Picture Book Analysis The Art of Anthony Browne Sally Jipson
Some thoughts from Uri Shulevitz from his book: Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books “The main functions of illustrations is to illuminate text, to throw light on words…” “A readable picture can be subtle and delicate, with the viewer slowly discovering details that linger in the mind.” “….the feeling and mood more important than telling a story.” “ At times it is the descriptive aspect that stands out, while in other cases the effect is more suggestive, evoking a particular feeling or mood. Some pictures have a decorative quality; others may emphasize expressive elements. Often in the best illustrations, several of these aspects are combined in a way that enriches the picture’s meaning and our enjoyment of it.”
Anthony Browne is an English illustrator that has won two Kate Greenaway Awards and a Kurt Maschler Emil Award. In 2000, he earned the Hans Christian Anderson Award for services to children’s literature, the first British illustrator to do so. He earned a graphic arts degree from Leeds Art College and did medical illustrations before focusing on children’s books. All of his books have almost photographic realism. In Voices in the Park, the pictures become surrealistic as trees have mouths and take the shape of peaches and pears. People in paintings are seen running down the street. And King Kong is perched on the top of a background building. In this book, one trip to the park is described in the voice of four characters. Browne uses different seasons of the year to help depict which character is being represented. Similarly, he changes the text’s font to represent the character. The value of the colors in the illustrations also change to represent the moods and life of the characters.
Questions to Ask About Browne’s Illustrations What kind of art work do you does Mr. Browne do? How does Mr. Browne use color and light? His work is very detailed. Do some details attract attention? Do those details make you think about the story and the characters, or do they distract from the story?
An illustration from Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne. Note the use of color and line Also note the type of font used.
The bright, primary colors represent the girl and her feelings. She is optimistic and looking forward into the park. The trees are filled with fruit. One bush is a strawberry. The lamppost and dog leash are painted in rainbow colors. In this slide, Browne “throws light” on the words. He goes beyond the realistic presentation into the surrealistic to represent the character’s mood. The light shines from the park, inviting the characters into the good experience. Readers immediately notice the trees, bushes, and rainbow colors as well as the bright spotlight effect of the lighting. As Shulievitz suggests in his book, the “feeling and mood “ of the illustration become as important as the text of the story.
The strong vertical of the light post separates the two characters as well as the darker value of colors. The surrealistic trees show the mother’s anxiety about the man, his dog chasing her dog, and the disappearance of her son with his daughter The lurking alligator in the background shadow is somewhat hinted at in the mother’s shadow and suggests a dangerous element to the park. The trees have open mouths that call our for her son and mimic her expression.
Notice how the lamp post is again used to divide the picture into the girl’s bright, sunny, spring day and the boy’s gray, cloudy, winter day. The two dogs that belong to the kids are split in half by the lamppost, but draw the eye from one half of the picture to the other. The dark clouds of the left side seep into the bright blue sky of the sunny half and a corner of blue sky sneaks into the gray. The two faces look toward each other focusing on their relationship and blending of their experience. Similarly, the two dogs and days blend into one another. The bike path also spans the picture inviting each child to travel to the other side. The colors of green and blue dominate the picture. They are complimentary colors but are delineated by the grayed, darker values on the left hand side of the picture. The values of color suggest the moods that each child brings to the park that day are drastically different. The illustrations and texts paint very different points of view and “voice”. • “D’you wanna come on the slide?” a voice asked. It was a girl, unfortunately, but I went anyway. She was great on the slide– she went really fast. I was amazed.
Questions to ask about Browne’s Illustrations What kind of art work do does Mr. Browne do? How does Mr. Browne use color and light? Browne’s work is very detailed. Do some details attract attention? Do those details make you think about the story and the characters, or do they distract from the story?
In the book Changes, Browne again slips into the surrealistic paintings in order to illustrate the “changes” that the boy starts to imagine when his father said that everything was going to change when Mother came home. The cheerful, clean picture is painted with some startling details to highlight the boy’s frame of mind and impressionability. The boy is reacting to his father’s words that everything is going to change. He looks at regular daily objects with “new eyes” and possibilities.
Browne again shines “light” from the window on to the boy, but also spotlights the emerging animal and the boy’s fertile imagination concerning what changes might occur in his life. These pictures are all in bright colors and photographic in style, but jolt the reader with eye catching details that move the story along. The crocodile looks across the page directing the reader’s eye just like the question in the text.
This is the second from last picture in the book. Notice the black and white photographic quality of the illustration. The unknown change is about to appear and the vivid bright color and light of the previous pictures are absent. This illustration depicts the anxiety and concern the boy has for the unknown. The dreaded moment has arrived and the illustration adds to the feeling and mood of the moment!
This book could easily be used to address all kinds of changes and the way the unknown can be more scary than reality. On the final page, all the color and light return as the boy now understands the change that has come into their lives. The grouping of the characters on the same couch that had been changing into a crocodile, the bright light, the unifying blue of the clothing, and the faces focusing on the new baby, all impress the reader with the safe, joyous feelings of the family.
Bibliography Browne, Anthony. Changes. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2004. Browne, Anthony. Voices in the Park. New York; DK Publishing, 1998. Shulevitz, Uri. Writing Pictures; How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1985.