________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 13 . . . . March 3, 2000

cover Art and Illustration for the Classroom: A Guide for Teachers and Parents.

Rhian Brynjolson
Winnipeg, MB: Peguis Publishers, 1998.
198 pp., pbk., $22.00.
ISBN 1-895411-90-4.

Subject Heading:
Art-Study and teaching (Elementary).

Review by Joan Walters.

**** /4

image Rhian Brynjolson, an illustrator of award-winning children's books and the animator of several shorts for Canadian Sesame Street, has written a comprehensive and helpful guide for parents and teachers to initiate, support and enhance the visual arts experience of children and young adolescents. Although not a certified teacher, the author has had extensive experience working with teachers and teaching children in and outside of schools. She richly illustrates the book with examples of children's artworks based on the lessons and activities outlined in the text.

Writing for adults without much experience in the visual arts, the author provides a sound rationale for art education and for the approach taken in the book. It provides a wealth of good ideas and useful information, organized around the language of art (line, shape, colour, etc.), various media and techniques including painting, printmaking and photographic processes appropriate to this level. Drawing is emphasized as a way of seeing and learning and as a basis for other academic skills. Relief sculpture (plasticine a la Barbara Reid), mixed media, and collage replicate many of the techniques used by contemporary children's book illustrators. With frequent references to children's book illustrations and the list of children's "books to have handy," the author makes excellent use of her particular interests and expertise.

As usual in art education textbooks and resources of this type, the emphasis is on more conventional art media and activities, two-rather than three dimensional work (the exception being the ubiquitous mask), with suggestions for "interesting subjects" and "integration." Because of the author's personal experience as an illustrator, the section on book illustration stands out. With this exception, the book varies little from other books on the market, but it appears to be a well-researched compilation of content and approaches from accepted art education sources. The book is a good support for many of the current provincial art curriculum guides available in Manitoba and across Canada and the USA, but the author does not acknowledge (is seemingly not aware of) these resources or that art curriculum guides including similar content and approaches already exist, and are provided free, to teachers in the schools. The user friendliness of the how-to's and the many illustrations make this a useful support for art programs in the schools.

What is missing from this book, yet is considered an important component in current art education practice, is the inclusion of what is generally termed "art appreciation." The author labels art appreciation as a passive activity, but this can only be a subjective point of view. With the exception of her attention to book illustration, there is little reference to a wider world of art. Visual literacy is an important outcome for this author, but in the final section, tellingly entitled "afterword," she encourages looking at and talking about visual images, suggesting the use of a wider variety of images, but draws only on examples from children's books. This limitation may be convenient, or a good starting point for the uninitiated, but it leaves the reader with the impression that the only way to view and talk about art works is from the formalist point of view: that is, the way colour, for example, or the media and techniques, are used. The focus on illustration excludes many other more important considerations: what artworks tell us about our past or present world, why art is created and how different cultures express themselves; that is, for purposes other than "illustration." Even (or perhaps especially) the youngest children love to look at and respond to all kinds of images. A greater range of visual examples throughout the book would provide a more encompassing view of "art" and encourage a greater emphasis on learning about it. The school and the home, with perhaps an occasional visit to an art gallery thrown in, provide the only opportunities children may ever have to talk about art works that are significant in their own or others' cultures. This book would be strengthened if it included examples and discussion models that explore a wider variety of approaches to looking at and talking about art, including illustration.

This book is highly recommended for parents and teachers who wish to support children's natural abilities and their love for the visual arts. It is an excellent supplement to art education curriculum guides currently available in the schools.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Walters is a professor of Art Education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364