North Delta Library Odyssey- Part 2
I’m here in Batesville, Miss. to give an afternoon Summer Reading Program. Sometimes, when I book library programs within the same library system–in this case the First Regional Library System–the scheduling is a little tricky. Often, I’m left with a morning with nothing scheduled, so I plan on working in the hotel on writing and art projects. As I write these words I’m in a hotel. So, I’m at work even out of the studio.
Soon it will be time to clean up, pack up, check out and head for the library.
Amanda Tutor is the Youth Specialist at the Batesville Public Library. She has the room set up for a nice size crowd with tables and chairs. I’ve arrived about an hour ahead of time to get set up for the program. The walls are decorated with colorful musical instruments and lend a cool festive feeling. Soon, a nice size group of parents, grand parents and kids pile in. And then, the show begins.
The program always begins with a short review of how I work as an illustrator and how I create images for the text. These images show an illustration from concept thumbnails to finished watercolor art. The audience can see how an illustration is developed. Hopefully, the very rough preliminary drawings give the kids courage to keep going.
Then, the kids get to invent their own instruments based on shapes that we arbitrarily put together. The craziest looking odd instruments develop as the drawing session continues. By the end of the hour, we’ve done several drawings and the kids seem excited as I show them books about how to draw horses, aliens, cars and sea creatures that Amanda has pulled from the library's collection. Books that the kids can check out and take home to study.
I began the day thinking that this was my last stop before I head back to Jackson and home. However, Amanda tells me that I’m supposed to be at the Tunica Library tomorrow. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t have that library booked on the calendar! So, after the program at the Batesville Library, I head to Tunica to find a hotel. Fortunately, it’s a Wednesday night and there are lots of vacancies.
As I drive through Tunica, I passed by one of my favorite places to eat, The Blue and White Restaurant on Hwy. 61. I checked into my hotel and headed back to The Blue and White for good, old-fashioned diner service. And they did not disappoint! The place is clean and very bright. It’s been around for all these years and continues to do a great bit of business even during off days like a Wednesday. The waitress was very chatty, too, with all the diners. The restaurant even features a counter service with stools to sit on. I should have come here to take pictures when I was illustrating Rock’N’Roll Dogs!
Afterward, I headed back to the room to work on this blog.
After tomorrow morning’s program, I’m driving back south, down the legendary blues trail of Hwy. 61. I’ll go through Clarksdale, Cleveland, Indianola, Belzoni and Yazoo City before I get back to Jackson. All of these Miss. towns are classic Delta. I should know… I’m from Greenwood.
North Delta Library Odyssey
Today, I travel to Horn Lake, Miss. for a morning library visit with the Summer Reading Program there. This town is in the northwest corner of Mississippi and a three hour drive from Jackson. So… I got up very early and headed out at dawn.
This summer’s theme, as I may have mentioned before is Libraries Rock. And at the M.R. Dye Public Library, the library certainly does rock! Carson Culver, the Youth Specialist, worked with her summer volunteers and interns to decorate the program venue with cool graphics from all eras of rock and roll. They were good looking graphics, too! From Michael Jackson to David Bowie, there were many musical acts from years gone represented.
When the program began, the room was packed and I could tell it was a going to be a routy crowd. But soon enough, they settled down to their drawings as we made our way through their creating their own musical instruments–on paper. To try to render these instruments would be quite a sculpture. Not to mention the fact that the sounds coming out of these instruments would probably be ear piercing!
About 40 miles south of Horn Lake is Senatobia. That’s where I head for my afternoon program at the Senatobia Public Library. The Youth Specialist there is Stephanie Gilliam. She had a great room for the program as well. When show time came, a few parents and kids were present for the drawing program and the instruments that we were to create.
When a few kids show up, the program takes on a different vibe. It’s different from a crowded program in the way that it’s more intimate. I think the kids like it when there is more personal attention given to them. Perhaps they get more out of the program, too.
After the program, I pack up and head to my hotel in Batesville, about forty miles south of Senatobia, for what I think is going to be my last library stop tomorrow. According to the schedule that I have, it should be.
Biloxi, Mississippi- Last day of the Whole School Summer Institute. We’ve all worked hard this week–teachers and session presenters–to understand how an arts integrated curriculum can help students learn with more retention. I’ve always heard that creativity is part of learning. Rather than a teacher standing in front of the class as the fount of knowledge, the arts integrated program engages students on many levels and many learning styles. We all don’t learn the same way. So, it’s up to the teacher to figure out ways to creatively provide ways for the students to become involved with their studies. Art projects can do that.
Talking with other Teaching Artists, sharing ideas with school teachers and meeting new friends is always fun at these things. I hope I can retain part of it to use in my school and library visits.
These four days have been a sort of intensive workout for me. Like when you are “on” for three sessions per day, trying to make sure the teachers are getting the material being taught, that they are having a learning experience and hope to high heaven that they walk away from this conference with loads of things they can use in their classroom. All one can do is prepare the material, teach it and then sit down later to figure out what worked and what didn’t work during each session. These post-mortem sessions are great ways to improve the teaching session.
The last day is always bitter sweat because we’ve all been together for four days laughing, learning, eating, learning some more, eating some more and then it’s over. Still there’s a continuum involved when you realize that these teachers are going back to the classroom in August to put all these lessons to good use–art in the classroom.
And, hopefully, we’ll all meet down the road… maybe next year, too!
Biloxi, Mississippi- I’m here at the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Whole School Summer Institute in Biloxi. Today is the first day of the conference and the teachers have come in droves to learn how to utilize arts in the classroom. The workshop lists sessions on writing, photography, sculpture, and many more.
My workshops have gone pretty well. The teachers get to choose their own schedule for the week and I’m pleased and flattered to say that my sessions have been full. I hope I can step up to the challenge.
The folks in attendance are mainly teachers that have come to this conference to learn new ways to engage their students in creative–and memorable–ways. With teachers who are two weeks into their summer vacation come to a workshop style conference like this, they are ready to play. The child in them comes out when they are able to create, laugh, have fun… and learn! After all, creativity and discovery comes from play and learning at the same time. Many are shoved out of their comfort zone and allowed to blaze new trails in their own way to discover new horizons. They remember what is was like to be a kid again.
Lake, Mississippi- Today, I visited Lake Library with the Libraries Rock summer reading program. There was a great crowd of kids and parents that seem to really enjoy drawing their own musical instruments of their own creation.
During these sessions, I always encourage participation from the kids in the drawing. Kids of all ages get to draw with some guidance from me. Hopefully, there will be a little more understanding of how they can push the boundaries of their drawing skills. Sometimes, the kids are hesitant to draw, but I always explain, “It’s just a sketch. It’ doesn’t have to be perfect.”
I also ask the librarian to pull books on drawing. Since it’s kind of the theme of my library visit, it’s good that the kids will be able to check out books on drawing and practice at home. Also, the fact that they are using the library for fun projects, they are bound to find other books that they like as well.
Now that June is here, I’m preparing to travel to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the MAC (Miss. Arts Commission) Whole School Summer Institute in Biloxi. I’ll be presenting workshops about the artistic experience called The Illuminated Letter, creating a graphic novel and a breakout session (general information) on The Illustrator as Storyteller; the creative process of the picture book.
In preparation and packing for this full week, I’m reviewing everything I’ll need to make sure all the participants get every last drop of the artistic experience that they can get.
Also in June begins the summer reading series at various libraries that I visit around the state of Mississippi. This week I’ll be going to the Lake Library in (you guest it) Lake, Miss. I love going to small town libraries because I’m from a small town and I know how important the library is to a small community.
This summer’s theme is Libraries Rock! We’ll be designing our own musical instruments by drawing them out on paper. I’ll make sure the designs are original and funky looking. It will be fun to see what the participants come up with!
The library visits are all part of the plan to get out there and meet kids who are reading and love to draw. Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t exposed to working artists in the graphics field. I had a teacher who was a fine artist and that is what she taught, basic drawing and painting. I would have loved to meet a working illustrator at the time. I think I would have saved a lot of time and just gone ahead and study art when I graduated from high school.
However, in the 50s and 60s, there was Jon Gnagy on the television (black and white) that taught everyone to learn to draw. I didn’t get one of the drawing sets like the one pictured, but I did use a regular #2 yellow pencil and a piece of notebook paper. And draw I did!
So, when I go to the libraries, I love to see all the drawings all the kids bring in to show me. If they would only continue to hone those skills over time, they’ll develop a talent that has sustained me for a long, long time.
Two weeks in a row, I’ve lost book friends.
David R. Davis passed away last week. I knew David when he worked at Barnes & Noble here in Jackson. He was a typical Texan. Didn’t put up with much B.S. We were in a writing group together in the late 90s before he moved back to Ft. Worth. It was during that time that he read Jazz Cats at one of our critique meetings. We loved it! When Pelican Publishing bought the manuscript, David recommended me to illustrate it. It was my first full picture book to illustrate and I have David to thank! Soon followed Rock’N’Roll Dogs that was also received well. I guess David was the catalyst to my first picture book!
We had several adventures at book festivals and book expos for ALA and the Texas reading Association. He was always fun, a little persnickety and hilarious.
The above picture will be how I remember David. Dry witted with a smirk on his face, he could create a comical event out of a simple gesture and keep us laughing.
I will miss David Davis. Rest well, my friend.