Can cats fly?
Can a goat be a superhero?
Can a sausage go for a walk?
In picture books anything is possible, just as anything is possible in the imagination of a child. The power of picture books to ignite imagination is highlighted in our current exhibition, A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day – celebrating Western Australian picture books and 40 fabulous years of Fremantle Press.
Beginning with the award winning, A Sausage Went for a Walk (1991) by Ellisha Majid and Peter Kendall, the exhibition includes artwork drawn from the State Library Williams collection of illustrations, as well as artwork loaned from illustrators.
Readers of picture books usually only see the finished product in the form of the published book. The process of book making is revealed in this exhibition through sketches, storyboards, colour experiments, text revisions, and published artwork. The artworks in the exhibition reveal surprising insights into how picture books are brought to life. This post will explore five of these ideas.
1. A work in progress
Illustrations from Palo Morgan’s book Cat Balloon highlight how stories often change during the process of illustration. A closer look at sketches show cat balloon depicted with arms outstretched, and wings attached to his back. In the published illustration below Cat Balloon is shown pursuing his dream to fly by other means.
2. From big to small
Picture books are portable art. They are small enough to be held in little hands. To capture detail of shape and form, many illustrators choose to work with a larger scale. Moira Court’s, Leaping in single bound for the story My Superhero (written by Chris Owen) is more than four times the size of the published book!
3. Hints of home
A picture book can be found and read anywhere in the world, and translated into a variety of different languages and formats. The picture books featured in A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day have all been published in Western Australia, and embedded within them, are connections to place and the daily lives of their creators.
Street scenes of Fremantle in Sonia Martinez illustrations for The World According to Warren (written by Craig Silvey) might be recognisable to visitors.
The colours and patterns found in Sally Morgan’s illustration, Beneath the stars we all sleep. are inspired by her close observation of the Western Australian landscape, and the inter-connectedness of humans and the natural environment.
4. Universal themes
Picture books succinctly deal with complex themes and messages with global relevance. These range from cultural diversity, social inclusion, environmental concern, and the impacts of historical events, particularly war and its aftermath. They communicate about human emotions as varied as joy, to loneliness and grief, and themes of family, friends, belonging, and home. They affirm the importance of the imagination , which has the power to unlock dreams and human potential.
5. Medium and the message
Illustrators carefully select a style and technique which compliments the words. Some styles are detailed, while other styles are more spontaneous and free flowing. Each technique has a different effect on the viewer. The repetition of shapes and the geometric style of Kyle Hughes-Odgers, as seen in On a Small Island and Ten Tiny Things, draws attention to details in line, pattern, and shape. In contrast, Brian Simmonds’s realism in Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy provokes an emotional response.
A Sausage Went for a Walk One Day is presented by Fremantle Press, the State Library of Western Australia and AWESOME Arts. It was launched as part of the 2016 AWESOME Festival and Fremantle Press 40 Year Anniversary celebrations. It runs until 31 December 2016. For opening hours go to www.slwa.wa.gov.au
- Curatorial tours on the art of picture books will be conducted on the following days and times: Monday 17 October 12:00pm – 12:45pm, Friday 11 November 1:00pm – 1:45pm, Wednesday 23 November 12:00pm – 12:45pm. For bookings go to slwa.eventbrite.com.au
- Books featured in the exhibition are available to purchase from The Discovery Store at the State Library.