Today I volunteered for the Cultural Arts Committee at Brown Elementary to sit in on the visit by John Steven Gurney, the illustrator for the A-Z mysteries and writer/illustrator of other books(and to our delight we discovered he has also illustrated games such as “Guess Who? and jigsaw puzzles.
Mr. Gurney began his presentation by telling the students the many different projects he has illustrated, over 120 books now! He told them how he came to be an illustrator and an author. He talked about his childhood love of drawing and how that grew and expanded as he became an adult. I liked that he said “pictures tell a story”. He explained that first he reads what an author has written and then using his imagination, he draws his own artistic interpretations. This is his form of communication and he notes that a good picture should tell you what you are looking at but a really good picture keeps revealing more details each time you look at it.
His Power Point presentation began by showing one of his illustrations and his talking about his use of symbolism to communicate what the picture is representing. He explained he needed to think of colors, lighting and character design for each illustration. I liked that Mr. Gurney showed the children an interesting career path and he allowed that many paths can come from a love to draw and that this was only the path he chose and that going to college helped him make wise career choice. He used beautiful strong words, such as imagination, originality and inspiration (both loving to inspire and to be inspired).
He explained when he illustrates that he has to ponder some points:
1. What is the illustration going to be used for?
2. Character Design
3. How to get the characters in the illustration to relate to each other
For a book cover, consider:
1. Main Characters
2. Not to give the ending away, but show what the book is about.
3. Make the reader curious!
The best part of the Power Point was his layout of the rough draft to completion of the book he both authored and illustrated “Dinosaur Train”. It was very informative and gave a real slice of life of the journey he took.
I really enjoyed this presentation especially in connection to the fact that the third grades’ next monthly book project is “making a book jacket for a book they have just read. Mr. Gurney is soft spoken, but had the children listening to what he had to say. Even at times when the kids began to squirm, he found a way to pull them back in. I was impressed at how focused this whole group of 3rd and 4th graders were. I recommend his visit especially for the 3/4 grade level as I can see how pertinent his presentation was to their curriculum.
The event ended with some fast and fun group drawing activities that had the all the kids (and me) laughing and collaborating and enjoying themselves.
http://www.johnstevengurney.com/ (check school visits section)
The following is an excerpt from his website:
The main focus of my presentation is the thought process involved in the creation of an illustration. I discuss my background and my creative process as an author and illustrator. I touch briefly on the business of publishing. I show a that focuses on my own development specifically, and generally on what makes any illustration an effective device for telling a story (it should be noted that because of the nature of my work, many of slides are quite funny -but don’t tell the kids that, let it be a surprise), I demonstrate with volunteers from the audience how I have kids pose as models for my illustrations. In closing I draw an 18 x 24 caricature of someone from the audience. If we can get the kids some clip boards with paper (or their notebooks) I can lead them in some fun drawing activities.