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Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c

Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c

Tan: The Bird King: An Artists Notebook h/c back

Shaun Tan


Page 45 Review by Stephen

With the UK edition of this inspirational book now out of print, we've found a US version - hurrah!

"Some are exercises to simply keep fit as an artist, where the practice of drawing is about learning to see, a study that never ends."

"Nevertheless, interesting or profound ideas can emerge of their own accord, not so much in the form of a 'message', but rather a strangely articulated question."

From the creator of THE ARRIVAL and THE SINGING BONES etc. comes a highly illuminating insight into one artist's driving passions and thought processes. You'll discover unusual artefacts, sketches and page layouts which eventually found themselves included in some of Shaun's finished graphic novels, experiments with the language of the sea and curious creatures which themselves suggest stories so far untold. Some of the preliminaries have brief notes jotted in their margins, like the series of interconnected, roofless rooms arranged like a stage set, one evidently a water tank containing an octopus tentatively exploring the next; another, hilariously, on fire. Tiny figures look in on others. "Are we just moving from room to room?" he asks to one side.

Better still Shaun introduces each segment with some extended, eloquently expressed and inspirational thoughts. On doodling, he writes:

"This always reminds me of fishing - casting loose lines into a random sea, trying to hook something substantial. It's surprising what sense can emerge from nonsense, and how the juxtaposition of odd images on a page can have a serendipitous effect, catching ideas that might otherwise be hidden by the waves."

It's the perfect cure for 'artist's block': "just start drawing," he suggests, quoting Paul Klee's description of "taking a line for a walk".

"Klee has a second good metaphor: the artist as a tree, drawing from a rich compost of experience - things seen, read, told and dreamt - in order to grow leaves, flowers and fruit… Artists do not create so much as transform."

Hence all the observational sketches and the section entitled 'drawings from life', a lot of them in colour, where Sean explores "the relationship between individuals and their respective environments", a theme found throughout the artist's graphic novels. Likewise "the tensions between natural and manmade forms". I think 'tensions' is underplaying it somewhat! THE RABBITS, THE LOST THING and TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA are all littered with visual and narrative commentaries on what man has made of his natural environment, as a quick glance of any of those reviews will make abundantly clear!

Rarely have I had as much fun absorbing an art book, or come away so galvanised. It's a neat little package, and I'd pay good money to see any one of those 'untold stories' come to full, expansive life.
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