Art and preschool teaching go hand-in-hand for me. It's hard to imagine doing one without the other. The children's natural sense of curiosity, inquiry and wonder inspires me in my artwork, while I find that the creative process I go through in making art is in many ways identical to the process of teaching children. Deep down inside, I'm a "fiddler." As hard as I've tried to infuse myself with techniques and academics, I'm at my best when I approach children (and art for that matter) from a non-pedagogical, non-ideological perspective: just two people meeting in a classroom.
A few days ago Anna wrote a post about the challenge of meeting children where they are. To me that really seems to be the essence of teaching. Not all kids are easy for me to figure out. It sometimes takes me 4-5 months or more to "fiddle around" with a kid enough that I really know how to teach her. That's why I'm so happy I get to teach most of our Woodland Park children for 3 years. When I only have a child for one year, he often leaves me just as I'm getting really good at teaching him. Maybe I'm a slow learner, but I think what I'm trying to do is meet them where they are.
There's a similar process in creating the carved books. Many of them I've lived with for months, flipping through the pages, reading sections, trying to figure out how to approach it, or if it will even work as a piece of art. I often spend time researching the book, finding out about it's history, it's author, it's illustrator, it's reputation. It's only once I've "met the book where it is" that I can begin carving it. Like each child, each book stands on its own ground, holding his own space on the planet.
That said, I wanted to share some of my new works here.
This one was commissioned by Julie Howe Gwinn who remembered this exact edition of Poor Richard's Almanack from her own childhood. It took me a lot of digging to find this little out of print book, although there are enough newer collections of Benjamin Franklin's famous epigrams out there that I don't feel guilty about altering this one, especially since it brings back such great memories for Julie. (If you click on it, you should see it in more detail.)
Poor Richard's Almanack
Margueritte Henry more or less invented the adolescent girl "horse" novel in the 1940's and Misty of Chincoteague was her first and most famous one. This was illustrator Wesley Dennis' first book, but he went on to become the "horse" artist of the 40's-50's. I even have a copy of John Steinbeck's The Red Pony on my own shelves with this artist's beautiful work. I feel a little less guilt-free about carving this one because it is a first edition, but other editions are readily available and I hope (as I always do) that my carving will inspire people to actually go find an un-carved copy and read it.
Misty of Chincoteague
The next three are intended as a triptych. I understand that they might offend some people, but my intent, as with every book I carve, is to reveal something vital. And, most importantly, inspire people to read the books.
If you're interested in looking at more of my carved books, here are the previous posts in order of appearance:
Carved Books Again
Even More Carved Books (And A Bonus Owl Photo)