Line, Colour, Shape and Contrasts: Some Explorations

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Free the Lines
Clayton Junior
Words & Pictures
It’s amazing how much you can say in a picture book without a single word of text. Clayton Junior does it all with lines – straight lines, curvy lines, thick lines and thin lines, lines close together and lines far apart; white lines and black lines. Using all these and the occasional bit of blocking, he tells a story of a small cat in a small boat sailing out into a large ocean to catch fish.

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Into that same water comes a huge, smoke-belching trawler,

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a trawler that casts an enormous net, an enormous net that scoops up everything in its path.

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Fortunately- for the trapped, though not the trawler’s crew – an outstretched paw with a large pair of scissors puts paid to the marine life devastation and cat sails serenely into port over an ocean once more teeming with life.
This thought-provoking tale poses questions about the ethics of fishing and the fishing industry, as well as offering lessons in visual literacy and opportunities to explore and experiment Clayton Junior’s minimalist techniques of creating shape and form. It has something to offer all ages from around four to adult.
From the same artist is

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Alone Together
Herein all manner of animals are shown as a means of exploring a wide range of opposites and contrasts. Each one of the stylish spreads could well be a storying starting point in addition to demonstrating the concepts chosen. This one really made me smile:

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Also worth adding to your early years collection are:

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Blue and Other Colours with Henri Matisse
Squares and Other Shapes with Josef Albers

Phaidon
These are two of the ‘First Concepts with Fine Artists’ series, beautifully produced board books that use the work of famous artists to introduce very young children to everyday concepts.
In the first, coloured cutouts from Matisse’s collages are the basis for teaching not only about colour, but also about shape and form, and how various colours can work when juxtaposed. Although blue crops up on most spreads, here’s one where it doesn’t …

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Both inside covers are used to provide information: at the back is a brief introduction to the artist and some of his works, in particular the cutouts; and at the front, in tiny print, is a key to the works featured with their dates.
An unusual way to introduce colours and the notion of ‘painting with scissors’ and more important, especially if like me, you believe most children do not actually learn colours from books but from life experience, a springboard to creativity.
Equally fascinating and also essentially about colour juxtaposition and perception too, but this time introducing basic 2D shapes is an introduction to the 20th century artist Josef Albers’ work, in particular, Homage to the Square.

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