The Art of Picture Books

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The Making of The Adventures of Big Sil Picture Books

Big Sil has a mission with his picture books: to inspire all with his adventurous, positive spirit to explore life. Big Sil wanted to help kids dream of adventures and learn about our cities by bringing to life scenes from his travels across America in his picture books.   First of all, to make his picture books, Big Sil needed a very talented human with an amazing ability to capture his structure and funny mannerisms. Most of all, that artist needed to be able to capture his personality and expressions. After several trials with various artists, Big Sil met graphic artist and illustrator Drew Lewis, maijintheartist.

Drew brought Big Sil’s vision to life through art and illustration. The art starts with a study of Big Sil’s body structure, facial expressions and common poses. Drew has an expertise through diligent, repetitive practice in recreating the human body structure with accuracy down to bone, muscle structure and movement. Consequently, he is also an expert in animal structure.

So Big Sil’s picture book represents his doggy mannerisms quite accurately. Most noteworthy of his poses are: the “happy run”, “look back and see if you are still following me”, “trotting along”, and “hanging out on my back”. So many more are to come!

Next, in the creation of Big Sil’s unique picture books, he needed to merge imagination and reality. Especially important in life is developing the ability to imagine. Big Sil’s picture books are all about imagining anywhere you want to go and being able to make that dream a reality. In The Adventures of Big SilTM, Little Ange’s picture book of American cities is a magical gateway to a real life adventure, which can only be opened with the wag of Big Sil’s extraordinary tail. Big Sil jumps into adventures in each city, and through the artistic combination of photography and illustration, he tells his stories. Drew executed Big Sil’s real-life adventure by taking each photo from Little Ange’s picture book and expanding out the world beyond. Drew does so with such accuracy that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the photo and the illustration…imagination and reality!

Art helps tell stories through picture books that help us imagine amazing things. Being able to create and tell stories is uniquely human and linked to how smart we are. Artificial Intelligence research is proving exactly that, because it’s not so easy to recreate a human. Check out NPRs write up on AI researcher Patrick Winston’s paper on the Strong Story Hypothesis. According to Patrick, part of the reason humans are smarter than other primates is “the Strong Story Hypothesis, which holds that story telling and understanding have a central role in human intelligence”.

So Big Sil says, let’s put down technology for a moment. Let’s take a moment to unplug and rediscover the greatness all around us and across America. Imagine a place to go and create your story. Take up a book, and therefore take up an adventure. Fantasize and get lost in a story because it may make you smarter. And build your own story. Discover and explore the depths of your imagination and make dreams a reality in both your life and the lives of your children. In doing so, we create the picture book of our lives and our own work of art.

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