A small, sturdy, shapely evocation of the artist's calling, prefaced by a quotation from Pisarro—"Only painting counts"—and featuring a white-bearded, straw-hatted Pissarro-like painter. "An artist is like God, but small," it begins. "He can't see out of God's creation,/ for it includes him./ With the seas divided,/ all the animals named,/ and the sun and moon and stars/ set in their tracks,/ an artist spends his life/ not only wondering, but wanting to work like God/ with what he can command: his paints." So: "He tries to copy God's creations." And on his easel we see a landscape. "He tries to shape beauty with his hand." A long-curving stroke of the brush. "He tries to make order out of nature." A geometric abstract. "He tries to paint the thoughts and feelings in his mind." Freeforms. Then, the reprise: "An artist is like God/ as God created him./ Small, strong, and with limited days,/ his gift of breath is spent/ over his paintbox./ Choosing and brushing his colors,/ he tries to make paint sing." In its entirety, this may indeed speak more volumes to adults than to children; but excepting only a few phrases near the end ("and with limited days, his gift of breath is spent"), the text is graphic, the imagery plain. And the illustrations—tiny, almost-childlike watercolors into which the palpable figure of the painter is set, a painter within paintings—have an immediate appeal and the resonance of some of Goffstein's best work. It's special, maybe, but it's not forced.
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