Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Return of Mouse Guard + Guys Read 2016

Last month we here in our neck of the woods were very fortunate to once again have a visit from artist David Petersen, creator of the Mouse Guard comic. I was lucky to score a bonus side-trip to our art department, the second time we got to host him and Julia up on campus, and there was a fantastic show & tell that was geared towards the art majors. He covered a lot of information on his techniques and experiences in the industry which was an invaluable perspective for students from someone who is really at the top of their game. I routinely use his work for a unit on linear perspective in my Beginning Drawing classes, as it is an excellent example of how to craft a believable environment for characters utilizing props and models for reference.

One of the highlights of his presentation was a sneak peek at an upcoming project of him illustrating Kenneth Grahame's 1905 classic The Wind in the Willows - an absolutely perfect fit if there ever was one. Seeing the work in progress - and an awesome original piece he was inking in while on "vacation" - was a real treat. The most well-known incarnation of the characters as rendered by E.H. Shepard were an obvious inspiration, but Petersen's pen & inks were definitely his own take on the iconic cast of critters. I'm sure his version will undoubtedly take its place alongside the pantheon of other illustrators who have left indelible marks upon the canon of children's literature, such as Sendak, Pauline Baynes, Garth Williams and Peggy Fortnum.

David ostensibly migrated north to personally partake in the annual Guys Read program's (more info about the Literacy Council of Alaska here) closing festivities, held at the local public library.
I'm also going to repost an excerpt from a comment thread where I address the criticism that "girls read too":
Absolutely - problematic marketing to be sure... your point is an important factor to consider: completely valid perspective on the inherent problem labeling anything specifically for "guys." Sociological gendering aspect complicates another issue/objective of overall equality.
The caveat I personally have is dealing with the literacy of specifically boys... recognizing numerous studies that show a big drop in comparative reading skills + interest for them esp. at the vulnerable 4th-grade level - where this program specifically tries to intervene.
The average adult male in America now reads like about one book a year (explains a lot), and in turn kids are influenced by that when they never see a grown men doing something "unmanly" or "uncool" like reading for pleasure (the stigma of grownups reading comics because they're labeled for kids is an extension of this). I suppose it dovetails too with the obvious imbalance in male librarians, or even grade school teachers (excepting "manly" classes like shop or gym et al).
So the Guys Read program (there is one for girls btw) tries to address only this limited aspect of a very large problem, and it's one solution that has had definite results in using role models of everyday men in the community (firemen, cops, etc hell even cartoonists natch) help to inspire a lifelong love of literacy.

In between the games and presentations of Petersen reading from his books to an enthusiastic crowd, I manned a table where kids could look at some original art and see demos on drawing, which David sat with us and did some very special pieces for some lucky folks (myself included - stay tuned for an upcoming Castor canadensis reboot post). It was another great volunteer opportunity to interact with fans and friends alike: many thanks to the Petersens and Greg Hill for taking the time to make such a difference in the aspiring efforts of both readers and artists in the Interior.

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