Art & Art History
Germaphobia; Anxiety; Book; Illustration; Printmaking; OCD; Child; Psychology
I have found through my experience at The University of Rhode Island that two things are lacking; attention to the arts, and conversation about mental illness. Books are not only used as an educational tool for literacy among children but also as a way to introduce challenging topics. Combining my two majors, Art and Psychology, I aimed to create a real life tool that exposes children to the topic of mental health. The targeted age group for this book is between 4 through 6 years. By introducing this conversation to children at an appropriate level of learning, my hope is that future generations will grow to be aware of and sensitive to the multitude of issues involving mental health.
The first step during this process was to develop a character that is relatable toa wide audience, but also suffers from Germaphobia, an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I created a 7-year old boy named Henry. Henry is just like every other child and enjoys common activities such as art, sports, and writing. Yet the activity of ‘circle time’, a common practice in elementary schools where children sit on the ground, gives him chronic stress due to his irrational fear of germs. Henry works to overcome this obstacle through family therapy, utilizing breathing techniques, and exposure therapy. I wanted to convey that there are resources available for a child with mental illness and that they are not alone in their fight. Henry also is seen overcoming an obstacle, but not without difficulty. This was included in the story to show that children do have the ability to overcome obstacles of mental health but it is a process that does not include an immediate cure.
Images are created by carving into linoleum with a sharp tool of varying widths. The panel then goes through the printing press covered with ink. A large amount of pressure is exerted imprinting the image onto a piece of paper. I chose to work with linoleum due to its ability to produce raw images and significant contrast. I felt that the images would be able to translate content more clearly than alternative media. I also wanted to get more comfortable in this medium, as it is related to the art of the illustrated book. To create the book, I used the process of a storyboard. A storyboard deals with space, time, sequence, and narrative. The largest challenge of this project was to take a mature subject and re-imagine it at a new level. I worked to create sentences and compositions that convey the message of a mature concept, but have it be understood by a child. To do this there needed to be continuity in the imagery style, which proved to be difficult stylistically. Also, the syntax of the book needed to be at an elementary level while also effectively telling a story. The purpose of illustration is to build an understanding between words and pictures. The combination of words and images allows for higher levels of comprehension for a child by targeting more of the senses.