Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson Haskins Book Review

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson Haskins
Illustrations by Benny Andrews
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: January 6, 2015

Benny Andrews loves to draw. While everyone else was drawing impressionist paintings, Benny chose to draw what he saw around him. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, his parents, the red earth of the fields, the hot sun beating down on them, the rows and tows of crops. He dreamed of better life than that though, one where people would see his art and not his skin color. Benny's dream came true when he left Georgia behind, eventually becoming one of the most important African American painters of the twentieth century, opening doors for other artists of color.

I admit that I am not a connoisseur of art. Part of the reason I started this blog was a way to share and explore some of the many illustrators and artists out there who are working in the children's book industry. Benny Andrews is yet another artist that I am very glad to find through this discovery process. His work is colorful and relateable.

On a purely graphic design side of things though, I was disappointed in the way the art and text didn't work cohesively together. Some of the illustrations chosen for certain pages didn't match what was being said in the narrative. There were large swathes of white space in the first half of the book, purely due to the fact that certain illustrations didn't lend themselves to a 2 page spread. Although Benny Andrew's art is quite beautiful, I didn't feel like it worked so well as a picture book because the text was not working in tandem with what was being presented visually. This did not happen throughout the entire book though and I found myself drawn in more as the story progressed.

I honestly was more interested in the biography and timeline at the end of the book then I was by the narrative in the book, which means that this picture book biography, for me, did not work well in a picture book format.

This book did lead me to do some of my own research though and I really have enjoyed some of the interviews and images I have come across. I share the words of Benny Andrews with you now: