Cummings, Pat, ed. TALKING WITH ARTISTS. New York: Bradbury Press, 1992. ISBN 0027242455.
Editor Pat Cummings has selected a group of fourteen children’s book illustrators, including herself, and interviewed each of them using the same set of eight questions. Questions range from “Where do you get your ideas?” to “Do you ever put people you know in your pictures?” and “How did you get to do your first book?” The questions were compiled from the most common questions asked of Ms. Cummings when she visits schools. Artwork created by each illustrator as a child, and now as a successful illustrator, is included. The final section of the book is devoted to a glossary of terms used in the interviews, and a list of books attributed to each illustrator.
The opportunity, prior to the set interview questions, for each illustrator to tell “My Story,” discussing the path that lead them to become professional illustrators/artists allows their individual voice and background to come through. The interview questions themselves are priceless in providing an understanding of what it takes to become a successful artist over the course of a lifetime, and making the unique profession of children’s book illustrator tenable.
Discussion of each illustrator’s typical workday, work place, artistic medium, and children/pets adds a sense of reality to the profession, and provides a clear snapshot of the illustrator’s lifestyle. Driven, entrepreneurial, self-directed and self-motivated, these artists usually work alone, but their ability to connect with an audience through both words and pictures is clear. Selected illustrations are engaging, and representative of the specific artist’s preferred medium and style of illustration. The writing in this compilation directed toward elementary and middle-school audiences, and is entertaining and accessible to that age group.
The clear format of the book, as well as the inclusion of an alphabetized list of sections, a one-page introduction of the editor’s intentions in creating this book, and an included glossary at the end increase its value as a resource. The coincidence that so many of the included illustrators spend time at the library or regularly reading/referring to books from their extensive personal collections is also a beneficial theme.
School Library Journal: “Well designed and well conceived, this book will be welcomed in all those classrooms in which children's literature has become central to the curriculum.”
The Horn Book: “An inspired concept, executed with class.”
==> Many of the included illustrators are also children’s book authors. Consider how the illustrator’s approach to a book changes if they are also the author.
==> Talking With Artists includes several references to how color and medium affect the mood the illustration portrays. Select illustrated children’s books with a variety of topics and see if the group can determine the mood/theme of the story just by looking at the pictures.
==> How does a book tell its story when there are NO words? ART AND DESIGN IN CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS: AN ANALYSIS OF CALDECOTT AWARD-WINNING ILLUSTRATIONS by Lyn Ellen Lacy, 1986, includes a section for picture books.
==> Children can write, illustrate, and “publish” their own books. Check out LOOK AT MY BOOK: HOW KIDS CAN WRITE & ILLUSTRATE TERRIFIC BOOKS by Loreen Leedy, 2004, for ideas.