The journey from artist’s mind to author’s pen

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January 18th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The work of a renowned children’s book illustrator is currently on display in a new exhibit at the Joslyn Art Museum. BRAVO! Chris Raschka shows the journey of creating a children’s book – from artist’s mind to author’s pen.

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An image from Chris Raschka's children's book "Yo! Yes?" about two boys who meet on the streets of New York, and become friends. Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy Joslyn)

“This is my favorite,” said Amy Rummel, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Joslyn Museum. Pointing to a series of watercolors, she said, “It’s a wonderful story about language and expression and friendship. It’s basically about two boys meeting each other on the street in New York, and becoming friends. And you can already kind of tell that just in three images right there.”

Rummel took me on a tour of the museum’s latest exhibit: BRAVO! by New York artist and author Chris Raschka.

An image from Raschka's book, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy Joslyn)

Raschka’s work is bright, colorful and expressive. Whether he’s using watercolor, crayon, scraps of paper, or oils, his pieces tell a story with just a few strokes – with energy and intriguing depth. They’ve also won him several prestigious awards, including the highly-touted Caldecott medal, which is awarded annually in recognition of the finest children’s book illustrations.(Click here to read an illustrated “biography” by the artist, in the form of a question and answer interview, courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature)

His work is also filled with imagery of musicians. He’s an accomplished viola player, and he’s authored and illustrated several books introducing children to musicians.

A three dimensional image of a scene from Peter and the Wolf, as Raschka envisioned his illustrations taking form. Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy Joslyn)

“His knowledge as a musician allows him to do something kind of unique with these books,” Rummel said. Pointing out a series on Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, Rummel said, “In this case, he writes the book and illustrates it using the rhythm of music, the rhythm of bebop. So it’s a very interesting introduction for kids, not only to American jazz and what bebop is, and the different ways you can use language and (ways) you can read a book.”

The exhibit is a collection of nearly 60 illustrations by Raschka, and includes the books in which they appear. Rummel says it provides a unique window into the artist’s process. Raschka’s notes – to himself and other authors – are scribbled onto some of the pieces: for example, in his illustrations of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

“What I think is interesting is kids can see those that he rejected,” Rummel said. “On the duck, for example. He’s drawn several ducks and put X’s through those that are not going to make it.”

Bravo! Chris Raschka is currently on display at the Joslyn Art Museum. The exhibit opened January 14th and runs through April 1st. Raschka is also planning to stop by Omaha for a teachers’ workshop in Feb. 23rd, and another with students at Skinner Magnet Center on Feb 23rd and 24th. Raschka will present a public workshop at the museum on February 25th.

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