So here's the thing - this book has no plot. For one thing, it's nonfiction and for another, it's non-narrative. Tan isn't really trying to tell a story here, but he definitely conveys a message. The Bird King is a compilation of sketches, doodles, paintings, and ideas from his sketch books. None of the artwork is a finished piece; they are partially formed ideas conveyed to varying degrees of completion. Tan has divided the art into sections, including "Untold Stories", in which Tan introduces pieces most characteristic of his well-known interest in fantasy and imaginative art, and "Drawings from Life", in which he captures art depicting real people engaged in everyday activities. The start of each of the four sections has a page of introduction, explaining the theme of the chapter, and there is a beautiful introduction detailing Tan's philosophies about creation, practice and experimentation in his art. I particularly like his use of Paul Klee's statement that drawing is just "taking a line for a walk" to illustrate his purpose in constant sketching. Other than the two page intro and the four pages that begin each chapter, the book has no words. Much of the appreciation, understanding, and interest is completely up to the reader.
Why It's Worth Reading:
We all need to take our imaginations out every once and a while to give them a workout and a good stretch. Tan does this on a daily basis and this book gives us the privilege of taking a peek inside his mind. Looking at his sketches is a great way to embrace your own creativity, and reading his chapter headings made me want to start carrying a sketch book despite an extremely poor self-evaluation of artistic ability. If you are an artist, you're going to want to see this. If you consider yourself a creative person in any way, definitely consider flipping through it sometime. You may find yourself inspired.
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: 2014
Do We Own a Copy?: Absolutely!