Children’s illustrator Floca at WV Book Festival
October 20, 2011 ·
The WV Book Festival is this weekend, and one of this year’s guests is children’s book illustrator Brian Floca, who has illustrated a book about the ballet Appalachian Spring.
Brian Floca has illustrated books on a variety of topics that engage children’s imaginations. Space ships, trains, race cars...and ballet.
"I have been drawing since before I remember. I think everyone draws, and not everyone sticks with it, sadly. I happily just sort of stuck with it, and I’ve been drawing since I was very young, and I do enjoy the variety that comes with finding a topic that interests me enough to spend a year or more on it, which is how long a book can take.
"It gives me a chance to learn about something I know a little bit about, but not enough about. It’s the old writer’s advice to 'write what you know,' but I found that I end up writing what I want to know, and the process of writing a book is a chance to learn something."
One of Floca’s recent projects was illustrating the book “Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring.” His images help to tell the story of the artistic collaboration between choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copland, and set designer Isamu Noguchi.
"I felt like I needed to learn the dance, well enough to give it to the readers in my visual 'voice' if you will. The most interesting and exciting part of that process for me was I got to go sit in on rehearsals by the actual Martha Graham Dance Company that exists today in New York and watch them perform … and that, it’s … I’ve really benefited so much over so many books with people’s willingness to share their own interests and concerns and process to help me, a total outsider, to make a book.
"That was the case with this book. I got to just go sit and watch them rehearse this dance multiple times and a learn it in a way that would have been impossible for me to learn it had I just watched videos, or looking at other books about the dance."
At the book festival, Floca plans to share the process he goes through to create these books.
"As a kid I had very little understanding of how books were made, or the kind of work that goes into them. They just seemed…well, I had the illusion that authors or artists just sat down and just wrote the finished book, or made the finished painting. One of the nice things about presentations like this is to show how much work and process goes into that. That’s always a nice thing to share and to show."
While apps, ebooks, and other new technologies are attracting a lot of attention, Floca says that books, treasured children’s books especially, still have an important place in the world.
"I’m very tech-friendly in a lot of ways, but I think books and apps do different things. And, I’m very much a fan of what the book does, the physical book. There are some books that are going to migrate over to e-readers, maybe the paperback novel that you enjoy at night, might not want to keep on your shelf forever.
"There are other books that you are going to want a physical copy of, and people always will want a physical copy of, and those are the kind of books I try to make and that I enjoy making. I certainly hope, and I do think, there will always be a place for the printed book, even as we create space for ebooks, apps, and that sort of thing."
Brian Floca will speak at the West Virginia Book Festival this Saturday at 1pm, at the Civic Center in Charleston.