This blog entry steps away from pens, pencils, chalks or paint brushes and sheds light on a different way of creating images, just as ancient. It is not crocheting or weaving, not bas-relief carving either. Let’s talk about pyrography, the art of drawing with heat or fire on wood, leather, metal of even glass. The most commonly used method however is on wood.
Our collection holds no sample whatsoever of such pyrographic works made by children. For sure there are some out there, because the pyrography tools are still selling aplenty. They were all the rage back in the 1950s and 1960s, when a wave of new consumer products became sought after items for crafty families.
Few artists excel in pyrography. One who masters the traditional figurative imagery is Julie Bender. Her small scale works, the beautiful fine art coasters, are as impressive as her large scale sport, pet, farm or wildlife works.
The one contemporary artist who took pyrography to another level is Cai Guo Quiang with his artworks made with gun powder and fireworks. His recent Exploding the self project is enough to convince anyone of his daredevil way.
We are saddened by the passing of Françoise Roy (1924-2021), in La Pocatière, Québec. She embraced life and will be missed by all who knew her. Françoise had a long successful teaching and family counseling career. She was a pioneer in applying the Goodenough (draw-a-person) test, when helping children and their families. Françoise had been an early inspiration in creating our Collection. Her insights will continue to inspires us always. As a modest tribute to her, below is a drawing, published for the first time, by a child she had assisted. We can see her own handwriting notes, taken just after conversing with the child.
To paraphrase Albert Einstein, if we keep repeating the same mistake, but expect different results, we are insane. Up until recently, too little was done to preserve the expression of children. The result is that the contribution by children to the societal narrative has been erased and historians do not have access to enough if it to draw significant interpretations from it. This situation is particularly unfortunate for the past 150 years, since the emergence of public elementary education in western cultures.
Fortunately, change seems underway in the 21st century and a few historians demonstrate a growing interest in what kids have to say or show. It is about time because whatever was left on paper by children during the second half of the last century is about to vanish. We created our Collection largely to remedy the situation and to leave mistakes of the past behind, when it comes to preserving children’s drawings.
We also take notice of the recent mostly European initiative by the International Research and Archives Network (IRAND) and their Historical Children’s Drawings display. This initiative is a contribution to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. Read the beautifully illustrated article by Dr Jutta Ströter-Bender, co-founder of IRAND, published on Research Outreach.
Only people who have suffered unspeakable traumas can fathom what citizens of Beyrouth are experiencing since last month’s explosion at the heart of their city. Author and mother of two, Yasmina Farah Massoud shared her thoughts about the horrendous time she, her family and her people find themselves in. See her August 11th Facebook post and her son josef’s rendering of the aftermath of the explosion (in French).
Parents, siblings, friends and teachers can definitely influence in how and what a child draws. Let’s not however overlook illustrators, who make it their trade to draw FOR children. Picture books have long fed kids’ imagination, but rarely do we see their illustrators celebrated. We turn our attention to Japan, where the museum community has done so, in a wonderful way.
The Chihiro Art Museum grew from the works and life of famed illustrator Chihiro Iwasaki. Located in Tokyo and Azumino, the museum holds an impressive internal collection with over 17K pieces by over 200 illustrators from 33 countries.
Nobody knows who this young boy named Onfim was, but we know when and where he lived: Medieval times, Russia. Thanks to Onfim himself, for drawing, thanks scientists’ curiosity and a great deal of luck. Onfim’s drawings were not meant to be preserved for centuries, yet they were by chance, due to where they ended up and preserved by natural elements. Find out the details of this amazing discovery in Justin E.H. Smith‘s article on on LitHub.com: Onfim Wuz Here. His article previously appeared in Cabinet Magazine. Let us all be inspired by Onfim’s images and make sure that in centuries from now, people will have access to today’s images from children, not by chance, but by design.
What do the kids draw while schools are closed, during this global pandemic? Which telling images will remain as memories, to illustrate future tales to children and grand children?
Does anyone have children’s drawings of the time of the Spanish Flu, a century ago? We doubt it, but let’s do everything we can to prevent a similar catastrophe this time around. Stay safe and protect those vulnerable around you!
When we carefully study its content, a child’s drawing can prove to be a window to the child’s world, and to our own as well. Should this drawing be old enough, it may give us a view to a nearly forgotten past. The drawing below, from our collection, was made by a boy, in the mid 1960s. Here, the hint to the past is actually spelled out in the words added to the drawing. It gives the title of a storybook which the drawing refers to. The book, written by Paulette Blonay and illustrated by Pierre Nardin, certainly made an impact on this child, and now resurfaces on our blog. The book itself is a rare find at antique sellers. Paulette Blonay’s Lili character and book series reached world wide fame and are easy to find, but little Tony not so.
This is the first known published in depth study of children’s art. It was first written in Italian by Corrado Ricci (1858-1934) and has been published in various languages for over 120 years and counting.
A copy published in 1887 found a home at Toronto’s Robarts Library and can be viewed as an open library edition on Archive.org