Art is about more than reproduction—it’s about interpretation, vision, and creation—and it’s easy to assume that license to create comes only after mastery of artistic skills.
Henri Matisse famously wrote that "Creativity takes courage" and, for many of us, finding that courage happens most easily with a bit of help
We need some structure, some guidance, and an assurance that our art will be good enough. These two books take exactly those approaches.
In each book, 8 artists from regions all over India offer their unique way of drawing a fish or an elephant.
There's certainly a linking theme to their art but, at the same time, each interpretation is strikingly different. Each comes with ideas and tips for trying out that particular artist’s style—with a welcoming invitation to also try it your own way.
There are ideas and fact-based prompts too; for example one page explains: 'Elephants are herbivores: they eat grass, leaves, shrubs, vegetables and fruit … An elephant eats up to 300 pounds of food a day, but it digests less than half of what it eats.' And then the artistic prompt: 'What do you want your elephant to eat? Fill its stomach!'
There are even some suggestions on mediums you might like to use: 'Make the fish on this page glow even more. Hint: Use fluorescent markers!'
There’s a pale, blank line-drawing to trace on each page too—so that more than one child (or adult) can grow their creativity.
When our kids were little, they’d ask me to draw all sorts of things, including fish and elephants. (You’ve been there too, I’m sure.) Trouble is, I couldn’t draw—at all—still can’t!
How-to-draw books littered our shelves, but for the most part they failed to inspire. They were too prescriptive and didn’t embolden or excite us, nor did they allow for personal creativity. (Happily, family and teachers stepped in and saved my children from an artless life.)
These two books bypass the prescriptive format. They're beautiful, inspirational, and achievable; they find an ideal balance and they're wonderful for a parent or child who may be artistically-challenged. (I'm pretty sure they'd be great for artistically-gifted parents and children too, but can't speak from experience there!)
The images are linked to Book Depository—they have great prices and free postage anywhere in the world—but Amazon (Elephant - Fish) might be cheaper for North American readers.
P.S. The books are also terrific for appreciating non-western art, and I highly recommend a visit to the publisher’s website: Tara Books is an independent publishing company based in Chennai, South India and the site is beautiful and fascinating.