7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #258: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Elizabeth Zunon

h1 December 4th, 2011 by jules

“I snip a patch of color and add a cut-out face. / Oh! I glue on jazzy blue for sky and add another face. / People walk into my work as if it’s always been their place. / My hands sing the blues when I paint and cut and paste. / I never know what I’ll create when I paint and cut and paste. / I use paper, fabrics, photos,
and nothing goes to waste.”

(Click to enlarge)

It’s the first Sunday of the month (the last first-Sunday of 2011, GASP!), and so that means I’m shining the spotlight on a student or debut illustrator. In today’s case, I’ve got the latter. Elizabeth Zunon, who was born in Albany, New York, but grew up in West Africa, attended RISD. Jeanne Walker Harvey’s My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey, published by Marshall Cavendish in September, marks Zunon’s debut as a picture book illustrator, which Hazel Rochman at Booklist called “handsome” and a “lively introduction to the artist for young children and for older readers, too.”

With a text “loosely based…on the concept of the blues,” as Harvey writes in her closing Author’s Note, the book is told (nearly sung) from the point-of-view of Bearden as an adult, looking back on a particular time in childhood during which he left North Carolina to take a train trip with his parents to Harlem. Having to heed Jim Crow laws, his family knows they must head North:

Tears sting my eyes when I hear the call, “All aboard!”
I hug Great-grandma and Great-grandpa, then I climb aboard.
I settle in my seat and wonder what we’re traveling toward.

As you can see from the spread opening this post, both author and illustrator use one of Bearden’s most famous paintings, Watching the Good Trains Go By (1964), as inspiration. Harvey’s rhythmic, often entrancing text begs to be read aloud. “I chose this [bluesy] form,” she writes, “because Romare Bearden’s art and life were inspired by blues and jazz music.” Zunon’s illustrations, as you can see here, are rendered in oils with mixed media collage. “Echoing Bearden’s distinctive style,” the Booklist review goes on to say, “the richly textured collage art combines original paintings with paper, fabrics, and photos to show Bearden as a small boy watching trains pass until he and his parents get on a train themselves, and he sees the world whizzing past: A patchwork quilt of greens and gold.”

“I think Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations are stunning,” Jeanne told me. “It was a picture book author’s dream come true to open the packet from the publisher and see her illustrations. Not only do Liz’s illustrations embody the spirit of Romare Bearden’s art, but they truly bring the text to life.” This is Jeanne’s second picture book, and I look forward to what she brings us next.

Incidentally, Elizabeth’s second illustrated title, released by Candlewick last month and written by Newbery-winner Patricia MacLachlan, is called Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby. I’ve seen it, too, and like it very much.

As always, here’s a bit more art from My Hands Sing the Blues so that you can get a better sense of its style. Enjoy.

“TINK-A-TINK TINK-A-TINK The engine picks up speed. KA-NOOK KA-NEE / TINK-A-TINK TINK-A-TINK Bye-bye, Trade Street Station. / KA-NOOK KA-NEE /
With a-thrumming and a-drumming, the train hums a tune to me.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Like a flower, I have roots in my Carolina past, / roots sunk deep in my childhood long past. / The people and the places are in my art to last.”
(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

MY HANDS SING THE BLUES: ROMARE BEARDEN’S CHILDHOOD JOURNEY. © 2011 by Jeanne Walker Harvey. Illustrations © 2011 by Elizabeth Zunon. Published by Marshall Cavendish Children, Tarrytown, NY. Images reproduced by permission of the author.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I have two kicks today, but they are big enough to cover one-through-seven:

I saw Gillian Welch and David Rawlings live at the Ryman on Thursday night. Yup, I was at this. If you ever have a chance to see them live, don’t miss it. Absolutely phenomenal. (Turns out Robert Plant and Patty Griffin were in the room, too, as you can read at that link, and I didn’t even know it. Why didn’t I get the seat next to him?)

Here’s the sweet sweet setlist from the show:

I’ve seen them before—more than once, actually—but I was so glad to be alive and there and hearing THAT show at that special stage and I will never forget it. It was one of those shows. When they played “Revelator,” I dare say it blew the mind of everyone in the auditorium. (It didn’t hurt that it’s a top-fiver for me, in terms of favorite songs of theirs.) They are so immensely talented. It was kicky kick-ass kicky-ness ALL AROUND.

They also did this, which is a brilliant little song:

Secondly, I got to hold a wee, new-to-this-world babe, born to some good friends of mine. The tiny little thing let me hold her quite a while, and she is a puddin’ head.

What about you all?

11 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #258: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Elizabeth Zunon”

  1. Thanks for the great post, Jules.

    With snowy weather soon to descend on New England, where I live, it’s a good time to share my poem from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong’s e-anthology GIFT TAG, now available at http://poetrytagtime.com.

    Seeing a photograph of an old sled brought memories of sliding down snow-crusted slopes with my sisters and brother. Once, our parents let us stay out after sunset and moonlight made everything feel alive. My poem uses an Irish verse form: cethramtu rannaigechta moire.

    By Steven Withrow

    Moon-mound snow,
    slalom race;
    chill bright plumes
    frost your face.

    runners grip;
    twin tracks bite
    hill’s white lip.

    Copyright ©2011 by Steven Withrow. All rights reserved.

  2. Stunning is an excellent word for Zunon’s work. I love artists who use collage because it’s so intense to create in that manner.
    Jules, I always love when you share great music. Thanks. And yikes to the last first Sunday of 2011!
    Steven, “moon-mound snow” lovely. I have to love up that poetry form.
    My kicks:
    1. Clear and crisp skies.
    2. Three grants written (fingers crossed).
    3. Successful teacher-librarian workshop completed.
    4. “Poem-a-Day” completed.(list at Deowriter)
    5. Attended a bday party for Barrett (Bridget Zinn’s husband). He looks well depsite his loss.
    6. Brussel sprouts.
    7. Joy.
    Have a great week.

  3. Jules, thanks for alerting me to those beautiful books. I hadn’t quite realized my leaning toward collage until when passing around nonfiction books to my students last week, one noted the trend, which she thought was on purpose (um), since some were making collages of scenes from novels they’re writing.

    And I love that you got to hold and behold a puddin’ head. And Steven’s poem, though I’m glad the accompanying weather report doesn’t seem to include my neck of Massachusetts. Jone, big congratulations on Poem-a-Day, and will keep fingers crossed on the grants.

    Kicks: 1. Meeting a friend this afternoon for holiday music, and a stop in at Mount Holyoke Art Museum.
    2. Another friend tomorrow for tea and a walk.
    3. Yesterday I let a poem hijack my computer. After initially trying to shoo it away to focus on a novel.
    4. Quite a bit of good focus on a novel.
    5. My husband is vacuuming as I write.
    6. Time to start bringing in green stuff (which will mean more vacuuming, but..)
    7. Two more classes with wonderful students. And I’ll be talking this week with a group of teen moms whose teacher has been reading Borrowed Names with them.

  4. The last first Sunday of 2011, geez; only 21 more shopping days! (I haven’t even written out my list.) I HAVE decided to gift books to almost everyone this year. Because, well, I love books. And I want my local independents to make it through… I figure: Buy a book, save a store. Thanks, Jules, for all the great picks you have put on my radar.

    Speaking of which, Elizabeth Zunon’s books are lovely. When I clicked ‘enlarge’ – I especially liked the train steaming away: The fabric seats, the perfectly-lit faces of the passengers—it all FEELS like sitting on a train to me. Very nice. And the covers of both books seem to illustrate their content so well; the collaged coat of the painter, the sleepy “puddin’ head” with that baby-pucker mouth. Yes.

    Jules – Your feeling for the music and art that moves you really makes it onto the blog page. Gravy for us readers. Welsh/Rawlings’ harmonies are so gutsy and serene at the same time. How do they do that?

    Steven – you have me, like jone, reaching for my poetic-form text book. Especially charmed by “hill’s white lip”.

    jone — grant writing is the true test of details, patience and persuasion; I bet you’re great at it.. So nice, your continuing Zinn family support.

    Jeannine – The idea of a poem hijacking your computer, cutting-the-line in front of your novel, made me laugh out loud. I know exactly what you mean. Happy writing with whatever absconds with you next. Ha!

    My kicks this last first Sunday of December:
    1. looking through boxes of old family photos
    2. making the plane reservation for my son (immersed in the Spanish language in Nicaragua) to come home for the holidays.
    3. a new French bakery opened up in our village (so nice to see a storefront come alive instead of visa-versa.)
    4. my distraught husband found his wedding ring (lost for two weeks).
    5. an unsolicited report from a sweet father of very young children,
    2, 3 and 5, that they request my picture book at bedtime. : – )
    6. a very, very blustery windstorm (not the damage it caused–but experiencing the whooshing and trees thrashing and lights flickering.)
    7. a critque-group colleague sold an animation series; yea for her.

    Have a wonderful early December week everyone.

  5. Jules- I’m so glad you share music here sometimes too. I am not a huge music person but often try out what you suggest. Revelator is just gorgeous!

    And Denise- I just clicked through to see what book the sweet babes were requesting and find it so exciting to be sharing a space with you. Your book is just a wonderful one. We love it here too!

    1. Warm December days.
    2. Our downtown tree lighting that reminds us of why we live where we do.
    3. Our sweet, fluffy puppy.
    4. Listening to my daughter read at her class publishing party.
    5. Helping a friend start a personal chef business by buying some of her meals this week. It’s amazing how much I can get done when I’m not in the kitchen!
    6. Read Long Walk to Water and Inside Out and Back Again this week- wow to both.

  6. Steven, my. That is lovely. Thank you.

    Jone, fingers crossed on the grants. I like your last kick, too.

    Jeannine, have fun at the art museum. I hope you come back and tell us what you saw. I love that you allowed the poem to hijack your computer and life for a little while there.

    Denise, I’m tellin’ you that those two (Rawlings and Welch) are, like, the world’s best duo, with my apologies to coffee and doughnuts and pb & j. A friend, who was also at the show, said she’s read an interview in which Gillian said that their playing-together/singing-together is almost telepathic. It HAS to be. She’ll dip her voice in such a way that cannot have been rehearsed, and he goes dipping right along with her — in perfect harmony, of course. … Speaking of serene, as you did, I’ve been humming this one (below) all day. They did not play it the other night, but this live version—played with some help from their friends (I think that’s Norman Blake)—is so great:

    CONGRATS on the unsolicited report. That is wonderful. I bet you’re super eager to see your son, and I hope he’s had a good time on his travels.

    Stacey: Glad you like “Revelator.” “The Queen of Fate, an imitator / Time’s the revelator.” Ain’t that the truth. … I’m glad you read good books. I need a reeeeeally good novel, preferably for grown-ups.

  7. Happy Sunday, imps!

    Elizabeth: Thank you for sharing your art with us. More importantly, thanks to you and Jeanne for sharing his story and music!

    Jules: Sounds like you had fun at the show! Congrats to the new one and her family.

    Steven: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to look up cethramtu rannaigechta moire (as I attempt to pronounce it!)

    Jone: Fingers crossed! Three cheers for joy!

    Jeannine: Glad that you’re enjoying time with friends, family, and great students.

    Denise: Wishing your son a safe and happy trip home! How fantastic to learn that your book is a household favorite. Congrats to your colleague.

    Stacey: Good luck to your friend with her business. Hi to the puppy. Glad you were able to attend your daughter’s event!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Opening weekend of the play!
    2) Helping and being helped
    3) and 4) Auditions
    5) Healing
    6) Patience (and realization)
    7) The TV show Leverage. I am looking forward to tonight’s new episode!

  8. Oh so very cool, just saw Romare Bearden’s work when I was Atlanta and really fell in love with it!

    Love these illlustrations…..

    Jules – so evry glad you had such an incredible time at Gillian Welch’s show. I am alwys amazed at how inspiring and transformative live performances can be,,,,

    Not the kickiest week for me, just said another goodbye, this time to Ariel, my kitty and family member for the past 16 years. I guess the big kick is that her small and quiet presence has been an enormous comfort and sustenance to me for the past 16 years – she was with me through both good and bad times – and always offered love and comfort.

    Some years are goodbye years, and this year seems to be one of them.

    My big kicks:
    1) Ariel in my life for 16 years of purring, cuddles, and love.
    2) Thanksgiving texts from the ex. Brought up old and good memories.
    3) Read Rob Lowe’s autobiography and really loved it.
    4) A visit with an old friend who I haven’t seen in 7 years – so fun to catch up!
    5) LSU
    6) The Saints!
    7) Sunshine and cutting my front lawn grass for the first time since moving in,,,,
    8) The Muppets Movie – damn I needed that bit of happy fun sunshine!

    Have a great week everyone!

  9. Little Willow, haven’t heard of Leverage. Will have to look it up. Break a leg with the auditions!

    Oh, Rachel. No! Ariel, too? Definitely a goodbye year, but I hope 2012 has no goodbyes at all. And I gotta get out and see that Muppet movie … Hugs to you, Rachel.

  10. Thanks, Jules….

  11. My thoughts are with you, Rachel (rm). I am so sorry for your loss.

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