Monday, August 25, 2008

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out

I've just recieved an advance copy of "Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out".
It's a book all about the history of the White House, and I was asked, along with more than one hundred other writers and artists, to contribute something to the book.
I was delighted that the story I was given to illustrate was "Hands" by Patricia MacLachlan, the author of "Sarah, Plain and Tall" among many other wonderful books.

"Hands" is a lovely little story about Eleanor Roosevelt. I was very impressed by everything I read about her in my research for this piece, which made doing the artwork even more of a pleasure.
I painted it in oils as I was pretty fed up with my constant struggle with the medium of watercolour. Since I completed this piece last year, I have done a good deal more work in oils.

I met Patricia MacLachlan at the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival a year or two back. She's what American's would call a "great old broad" and what we Irish would call "great gas", as well as being a terrific writer.
"Sarah, Plain and Tall" is one of my favourite novels, and I even did a cover for it once. I'll have to dig that out and post it up on the blog.
Hopefully I'll collaborate with Patricia again at sometime in the future.


Susan said...

I went to Washington DC in March to visit my sister, and looked everywhere for a children's book to bring back as a souvenir for my kids.

Very few choices, and everything was overpriced and disappointing. I'll look forward to seeing this version. America has had some fascinating first families and most kids know nothing about them!

(I admit I'm a history addict, but still!)

Susan said...

argh...I meant to say that I looked for a children's book ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE, but I forgot to include the important bit.

I never meant to imply that WDC had no worthy children's books at all! d'oh.

mjartist said...

Mr. Lynch,
I just found your site and blog!! I have loved your childrens book art for a long time now and have looked forward to your future work.

One question I have is why are you frustrated with your watercolor work? I love it!! Although all your work is great too. I was just wondering if you could go into more detail about this.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this blog.


PJ Lynch said...

Thanks for the nice comments.
I don't know if the book will be on sale in Ireland but you will be able to get it on Amazon , Susan.
I am also a bit history buff. In a future post I will talk about going to Springfield, Illinois to research a book on Abe Lincoln that I recently finished.
I will happily address the watercolour question Mike.
I liked your work very much.
I think that you, like me, might have a lot more fun using a more opaque medium(oils or acrylics). I ended up using so much gouache that the picture wasn't a watercolour any more.
I'll tackle it further in a future post.
all the best

mbbarrett said...

Hi P.J. Lynch!

I love your blog!

I wanted to write to thank your personally for contributing such a beautiful illustration to Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out. And to thank you for providing a live link to the book information on our NCBLA website.

I was fascinated by Susan's comments because one of the inspirations for Our White House was my own futile Washington DC search to find a book for my three kids that conveyed the excitement I felt when visiting the White House. How validating to have someone else voice the same frustration!

In researching American history for Our White House, I found out that the foundation of the house was built by black slaves; the walls, roof, and interiors by Irish and Scottish immigrants. James Hoban, the architect who built the house, was Irish. Those facts inspired my piece in the book. The story of Irish immigrants coming to America, enriching our nation on multiple levels, is one that begins very early in American history.

My grandparents grew up in small villages in Mayo, and did not have a formal education beyond twelve years of age. They did not live in a free Ireland; they had no voting rights. They came to America and educated themselves; their neighborhood public library was their classroom. Working multiple jobs, they made substantial personal sacrifices to ensure that their four children received university educations. By the age of four, my grandfather had taught me, his oldest grandchild, to read. My primers were the two Cleveland newspapers of the time: The Cleveland Press and the Plain Dealer. Even now, I cannot start the day without devouring a number of newspapers, and with the Internet I can take a peek at the Irish Times and the Independent, too!

My grandparents also made a point of taking me, at a very young age, with them into the voting booth on election day. It was vitally important that they impress upon me how much they valued the right to vote, the opportunity to participate fully in our democracy. Those values, the huge commitment to literacy and education, the importance of being an INFORMED citizen actively participating in a democracy-- were values that they instilled in my heart and mind,in the core of my being. If Our White House, and the educational companion website we are currently constructing-- convey some of those values to young people, we will have succeeded.

This is a historic election year in America. Many Americans feel that we are teetering dangerously at the edge of cliff. It is the hope of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance that Our White House will inspire young people to discover our nation's rich past, and also provoke them to thoughtfully consider our nation's future.

It is your work, and the work of the other 107 talented contributors, that makes Our White House such an extraordinary publication. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my heroes and your amazing illustration skillfully conveys her strength, her compassion, her beauty. Thank you so much for the invaluable gift of your time and talent! I hope that someday I will be able to thank you in person!

With great respect and admiration,

Mary Brigid

Mary Brigid Barrett
President and Director
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance

Susan said...

Ah ha, you see? LOL I think this is going to be a hit.

Speaking of James Hoban, I have a number of the old Irish stamps featuring him as 'architect of the White House' I believe? from many years back.

I might make them up into bookmarks or something to give with the book, and count the nieces and nephews again for this year's Christmas...done and dusted!

I'll look forward to the Abe Lincoln project too, but don't tell my Grandma I said that(proud daughter of a Confederate Captain).

PJ Lynch said...

Hi Mary Brigid and Susan
Thanks for those great comments.
Your story and picture in"Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out" are terrific, Mary Brigid.
Although I am also a bit of a history buff, I knew nothing about the building of the White House except I was told that it was designed( or built?) by the same person who designed Áras an Uachtaráin, (Our presidential mansion in Ireland).
Was that James Hoban?
The detail and research that went into your story about the young mason and his father really brought it to life for me.
I am now utterly fascinated by American Presidents and their families, and am looking forward to reading all the other stories in the book.

Re the Hoban stamps , Susan, I'll have to look them up. I'm afraid An Post's design history is somewhat chequered, including my own stamps.
I came across the one where I figured prominently as a shepherd at the nativity scene.
I'll post it on the blog closer to Christmas.
Best wishes
PS I'd love to know more about your confederate ancestry.

Susan said...

You know I think I have a pile of those--I collect religious postage stamps (and make fun of my sister for HER weird collections) and that includes Christmas stamps. Sadly all my stamps are still in a box from our last move 2 years ago; time to unpack them I suppose.

On my father's side my family is a long line of American war veterans; oh I have stories. Probably helped make me what I am! LOL I'll blog the Confederate one, one day soon.