Sunday April 22 is Earth Day, but we’re celebrating Mother Earth all weekend! We’re super excited to welcome Barbara Reid, the popular children’s author and plasticine artist extraordinaire, as a special guest this weekend. She is leading workshops for kids, teaching families how to make their own plasticine art (Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 am and 2 pm). She will also be signing her new book Picture a Tree and you can see a display of some of Ms. Reid’s amazing masterpieces.
We were curious about her inspiration and artistic process so we posed a few questions to her this week. Here’s the interview.
Many of us played with plasticine as kids, but you have turned it into your career. How did that happen?
I played with plasticine a lot as a kid, I also drew all the time. At the Ontario College of Art and Design I studied illustration and experimented with many different mediums and techniques. I used plasticine for a project, and it was surprisingly successful – and fun to do! The plasticine work in my portfolio caught the eye of an editor at Scholastic Canada who gave me my first picture book to illustrate: The New Baby Calf, by Edith Chase. I think that plasticine appeals to kids because it is a medium they enjoy using. I love to work with it, and have been creating books ever since.
The high-rise home sweet home picture is amazing and looks like it has many layers. How long did it take you to make?
The high-rise home sweet home illustration is very detailed; it took about 6 days to make. That’s not counting a couple of days planning the picture and sketching it.
What made you decide to do a book about trees?
I take a long walk every morning with our dog, Ruby. We walk in all weather and every season. I love watching the gradual changes of the trees and the different moods they can express. Over time the ideas for the book took shape.
What is your favourite kind of tree?
Beech trees are my favourites, they are very graceful and their grey bark makes them look like elephant legs in the forest.
You have lived in Toronto all of your life. Where do you like to go in Toronto for tree inspiration?
Toronto has so many wonderful trees! I especially like the big oaks and beech trees in Crother’s Woods in the Don Valley. There is also a fantastic variety of trees in the old parts of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, many of them labelled. I collected a lot of leaf projects there when I was in school!
Do your kids like to make plasticine art too?
Our girls are grown up now, but they did have a lot of fun with plasticine. I still have some of their pictures in my studio.
Wonder how she does it? We’ve got a short video showing the artist at work.
The ROM celebrates Earth Weekend April 21 and 22 with special guest Barbara Reid who will lead plasticine art workshops at 11:30 am and 2 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Visitors will also be encouraged to get connected with nature at the launch of the Canadian Wildlife Federation Get to Know Contest. Get to know nature through photography, writing, music composition, drawing and video throughout our Natural History galleries.