We don’t often think about how art is an amazing tool for communication, but it is! Art can be a great way for kids – and adults too – to learn how to communicate complicated thoughts and feelings, all without words.
This week’s Hooked on Books is devoted to an author and illustrator who uses art to enhance words. Barbara Reid is a long-time author who graduated from The Ontario College of Art and Design. We were thrilled to have a short interview with her, and we’ll be giving away THREE gift packages of 3 of Barbara’s books courtesy of Scholastic! Be sure to check us out on Facebook to find out how you can enter to win!
Which came first in your life, writing stories or working with plasticine?
That’s a chicken and egg question! From my earliest childhood stories and art have been inseparable. Before I could read or write I made up stories for my toys to act out, I drew pictures to go with stories that my mum read to me and I made endless plasticine dioramas. Learning to read gave me even more inspiration. As a teen I was sketching characters from Wuthering Heights, copying cartoons from Mad Magazine and borrowing picture books from the library. Plasticine took a back seat to drawing for a few years, but words and pictures are still best friends.
The way your books are illustrated is lovely and unique! What made you decide to use plasticine as your medium for book illustration?
At art college I studied illustration and explored a variety of materials. Illustrators are like actors; we crave an audience. I used plasticine as a last-minute solution to a class project. When it was displayed everyone laughed! The rest is history. I don’t like to think too hard about what is appealing about modelling clay art, I just know that it is tremendously expressive, I have fun telling stories with it, and kids can do it too. A seven-year-old wrote to me: “It’s crazy that you can make playing with plasticine a career! I want to learn how to make plasticine art.” I can’t even describe how happy that made me feel.
Do you have any advice for parents whose kids enjoy art?
Kids that enjoy art will find a way to create, but three things can help them grow: materials, time and encouragement. Materials don’t have to be expensive, and recycled materials make great art supplies. Creativity takes time. Most artists need some quiet time alone to daydream, tinker, make mistakes and develop skills. Encouragement is important for everyone. I also encourage young creators to enter contests. You can find many online through libraries and child related organizations, from writing to bookmark design contests. It’s a great way to focus on a challenge and boost confidence.
Tough question: which book of the ones you’ve written is your all-time favourite?
Each of my books has a special place in my heart for different reasons. I’ll dodge that question by saying my current favourite is the one I’m working on! The manuscript is by the wonderful Canadian author Emil Sher. It is based on word play about love featuring a mum and child and the narrative is told through the art. It is deliciously difficult! The title is pending, but it will be published by Scholastic Canada in fall 2021.
Tell us about your latest book!
My latest book is Watch It Grow: Backyard Life Cycles published by Scholastic Canada. It features the life cycles of four familiar plants and animals: Monarch butterfly, sunflower, oak tree and frog. Nature is a favourite subject for me, and I loved making the illustrations. Science and art stem from curiosity and observation – something kids have in abundance. I like to imagine this book inspiring future artists and scientists and fostering a love of the natural world. I definitely hope it encourages kids and families to go outside and discover to what’s growing in their neighborhoods.
We hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Barbara! We’ll be giving away outdoorsy books as part of her giveaway, so don’t miss out on that! Want some other ways to enjoy nature and get a little learning in outdoors? Be sure to check out our blog for more ways to learn outside and while camping.
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