Illustrators are a mostly mysterious crowd. Authors and artists in general tend to be a bit of an odd group that way. While people can recognize movie stars and television actors in the grocery store, I could be sitting right next my favorite author waiting for a bus and not know it. Some authors gain a type of notoriety but most of them are not instantly recognizable. But we know their work.
I can recognize a Sendak drawing anywhere. I'm pretty familiar with Eric Carle's work. Quentin Blake's work I could pick up out of a line-up. And I'm fascinated by the authors and illustrators behind the work. I love to read biographies and biographical sketches of my favorite storytellers. So when I found Dilys Evans' Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration, I knew I had to take a look.
The book mixes biographical information with an examination of the illustrator's style. Profiles include such big names as Hilary Knight, David Wiesner, Paul O. Zelinsky, Harry Bliss, David Shannon, and Lane Smith to name a few. Each chapter discusses a different illustrator, providing images from their work, anecdotes, critique, and personal quotes to paint a picture (pun intended) of the artist. I know a good number of illustrators, particularly newer ones, but I got introduced to a couple new ones through this book. I'm always fascinated to see the very different types of illustration that ends up in books.
The artists talk about their influences, the evolution of their art, their big breaks, and why they do picture books. Evans intermixes an exploration of a particular scene or book, highlighting the unique style of the illustrator. The book is not designed to teach illustration technique but I found myself learning a lot from these masters of the craft. I do believe that children's book illustration can be an art. This book reiterated that for me. I found this to be a wonderful book for anyone interested in picture books, illustration art, or art history.