Blog

An Interview With Ted

…plus information about writing that goes back to ancient Greece: Ekphrasis.

Possibly the oldest form of writing about art is known as ekphrasis. I am excited and pleased that The Ekphrastic Review published an interview with me about my book, Vincent, Theo and the Fox, which is inspired by the paintings of Vincent van Gogh.

You can read the interview here.

Carol Scheina, the interviewer, is a marvelous writer. You can find links to her imaginative and delightful stories here.

If you want to find excellent ekphrastic poems and stories (as well as podcasts and writing challenges), consider subscribing to The Ekphrastic Review.

For people interested in the craft of writing, you can’t go wrong reading The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction by Janée J. Baugher.

Professor Marjorie Munsterberg created a website, Writing About Art, for her course of the same name at The City College of New York. You can read what she writes about ekphrasis here.

I’m sure your favorite search engine will reveal more. But first, if you haven’t already done so, please read the interview (it is about me, after all).

Thanks.

Ted

Georgia on my mind

Here is a wonderful little video of Georgia O’Keefe’s work.

Thanks to The Ekphrastic Review for alerting me to this video.

I came to really appreciate her paintings about six years ago when visiting the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

Thirty is never enough, so here are three more of her paintings that are among my favorites:

A New Picture Book about the Birth of American Art

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Author and cartoonist Hudson Talbott has delivered a new picture book: Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art (ages 6 – 8). It is an excellent biography  of the painter who founded the first truly American art movement, the Hudson River School.

Born in England in 1801, Cole came to America after seeing industrialization darken the natural beauty of the English countryside. He fell in love with the American wilderness but eventually saw people and commerce encroaching on nature in his adopted land as well. At the same time, in Cole’s trips to Italy he wondered at the Roman Empire and why it rose and fell. Talbot points out that Cole combined these two influences in his first great series of paintings, The Course of Empire. It is a series of five paintings that once made Cole the most famous painter in America.

Cole’s paintings gave people thought as did his later series of eight paintings known as The Voyage of Life. Talbott ‘s book presents both The Course of Empire and The Voyage of Life in the context of Cole’s birth, move to America, and lifespan. The book includes Cole’s journeys on foot across Pennsylvania, his finding love, and much more. The picture book biography traces Cole’s life to show how he created a new school of painting. Roughly two dozen artists have ties to the Hudson River School.

Hudson Talbott did a great job including an amazing amount of information and detail in a short picture book. He did that in a way that remains accessible to readers in grades one through three.

Ted Macaluso is the author of Vincent, Theo and the Fox: A Mischievous Adventure through the Paintings of Vincent van Gogh for ages 4 – 10. He lives in Reston, Virginia.

Text © 2019 by Ted Macaluso.

 

This text includes affiliate links to books, which means that Amazon.com pays me a few pennies if you end up buying the book through the link. You don’t have to buy anything if you follow the link. If you do buy, your cost is the same whether or not you buy through the affiliate link. The pennies are way to few to influence what I write about a book.

 

A Painter from America’s Past Holds a Message for Today

In the 1800s, painter Thomas Cole gave a chilling warning about environmental destruction and political excess.

 

Painter Thomas Cole founded the first truly American art movement, the Hudson River School. Starting in the Hudson River valley in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the school specialized in romantic paintings of the North (and eventually South) American wilderness.

In the 1830s, Cole created a series of five paintings that made him the most famous artist in America. Known as The Course of Empire, the artworks give a chilling warning about environmental destruction and political excess. They are as relevant to America today as they were to the America of 1836.

Born in England in 1801, Cole came to America after seeing industrialization darken the natural beauty of the English countryside. He fell in love with the American wilderness but eventually saw people and commerce encroaching on nature in his adopted land as well. At the same time, in Cole’s trips to Italy he wondered at the Roman Empire and why it rose and fell. These two influences came together in Cole’s mind when he created The Course of Empire.

The five-painting series starts with nature in all its pristine glory, shows the rise and fall of human empire, and concludes with nature reclaiming the land.

The first painting in the series, titled The Course of Empire, shows the original wild beauty of America.

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The second in the series, The Arcadian, depicts people living in harmony with nature.

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The third painting, The Consummation of the Empire, shows the empire rising to glory, with nature barely visible as people and buildings cover the land.

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Then, the fourth, Destruction, depicts the fall of empire as people fight with each other and nature destroys the buildings and monuments with waves and storms.

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The final painting in the series, Desolation, finds nature reclaiming the ruins.

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It was a potent message in 1836. Now, with global warming leading to rising seas and increasingly destructive storms; with the extinction of thousands of species; and with political dysfunction fraying at the fabric of American values; The Course of Empire is a chilling warning about what might be.

Or, about what might be avoided. Cole’s paintings gave people thought and America continued to industrialize, expand, and become a world power. The artwork did not stop those developments. By making people think, however, Cole’s work supported environmental movements and are among the influences that led America to create one of the best natural park systems in the world. My hope is that remembering these paintings will encourage all of us to do what we can to heal the political and ecological wounds hurting today’s America and the world.

Cole created a new school of painting; no small achievement. Roughly two dozen artists have ties to the Hudson River School. If interested, one can visit the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. It has trails with guided tours that take you to the locations where many of the paintings were created.

Ted Macaluso is the author of Vincent, Theo and the Fox: A Mischievous Adventure through the Paintings of Vincent van Gogh for ages 4 – 10. He lives in Reston, Virginia.

Text © 2019 by Ted Macaluso.

 

 

Three Views of Van Gogh for Children

Three new picture books give complementary views of the artist’s life.

Authors use the same facts differently. That is as true for picture books as it is for books geared to older ages. When you show children a set of books with different perspectives on the same subject, it helps them develop the capacity to think analytically. Doing this with picture books is a great way for younger kids to have fun while learning how to understand and master their world.

Here are three picture books that, together, help children think about the life of painter Vincent van Gogh.

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Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPré is a biography of the painter told from the hook of children fighting sleep. It looks at van Gogh as a struggling artist driven to express himself and paint the night sky. Ages 4 to 8.

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The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock and illustrated by Sophie Casson uses van Gogh’s time in Arles, France to teach about bullying. It looks at van Gogh as a visionary, bullied for being both poor and different. The story is told by one of the bullies as an adult looking back at what he did and what he learned. Ages 5 to 9.

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Vincent, Theo and the Fox by Ted Macaluso (yes, that’s me) uses van Gogh’s life to teach about growing up and brotherhood. It looks at van Gogh, and his brother Theo, as two young boys who wonder what they should be when they grow up. Chasing a mischievous fox through van Gogh’s paintings they discover the answer to how to be the best you can be when you grow up. Ages 4 to 10.

One artist and three viewpoints. All three perspectives are true, which is the beauty of reading these three books together.

All three books have great reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews called Vincent Can’t Sleep “a soft, sad, lovely introduction to a masterpiece.” Booklist said it is “a beautiful exploration of van Gogh’s influences and achievement.”

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The School Library Journal’s assessment of The Artist and Me is that the book presents “…a troubling issue observed through the lens of art history [and] delivers a meaningful message about individuality and tolerance.”

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Kirkus Reviews called Vincent, Theo and the Fox “a charming, unique way to introduce youngsters to great art while providing an important message.” ThePictureBookReview.com said: “[Vincent, Theo and the Fox] is the first book I’ve read where the illustrations are storied instead of the story being illustrated….It adds a depth of imagination that I’m not used to in picture books. I can’t think of any other picture book doing this–it’s wonderful!” 

Reading all three books can be a powerful experience. Together, they reinforce the reality that Vincent van Gogh was, like each and every one of us is, a complex, many-sided person.

Ted Macaluso lives in Reston, Virginia and blogs about children’s books and art at www.tedmacaluso.com.

Text © 2019 by Ted Macaluso.

Note: Some of the links above are “affiliate links” to Amazon.com, which means that Amazon pays me a few pennies if you end up buying the book through the link here. Your price is the same whether you use the affiliate link or find the book another way. The pennies don’t influence my judgment. These are all books I’ve read and recommend. You’re free to click, look on Amazon, and not buy.