post focuses on her group’s art fair exhibit.

Mrs. Crarey approaches art purposefully.  She typically has her students complete art projects that connect to a lesson. When my son was in her class, the students drew and learned about owls, West African-style dwellings, jewelry, and women’s attire, geckos, dinosaurs, which I blogged about three and a half years ago, Dr. Seuss, and so much more.  I’m going to miss taking a walk down to her classroom and taking a peek at her students’ masterpieces.

In addition to other art pieces, the class created quilt blocks. After reading Bettye Stroud’s The Patchwork Quilt: A Quilt Map to Freedom, reading about the Underground Railroad, viewing and studying maps of the “slave states” and “free states,” students selected a quilt pattern to draw and color.

“Freedom Quilt”

According to some studies, the quilts played an important role in helping enslaved persons make their way to freedom.  Each quilt piece held significant meaning and provided directions and warnings. Although there have been verbal statements from descendants of enslaved persons regarding the quilt code, there has been no physical proof.

Take a look at the children’s quilt pieces [click an image for a closer look]:

Follow the link to find out what each of the patterns mean: Freedom Quilt Codes.

Farewell, Mrs. Crarey…We’re not sure how we’ll survive the coming years without running into you for our quick chats, but we wish you well on your journey.  Thank you for the fond memories, for your generous spirit, and your heart of gold.

Much love…XOXOX

Mrs. Crarey and My Little One, December 2013

A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.

African Masks [Children’s Art]

My son is all better and back in school, but I must say, I was in kiddie art heaven last Thursday while I waited to meet with his teacher to collect the assignments he missed.  The school held its annual art fair and though I didn’t see everything, what I did see was pretty impressive.

I’m in the throes of midterm grading, so I’m just going to share the colorful masks done by my son and his peers in Mrs. Trott’s 5th-6th grade (combined) class.

They all started with a basic mask and added touches that express their personalities.

I love every one of these masks!

The students have been learning about the continent of Africa–its landforms, peoples, histories, and cultures–so I’m sure this was a fun exercise to complement their lessons.

Well, I’m back to grading.  I’ll be back eventually with pics of some of the other art.

Happy Monday!

microblog_mondays

Children’s Book Illustration Postcards: Cute Kids, a Dog, a Cat, and a Tea-Drinking Rat

Every two weeks I host two children’s book illustration postcard swaps on swap-bot.  One “public,” which means any swapper can participate and the other for members of the Book Lovers Congregate group.  I posted the first 10 swaps in the second series of swaps that began last year: here and here.

The 125+ postcards of the first series of swaps can be found by clicking the links that follow: part i, part ii, part iii, part iv, and part v.

To avoid posting dozens of children’s book illustration postcards in one post, I’m making an effort to share the postcards as the swaps complete.  This way, we can spend a little more time on information related to the postcard.

Swap #11 (Public) came from Israel, from Lihior, who remarks that she loves these swaps, and I’m happy to have seen her in every swap so far!ch-bk-illustration-received-11-1

The postcard Lihior sent (above) is from The World of Peter Rabbit, a collection of postcards that features the illustrations of Beatrix Potter, the beloved English writer who penned and illustrated more than 20 children’s books in her lifetime. This particular postcard is from the book The Sly Old Cat, 1907.

According to the information provided on the back of the postcard,  “the book was the third in the series of concertina-bound books that started with The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit and The Story of Miss Moppet, but was canceled when the format proved too fragile for bookshops.”

The series of books was written for younger children and was designed to introduce the children to the world of Peter Rabbit.

The Sly Old Cat was finally published in 1971. It tells the story of a cat who invites a rat to a tea party with the intention of eating him.  No worries.  The mouse outwits the cat and escapes.  He even gets a yummy muffin for his trouble.

The postcard for the Book Lovers Congregate Swap #11 came from Xira in the Netherlands.  She posted a picture of the postcard on Instagram with some other outgoing mail.  I “liked” the photo and “exclaimed” over Jip and Janneke, but I had no idea it was headed my way.  Imagine my surprise!

If you’ve read any of my other children’s book illustration posts, you know that I love the pair of friends from the Dutch preschool children’s books, Jip and Janneke.  The books are written by Annie M.G. Schmidt and illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. The two have been writing and illustrating the children’s books together for more than 30 years.  They feature the best friends living as preschoolers–lives filled with play, mischief, interpersonal conflicts, and loads of fun.  The children and their pets are always in black and white as you see them here.

This particular image is from a 1993 illustration.  The postcard features Jip (pronounced “Yip”) and the Janneke (pronounced “Yan-nic-a” with the stress on the first syllable) and Weenie and Sippy, Jip’s dog and Janneke’s cat.  The postcard back does not indicate from which book the illustration comes.

A few years ago one of my first-year students, after engaging in lengthy conversations with me about the duo, gave me a collection of Jip and Janneke stories on CD.  In Dutch.  One day, I’ll know enough Dutch to understand what I’m listening to. 😀

Jip and Janneke

Jip and Janneke Audio CD Cover

I have already received half of swap #12 and swap #13 is underway, so look for more children’s book illustration postcard posts soon! Until then, spend a few moments revisiting your childhood and pick up some kiddie lit!