Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gracias/Thanks to artist John Parra

Dear Santiago Lopez,

What a great site for art and for books, two of my favorite things. Reading, just like art, feeds our noggin and our imagination. It inspires us to be great thinkers and to share ideas with others. I think the concept of kids growing libraries is an absolute home run. Life is great when we all look out for each other and share good things.

Being a children's book illustrator I was thrilled when I got to work on the art for Gracias/Thanks. A big part of why I connected to it begins with Pat Mora’s beautifully written story. It tells of young boy growing up in a multicultural Hispanic home and being thankful for all the special people and things in his life. The story closely reflected my own life growing up. Many of the scenes were events and memories that I had as a child and many of the characters were modeled after my own family. The main character is really a portrait of myself and how I saw my life. My two favorite pages from the book are the scene at the beach, where the waves are crashing and chasing the kids as they play, and the other is where the family is dancing and enjoying along with their guitar playing uncle.

I always loved to draw growing up. I was drawing even before I was in school. I would spend hours looking and examining people and landscapes, birds and bugs, robots and fantastic creatures. I would set up still lifes in my room with toys, blocks, books and various objects. I would draw with my brothers and friends. Once a teacher showed me how to draw perspective and I drew pages and pages of railroad tracks and buildings that would disappear off into the distance. Art always brought out this creative and positive energy in me.

For those who would like to be an artist the first step is: start to draw and draw, make sure to have a special place or area at home where you can do art with your supplies ready to go, and remember to feed your ideas for art by reading books, visiting museums and observing the world. You will then see a path to where your creativity and energies lie in becoming an artist.

All the best,
John Parra

This is a very special book John, you are a great illustrator and all my family loves your art. Looking at these pictures makes a kid smile because it makes you think of all the good things in life to be thankful for. Like going to the beach and that feeling you get when big waves come crashing down near you and your friends. You laugh and scream because it just feels so good. I like listening to my Dad play guitar too and we sing and make up crazy songs.
In Mexico people make little paintings on pieces of tin called retablos and even Frida Kahlo made them. We visited her blue house and the wall was covered with them and they paint them to say thanks like your book. When I saw your art I told my parents that I remembered those paintings about miracles on metal.
I like your ideas to keep drawing and reading and looking at all things in our world like bugs because they can look like they are from outer space. I am learning about perspective too and drawing it makes things feel close or far away. What a good idea John to paint pictures of yourself when you were a kid. I think it looks just like you. I know why kids love your drawings because I think you see the world like we do.

Gracias/Thanks Illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora is a 2010 Pura Belpré Honor book and you can see more of John's amazing paintings at:

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