Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Illustration is an act of courage." — James Mayhew

What author and illustrator James Mayhew had to say about Visual Literacy at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content at the National Library in Singapore,

"I then had to deliver a solo talk called Every Picture Tells a Story, looking at visual literacy. I wanted to show how children need images of depth and ambiguity and emotion if they were going to grow up sophisticated viewers of the world around them. As we wish children to develop as readers and tackle more vocabulary and more subtle inferences in more ambitious writing, so they should develop the ability to appreciate, interpret and understand image. 
 Many children's book illustrations make the mistake of being too simplistic, colourful, slick and shallow. They linger on the surface; they have no depth. I wanted to get across the importance of honest illustration, of being true to yourself as an artist. So many students in Cambridge, including those from Asia, fall back on being over-influenced. Generic, homogenised, cute… often their work is completely different to their sketchbook studies. To put it simply, they illustrate how they think children’s books should look, rather than could look."


I have been thinking about visual literacy while creating the images for my next book. Illustrations that are neither cute nor perfect, but have depth and emotion. I also recently discovered my book is in 43 libraries in Singapore.—JCM

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