It Jes' Happened

When Bill Traylor
Started to Draw

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday hosted today
at NC Teacher Stuff
and joins It's Monday!
What are you reading?

(pub. 4.1.2012) 32 pages 

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

A uthor: Don Tate
     and Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

haracter: Bill Traylor

O verview from the jacket flap: 

      "Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill Traylor worked all day in the hot fields. When slavery ended, Bill's family stayed on the farm as sharecroppers. There Bill grew to manhood, raised his own family, and cared for the land and his animals.
      By 1935 Bill was eighty-one  and all alone on his farm. So he packed his bag and moved to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. Lonely and poor, he wandered the busy downtown streets. But deep within himself Bill had a reservoir of memories of working and living on the land, and soon those memories blossomed into pictures. Bill began to draw people, places, and animals form his earlier life, as well as scenes of the city around him.
      Today Bill Traylor is considered to be one of the most important self-taught American folk artists...It Jes' Happened is a lively tribute to this man who has enriched the world with more than twelve hundred warm, energetic, and often humorous pictures."

T antalizing taste: 

       "Bill could not contain his memories. One day in early 1939 he picked up the stub of a pencil and a piece of discarded paper and began to pour out his memories in pictures. Bill's first drawings were simple items: cats, cups, shoes, baskets. Then he began to draw human and animal forms too. He used the side of a stick to rule straight lines and shapes. Rectangles became bodies. Circles became heads and eyes. Lines became outstretched arms, hands, and legs. He filled in shapes with sketchy lines and smoothed out edges...
      And the clang-clang-clang from the nearby blacksmith's shop provided background music for Bill while he worked."
and something more:  I was impressed by the wealth of information available on the Teacher Activity Guide for It Jes' Happened on Don Tate's website. I particularly enjoyed reading about Don Tate's personal and artistic connections to Bill Traylor: 

"What aspect of the man is most compelling to you, his art or his life?

"Bill Traylor’s life as a slave, sharecropper and artist are all compelling stories. Definitely not easily separated. But I was most moved and inspired by his story of becoming not only an artist, but one of the most important artists of our time..."

"In what ways do you relate to Bill Traylor? As an artist? As a father? As a man?

"When I began to research and study the life of Bill Traylor, I immediately felt a kindred spirit to the artist. With no formal training (or any artistic experience that we know of), Bill answered his calling to become an artist late in his life. I did, too. I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hands, but I didn’t discover a love of writing until just a few years ago, well into my 40s. And like Bill, I had friends along the way who helped me develop my new found love of words...

       Words have a way of finding your past. And so do pictures, as Bill discovered. When I write, I often find myself laughing, or frowning, or even on the verge of tears, as I recall childhood events. I imagine Bill did the same thing as he drew pictures from his life as a slave, as a hardworking sharecropper, as a homeless man living on the streets."


Playing by the book said...

Great to find out about a new-to-me artist. Thanks!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

That's just how I feel. I'm always so pleased when lesser known artists are featured in picture book biographies. Thanks for stopping by.

Roberta said...

I really enjoyed this one, too. Shows how artistic talent can bubble to the surface, regardless of the circumstances of the artist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing...I would never have discovered this!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

This sounds wonderful...thanks so much for sharing!

Resh said...

Inspiring story! We read a similar biography on a much forgotten artist! Thanks for sharing!

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Roberta, I like your choice of words... "artistic talent can bubble to the surface." Thanks for stopping by.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

You're welcome, Barbara! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Hi Tara, Yes, I think you'll enjoy reading it. Thanks for stopping by.

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Resh, Yes, it truly is an inspiring story. Thanks for stopping by.

Kellee Moye said...

Love learning about new artists- thank you!

Happy reading this week :)

Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Thanks Kellee for stopping by and for hosting It's Monday! What are you reading? with all the wonderful kidlit teachers and librarians at Teacher Mentor Texts.