About a month ago I had the priviledge of going to the Skirball Center.  I was there for an SCBWI critique event (which was really fun) but I also got to go on the tour of the Ezra Jack Keats exhibit that the Skirball has this summer.  I didn’t know before I went, but there is an Ezra Jack Keats Foundation that does a lot of good stuff for kids and classrooms.
This picture of Keats was my favorite because you can see him in his studio with his paintings all around.  He illustrated over 80 children’s books and authored several of them.  If you get a chance to come to L.A. this summer you should definitely check out this exhibit.
I am putting most of these pictures as big as I can since they are amazing up close.  This is some of his early work.  I really think the technique of incorporating cut lettering and textures is so fun!

 He was one of the early children’s artist to make illustrations in lower to middle class settings–those were not normal for the times (in the 1960s).  Most books would never show trashcans and children from different nationalities.

 In the picture below I thought it was really neat how it was written on…

 Keats’ style was so unique and dramatic at the same time.

 The personalities of the children can be seen so well in his work.

 You might recognize this spread from The Snowy Day.

 I know I still do things like this!  It’s fun to look at your tracks in the snow.

The Skirball Center did a great job making the exhibit and giving some tactile things for the kids.  The little bridge is for kids to walk across to simulate a snow experience.

 I got really excited this part of the exhibit where we got to see sketches and page layouts from his work.

Once Keats became established as an illustrator and as more colors became available to print with, he did a great job making everything so vibrant.

 The following sketchbook was fascinating to me : )

 There is a lot that goes into children’s book and page layout and making it so a spread is balanced and doesn’t cut anything in the fold in the middle takes talent.  Seeing Keats’ dummy books was wonderful to see.

 Again, I really loved how he incorporated cut paper with a design into his artwork.  I wonder if Eric Carle saw this technique and was inspired by it at all?

 Up close you can see how the hat was a thicker paper.  In a way this reminds me of some of my art when I was a kid.  The wallpaper background is priceless!

 Far away it just blends into the background…

 The use of lace in this picture is great.  Also the child and dog poking around the corner is so true to life.

 I love all the colors he used!

 Doesn’t this picture just want to make you celebrate?

 After the exhibit of Keats’ artwork was finished they also had a big room that had a reading area

 and a sketching area

 and a “garbage” area for kids to play in.  Now we would call it “recycled materials” probably…

It was a great experience and I assure you my dummy books are not like Ezra Jack Keats.  But, I have come to realize that all art for kids books doesn’t have to be the same.  After all, who would want books if they all looked the same.  While I love the artwork of
Jerry Pinkney  and John Rocco.
There are plenty of artist who have a simplier style such as
Sandra Boynton , Oliver Jeffers , and
Mo Willems .

My style is rather simple and I know I am not the best at illustrating people, but the book I am planning on illustrating myself has food (and I think it is kind of fun to draw food).  Well to tell you the truth, it isn’t always the food that is fun to drawn, it’s the funny dishes that they sit on!  Living in a digital age I am working with layers too, but I don’t have to cut and paste them onto each other because I will do that digitally.  I still do like coloring things by hand (even though it could easily be done digitally).  Here is how one of my pages is going…  As I bonus I’ll let you read the text for this image too!

Ladybug Pancake

It’s fun to eat a pancake bug, that’s super cute like this.

The reddish wings with choc’late spots are oh so hard to miss.

And then there is the fun leaf plate it sits on : )

If I had only taken that ceramics class in high school I might be able to actually make the plate–but hey, I can’t do everything.

Thanks for stopping by and I would love to hear your comments!

Are you a picture book fan?  Do you buy picture books where you love it just for the artwork?  I’m guilty of that!  Although, most great artwork in picture books are so great because there is a great story with it.

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