Seeing artists’ sketchbooks is like sneaking into their diaries. Sketchbooks give a fascinating look into secret artistic processes and reveal hidden gems that never before made it to publication. Shaun Tan’s The Bird King: an artist’s notebook (Scholastic/Levine, coming February 2013) is a treasure trove of ideas and humor, filled with fantastic, slightly creepy creatures you somehow can’t help but want to cuddle.
Tan’s introduction precedes the sketches, paintings, and dummy pages, which are organized into four sections: “untold stories,” “book, theater, and film,” “drawings from life,” and “notebooks.” A list of works included gives further information on each piece.
A few pages I especially liked:
A menacing bird in formal attire holds a glass of very blood-like wine. Caption: “never lost a case.”
“language of the sea” is a spread of marine creature–inspired symbols that read like hieroglyphics.
“the water buffalo” features a massive and incredibly grumpy-looking water buffalo, sitting in a grassy vacant lot and pointing up the street for a little girl asking for directions.
On the spread “sketches from the Met,” Tan draws from truly bizarre artifacts and small statues of strange invented creatures.
Finally, there is a sweet pencil drawing of a giant bear and a woman hugging each other. It’s precious and heartwarming— until you read the caption “tender morsels.”