February 15, 2023

Percival's Pictures

        Here’s a children’s book illustrator who’s practically a neighbor of mine here in eastern Massachusetts, although I only just discovered her.  Kari Percival is an environmental educator as well as an illustrator, and now an author, 
and her work is right up my alley.  She uses wood block prints for her illustrations, and she has a particular focus on nature and environmental issues, as well as folk tales.  All stuff I love!  (Her web site even has the same subtitle as this blog: “Words and Pictures!”)
        For today I had to pick just a few of her illustrations to share, so I’ll start with a couple of really fun ones illustrating one of many folk tales about Vassilissa and Baba Yaga.  In this particular tale, Vassilissa has help from a magic doll, who does chores for her.  I could use one of those!  (On the other hand, I suppose I really should leave the magic dolls for the people who actually have to deal with wicked witches, and not squander them on my own mere laziness in the chore department!)  I love all the patterns on the dishes, keeping us grounded in the time and place of the story.  I love the bubbles, and the swirls of steam.  This is done with three colors: pale lilac, medium violet, and orange-ish red.  Then the cabbage in the second picture is utterly gorgeous, with its curvy scalloped leaves, subtle shadows, and decorative veins.  Plus it’s just so whimsical to see the magic doll carrying it on her head.
        Next is a more serious, realistic picture, yet it still has just as much delightful whimsy.  Again, I’m so impressed by how the whimsy is not a substitute for genuine observation and skill in depicting realistic amphibians and complex patterns of light and shadow.  This piece comes from a book about amphibians crossing roads in the spring, which is not yet released.
        Another wonderful view of the natural world is this image of herring running upstream in the Mystic River.  This piece illustrates not only the fish themselves, but also Percival’s use of 
her art as a way to educate people, share messages, and promote important causes.  Again, an idea that resonates with me, although Percival’s pieces are often much more explicitly focused on a message than mine are, as in this cheerful monarch butterfly.  She makes lots of posters and similar art.  With the herring, though, it’s the beauty of the natural world in a sense speaking for itself, although the artist’s job is, perhaps, to amplify that voice and give it a platform.
        Returning to folk tales, I’ve included this wonderful Kokopilau.  Although I was somewhat familiar with Kokopelli and his role as traveller, flautist, storyteller, trickster, and fertility god, I had not been aware that some versions give him an origin as an insect.  I like this insect depiction, and I especially like how his music is composed of a stream of sun-bright flowers.
        There are lots of other pieces I like, but I’m running out of room, so I expect I’ll find ways to include more in future posts, especially since many hit my sweet spot of relief prints that depict fantasy subjects.  So I’ll conclude with a local scene of people happily reading on one of the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden.  I myself would suggest that if you ever get a chance to ride on one of the swan boats, you shouldn’t waste this iconic and beautiful activity with your nose in a book any more than you should be staring at your cell phone.  Look around, greet the ducks, wave to the turtles, admire the willows…  
And when you return to the shore, go sit on one of the benches in the Public Garden and then you can read.
        If you like these illustrations, be sure to look up Kari Percival in your local library and find her first book.

[Pictures: Vasalisa’s magic doll tidies up, wood block print by Kari Percival, c. 2017;
Vasalisa’s magic doll tends the cabbage, wood block print by Percival, c. 2017;
Amphibian migration, wood block print illustration from Safe Crossing coming out in 2025, c. 2018;
River herring, wood block print by Percival, c. 2022;
Leave the Leaves, wood block print by Percival, c. 2022;
Kokopilau led the people into a new land, wood block print by Percival, c. 2019;
Read Local, wood block print by Percival, c. 2019 (All images from KariPercival.com and Instagram @karipercival).]


bazza said...

These prints are all very lovely. It's such a wonderful skill and requires much more patience than the usual methods of illustration one sees!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s gleefully garrulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for stopping by, bazza!