Picturebooks without words

Trauma and illustration, picturebooks that explore trauma through narrative, does this narrative require text or is it enough for the illustrations to speak alone to the viewer. In allowing the illustrations to stand alone, does it allow the viewer to create their own narrative, align their own experiences within the narrative of the illustrations, or does the text give them a foundation in with they can build their narrative from and again align to their own personal experiences.

Reflecting on my Art Therapy clinical work, it is focused on providing a space where emotions and experiences can be explored using art as the narrative, as words can be to hard to find to truly express how the client is feeling. In Psychology Today a article Children’s Art as Visual NarrativeMalchiodi (2014) states,

“We now know that non-verbal expressive arts like simple drawing, painting and constructing are effective restorative experiences. Language, a function of declarative memory, is often inaccessible to trauma survivors of any age if the event has been particularly disturbing.”
(Malchiodi 2014)
As I work through these thoughts I feel there is not a definitive answer, as a Art Therapist the client tells their story in their own words, as an illustrator does the same principal remains when creating books focusing on traumatic experiences.
Shaun Tan’s book ‘The Red Tree‘ (2014), depicts a story of a girl’s  world full of dark thoughts and feelings. Tan uses little text or no text, in the book. Text that is used is either interwoven into the illustration or carefully placed on the page pulling the viewer to the image first. Tan expresses his understanding of expressing emotions through illustration
“I’d also been increasingly aware that illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words. I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.”
(Tan, S,  n.d)
red-tree3

[images online] Available at://www.shauntan.net/books.html [Accessed 16th December 2014]

As my works shifts and changes, I am sure so will the use of text, with some work needing more and some requiring less or even none at all. It feels as though it will be subjective to each work produced, and not a exact template for each book or even each page.

References 

Advertisements

Challenging subjects in picturebooks.

Wolf_Erlbruch,_Duck,_Death_and_the_Tulip

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Picturebooks can often be viewed as books which contain stories that are light hearted, contain a moral or a lesson for the younger generation to learn. Often they do not handle the more challenging subjects, and when they do it can provoke reactions and avoidance from some.

When should children start to learn about the more challenging aspects of life, and what about those children who are already dealing with difficult and traumatic experiences on a daily basis, I wonder what it would be like for them to pick up a picturebook that spoke to them, resonated with a part of their life.

Wolf Erlbruch a German author and illustrator created the book Duck, Death and the Tulip (2007) (German title: Ente, Tod und Tulpe).

The story consists of two characters, a Duck who comes to know Death, and unbeknown to the duck death has been following her all her life.

DDT internals_Page_05

[images online] Available at :http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_05.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

Duck and Death become friends and talk about life, death and what happens after you die. Sitting in a tree after being diving together they wonder what would happen to Duck’s lake after she dies. The book comes to a close with the death of the Duck, and Death carries her to a river, placing her gently on the water, Death takes the tulip and places it on her,”For a long time he watched her. When she was lost to sight, he was almost a little moved.” 

DDT internals_Page_16

[images online] Available at: http://blaine.org/jules/DDT%20internals_Page_16.jpg [Accessed 14th November 2014]

I can imagine this is a controversial topic for a children’s books, but the way the illustrations depict the gentleness and the empathy of Death towards Duck it handles it with delicacy of Death in a beautiful way.

My work as a Art Psychotherapist working with children I witness children dealing with real challenges more than some adults do throughout there whole life.

I understand this can be hard to contemplate, so when picture books that are created tackling the harder subjects it does cause controversy, but what I pose is, whose need is it to avoid the challenging and hard subjects?

We can not rescue and protect forever, and I wonder is it better to give children an understanding through the use of a medium they know and understand, that can allow for questions to be answered with those who care for them, a healthy exploration into the difficult aspects of life. 

I feel Wolf Erlbruch deals with the emotion of death in a manner which invites a conversation and give permission to talk about something which so many try to avoid, just like Duck not knowing Death had been following her all her life until she turned around.

References

  • Danielson, J, (2013),“You can start having strange thoughts in trees”, Or, Curiously Good Books from Around the World’, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 13th October 2013 [online] Available at:Available at :http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2220 [Accessed 14th November 2014]
  •  Erlbruch,W (2007), Duck Death and the Tulip,New Zealand, Geko Press.