Saturday, June 26, 2010

Out of the Way! Uma Krishnaswami/y's Latest Picture Book

Irresistible. This is the cover of the just-released picture book Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Vermont College of Fine Arts faculty member Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy and that is not a typo. We've been invited to join the Out of the Way! Out of the Way! blog tour that's been going on this week, and I couldn't be more delighted.

The story is about a boy who protects a sapling along a path from passers-by, even as the road gets busier and busier. The tree grows, providing shelter and food for many, and the boy grows also. There's a very nice description and review at Chicken Spaghetti.  While this picture book is not yet available in North America, it is available online through its publisher, Tulika Books of India. I don't think there is a publisher on the planet more dedicated to creating beautiful, meaningful books for kids.

The illustrator is Uma Krishnaswamy, whose name, you may notice if you look very carefully, is kind of like Uma Krishnaswami's. Pure coincidence.  Uma K-i the author lives in New Mexico. Uma K-y the illustrator lives in Chennai, India. There's a really thorough and entertaining interview with the artist at Saffron Tree: Interview with Uma Krishnaswamy with some interior art as well.

One thing that intrigued me in that interview was a brief mention of "Kamladevi" in relation to Indian folk art. Uma says it influenced the style of her illustrations, here and in other work.

Never heard of Kamladevi. Have you? Is it a kind of painting technique? An art movement? I was curious, though. So I asked Uma K-i . . .
Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was an activist in the Indian freedom movement of the 1940's and by all accounts quite a woman.

She was a huge force in the revitalization of Indian handicrafts and folk arts following independence, when years of British rule had resulted in many traditions dying from neglect or being pressured out of existence.

 . . . which led me into spending an afternoon with Indian folk art images on the Web. Note the similarities to Krishnaswamy's work, the (to Western eyes) flat perspective. (It's really just a different way of seeing, but I won't lecture you right now. ) Attention is paid to pattern, line, symmetry, and vibrant colors. (The black and white drawings here are patterns for embroidery, tattoos, etc.).

What a delight for the eyes. I hope this book comes to the U. S. soon.


  1. Thank you for the added insight into Uma Krishnaswamy's illustrations! :o)

  2. lovely! the flat perspective is a bit like the Eastern European Icons too.

  3. Yes! It's very Asian. Interestingly, I thought some of the less representational art was quite like the hex symbols of the Pennsylvania Dutch.