Studio: A Place for Art to Start
Studio: A Place for Art to Start
Art is made for sharing;
An artist always knows
That seeing it a different way
Can help your art to grow.
People in big cities
And teeny tiny towns,
Will hear the joyful melody
Of art that’s all around.
Do you have an idea?
Are you ready to create?
Listen to your inner voice
And find your special place.
Finding your own studio
Shouldn't be too hard:
Round the corner, in a park,
Or maybe in your yard.
A place to be creative, wherever that might be.
Make it your own, an artist's home,
A place where you'll be free.
This boldly coloured, joyful picture book celebrates creative spaces needed for artists young and old to thrive. It features a young rabbit and her father who tour a prospective building for the bunny dad's own professional activities. They spend the day visiting a building fitted with studios for creators of all kinds. Their guide is a marmalade feline who genially introduces them to all the tenants who make use of her building. What follows are various double spreads of different artists' environments, paired with a text that, at times, declaims about the needs of artists and, at other times, addresses readers to encourage them to find a space of their own.
The predominant hues are warm orange-pink, turquoise blue, and turmeric yellow, giving a warm and welcoming glow to the spaces the bunny and her parent explore. Figures are outlined in thick black and are all anthropomorphized animals with limited facial expressions (though most look very happy and content in their artistic pursuits). The creative community's lobby is outfitted with a coffee machine, fire extinguisher, and bulletin board about artistic happenings. Perhaps unbeknownst to all the characters in the story, but a delight for readers to find, an intrepid ladybug carrying a satchel also joins the tour and pops in and out of subsequent spreads.
Arrow explains what a studio is on the spread showing the characters in the main lobby: "We call a place a studio / When we're creating in it / Or practicing, or editing, / Or thinking for a minute." Turn the page, and we meet a bear in a loft with skylights, plants, ladders, and a place for a canvas three times their height. "Some artists need a studio / With lots of room and light / While others find a tiny nook / Will fit their work just right." The subsequent spread is bordered in black while a mouse in a cozy dark room shows the visiting rabbits her work. At a ceramics studio, the little bunny plays with a large mound of clay while the duck artist throws a vase mid-conversation with the bunny dad. A blazing kiln and all the accouterments of a potter's art are arranged in shelves and on tables while a goose in tutu right outside the door uses her space to "twirl and leap / Or simply stop to play" (the ladybug is twirling right along with the goose). An animator's studio, printmaking studio, an outdoor muralist's space in the alley behind the building, recording booth, and still life sketching studio round out the places that little bunny and her father see alongside their guide for the day.
Arrow points out the importance of the 'joyful melody' of art that can be heard all around a city, playing a role in the heart of a community rather than on its margins. The book ends with the feline landlord leading little bunny and her father to an empty studio for rent, an identical space to the room they visited first, with lofty ceilings and plenty of natural light. For bunny's dad, the place is perfect, and the empty place is soon populated in the last double spread by the maker and his child. He has plenty of tools on the wall, a hood installed, various drills, saws, a record player, speakers, and plants. The ladybug has also set up a workshop in their room while little bunny has a corner for her easel, cart of paints, and wall space to hang up her creations.
"Do you have an idea? / Are you ready to create? / Listen to your inner voice / And find your special place." For those who don't have a special room all to themselves, even a corner in the park or yard would do; what matters is that the creative process can unfold in a safe and nurturing environment. The text's singsong quality doesn't take away from the fact that artists engage in dedicated, hard work, needing specialized equipment, materials, and customized space for them to be at their best. The husband and wife duo, JW and Melissa Buchanan, known professionally as The Little Friends of Printmaking, elevate the sometimes pedestrian text with their buoyant, vibrant images that are sophisticated enough to show the range of activities artists employ. A visual delight that children can explore and ask questions about, Studio: A Place for Art to Start will also be a place for conversations in a classroom to start about creativity, the many different kinds of artists there are, and the ways autonomy and community are essential in fostering artistic growth.
Ellen Wu is a collections services librarian for juvenile and young adult materials at Surrey Libraries in Surrey, British Columbia.