Monday, May 8, 2017

PBT Techniques #6: Illustration Inspiration

Now and then I read a book with amazing illustration techniques that can be explored by children. I’m not big on crafts in children’s faith lessons because I find that too often they are super simple (pencil, glue, paper, scissors, etc.) or they reinforce the concepts only at the surface (color a sheep after The Parable of the Lost Sheep). Now and then the techniques in a craft or art experience can be another way to get across the message of the lesson. Think coloring mandalas or praying in color - see Praying in Color: Kid’s Edition [here]
The book below offers illustrations that would be fun to create. As I read, I imagined a table overloaded with discards and debris being used by children to create some fish. 
The inspiration for your children is all over the pages, but be sure to make some rain fish beforehand so you can guide them through the process. You might want to have some images of actual fish around so they can see the varying shapes, sizes, features, and colors. Also, you'll likely need to make fish cooperatively together or with you modeling, particularly at first.  
The concept of fish is found many places in our scriptures. While the children are making fish, continue talking about the concepts you want to reinforce and tie them directly to the making of the fish if you can. But your lesson doesn’t have to be connected directly to scripture. Your faith family’s history (ancient or more recent) is always another source for lessons. The symbol of a fish was and still is an identifying mark for Christians and an important story for Christian children to hear. There are many reasons a fish was used. The history behind this symbol will intrigue your kids. Check it out [here].
Picture Book: Rain Fish
Author & Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Summary: Mixed-media collage artist and picture book author extraordinaire Lois Ehlert offers an art lesson within a tale of redemption. 
The illustrations are stunning and messages of hope, resilience, freedom, and transformation after diversity are hidden between the lines as the debris and discards from a rain storm are transformed into rain fish. Here’s a bit of the text:
When blue sky turns gray
and it rains all day,
that’s when rain fish come out and play.
They hide in debris
until rain sets them free.  
Hanna’s Comments: In the Author’s Note, Ehlert explains that she collected her art materials from drains after storms. This took her a year so don’t have high expectations for the beauty of your children’s creations. Here the process will be much more important than the product, as is true in life. 
After reading, encourage your children to talk about the kinds of things that happen after a storm and then broaden those concepts into conversation about the positive effects of adversity. Mention that excellent art often comes in turbulent times. Also, people become more resilient and able to persevere when they have been in difficult situations. There are many examples in scripture.
After telling your children one or more of the scripture or historical connections of fish, have them make a fish or two from discards and debris you have provided. 
If you choose to tell them about the Christian Fish Symbol, teach them to make that symbol again and again with tools like paint brushes or calligraphy pens (it’s tricky but fun), until they have some mastery. 
Leaf Man is another of Ehlert’s books with similar illustration strategies. Other excellent Lois Ehlert books can be found at PBT [here] and [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Beach Lane Books, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: The disciples were called to be fishers of people (Matthew 4:19); feeding loaves and fishes to the crowd (Mark 8 & John 6); All things can work together for good… (Romans 8:28)
Idea(s) for Application: Use this book to inspire a lesson about the positive effects after a “stormy” situation or the history of the Christian symbol of a fish.