Illustration exhibit draws all ages

You know you remember them: the bright, saucer-like moon you said goodnight to, the wild things in your dreams, the enormous larger-than-life red dog. Children’s book illustrations.

They captured your imaginations then, and now they capture the imaginations of your nieces and nephews.

The art of illustrating for children is a key element to fostering imaginations.

The illustrious Society of Illustrators currently presents for the pleasure of John Brown University students, staff and surrounding community, the gallery: “Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration.”

This gallery features the 40 winners from last year’s competition to select the best children’s book illustrations.

Each featured work in the gallery exhibits both the original artwork as well as the book it goes with underneath it.

Though the University often has traveling galleries come to campus, this is the first for children’s book illustrations.

Charles Peer, professor of visual arts, said they booked the gallery before the Society of Illustrators had even chosen the winners.

He and the rest of the art department believe that since the University has an illustration program, it is important to bring in work that enriches the program. Illustration majors get to see not just the original artwork but the final product.

Additionally, “it’s a very important genre of art that’s really developing and growing in sophistication, range of styles, creative infusion and technical skills,” said Peer.

John Brown University Drawing II students had an opportunity to join this gallery with a complementary gallery of their own, displayed in the hallways outside the exhibit.

The Drawing II class, taught by Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Joel Armstrong, teamed up with Allen Elementary second graders.

The second graders dreamed up and drew a character they would like to see in a book. The drawings were then sent to Armstrong’s class.

His students chose a drawing to reinterpret, later hanging the drawings on the walls with the reinterpretation on top and the original below.

Sophomore Chloe Fennel enjoyed getting to participate in this project.

“I loved getting to study what someone else drew, try to guess what they were thinking and capture the feeling in their piece,” she said.

Fennel’s chosen character was a pretty pink mermaid. She chose it because she wanted a piece she could bring personality to.

“It was between the mermaid and the hot dog, but if I did the hot dog, I would have been too tempted to give it little shoes, and that would have veered too far from the original.”

Fennel got to meet the original artist herself on the night of the gallery opening.

Little Alysan walked her all around the gallery, telling her which pieces were her favorite and why.

Fennel had her own thoughts on the main gallery opening.

“The work in there melted my heart!” Fennel exclaimed. “Seriously, I have never wanted to be an illustrator more than right there in that gallery looking at all the well-done, distinct characters. All of them were my favorite, but if you have to know the truth, there was a bear riding a bike with a little girl in the bike basket. How could you not love that?”

Peer was just as pleased with the gallery.

“We had a huge turnout at the opening. Not only did we have University students, but we had a ton of second graders, their parents and lots of members of the community,” Peer said. “It was so fun to watch unfold.”

Peer’s favorite part was watching the second graders meet the college students with whom their art was paired.

“It was good for the little children to see that adults are doing the same thing they are doing,” he said.

Education professors are also encouraging their students to give the galleries a peek. Someday, their students could be the teachers of those second graders.

Kids, parents, illustrators, art students, book lovers, educators and community alike, all brought together for the love of creativity.