The Art of Oliver Jeffers
Edited by Richard Seabrooke
I’ve been a fan of Oliver Jeffers for four years. I can date my affection for his work to finding The Great Paper Caper in the Children’s section at Brookline Booksmith. It wasn’t misfiled; until recently Jeffers has received much more attention as an author/illustrator of children’s picture books than for his fine art.
I want to argue about the “need” for distinction, but… well, those arguments are tired. Instead, I’ll say this book takes a look at his work that wasn’t intended for the thirty-two page hardcover format. The foreword by Seabrooke is short, and from it (if you didn’t already guess) you learn Jeffers is a curious guy; he’s most curious about the idea of duality. Mac Premo picks up on the duality theme in the introduction telling us, “Oliver Jeffers’s work is almost always about two things. Those two things, however, constantly change.” The “two things” reflected in much of the work in this book are emotion and logic — as seen through painting and math, through visual depiction and metadata — it’s all art and science. Unless it’s a big red fish in the snow.
There are a few photos of Jeffers and his studio; happily the bulk of the 161 pages is devoted to his work (mostly paintings, some sketchbook pages, and a few 3D pieces), with very little commentary. I prefer books like this to keep the inline commentary to a minimum so as not to overload the experience and distract from the images. I want to see what I see, not see what it is only possible to see with a slab of text to explain it nearby. (You have the option to read labels in museums; they aren’t as pushy as poor page layouts.)
I fell in love with Jeffers’s illustrated picture books, and I’m intrigued by his “grown up” art — which doesn’t so much feel grown up, as it feeld curious in a different way.