Monday, November 23, 2015

Drawing From Memory by Allen Say

Drawing From Memory is the story of Allen Say's rise to become a renowned artist.

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937. According to Say, his mother did not like him playing near the ocean, so she taught him to read. This kept him at home where he spent time reading comic books to his friends. But it also peaked Say's interest in the illustrations and he decided to become an artist when he grew up. When his parents discovered Say's fascination with drawing they were not pleased because being an artist was not considered a respectable profession in Japan.

War began in 1941, resulting in Allen's family moving to the village of Tabuse near Hiroshima while his father worked in Tokyo. After the war, the family reunited in Kyushu. Allen's first grade teacher was impressed with his artistic abilities and so encouraged him. Sadly, Allen Say's parents did not stay together after the war. His father left his mother, taking Allen and his younger sister Sanae and remarried while his mother returned to Yokohama to work and live. Eventually Sanae went to live with their mother, while Allen was sent onto Tokyo to live with his grandmother and to attend school. As his parents were, Allen's grandmother also did not approve of his drawing.

In an attempt to stop him from drawing his grandmother told Allen that they would pay for his own apartment if he studied hard and gained entrance to the prestigious Aoyama Middle School. When he succeeded, Allen found himself, at thirteen living in a small apartment. However, Allen had no intention of studying - the apartment was to be his art studio. He soon discovered another person who was like him - someone who wanted to be an artist but whose parents did not approve. This person was supported by Noro Shinpei, a famous cartoonist in Japan. Shinpei was Allen's idol. And he wondered would Shinpei consider taking on yet another student? Allen Say had the two weeks before his school started to find Shinpei and ask him to take him on. Would Shinpei accept him and what would his parents say?


Say's story is one of courage and determination. Intent on achieving his dream of becoming an artist, Say was willing to sacrifice everything to achieve what he wanted for his life. He could not see himself as anything but an artist. To that end, he took matters into his own hands and was able to direct his path in life to achieve his dream of creating art.

His story is beautifully enhanced with his appealing black ink drawings and realistic watercolour illustrations. The second part to Say's story has now been published in a picture book titled The Inker's Shadow.

Book Details:

Drawing From Memory by Allen Say
New York: Scholastic Press      2011
63 pp.

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