David (Shannon) Goes to the Museum

In the summer of 2015, the National Center for Children’ Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) exhibited the works of internationally acclaimed picture book creator David Shannon in the exhibition: David (Shannon) goes to the Museum. On display are seventy framed pieces of artwork, done in acrylic and oil, from Shannon’s earliest works, Gawain and the Green Knight (1994) to his 2015 Texas Bluebonnet Award winning book Hiawatha and the Peacemaker. Also featured in this exhibit is artwork from the David series, Good Boy, Fergus!, Alice the Fairy, A Bad Case of Stripes, How I became a Pirate and Duck on a Bike. The variety of style seen in this exhibition is awe-inspiring, heartwarming and will bring a smile to everyone who sees it!

David Shannon has always been an artist. In fact, at the age of five, he wrote and illustrated his first book. On each page were pictures of David doing things he was not supposed to do and the words “No, David!” as these were the only words he knew how to spell! Years later, when his mother sent him that book, Shannon was inspired to write and illustrate his Caldecott honor book No, David! However, it was not until 1993, when Shannon published How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, that he wrote his first book as an adult, which would later be named the New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Since How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, Shannon has written and illustrated numerous award-winning, bestselling books including: A Bad Case of Stripes; Alice the Fairy; The Rain Came Down; and three more books starring David (David Gets in Trouble, David Goes to School, and It’s Christmas, David!)

In his books, Shannon often uses incidents and people from his own life. For example, his daughter made animal noises before she could talk. Drawing from this experience, Shannon wrote Duck on a Bike, a story with lots of quacks, moos, oinks, and woofs. In addition, his picture book about a West Highland terrier, Good Boy, Fergus!, features the beloved family dog. Lastly, in the “fish tale” Jangles: A BIG Fish Story told by a father to his son, Shannon draws on his experiences as an avid fisherman to narrate the tale.

How does David Shannon go about creating his illustrations?

“When I first began doing children's books, like when I did editorial work, my palette was a lot more muted and dark. It would slowly, but surely, become more colorful. And I just like the colors better. When I'm doing a book, I kind of think of it as directing a little movie. So, I try to make everything in the pictures reinforce the story in some way. And color can do an awful lot with conveying the emotion and mood and tone of the story. If you're doing a sad story, a lot of times bright colors aren't the way to go. I start out by making lots of scribbly little “thumbnail” sketches – just trying to figure out what’s going to go on each page. If there’s a manuscript then I’m also reading it a bunch of times, underlining key ideas and images, circling descriptions and so on – like I was going to write a book report! Then I make a “dummy” – that’s a full size pencil sketch version of the whole book. My editor and I go over that and make a few improvements and then I paint the finished pieces.” ~ David Shannon