I Am Am Artist

I Am Am Artist
Kertu Sillaste (translated by Adam Cullen)

Who or what is an artist? That lies at the heart of this picture book by illustrator/art teacher Kertu Sillaste. My experience of teaching young children indicates that it’s not until they reach about seven that they start saying such things as “I can’t draw” when what they mean is more like “I can’t create what I consider an accurate representation of this or that” – a tiger is the exemplar this book’s creator uses – but art is so much more.
This is what the young artist main character and narrator discusses and demonstrates herein.

First, with reference to a self-portrait, he presents the variety of processes that an artist might use, ‘An artist thinks and draws and paints and glues and sketches and moulds and photographs and films and considers and constructs and assembles.’ Most important at the outset is ‘a good idea’ and this can be generated in different ways including using one’s imagination, looking at art, taking out your paints and paper or perhaps you don’t even know what sparked it but you feel so inspired that you just have to get to work right away.

I love the playful ways the boy creates memorials for his grandparents 

and others, as well as his creative putting together of found objects. 

At other times art might be story-telling through pictures, and these pictures can perhaps be about worrying events or people, or in contrast reveal what makes that particular artist happy.

Not all creative ideas reach fruition though – some remain as ideas while others might be possibilities for another day. Indeed some days can go particularly unsatisfactorily with nothing at all working out; 

but still the creative spark is re-ignited the following morning.

There’s also the consideration of revealing what you’ve done to others – what will the reaction be? … ‘An artist really needs praise’ says John. Over-ridingly though the narrator loves to make art; that is what the author hopes he’ll put across to young readers of this book and in so doing, expand their boundaries of art and being an artist. Thinking outside the box is what we want to encourage.

Undoubtedly Kertu Sillaste succeeds in her mission and I suggest this is a book to share and discuss with KS1 children especially, ‘before that “I can’t draw’ notion takes root.

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