Written by Teal Triggs, Illustrated by Daniel Frost
Published by Wide Eyed ISBN: 9781847806116
Review by Priya Bual
Now kids can gain a degree from The School of Art! This activity book takes kids through lessons which students would learn from art school, starting from ‘Lesson One: How does a line begin?’ all the way to ‘Lesson 40: What do we mean by ‘aesthetics?’
The School of Art is set out as if you are taking on an academic year, with three terms and a final exhibition at the end. The reader acts as the student and learns lessons from the five professors – ‘Professor of Ideas’ who personifies your imagination (her studio is literally in the clouds!); ‘Professor of Form’ who personifies structure and what the Bauhaus movement has done for art (he looks like Johannes Itten with a beard); ‘Professor of Senses’ helps create experiences and meanings with art; ‘Professor of Making’ introduces kids to different materials and how to make things into virtual or structural objects and lastly ‘Professor of the Planet’ who is the newest professor (as thinking about the environment is an issue which is increasingly spreading to art), he helps create eco friendly meanings in art.
In a very creative and imaginative storyline, the ‘professors’ help each other and the reader to learn everything you would learn in art school. Each lesson follows on from the other and there is a running composition of the storyline; an activity cloud with instructions for the ‘student’ to fulfil as well as larger, bold writing which summaries or explains more about the lessons.
Some words and sentences within the book are challenging for younger readers. There is a glossary at the back, however terms in there can be too advanced for younger children, for example ‘Cross Hatch Marks – (also: crosshatching) – a kind of shading made from intersecting parallel lines’. Therefore this main audience would be ideal for older kids, roughly in Year 7 to 9, who can independently find out meanings and learn for themselves. As a result The School of Art becomes a very interactive read for kids, with activities including researching artists such as Andy Warhol and Bridget Riley, painting, collaging and creating your own mini comic.
The illustrations, by the up and coming Daniel Frost, aid the reader’s imagination by simplifying terms learnt in the lessons. The fun and bubbly illustrations exemplify characteristics in the professors, and the bold block colours help the composition become balanced and still feel light and fun to read. Throughout the book there is a mixture of double page colour spreads and white backgrounds with smaller colour illustrations, Frost composed each page to compliment the writing and the structure of the book without the reading becoming too light or too heavy, keeping it engaging to the reader. Frost follows the rules that are taught within The School of Art, having proportioned figures, harmonious colours and rhythm with each illustration, this subtly helps the reader understand the lessons better.
As an art student myself I found The School of Art a funny and entertaining read. I caught myself analysing my own work to see if I use all the right structures and techniques that, as you get older and become more experienced, come naturally. It was fascinating and entertaining the way The School of Art incorporated famous movements such as Bauhaus by mentioning it as another art school in Germany or famous artist such as Leonardo Da Vinci to teach ‘Lesson 22: How do we draw realistic human proportions?’
The Art School doesn’t just teach kids about how to draw but how to use art in life, such as solving problems by visualising them, also keeping in mind the environmental issues, channelling art towards thinking about recycling and water usage. Frost succeeded in creating light and engaging illustrations with bold colours and characteristics to keep the story flowing.
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