A new work of art has recently been installed at the Crestwood Primary School. The art, while inspired and compiled by award-winning children’s book illustrator Robin Brickman, was created by Crestwood Primary’s second graders. Every last one of them. Through a generous grant from the Hiram Community Trust, Brickman’s Community Mural workshop was brought to CPS to share the art and science behind “A Log’s Life,” with students and staff.
“A Log’s Life,” written by Wendy Pfeffer and illustrated by Brickman, tells the story of what happens after an oak tree falls in the forest. The death of the tree, and its eventual decay, brings life to the forest by providing food and shelter to the plants and creatures that live there. Brickman creates the remarkable, true-to-life illustrations included in the book as 3-D watercolor and sculpted paper collages, using a combination of natural materials and photographs as her reference.
Initially, Brickman spoke in a school-wide assembly to the CPS’s over 400 students and faculty. At the assembly, she explained her method of creating her 3D paintings and demonstrated some of her basic art techniques. She shared her process with the school-wide group, and showed slides of some finished work.
Later, she met with individual second grade classes for some hand-on work in the art room. Brickman always begins with research. For “A Log’s Life,” she studies the leaves, insects, birds, reptiles, and other creatures that live in a forest. She uses actual elements from the forest, as well as magazine and textbook photos for reference. Next, Brickman draws the rough shape of the specific component, like a leaf or a bird. Her advice to students was to make the drawing at least as big as their hand, to make cutting and adding details easier. The next step was to cut out the shape, and then color it, layering multiple colors, to add texture. The last step was to shape the piece by pinching, folding or rolling it to add depth.
Once Brickman reviewed the steps, students, armed with paper, scissors, and coloring supplies, were let loose to create. According to Brickman, “I like to give them direction, but leave them with enough free choice so that the end result comes from themselves. I don’t want them to mimic what I tell them.” She continued “Students look at the reference materials, interpret them, and then make personal choices in their work.”
Students were encouraged to use whatever they could find – hands, pencils, chairs, even their elbow to shape their pieces. The completed pieces were collected throughout the day and used to create a colorful mural that depicts the plants and creatures that live in Ohio’s wooded areas. The mural now hangs near the front entrance at CPS, and will be on display through the end of the school year.
Brickman’s illustration career began nearly 38 years ago, when she made her living by creating art and natural science illustrations for medical illustrations, textbooks, and magazines. Her attention turned to illustrating children’s books around 20 years ago, once she had kids of her own. She’s been traveling across the country sharing workshops at schools, libraries and museums for the past 15 years. For more information, or to see her work, visit robinbrickman.com.