Review: 100 Great Children’s Picture Books

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I’ve been doing some research into children’s picture books recently, and was thrilled to hear that Martin Salisbury wrote another book after Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling. Published in April this year by Laurence King Publishing, 100 Great Children’s Picturebooks is a visual feast, and offers a nostalgic look at 100 children’s books from the last 100 years.

With the many, many children’s books out there, the selection criteria for the book ultimately boiled down to good art and good design; and it doesn’t disappoint. I could imagine how difficult it was for Salisbury to whittle down the selection of books to the ones contained in this tome; and especially since most of the books within are mainly from UK/USA/Europe (although not all of them were in English) – I was sure that to have Asian children’s books added to the mix would have made the task even more of a challenge.

Each profile is arranged chronologically, with details of the book covers, inside pages, publisher, date of publication, commentaries, storyline, and the illustrator’s process and body of work. An impressive amount of research was done for the book and it shows. Some of the books were from the author’s own collection (as well as some who were in his own words “begged and borrowed” from friends, colleagues and students.)

It was hard to pick out a favourite spread from the book (there’s just too many!), but Babar’s story – of how Laurent de Brunthoff’s father Jean created the series, but died from tuberculosis at the height of the characters (and the books) fame when Laurent was 12 years old. He picked up where his father left off when he was 21, and has since created more than 30 additional Babar titles in the last 60 years.

More than just eye-catching covers and informative, beautiful page spreads, 100 Great Children’s Picturebooks presents a historical look at how illustrations and stories have entertained children and adult alike, and will continue to do so in generations to come. It would make a wonderful addition to any picture book lover’s library.

{Available via Amazon}

Clock out with Blik and Doodlers Anonymous

Doodlers Anonymous is organising a challenge (together with Blik) for artists, illustrators and doodlers of all ages: to design a backdrop for a wall clock. And the best part? There’s absolutely no restriction on style, colours, or theme.

Six winning submissions will have their art transformed into 10” wall clocks to be sold through Blik and Doodlers Anonymous; with a portion of the royalties going to the lucky artists.

You might be thinking – oh sure, I can do that on Society6 and all that, but if you’re one of the chosen artists who makes it on Blik’s website, it might just be like hitting the proverbial jackpot when it comes to showcasing your work. You’ll be sitting alongside fantastic artists who has done work for Blik, like Rex Ray, Amy Ruppel and Charles and Ray Eames – which is why I think this competition is a fantastic opportunity to show what you are made of!

Deadline for the contest is 21st August so there’s no time like now to get your drawing on.

For more details, head here to read up on the details and to submit your design!

How to Be More Creative in the Age of Over-Inspiration


Ah, the internet. What would I do without it? It’s a portal that bounces me from one wonderment to the next – an inspiring road trip filled with jaw-dropping illustrations and illuminating interviews, with sideshow attractions of fun video tutorials to community hangouts for every niche under the sun. The internet is the gateway to inspiration on demand, and it seems like the more sidetracked I get, the hungrier I get for more.

When you have a source that beckons with creativity and inspiration 7 days a week and 24 hours a day, it’s easy to be sucked into a loop. There’s always something interesting a mere click away. I know for a fact that I’m not alone in my predicament. In the age of Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and the many infinite scrolling art & design websites (I liken it to a bottomless well of beautiful things just waiting to be discovered) – what does this mean for artists?

The National Centre for Biotechnology Information’s research in April 2015 has surveyed that the average attention span of people in 2015 is now 8.25 seconds, compared to 12 seconds in the year 2000. That means our capacity for holding attention is 30% less compared to 15 years ago – and it’s not surprising, given how our brains are hard-wired to crave new information; according to Bruce Morton, a researcher with the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute.

With each click leading to the next and the more information we devour, the novelty wears off quickly, and off we go in search of better, more beautiful, more interesting things. It’s nasty cycle that perpetuates itself; leading to a host of other problems like a lack of productivity (hey, where did the time go?), procrastination (just one more website!) and for some, the inability (or reluctance) to dive deeper; to analyse and synthesise the information they’ve already visually absorbed.

I’ve talked to college students who were confused by it all – there was no lack of inspiration, and yet they weren’t inspired. They grew up with the internet being a very big part of their lives, and yet they seem to be suffering from inspiration fatigue, and couldn’t understand why. One theory that I brought up was that perhaps they’ve been looking at what was already completed and done by other artists, therefore subconsciously they didn’t need to figure out the process for themselves (hey, since it’s already been done!) Replicating something visually without finding out the underlying thought process behind it all is just like skimming the water without knowing its depths. It’s also a little like eating junk food all the time, which tastes great but isn’t very good for you.

I recommended my students to try and be more conscientious of the information they took in. Instead of merely looking at the aesthetics of the many works of art in front of their screen before jumping to the next, how about they pause for a moment and focus on finding out more details about it instead? Dig through archives of the artist’s work, and perhaps catch a glimpse of their process. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t (the ails of over-inspiration runs far deeper), but the reminder to dig vertically instead of mindlessly pacing horizontally might just be a good start. I needed the nudge too as I’m sometimes guilty of the same.

It’s times like these that it’s useful to remember Charles Eames’ quote:

Art resides in the quality of doing, process is not magic.

Maybe we don’t really need more inspiration. We need more doing instead.

[This is an article I originally wrote for Illustration Friday]

[Illustration: Neil J. Rook]