TNCJ’s fall exhibition, Visual Voyage: Exploring the Media and Styles of Award Winning Children’s Book Illustrators, on view from Wednesday, October 22, through Sunday, December 14, will present more than 50 works of art by renowned picture book artists, including Mary Azarian, Eric Carle, Floyd Cooper, Gerard DuBois, Antonio Frasconi, Trina Schart Hyman, Steve Jenkins, Leo Leonni, Ted Lewin, E. B. Lewis, Emily Arnold McCully, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Peggy Rathmann, Jan Reynolds, Faith Ringgold, William Steig, Duncan Tunatiuh, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wisnewski, and Paul Zelinsky.
Four basic elements make a picture book—a format unique to children’s literature—distinctive: story, pictures, style, and format. Pictures and style are featured in this exhibit. Pictures, of course, are self-explanatory, but they are never just lines or brush strokes on a page. Committees that award the Caldecott Medal, the top prize for an American illustrator for a work completed in the previous year, have guidelines that state that illustrations in a picture book must be appropriate, flow seamlessly and work together with the text. An illustrator’s style and color palette must complement the story, i.e., must complete the story and not fight it, overwhelm it, or denigrate it.
The illustrator’s style lies in how he or she approaches his/her craft. Styles can be realistic, surrealist, impressionist, expressionist or naïve. The artist’s means of expression is also reflected in the choice of medium. The media choices an artist makes often determine whether a picture book works or falls flat. Watercolors, oils, acrylics, collage, or photographs are a few ways in which illustrators bring stories to life.
The artists featured in the exhibit are known internationally and represent the highest caliber of children’s book illustrators reflected in the number of whom have been awarded Caldecott Medals and Honor Medals; Coretta Scott King Medals and Honor Medals, Pura Belpre Medals and Honor Medals, plus a myriad of other awards too numerous to list. There is even one alumnus of The College of New Jersey—Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Honor medalist E. B. Lewis.
The curator of the exhibition is Dr. Deborah Thompson, Associate Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at TCNJ. The exhibition will be accompanied by public lectures and demonstrations, as well as a fully illustrated catalogue with a scholarly essay by Dr. Barbara Kiefer, the Charlotte S. Huck Professor of Children’s Literature at Ohio State University.