John Singleton Copley “Watson and the Shark” 1778
When my wife Michele Bledsoe and I co-authored “The Secret Kingdom” together, I was pleased to know it was intended for children. What we did for the book was write poetry inspired by Michele’s existing body of paintings.
The art came first, and was not created specifically for kids. These are just the paintings Michele makes naturally, her visions made visible. The works just have such a mysterious fairy tale atmosphere about them which makes them accessible to all ages.
I love the idea of presenting such wonderful works to kids. Art is for everyone, even children. We are doing a real disservice to youth today by assuming that doodles and cartoons are good enough illustrations for children’s books.
Why not give the kids something intense, beautiful and mysterious? Why not present them with real art?
I speak as someone who grew up with some pretty serious fine art reproductions decorating my room and our house. I’m sure having them around at an early age fed into the artist I’ve become as an adult.
I’ve already written about my dinosaur fascination and its connection to my art. I also gained inspiration from some more traditional masterpieces.
I grew up outside of Washington DC. I must have been in second or third grade when we made a school trip to the National Gallery of Art. I came away with some souvenirs-some beautiful art prints I picked out myself. My mother hung them up in my bedroom; for many years afterwards, as I grew up, I contemplated these images.
I had the taste of a little boy. The lurid “Watson and the Shark” was one of the pictures. There was also a Raphael painting of St. George and the Dragon, and a spooky dungeon scene by Giovanni Battista Piranesi.
I don’t know what ever happened to the actual prints I used to have, but thanks to the magic of the internet, it was easy to find the images.
Raphael “Saint George”
Giovanni Battista Piranesi “Carceri XIV”
My parents also had a nice framed reproduction which hung over the fireplace in the family room: “The Haywain” by John Constable. As I spent countless hours in that room watching TV, I also would stare at the picture over the mantle.
John Constable “The Haywain” 1821
Being exposed to truly great works from a young age enriched my life, and gave me the sense of the action and beauty art is capable of. I see echos of these images I grew up with in the art I make to this day.