|Image from BarnesandNoble.com|
A bear wants to paint a picture. So he gets out his paper, brushes, and paints and begins to create. He’s blissfully painting when two gentlemen happen upon the bear. One is short and round, the other tall and slim. As soon as they see the bear painting they begin criticizing the artwork. “Bears can’t paint.” “Besides it’s a silly picture.” Exasperated, the bear defends his painting as the two men inch closer to figure out “what it is supposed to be.” Before they know it, the men have stepped inside the bear’s creation and then bear begins painting them into the composition until they disappear saying, “Bears are not the sort of fellows to paint pictures.” When they’re gone bear looks at his picture and finds he’s very happy with his painting.
This story not only celebrates the creation of artwork, it also turns the tables on art critics. The bear never asks for anyone’s opinion on his painting, he just feels the need to create. The critics on the other hand never admit that their point of view might be too rigid and structured, even as they disappear into the painting. The text is mostly dialogue and the story moves along quickly. The text and illustrations really go hand in hand. The illustrations were done with mixed media and somehow give the impression of being flat and three dimensional at the same time. The characters are rendered in grayscale, which pulls the reader’s focus to the bear’s colorful painting. Speaking of the painting, make sure to turn the final picture of the painting upside and take a look.
Before you read the book, ask kids if they always know what they want to draw or paint before they start or if it comes to them as they go. After you read the book, discuss the idea that art doesn’t have to “be” anything. Sometimes we create art for other people and sometimes we create art for ourselves. Sometimes art represents an emotion or a feeling, rather than an object or a person. Ask the kids why they think the bear was happy with his artwork when he was finished.
Use this book as an introduction to a unit Picasso, an artist who is celebrated now, but who was criticized by many during his lifetime. Check out the lesson plan ideas in the artist study of Picasso on Squidoo.