If you aren’t familiar with the works of Shaun Tan, then I’m glad you’ve chanced across this post! This Australian illustrator-writer-creator-imaginer has an uncanny knack to take the mundane, flip it around and present it back to the world in the form of breathtaking picture books.
eric is from Tales of Outer Suburbia, an anthology that deals with the concepts of ‘otherness’ and ‘belonging’. The story, whence read without the images, is that of a foreign exchange student with strange mannerisms that are simply chalked down to ‘it must be a cultural thing.’
eric, in form, is a thumb-sized alien-esque creature, lean, dark and absolutely adorable. His travelling bags are made of acorn shells and his prefered bedroom is the kitchen pantry. The eager young narrator seeks to show him the wonders of zirs* home and suburbia, and when there is a lack of understanding and communication, falls back to the comfort of ‘it must be a cultural thing.’
The narrative stays unassuming of eric’s opinion, as often is when faced with an unknown culture. The illustrations, on the other hand, make the reader fall more and more in love with the little curious creature. In unravelling the transparent metaphor, the reader can replace the figure of the shadowy alien, with a human from another culture and re-read this miniature eric-sized book of heartache.
Shaun Tan’s illustrations are intricate and detailed as always. Seemingly everyday objects are imbued with strange meanings and contexts; for example, a simple teacup turns into eric’s bed. An observant reader can spend hours poring over the pages and will always find a new and enthralling detail.
* Gender neutral narrators get their gender neutral pronouns too. Ze= he/she; zirs = hers/his, etc.
Writer at Art1st
PS. A starting point for discussion can be this question: Why is eric written small letters? How does this contribute to the ‘otherness’ of this book?
PPS. While looking through the illustrations, look out for repeated objects and different perspectives of the same thing. What do you learn about eric’s everyday life and his hosts’ world?
The Art1st Team ended their work-week at IADEA’s super-fun two-day Art and Design Educators Conference. Perhaps, one of the first of it’s kind, the Conference saw Art Educators from schools across India, as well as several Art Education enthusiasts. The programme included talks by several prominent faces in the field, including, Deborah Thiagarajan of DakshinaChitra and Himanshu from the Dharavi Art Room, and Art Educators who are Artists too, like Harry Hancock, Dr. Manjiri Thakoor and Nilanjana Nandi.
Our very own Vanita Pai led the room down a walk through the history of Modern Art in India. Originally part of the award-winning publication ‘Eye Spy Indian Art‘, this designer art game contain fragments of history in the form of famous artworks, headlines and dates. The participants are given a chance to contemplate these historical fragments before they are asked to put together their own version of a timeline.
Hosted in the beautiful Piramal Museum of Art, each table was deemed a group, and with the roles reversed, the erstwhile teachers had a chance to be students again. The room was engulfed in noise, activity and colour! We watched as individuals who’d never met before, came together to agree upon one plan of action. Some focused on the division between political, cultural and art histories while others juxtaposed these timelines and created patterns that broke from linearity. The session ended with very exciting picture taking.
The Conference was beautifully organized and the schedule ran on an impeccable timing (Thank you Sara Vetteh!) Each table was provided with brand-new art supplies, and each lecturer made sure to pepper their talks with activities. This kept everyone in the room involved in the proceedings. As the first of its kind, the conference was a great start and we hope to see many more participants as well as involved speakers with each passing year.
Writer at Art1st
The story begins, as many stories do, in a faraway land with a singular dragon. But this dragon is a lonely one. She’d travelled far and wide but hadn’t found any dragons to make friends with. Instead, Sylvia makes friends with a Bird.
Rayner’s beautifully illustrated story shows that friendship transcends differences, in size, race and social circumstances. In charge of both the words and the pictures, Rayner weaves the story effortlessly through the gorgeous blue-green spreads.
Rayner’s books are primarily about animals, and she spends hours and hours watching them and making pencil sketches. Then, she goes into her colourful studio to create her illustrations. She mainly uses a liquid acrylic ink with a dip pen.
Writer at Art1st
PS: With all the new Art1st in production, we can’t help but admire the little publishing details, like the endearing copyright page design.
Idea Pearle creates magic!
Young Addy has a constant companion, a favourite playmate- the beautiful moon. As her family makes their way home one evening, Addy plays with her lunar friend as it seems to follow them back home.
A brilliant execution of a familiar idea, Pearle’s visual masterpiece uses the correct number of words to tell a simple story from the heart. Young readers are appropriately cued to look ‘up high’ and ‘down low’, as they play a game of celestial peek-a-boo. Older readers are pulled back into a childhood of fantasy, whimsy and effervescence.
The never-ending spreads are vibrant, as the figures seem to leap out and dance, almost like a film. Reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats, Pearle makes use of a paper collage cut out style marrying classically proportioned figures with clean shapes, sweeping hues and hypnotic patterns.
Writer at Art1st
PS. On the subject of the moon, did you manage to get a glimpse of the eclipse last night?
I’m sooooooo bored!
Well, isn’t this a familiar situation? Our young protagonist says she’s bored, like many others her age. But what happens when boredom is confronted with… a talking potato?
Michael Ian Black picks up on the adorably annoying nuances of a bored child. They seek to understand what lies behind the ‘bored’ and confront it with the unexpected potato. With roles-reversed, the bored whippersnapper suddenly has something to prove.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s wonderful digital illustrations bring to life the expressive face of the young girl, as she journeys from boredom into adventure. The pictures and words are well-choreographed, making ‘I’m Bored’ a visual comedy for all ages.
The series continues as Black and Ohi tackle similarly recurrent themes in ‘I’m Sad’, featuring the flamingo from its cameo in ‘I’m Bored’, and ‘Naked!’.
Writer at Art1st