From the Sketchbook:
This CBC series features illustrators sharing their creative process and providing context for their amazing artwork.
Our featured artist is Daniel Minter, a painter and illustrator of 11 books for children, including Ellen’s Broom, for which he received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor Award. Daniel discusses the symbolism in his art from the picture book Going Down Home with Daddy.
Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil Alan and his parents and sister will join great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to family history. All the kids have to decide on what tribute to share, but what will Lil Alan do?
“The grandmother here sprinkles daylight upon the earth. She is covered in okra patterns with the okra plant behind her. The okra is a ritual food we brought from Africa that keeps us connected to our ancestors, just like she is the connection to her family history and the past. The background pattern here is the Adinkra symbol that represents ‘the presence of god.’ There are also some sketches of hens, which showed up a couple different times in the book. Within the flock I included a Guinea hen, a symbol I use to represent my mother.”
“The connection to the land is sealed when Lil Alan reaches down and takes the earth and plants into his hands. The sitting kneeling position here was important for me to show as it is the way my father and other men would sit outside or in an open field without chairs. Children would just plop down in the dirt without care, so in this image it also represents a move towards manhood for Lil Alan as he imitates his father’s sitting position, which is seen in the final spread.”
More of Daniel Minter’s art can be found in Going Down Home with Daddy, a picture book written by Kelly Starling Lyons.