Book #183: A Splash of Red

A Splash of Red -- coverWritten by Jen Bryant and illustrated by award-winning Melissa Sweet, this one is a non-fiction piece about the life and art of Horace Pippin. Born on George Washington’s birthday, Horace was a large kid who loved to draw.

Grandma’s hands were big, too — rough and scarred from her slave days in Virginia. But they are just fine for giving Horace hugs. “The biggest part of you,” she told him, “is inside, where no one can see.”

A Splash of Red -- grandmother

Horace Pippin drew and drew from an early age, but it wasn’t until after the first World War that he made his first painting, which took him three years to complete. Having wounded his shoulder in the war, he never regained full use of his right arm, and for the rest of his years he held up his right hand with his left in order to paint.

Jen Bryant has created a fascinating and well-researched biography of this artist. There are wonderful, memorable details throughout, like the fact that Horace drew pictures next to his spelling words, or that he won colored pencils and paints in a drawing contest sponsored by Acme Art Supplies. The book discusses the many odd jobs he took on over the course of his life to make ends meet, his marriage to Jenny Wade, and his eventual discovery by N. C. Wyeth. The back of the book contains a great deal of extra information — a historical note, additional notes by both author and illustrator, and a dense page full of links to websites and additional reading about this painter.

Melissa Sweet used watercolor and gouache as well as drawings and collage to make these impressive illustrations. It’s noteworthy that there is no mentioning of race anywhere in this book. Would this have been the case if the book had been created by someone of color, rather than by two white women?

Regardless, this is a beautiful homage to a wonderful, lesser-known artist. See below for an example of Horace Pippin’s work.  ABZ

A Splash of Red -- spelling words


A Splash of Red -- Horace Pippin's Work


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