Chris Soentpiet holds an audience's attention. Chris Soentpiet holds the attention of 160 kindergarten and first grade students with grace. One of the first things I learned today was Chris Soentpiet was a kindergarten teacher before becoming an illustrator and fine art artist. His favorite artist is Norman Rockwell and it all makes sense. The way Chris is able to capture people, emotions and scenarios does have a Norman Rockwell feel, now that he shared that. I wonder if he would say Norman Rockwell is his mentor? Students are always looking for mentors, or we are as teachers to help our students. Why wouldn't an artist need a mentor?
Chris shared a wonderful presentation. Taking us on a journey of his work. He retold stories as he shared the illustrations for each. We learned a lot of "behind the scenes" of his published books. He uses real life models. He stressed how hard to could be being one of his models. To be a model you have to be able to act, follow directions, and cooperate. Cooperate was a huge message and he had photos of a session where I little girl couldn't cooperate. My B came home talking a great deal about the message of cooperating and this little girl. All Around Town is his first book and his favorite. On the bus are the numbers 1370, which is his birthday. His real life models are often people he knows, his family, and then models he hires. It's amazing how he can set the stage in a photograph, do a rough sketch, then a pencil sketch and always a practice painting no bigger than the length of a pair of scissors, with the final outcome of a watercolor painting. To create one painting he works eight hours a day for two weeks. While working, he plays no music, he doesn't talk, he just paints.
I found myself returning to my classroom looking at his work searching through the illustrations. I was looking for Chris, his wife Yin (who is also an author), his sister. Many of his neighbors are in his illustrations. He photographed toy cars from above to replicate a busy city street. His biggest tip for using watercolors was to work with just one color all over the page where it is needed and let it dry before you use another color. This helps create the incredible detail we find in his work. I could carry on with more tidbits I learned during our session but you will have to have your path cross his. He left our children with this message, "Follow your dreams, believe in yourself."