Art exhibit features work of children's book illustrator

PLAINVIEW – The Abraham Art Gallery at Wayland Baptist University will host the work of Caldecott Award-winning illustrator David Small in an exhibit running Feb. 28 through April 15.

Held in cooperation with the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the exhibit will include original works by Small, who earned the Caldecott Award in 2001 for his artwork in So You Want to be President? by Judith St. George. In the award notes, committee members said Small’s artwork “echoes political cartooning in his wiry, expressive lines and imaginative settings… and the art employs skilled composition and atmospheric use of color and texture to inform the text and create spreads of impressive impact.”

Small and his wife, Sarah Stewart, a native of Corpus Christi, work together on many book projects. These partnerships have included The Library, The Gardener, and The Journey, all of which will be featured in the show at Wayland. The Gardener received 17 awards, including the Christopher Medal and the 1998 Caldecott Honor Award.

Of his 27 picture books, six are written by Small himself. Imogene’s Antlers has been featured for 15 years on the PBS children’s program “Reading Rainbow.” Others include Ruby Mae Has Something to Say, George Washington's Cows and Fenwick's Suit, which Fox began making into a movie in 2000.

A native of Detroit, Small called his hometown a harsh and aggressive city which “made art and music all the more sweet in my life, and more of a necessity.” He studied art and English at Wayne State University and did graduate work in art at Yale University. He taught drawing and printmaking at the college level for 14 years, and published his first book, Eulalie and the Hopping Head, during that time.

Small’s books have been translated into six languages and he has done freelance editorial artwork for years, with drawings appearing in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and the Washington Post. He also reviews picture books frequently for the New York Times Book Review.

As an artist, Small tends to value the traditional methods and techniques in creating artwork, according to Dr. Candace Keller, professor of art at Wayland and curator of the art gallery. His views on computer art label is as “inevitably slick, anonymous and lacking in human warmth… I want to hold a brush!” Small said good ideas and bad ideas are often hard to distinguish, and he suggests that simply reading and looking at art constantly prevents reinventing the wheel and the color wheel. His advice to young artists is to “work hard at your art, be kind, clean your fingernails and write thank you notes.”

Keller notes that school-age children and teachers will find particular interest in the David Small exhibit, and she welcomes classes to visit the gallery. Gallery staff can assist with field trips and guiding groups through the exhibit. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, and from 2-5 p.m. on Saturdays, but can be open earlier on weekdays for school groups. Admission is free.

The Abraham Art Gallery is located in the Mabee Learning Resource Center on the Wayland campus. For information or to schedule a group tour, contact the gallery at 291-3710.