Saturday, June 6, 2009


I've been struggling with my drawing lately. I want so badly to illustrate my own work but learning to draw is slow going. So I draw things that kind of look like real life things. Kind of. And occasionally I get discouraged. So Ish by Peter H. Reynolds is a bit of a godsend. I have to buy this book. No if, ands, or buts about it. 

This simple but powerful book follows Ramon, who loves to draw. He draws constantly. He will draw anything and everything. One afternoon his brother glances over his shoulder and makes a comment about his drawing. It is devastating to Ramon. He suddenly feels that his drawings are no good. He is constantly crumpling his papers and tossing them. And finally he gives up. He feels that he is not good enough to draw. But Ramon's little sister uses one little word to turn Ramon's feelings around. Ish. His picture of a vase is not perfect but it's vase-ish. All of his images are ish. And Ramon realizes that there is nothing wrong with not having perfect drawings. Perfect-ish is good enough. 

This is an incredibly simple story with incredibly simple drawings but it was amazingly powerful for me. I think every artist should either buy or receive a copy of this book. Creating is hard. The critic inside all of us constantly tells us we are not good enough and that we should stop. This story is a wonderful reminder that the inner critic is only one voice. The drawings are simple ink and watercolor but they are warm. There is a lot of energy in the pictures and Reynolds sets the mood well with his choice of colors. Ramon's dark time of doubting is done with muted browns and greys and his revelation, courtesy of his sister, is all yellows and oranges. This is book with movement and energy. And a wonderful message. 

Children will love the images and the easy to read text but may not fully understand the message. Adults on the other hand will be clamoring to buy copies for themselves and their artist friends. We all doubt ourselves. This book reminds us that it is okay to create even if your work is not perfect. And that's a lesson that we can never hear too often. I can't recommend this book highly enough.  

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