BooksForKidsBlog

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Art for Art's Sake: Art & Max by David Wiesner

HEY, ART! THAT'S GREAT!

THE NAME IS ARTHUR.

I CAN PAINT, TOO, ARTHUR.

YOU, MAX? OH, ALL RIGHT. JUST DON'T GET IN THE WAY.

WHAT SHOULD I PAINT?

WELL, YOU COULD PAINT ME.


Little green Max is drawn to art by its colors and shapes, a would-be apprentice to the supercilious and somewhat solipsistic Arthur, who fancies himself the old master of classic realism. But little Max takes the invitation at face value, gleefully sloshing blue, yellow, orange, and purple acrylic paint all over the outraged Art.

OH, MAX... WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

Max is nothing if not resourceful. He obediently brings a hose to blast the paint off of Art, leaving him wet, a pastel ghost of his former self. Max then brings a fan to dry Art out, and as he does the paint cracks, and falls away, like a shedding of his reptilian skin, leaving his Art a pale watercolor remnant of his former self.

Discombobulated, Art confesses to feeling rather washed out, and the ever-helpful little Max offers him a restorative drink of water. But as it goes down, the color washes out of him totally, leaving nothing of Art but a black-line outline. Flustered, little Max grabs Art's tail and shakes him vigorously--and the mistreated Arthur unravels and collapses into a pile of black, kinky yarn around the mystified Max's feet. The would-be artist's apprentice is left with nothing but the basics of art (and Art)--the line.

It's figuratively back to the drawing board for the aspiring artist, as Max tries to replicate Art's form, with several hitches along the way. His first try looks like a crayoned Kindergarten attempt at sketching a horned toad.

MORE DETAIL, I THINK.

Gradually, Max's skills progress, until a reasonable facsimile of the original Art stands before him in outline form.

HOW'S THAT?

ACCEPTABLE, I SUPPOSE, BUT DON'T FORGET MY FOOT.

But little Max soon grows weary of reapplying the color with the traditional artist's brush and finally resorts to vacuuming up his spilled paint and reversing the flow so that Art is doused with a colorful spray that gives his skin a definitely pointillistic treatment. Amazingly, Art is amused and intrigued with the effect.

FASCINATING!

Three-time Caldecott Award winner David Wiesner's work never fails to stretch the limits of the picture book medium. Moving from the ocean setting of his award-winning Flotsam (Caldecott Medal Book), in his new Art & Max (Clarion, 2010), he turns to the dry and neutral shades of the desert as the background for his canvas as he explores the media of color in the creative process. Despite the rather cerebral nature of his theme, Wiesner's genius for creating character and humor in his characters' faces make this a delightful story for the young. Max is a joyful youngster who approaches art with a childlike freshness that emphasizes the fun of exploring its media. Art teachers will also find this story intriguing, as in all of Wiesner's work, it explores the art of really seeing the world with fresh eyes, wide open. A funny tale of two reptiles and an art lesson--all in one!

Wiesner here narrates the trailer for his newest book in explanation of his own thinking about the creative process.

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