Monday, October 13, 2008

TRIBAL ALPHABET - Interview with Claudia Pearson

Illustrations: Claudia Pearson

Text: Nan Richardson

Publisher: Umbrage Editions(May 1, 2008)

In artist Claudia Pearson’s debut creation for children, Tribal Alphabet, extraordinary illustrations come alive to celebrate the diversity of tribal communities and world's indigenous heritages.

As you can see for yourself in the lookybook feature above, Claudia’s artistic splendor is so beautifully reflected not only on the cover page drawing, (which itself beckons readers to discover what the book has to offer) but also in the lively and inspiring scenes she captures on every page of the book – from first till the very end filled with strikingly meaningful, and beautifully composed pictures.

A is for Australian Aborigine , B is for Basque, C is for Cherokee, D is for Dogon……J is for Jarwa(from Andaman Islands of India)are some of the names of the different tribes from different parts of the world that go alphabetically from page to page all the way till Z is for Zulu. Honestly, the stunning artwork coupled with the names of each tribe and the simple, informative text set in rhyme to describe tribal lifestyle and culture – enchanting learning galore!

And… for someone like me, who along with my 6 yr old, was hearing the names of some of these tribes for the very first time, you can only imagine how exciting and enlightening the entire read-aloud session must have been for the two of us.

The world map in the beginning (with minor misprints), and a glossary of tribal facts in the end are extra perks giving you a complete package that can truly spark your children’s interests in world geography, and also serve as a neat introduction to anthropology. The book can stir your little one’s imagination and create a curiosity for diversity in the world - expanding their horizon of learning about cultures from parts of the world beyond the reach of so many of us.

This delightful book is ideal for parents and educators from any country, and is a wonderful eye-opener to diversity in every nook and corner of the world. Yes, diversity, but the key take-away from the book is clearly that there are more things people and cultures have in common than they do have differences.

Of course, we at Saffron Tree, love this kind of book!

Having said why we love Tribal Alphabet, we cannot be more excited for ourselves. Reason being, Claudia Pearson sweetly accepted our invitation to do an interview in order to share with our readers a neat discussion of what it was like illustrating her very first book, Tribal Alphabet.

Please find below the full interview with Claudia Pearson.


1)What did you find as the most challenging and fun parts in illustrating your book, Tribal Alphabet?

The first biggest challenge was making sure that we had fairly represented the diversity of the world. We could have easily done 10 different tribes for each letter and still had more left over. Once we had agreed on each letter we then needed to make sure that all our information about each group was accurate and up to date. The point of the book was to show traditional cultures and obviously a good number of these people have adapted to modern times so we had to make sure we didn't appear condescending in anyway.

Once the text was fact checked by our anthropologist I was free to start researching the images and that's when the fun began.
I have traveled a great deal and have always been inspired by traditional clothing, textiles, artwork etc.. so it was a dream come true to delve in to the life's of these wonderfully rich people and paint them in a way that showed their beauty.

2) When the reader looks at the pictures of the different activities that the people are involved in different tribal settings, it's almost like you are inside the book watching them do all the stuff. You have done an amazing job making your pictures look very realistic, and the expressions pop out so beautifully. How difficult was it for you to create these drawings?

I have to say that thanks to the internet it is much easier these days to find so many documentations of worldwide cultures.
Narrowing the images down and extracting the fundamentals of each tribe was the tricky part but we'd decided on the activities that would appeal to children so that directed me.Portraying the people accurately was extremely important to me and I'm glad that you think I've done a good job.

3) Could you give our readers an idea about the techniques involved in illustrating your book?

I go through several stages in the process. The first is compiling files of images I find on each tribe. This then enables me to get ideas for composition and the elements I want to include.

I then do a small dummy version of the book so I can see which spread works together and how I will vary the flow of the book.
I begin by pulling images into photoshop and laying them out roughly to get inspiration.
I then start sketching in pencil taking into consideration what has come before and will come after. Once I am happy with a page I start painting in acrylic. I find it mixes nicely and produces the flat, opaque color that I love.
The colors of the landscapes, skin tones, textiles shape the tones in each painting.

4)You are obviously teaching families that is important to appreciate the unique cultures/communities of our world. This is in addition to a great opportunity to introduce a neat topic about anthropoligical research /introduction to world geography, for slightly older children in elementary/middle grades. And as you already know at Saffron Tree, we want to encourage parents to read eclectic and diverse children's literature starting at an early age. How important, as a parent and illustrator, do you feel reading stories and books focusing on different cultures help children develop a well-rounded understanding of the world?

I feel as if without reading this kind of literature children will never understand such basic things as the community that surrounds them.
We have chosen to raise our 2 boys in Brooklyn which are culturally very diverse and have always selected books for them based on developing their understanding of the world around them. If they can make the connection with other cultures outside of America then they can understand people who have moved from these countries to make the US their home. I am British and my husband is American and already our children understand that they come from 2 different countries.
I hope that it will teach them tolerance and a love for difference in the way that my parents did.

Thank you so much, Claudia for taking the time to answer all our questions. We wish you all the very best in your career creating more and more special books like Tribal Alphabet for children all over the world.


ranjani.sathish said...

This seems to be a wonderful book and it is a great concept too. I flipped through the book and the pictures are very attractive.

I enjoyed reading the interview with Claudia Pearson too. Her explanation of the whole illustration process was very insightful.

Meera Sriram said...

Hi Claudia,

Wonderful to know about the research that has gone into giving life to these tribes through your work, must have been very satisfying! Thanks for talking to us. And thanks to you too Praba!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful book and I love the feature where you can "flip" through it. Great blog. Always nice to know what is happening in other areas of the world with respect to children's literature! I'll be sure to visit you again!

Marjorie said...

Thanks for highlighting this lovely-looking book. I've just posted a link to your interview on our blog -

...and I've really enjoyed being able to "leaf" through the book too!

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