Art Energy in the Universe
Eric Carle is an author and children’s book illustrator who was born in Syracuse, NY where I attended college. When he was six years old his mother was homesick for Germany and moved the family to Stuttgart; a place I have visited. He longed to return to the States and eventually moved to New York City where he worked as a graphic designer for the New York Times. Later he became and art director for a NY ad agency. I have been both a graphic designer and an art director. Just like Carle, I eventually swapped the computer for the paint (glue) brush and couldn’t be happier.
Eric Carle’s Success Leads to a Museum
In 1967 a children’s book author named Bill Martin Jr. noticed Carl’s illustration of a lobster for an ad campaign and asked him to collaborate on a children’s book titled Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The book became an instant best seller and this began Eric’s true career, writing and illustrating children’s books. One of his first books was The Very Hungry Caterpillar in 1969
In 2002, Carle and his wife founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a 44,000 sq ft museum devoted to the art of children’s books in Amherst, Massachusetts where my father and brother live. The Museum has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors, including more than 30,000 school children, since it opened its doors.
Fun for kids and Adults Alike
I took my two nephews Tyler (9) and Mason (6) St. Hilaire to the museum. They are both interested in art and it was great to have them so engaged in the art. The current exhibit is Eric Carle: Re-Imaged and Re-Imagined. Over the past 45 years, several of Eric Carle’s books have been republished, providing Eric with an opportunity to re-imagine some of his earlier illustrations. The collages on view in this exhibition exhibits works that Carle chose to re-illustrate alongside previous ones. What a wonderful way to share Eric Carle’s evolving style and techniques. I explained to the boys that most of the pieces we were comparing side-by-side were created 20 years apart.
The museum offers kids clip boards, pencils, and an art scavenger hunt. The boys were thrilled to look for a long list of items in the collages. We went through and I read each card to them as they searched for the items on their list. We talked about what was different from the old collage and the newer version. I was truly impressed at the details they noticed which included brush work, color and texture, composition and proportion changes. Tyler was fantastic at seeing the differences in the old collages versus the new, he noticed more details than even I did! Nobody was in a rush, we spent about an hour talking about Eric Carle’s collage work. What a great time we had!
For the Kids
Mason explained to me on the way into the museum that the pictures would be hung down low, at his eye level and not mine. I guess he was mentally preparing me for a sore back. The museum takes into consideration a lot of things that interest and inspire kids. Not only were the pictures hung down low, there were samples of Carle’s hand painted collage papers to touch and feel as well as a setup of his materials in a covered case. We were all excited about how he used a carpet square sample as a stamp! The boys and I were on a mission to stop into Home Depot after the museum.
The kids decided that after we were finished enjoying the exhibit, we needed to go into the Kids Art Studio and see what the project of the day was. As it turns out, construction paper cats was the Art du Jour, we were in! The Kids Art Studio featured low tables and stools, construction collage paper, funky edged scissors, glue sticks, crayons and markers. We remembered seeing four versions of Carle’s purple cat in the exhibit and the boys told me about how the face was done in the book art. They have a great memory, as a matter of fact I got us lost on the way home and it was Mason who navigated me back home.
The boys and I spent a long time making our collage cats, it was fun for me to listen to them as they cut and glued. Tyler brings out his collage supplies every time I visit and he even lent a hand on my Koala collage from my Noah’s Ark Solo exhibition a few years back. He’s hooked.
A Great Day
By the time we left the museum, mine was the only coat hanging in the coat room (the kids used a locker that at first I couldn’t find the key to, they were sure we’d have to drill the lock). It was that kind of a wonderful time I had with my nephews at this museum that caters to kids. If you ever find yourself in Western Mass, you must make your way here. Maybe plan your trip to coordinate with the colors of fall including the world famous foliage and the flowers at the Smith College Chrysanthemum exhibit.
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