Art is an older and decidedly pompous painter, Max the eager youngster anxious to both impress Art and to emulate him. Unfortunately, this adulation doesn’t work out too well.
Art is in the middle of painting a more than slightly pretentious portrait when the adulating Max comes bounding over to “admire” Art’s work. The long-suffering Art sends Max away with his own stretched canvas and fistful of brushes, only to be involved more than he intended to be when Max takes his suggestion “Well, maybe you could paint me.” a little too literally.
Max’s endeavours turn Art into a living work of art, beginning with oils, which crack off when Art loses his temper to reveal pastels, which are in turn washed away by an inopportune bucket of water to reveal a pen-and-ink line drawing…which Max then inadvertently unravels. After forming the crumpled-up wad of line back into the outline of Art, he then sprays a pointillist rendering of his mentor on that framework. The book ends with the pair each having learned a lesson about art, enjoying themselves a great deal more in their creativity.
…oh, and for those who’ve not seen the book’s cover: did I mention they’re both lizards?
As with Wiesner’s other books, keep a sharp lookout for details1 and possible discrepancies2 (Well, OK: other than the obvious one that lizards don’t paint…but then frogs can’t use remote controls.) There’s more dialogue than in Tuesday or Flotsam, and it plays a more important part than in many of Wiesner’s other books, but nonetheless (as is appropriate for a three-time Caldecott winner), the illustrations carry the story to the point of being able to ignore the text.
It’s a delightful book, though perhaps simpler both in artwork and storyline than Wiesner’s other works; there’s not much doubt about what’s going on or why, but perhaps an interesting first lesson in art techniques for kids?
1what is that album propped up on the Victrola?
2Where does Max plug in the fan and the paint sprayer? We’re out in the middle of the desert!