July 2, 2011 10:05:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
"F" is for fun, as far as Rick Anderson is concerned. The educator-turned-illustrator''s first book, "M is for Magnolia," was published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2003, and the Clarksdale native has been at the easel ever since.
Seasoned by a 25-year career teaching in public schools, Anderson has no problem relating to kids. That was evident Tuesday at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, as readers young and not-so-young alike turned out to hear him. With movement, interaction, and even a little magic, he kept his audience wondering what might come next.
"It''s almost like entertainment -- with information," the engaging speaker said, packing up materials after the presentation sponsored by the Friends of the Library and the Mississippi Arts Commission. "I don''t talk down to children; I talk to them," he added.
Anderson was already an accomplished artist, but his transition from academia into the professional illustrator''s world hinged on a phone call from a perfect stranger, one who found him in the Mississippi Arts Commission roster and asked him to illustrate "M is for Magnolia."
Flipping through the colorful book, Anderson smiles, sharing his small secrets -- the loved ones who are painted into various scenes, the hidden Elvises most readers will never notice.
That playful sense was interwoven in his talk, as the audience was invited along on a pretend research trip for a book. They took dozens of pictures on imaginary cameras, rapidly drew in make-believe sketchbooks, even selected favorite colors "from the rainbow" to bring pictures to life.
"It was wonderful to hear his story; it was really motivational," said library Youth Services Coordinator Erin Stringer. "Not just a great program for children, but he had little quips that the adults just found hilarious."
Anderson has now illustrated numerous books for Sleeping Bear, as well as Pelican. But when he takes off his illustrator''s hat, he creates striking acrylic paintings that can be viewed at rickandersonart.com. He''s currently working on writing and illustrating his own children''s book.
Instilling a love of art and reading in Mississippi''s school children is a passion for the Clinton resident. His mission comes through loud and clear, as he coaches each youngster in the mantra that will complete the sleight-of-hand "trick" he uses in his talk: "Abracadabra, reading is magic, art is creative. Abracadabra, reading is magic, art is creative!"
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.