Michael Foreman: Travels With My Sketchbook Synopsis
Join Michael Foreman on an incredible journey around the globe. His prolific career as an illustrator has taken him through war-torn Vietnam to the vast forests of Siberia, from Mao's China to Japan, the Arctic to the South Seas and from the top of the world to the bottom of the ocean. Armed with a pencil and watercolours, Michael's signature style captured the sights and sounds of all he encountered. These are his incredible memoirs.
Michael Foreman: Travels With My Sketchbook Press Reviews
This extraordinary volume is an inspiration. The images, mostly in pen and watercolour and using the colours of sunsets and sweets, are an incentive to draw and to take a sketchbook everywhere you go in hope of one day achieving something like Foreman's skilled and loving line. They invite you in, to scrutinise detail and absorb atmosphere, and they reward prolonged contemplation. They also seduce you with the variety of the world, while nuggets of text tell lyrical travellers' tales, like the wayfaring rat in The Wind of the Willows, until you have to hold yourself back from heading for the horizon. From New York to Los Angeles, Mexico to Mongolia, the Holy Land to the Himalayas, Norway to Nigeria, Venice to the Valley of the Kings, Foreman captures the strangeness and beauty of landscape and people. He savours particularly the splendours of Asia - of Bali, India and China - and has a talent for sneaking away from tours and schedules to discover, alone and without intervention, the essence of a place. In Japan, Foreman painted Mount Fuji 36 times, as did Hokusai, the artist with whom he most identifies. Ultimately, he also persuades us of our common global humanity, showing that football and family, for instance, matter universally. -- Nicolette Jones * The Sunday Times * I guess the best children's literature can do away with complete veracity, as long as it has something about it that is recognisable - a little of the spirit, heart and character of the real thing, whatever it may be. And if that's the case then it definitely applies to children's literature illustrations, such as those provided close on two hundred times by Michael Foreman. This prolific artist leapt at a scholarship in the US when he'd completed his official, formal studies, and it would appear - huge credits list regardless - that he's never stopped moving since, as this book takes us to all corners of the world, and back home again. Despite his name being forever linked with junior fiction, this is not exclusively a book for the young by any means. It's deemed, by the back cover blurb, to be his illustrated memoirs, and that's also only part of the truth (he has produced fuller autobiographical volumes before now). This is an art book pure and simple, really, but certainly no vanity project, or curtain call from an almost octogenarian. We get two styles of writing, and it took me a few too many pages to work out the italics seem to be quotes from the original sketchbooks and notebooks, while the modern, plain font is for the new writing. Memoir? There's only about 2000 words of the new stuff. And, while we start with his first published work, little in the way of chronology. So we turn to the pictures, and they're wonderful. The format is just the right size to handle - we're certainly not in coffee-table volume here - and also to deal with the images with due respect. I loved the panorama of the Trans-Siberian Express route, which takes three full spreads to cover, varying from Paul Hogarth inkwork to pointillist colour. But I defy anyone to not fall in love with the watercolours elsewhere - especially the cover image, of a snow-clad Monument Valley, or the almost stippled sunsets in Egypt. Snow-clad Monument Valley, you say? Yes, this man has travelled and been lucky with it - even seeing artists collaborating with fish. What effect will the enormous growth of tourism have on Bali? Hopefully less than the effect Bali has on the tourists is a quote from the books, and the story here is that Foreman clearly got to a lot of these places before they were wrecked by modernity. Beijing (or Peking as it was then) was a very low-rise city indeed. From Mexico to the Himalayas and all points in between, he's been there. In Japan, notably, he tried to present new versions of Hokusai's scenes of Mt Fuji, only to find they had never been verbatim presentations of the reality - proving my thoughts about getting the essence right to be a long-standing truth. And the key word here is essence. This is wonderful art, at times, really getting to grips in simple line with characterful faces, but not all concerned with the immediacy some people assume is required of illustrating for the very young. But the book is also a little on the slight side, meaning you get just the essence of the creator, and his output. As far as it goes, however - ironic when you see how far he has gone - it's really quite lovely. -- John Lloyd * The Bookbag * Prepare to be bowled over as Michael Foreman, one of Britain's most travelled authors and illustrators, takes us on an incredible pictorial journey around the globe. Armed with a pencil and watercolours, Foreman's signature style has captured the sights and sounds of all he encountered during his long career and now readers of every generation can enjoy his work and achievements with Travels With My Sketchbook, an extraordinary new memoir featuring an inspirational collection of his travel drawings and anecdotes. The sketches, drawings and anecdotes are taken straight from the original sketchbooks and are bursting with the evocative material that provided inspiration for his award-winning stories and illustrations. Each of the beautiful, colour wash illustrations and personal accounts tell a story about some of the most amazing corners of the world... Shangri-La with its mountains 'like layer cakes of different climates,' Kashmir in India where snowfields run 'upwards towards peaks plumed in clouds,' and the sweeping hills, forests and miles of wild flower meadows viewed from the fabled Trans-Siberian Express train. The world in wonderful pictures... -- Pam Norfolk * Lancashire Evening Post * Michael Foreman's Travels With My Sketchbook is exactly what it says. Inside you will find illustrations from some of his many books alongside sketches and watercolours of places as diverse as Aztec Mexico, war-torn Vietnam and the far north of Norway. It's a wonderfully evocative book that different generations can enjoy together, and it is sure to lead back to Michael's extensive selection of other titles. -- Jane E Sandell * Scotsman * A simply stunning collection of travel drawings and anecdotes, perfect for any budding traveller. The book covers Michael's epic journeys through America and Mexico in the 1960s; from Venice along the Silk Route to China in the 1970s; and to Iceland, New Zealand and India in the 1980s * Angels and Urchins * Michael Foreman has illustrated and written numerous children's classics. Growing up in a small Suffolk village during World War II, little did he realise that drawing would be his ticket to travel the world. In Travels with my Sketchbook Michael reminiscences about the places that he has visited, sketched and painted. Travels with my Sketchbook records Michael's extensive travels. It begins in 1963 and his first of many visits to America from Alaska and eventual trip down to Mexico. He then recalls taking the Trans Siberian Express across to the World Trade Fair in Osaka in 1970, taking a slow boat back to America. Later in 1972 Michael spent more time in Japan and returning again to produce a modern series of Hokusai's 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji'. In 1985 Michael found himself on a North Sea oil rig before exploring the artic north. Michael also follows in the footsteps of Marco Polo, travelling through Egypt and deep into Asia to Shangri-La and China. He also travels to India, Nigeria and South East Asia. The final sets of artwork shows what unites us: football, messing around on boats, love of family and a longing for home. Michael's drawings and watercolour paintings beautifully show the populated landscapes of everyday people. For example, Tokyo's urban sprawl foregrounds many of Michael's views of Mount Fuji, depicting Japanese people at leisure, construction workers and travellers. Michael is also attentive to the fusion of tradition, tourism and the modern. His painting of San Francisco, for example, shows the Golden Gate Bridge in a misty background. In the foreground is a busy commuter tram passing China town, accentuated in colour in front of the city's distant skyscrapers. Moreover Michael's choice of colour is fantastic. His painting of Delhi shows a riot of warm and cool colours juxtaposing traditional temples next to modern office blocks. North of the Artic Circle the whiteness of the page contrasts superbly with the clothing of the Lapps. The book's design showcases Michael's work perfectly. For example giving the effect of travelling along with Michael on the Trans Siberian Express as if the reader was in the carriage with him. A simple train track is drawn along the bottom of the page. At the top is a number of short daily extracts from Michael's diary. The paintings in-between are of the landscape as seen from the carriage window, page after page. Other artwork shows the ripped out page from a sketchpad or a copy of a sketchbook. Travels with My Sketchbook is a life-affirming narrative about the many, varied and different people with whom we share a planet and the journeys of one man, recorded in his words and shown in his art. This is a book for all generations to read and admire. -- Simon Barrett * Armadillo *