It’s your job as a parent to nurture artistic expression in your child, which can be tough if you can barely draw a stick figure or if their expression comes in the form of painting the dog blue. One surefire technique is to inspire them with stories of the masters, namely these 10 legends who helped the world see art in a whole new way. Read them at bedtime and remember: Even Picasso’s parents probably had to wash a priceless original or two off the wall.
The Noisy Paint Box
This vividly illustrated telling of Vasily Kandinsky’s life explores the pioneering abstract artist’s synesthesia—a condition that leads those who have it to “hear” colors (among other things). The book will give your kid an appreciation for art and the weird quirks that their brains are capable of. So might the synesthesia Wikipedia entry, but that wasn’t a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book.
The son of a country junkman who builds scrap metal sculptures on his lawn (and whose brother is Andy Warhol), James Warhol recalls a hilarious family visit to “Uncle Andy’s.” Warhol’s New York pad also houses his mother, 25 cats named Sam, and a heap of clutter, which annoys James’s mother until she realizes art is everywhere and anything can be art. Remind yourself of that whenever you hang your kid’s latest scribble on the fridge.
Uncle Andy’s by James Warhola ($6)
Show your child how much you support them by reading the story of Sandy Calder, who was so encouraged by his artist parents that he rose to prominence staging performances with an elaborate wire-sculpted circus, which filled five suitcases that he hauled from New York to Paris and back. For the parents of an art student, the only greater test of their dedication would have been if their son had joined the actual circus.
This Sibert Honor Book (given to the “most distinguished informational books” of the year), uses the creation of Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) as the introduction to the story of Jackson Pollock’s working life. Jordan’s incredible illustrations evoke Jackson’s style, as the book reveals how Jackson became a reference point for all 20th-century artists and led parents everywhere to start asking themselves, “Wait … is what Junior just did to the wall ‘art’?”
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
The self-taught Rousseau overcame some aggressively harsh reviews (seriously, 19th century French art critic, what’s your problem?) to become an internationally celebrated artist. Through his story, your kid will learn that anything is possible with perseverance, even if they didn’t already have such incredibly loving, supportive, encouraging, amazing parents.
A Splash Of Red
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a young Horace Pippin is overcoming his own obstacles on the way to artistic renown. Pippin’s words and recreations of his art are interspersed throughout the book, which mostly lets the illustrations tell his story, including how a World War I gunshot wound nearly ended his painting career before it even started. Getting sent to bed without dessert will seem pedestrian by comparison.
My Name Is Georgia
This book is all about painting the world as you see it—in O’Keeffe’s words, “BIG, so people would notice”—and letting everyone else see it as they see it. No need for you to get into exactly how everyone else sees it. That’s another book on another subject entirely.
My Name is Georgia by Jeanette Winter ($7)
Dave The Potter
If the 19th century potter and poet named simply “Dave,” a slave who lived and worked in Edgefield, South Carolina, is unfamiliar, go get this gorgeous Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner right now. It describes the creation of a stoneware jug in words that echo the two-line poems Dave etched into many of them, and provides author’s notes detailing what little is known about his story. Now you get to learn from your kid’s books, too.
Another 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, Viva Frida tells Frida Kahlo’s story through simple captions that adorn lusciously illustrated pages combining photography, painting, and digital effects. Bonus point for bilingual copy, which will teach your kid some basic Spanish (although it doesn’t include “bigote” anywhere, so you’ll have to explain Kahlo’s mustache to them yourself).
If your kids demands to know why you have to incessantly photograph them all the time, read them the story of Imogen Cunningham, which details how a young girl became a photographer and how her sons playing in the garden led her to her most famous subjects. If her boys let her launch a movement, your kids can let you update Grandma.
This article was originally published on Fatherly. If you enjoyed this article, check out these other stories:
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