Friday, October 7, 2011

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Japanese artist Allen Say's picture book autobiography is a treat for all ages.  Photos and archival documents as well as paintings and black and white sketches are used to illustrate his life, up until age 16 (in 1953), when he went with his father to live in the United States.

Say's early life was remarkable. His father said to him "I expect you to be a respectable citizen, not an artist! Artists are lazy and scruffy people - they are not respectable." His parents had divorced when he was a young child and that is partly why he ended up living on his own in Tokyo from age 12 onward. Say's favourite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei, agreed to take him on as a student. Shinpei became a sort of father to Say after that.

Say struggled with drawing hands and asked, "How long do I have to practice?" Shinpei's response: "Drawing is never a practice. To draw is to see and discover. Every time you draw, you discover something new. Remember that." (This advice is also useful for me, since I'm currently taking a drawing class.)

The book is fascinating record of social conditions during World War II and its aftermath in Japan through the eyes of a young person. It is also a moving account of remaining true to one's artistic heart. There's a nice interview with the author in School Library Journal online.

Readalikes: the autobiography A Drifting Life by Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi covers a similar time period and subject in graphic novel format for adults and teens. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis is another good all ages picture book autobiography.


avisannschild said...

I love that advice! It's good advice for all artists (not just visual ones), I think. OK, I'm done bombarding your blog with comments for tonight! :)

Lindy said...

Hey, I LOVE comments! Keep it up!