Illustrator Martin Taylor, 10, for "Song of a Wanderer" by Annie Strother, 13. Published July/August 2000.
A note from Jane Levi
I love this painting by Martin Taylor, commissioned by our former editor Gerry Mandel in 2000, to illustrate Annie Strother's story, "Song of a Wanderer". Besides its striking use of color, and the fantastic amount of detail Martin packs into his picture, I really appreciate the way that he uses perspective to reveal so many scenes within scenes. It's an illustration that not only captures a moment in the story–the protagonist's memory of driving into a town in Iowa, the latest town she and her brother have been brought to by their wandering parents–but also paints a picture of the rest of the story, in three major parts.
The first part talks about the journeys undertaken by the Wanderers of the title. In fact, the majority of the picture (about two-thirds of the whole) is taken up with a long road through the countryside, implying a lengthy road trip, great distances travelled, and a significant amount of time taken up with such journeys. The trees are reminiscent of the Wisconsin landscape they are leaving, and also hint at the kinds of scenery they have seen on their previous journeys through other states. A little bird looks out on the scene from the top of a tree, while others fly above the forest.
The road seems to end almost on the edge of a precipice, or at least a very steep hill, and–like the children in the story– we are jolted into the town, the second part of the image and the story. There is so much detail packed into this part of the picture, that it's amazing to recognise that this huge town all fits into only two-thirds of the remaining third of the page! Studying these streets and buildings we can imagine all the hundreds or even thousands of new people, the possible new homes, the new schools and stores and restaurants and sports grounds that the children will have to learn about in this new place.
In the last small section of the picture, we move from sharp focus on detail into the hazier distance. Beyond the limits of the town we can see more green of forests or plains or hills stretching out and up into the sky. The narrator of the story knows that at some point they will move on again from this town into an unknown future, and we, like her, can only guess at what this distant prospect holds: we just know it is there.
This weekend, why not try telling a whole story through an illustration? Make a piece of work that captures a moment, but at the same time speaks about the mood or the overall message of the whole story. If you like, you can use the same kind of aerial perspective that Martin uses (you can read more about that below). As always, if you like what you have made, please send it to us via the Submit button below, or on our website. Remember, there is no fee for art submissions, and you can send us up to 3 in one submission. We always look forward to seeing what you have created.
Until next week
One technique for getting lots of detail into one picture–besides having the patience to draw a lot of tiny detail, of course!–is to use perspective. This week's illustration uses a kind of perspective called aerial perspective, which gives a view, known as an oblique view (because it is at an angle), across a wide range of a landscape. The effect is that the viewer is looking across the scene from a distance, as if from the top of a mountain or the window of an airplane–for a great example of a view from an airplane check out "Parade of Clouds" by Asfia Jawed from the May 2018 issue of Stone Soup. This perspective is different from birds-eye view, which tends to look straight down at the ground from directly above, a similar perspective to a typical map.
It is often said by art historians that the use of the aerial view in art really took off in the twentieth century, mainly because of the advent of air travel. This kind of perspective had become increasingly popular in the century before, when the French balloonist known as Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) took the very first aerial photographs from his balloon, starting in 1858. Sadly, those photographs of his did not survive, but the Met Museum in New York has a photographic aerial view from 1860, "Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It", which was taken by James Wallace Black. This is the earliest known aerial photograph of a city. As air travel became increasingly common, aerial views became more popular. You'll see them in all sorts of photographs and artworks once you start looking out for them!
What will you choose for your art experiment with aerial perspective? You don't have to go up in a balloon or a plane! You could work from a photograph you took of a view when you were out walking one day. You could also work from life. Perhaps you live in a tall building and can look at the view from your window. Or maybe, like Martin, you can construct a whole view from your imagination.
Highlights from the past week online
Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at stonesoup.com!
We published a lovely concrete poem by Angela called “The Fire Flower” on the blog this week. Check out the illustration Angela sent in plus the transcription of the poem included below it.
Interested in the experiences of refugee children around the world? Read Ivy’s book review of Refugee by Alan Gratz, which focuses on a Jewish boy in the 1930s in Nazi Germany, a Cuban girl in the 1990s, and a Syrian boy in modern times.
Song of a Wanderer
By Annie Strother, 13
Illustrated by Martin Taylor, 10
They say guilt is a staggering burden, but I think change is the heaviest load of all. All my life I had faced it head on, and I’m surprised that I was older when I finally decided that all of the wandering wasn’t fair.
I still remember driving into the tiny, midwestern town in Iowa. The sky looked troubled and angry, and I recall that it looked formidable and opposing. It was November, and I was sure that the bleak landscape would soon be covered with a blanket of sparkling, white snow.
I sat with my brother Rob in the back of the old VW van. We were both sullen and cross, angry with our parents for dragging us to yet another town. We glared at them from the back seat as they bubbled over at every little thing like ecstatic children at a birthday party.
“Look at that adorable little house!”
“It’s so darling!”
“And all the little shops! Oh, how exciting!”
I had heard it many times before as we entered a new place when roaming about the country on my parents’ vagabond trip. Our vagabond trip. They called themselves wanderers, but I referred to them as middle-aged hippies.
This was the thirty-second town I had lived in throughout my life. I was thirteen, adaptable and, most importantly, accepting. Too accepting. Inside I was sick of the traveling and the wandering. I wanted a place of my own. .../more
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