Monday, February 01, 2010

Yet More Carved Books

As some of you may know, in addition of teaching preschool, I'm also an artist. I know I'm not the only artist who teaches preschool. For instance, Anna Golden is a talented mixed media artist as well as one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking preschool teachers I've encountered in the world of blogs.

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.

Koran Mirror

Bible Mirror

Torah Mirror

If you're interested in looking at more of my carved books, here are the previous posts in order of appearance:
Carved Books
Carved Books Again
Even More Carved Books (And A Bonus Owl Photo)

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

Every time you post these I'm in total awe of your talent. That almanac is incredible.

Launa Hall said...

Ditto what PJ said! Thank you so much for posting them. I'll be thinking about that triptych for a long time....

Preschool Playbook said...

What a fabulous artist your are and so unique! I must say I have never seen carved books before and these are just beautiful. You certainly are a "man of many talents."

MOM #1 said...

I do try to read every day, but I'm too lazy to comment (sorry), but I simply must take a few minutes to type a note when I see the carved books.

They are so beautiful. You are extremely talented.

You need to take that show on the road, I'd give anything to see one of those in person.

Deborah Stewart said...

Those are so beautiful Tom - I hadn't seen carved books before you introduced them on your blog. My daughter would love these - not only for their art but their historical quality as well.

Anna G said...

Thanks for the kind words, and for showing us your art! Maybe us 'blog friends' can meet someday. I have a dream that we could present somewhere about collaborating from afar via the web. cheers!

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

These are incredible! Do you ever share these with your students?
I agree about the time it takes to get to know a student. You are lucky to have that time.

BellaDaddy said...

LOL, come and get it!

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone!

@atelierista . . . I would love to meet some day. And a cross country internet collaboration would be a fantastic experiment!

@PD . . . A few of the kids have seen my work because I've sold some to their parents, but I've never taken them into school. They're pretty fragile, but I could probably figure out a way to share them . . . hmm. . .

Unknown said...

These books are so amazing. I am just in complete awe each time I see them. I don't know how any of the books could be offensive. I love what you are saying with the mirror. Beautiful. Artistic.

I love that you have the time to get to know each student. It does take a while to learn each student and teach them on their level. I had one student that I didn't fully understand until May. I always regretted not knowing him and his learning style earlier.