Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life—something beyond the segregation, the backbreaking labor, and the limited...

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Title:Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews
Author:Kathleen Benson Haskins
Rating:

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews Reviews

  • Jennifer Gallman

    Many people may not be familiar with the art of Benny Andrews before reading Benson's book; I was one of those. How I feel like I've lost so much time not knowing his artwork, yet I feel fortunate now to have been exposed to it.

    Benny Andrews was born in Plainview, Georgia in 1930, and while some of his greatest artwork came from the time he learned to draw at three years old to his early adulthood, he is perhaps most recently recognized from his time spent in New Orleans after Hurricane

    Many people may not be familiar with the art of Benny Andrews before reading Benson's book; I was one of those. How I feel like I've lost so much time not knowing his artwork, yet I feel fortunate now to have been exposed to it.

    Benny Andrews was born in Plainview, Georgia in 1930, and while some of his greatest artwork came from the time he learned to draw at three years old to his early adulthood, he is perhaps most recently recognized from his time spent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. For many children, Katrina meant leaving home and learning in a new school, but Andrews taught them how to express what they saw and felt, how to take the tragedy that Katrina brought and turn it into something beautiful.

    Kathleen Benson takes us back to where it all began in 30s Georgia where Benson first learned to draw what he saw around him, which consisted of African Americans working in the fields. While many associate field work with slavery, Andrews portrayed the labor of those who worked for a living, for money, not because someone was looming over them with whips. Read my full review at reviewscomingatya.blogspot.com.

  • Nancy

    The artist, Benny Andrews paintings are used to illustrate the book. I loved the story of this artist's passion, his and his family's struggles, his triumphs and his generous life.

  • Peggy Tibbetts

    Author Kathleen Benson uses the vibrant paintings of artist Benny Andrews to illustrate his story. And what a story it is. As a child Benny loved to draw the world around him. One of ten children, Benny’s parents worked as sharecroppers in the cotton fields near Plainview, Georgia. His love for art and school helped him overcome a difficult childhood and graduate high school. From there, Benny pursued his goal to go to art school in Chicago. Because of his unique ability to vividly portray

    Author Kathleen Benson uses the vibrant paintings of artist Benny Andrews to illustrate his story. And what a story it is. As a child Benny loved to draw the world around him. One of ten children, Benny’s parents worked as sharecroppers in the cotton fields near Plainview, Georgia. His love for art and school helped him overcome a difficult childhood and graduate high school. From there, Benny pursued his goal to go to art school in Chicago. Because of his unique ability to vividly portray African American culture and history, Benny’s paintings made him famous. As a respected artist and teacher he raised awareness of civil rights issues and social justice. Benny Andrews’ fifteen colorful and captivating paintings, including two dazzling two-page spreads, by themselves are worth the price of admission. His story is an inspiration to budding artists everywhere. “Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews” is an art treasure.

  • Christine Turner

    Subject:

    Andrews, Benny, 1930-2006-Juvenile literature.

    Artists -- United States -- Biography -- Juvenile literature

    African American artists -- Biography -- Juvenile literature.

    Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life, something beyond the

    Subject:

    Andrews, Benny, 1930-2006-Juvenile literature.

    Artists -- United States -- Biography -- Juvenile literature

    African American artists -- Biography -- Juvenile literature.

    Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life, something beyond the segregation, the backbreaking labor, and the limited opportunities of his world. Benny's dreamsnbsp;took him far from the rural Georgia of his childhood. He became one of the most important African Americannbsp;painters of thenbsp;twentieth century, and he opened doors for other artists of color.nbsp;Hisnbsp;story will inspire budding young artists to work hard and follow their dreams.

  • Venus

    Review originally posted on

    I admit that I am not a connoisseur of art. Part of the reason I started this blog was a way to share and explore some of the many illustrators and artists out there who are working in the children's book industry. Benny Andrews is yet another artist that I am very glad to find through this discovery process. His work is colorful and relateable.

    On a purely graphic design side of things though, I was disappointed in the way the art and text didn't

    Review originally posted on

    I admit that I am not a connoisseur of art. Part of the reason I started this blog was a way to share and explore some of the many illustrators and artists out there who are working in the children's book industry. Benny Andrews is yet another artist that I am very glad to find through this discovery process. His work is colorful and relateable.

    On a purely graphic design side of things though, I was disappointed in the way the art and text didn't work cohesively together. Some of the illustrations chosen for certain pages didn't match what was being said in the narrative. There were large swathes of white space in the first half of the book, purely due to the fact that certain illustrations didn't lend themselves to a 2 page spread. Although Benny Andrew's art is quite beautiful, I didn't feel like it worked so well as a picture book because the text was not working in tandem with what was being presented visually. This did not happen throughout the entire book though and I found myself drawn in more as the story progressed.

    I honestly was more interested in the biography and timeline at the end of the book then I was by the narrative in the book, which means that this picture book biography, for me, did not work well in a picture book format.

  • Earl

    Benny Andrews isn't anyone I've ever heard of before so I was surprised to read a life whose made such an impact in the world of art. I liked the use of his paintings to tell his stories since that was his way of telling other's stories. I appreciated all the additional information at the back of the book.

  • Jill

    Benny Andrews (1930 - 2006) is considered to be one of the best African American artists of the twentieth century. He also illustrated over twenty children’s books. The author of this picture book was able to incorporate his own work into her story of his life.

    Andrews was one of ten children of Georgia sharecroppers. Benson reports that Andrews began to draw when he was three years old, and never stopped. He didn’t want to continue to work in the fields when he grew up, so he walked three miles

    Benny Andrews (1930 - 2006) is considered to be one of the best African American artists of the twentieth century. He also illustrated over twenty children’s books. The author of this picture book was able to incorporate his own work into her story of his life.

    Andrews was one of ten children of Georgia sharecroppers. Benson reports that Andrews began to draw when he was three years old, and never stopped. He didn’t want to continue to work in the fields when he grew up, so he walked three miles each way to high school, and then went to a college for black students. After serving in the Air Force, he used the tuition benefit to go to art school in Chicago.

    When he finished his schooling, Andrews moved to New York City and became a working artist. He painted the people of Harlem, and continued to make pictures of his childhood in Georgia.

    Andrews was a “figural painter,” meaning that his primary subject was the human figure. He employed both oil and mixed-media collage in the expressionist style, by which he depicted the world from a subjective rather than strictly realistic perspective. Recurrent themes included American identity, migration and the challenges and dignity of black life.

    Andrews also became active in protesting for equal representation in museums for artists of color. He later began to teach in order to share his love of art, and to encourage people to use visual expression to tell their stories.

    The writing in this book is a bit prosaic, but the pictures are worth the price of admission.

    3.5/5

  • Clare Rossetter

    Book starts with the latest events in the artists life and then goes back and traces his life from the early years and how his talent showed up early in life. Mr. Andrews is not only a very talented artist but he is also a fighter for civil rights of others. His childhood was difficult but he was able to overcome this and went on to become important in the world of art. This comes through in the book but so does a feeling he still harbors for the struggle he fought which is not totally without

    Book starts with the latest events in the artists life and then goes back and traces his life from the early years and how his talent showed up early in life. Mr. Andrews is not only a very talented artist but he is also a fighter for civil rights of others. His childhood was difficult but he was able to overcome this and went on to become important in the world of art. This comes through in the book but so does a feeling he still harbors for the struggle he fought which is not totally without some bitterness. The text is set opposite pictures to support it on each two page format. The font is not large but is suited to the upper elementary students. The cool thing is that Mr. Andrews is the illustrator for this biography. His pictures are realistic usually somber colors that really fit the mood of his life. A well written book that not only introduces one to a an artist of talent but one also gets to view his work as part of the book.

  • Tibby (she/her)

    This is exactly what a picture book biography should be for younger audiences. It uses the artist’s art as more than just a bit of decoration and the text is short, to the point, and very understandable.

    One of my favorite parts of the book is that it uses Andrews actual art to illustrate it. Obviously you can’t do that with every picture book biography, but in this case Andrews drew the world he saw around him and in a way that is accessible to children. It makes the book feel very much like an

    This is exactly what a picture book biography should be for younger audiences. It uses the artist’s art as more than just a bit of decoration and the text is short, to the point, and very understandable.

    One of my favorite parts of the book is that it uses Andrews actual art to illustrate it. Obviously you can’t do that with every picture book biography, but in this case Andrews drew the world he saw around him and in a way that is accessible to children. It makes the book feel very much like an intimate glimpse into his life.

    To me one of the really appealing aspects of his art is the lighting he uses. It looks very bright, almost harsh. This has the effect of making the colors pop, which I think children will find very appealing. I’ve said this at other times and I understand that great art is not actually easy to create, however there is a child-like look to Andrews art and I think kids like to see art that they think they could recreate or that looks like their art. His pictures also have an element of collage to them and that makes them feel a little more three dimensional instead of flat paintings.

    The text itself isn’t long. There is a short paragraph on each two-page spread with a piece of Andrew’s art. This does mean that you don’t get an exhaustive look at Andrew’s life, but for younger readers (second and third grade) it’s perfect. Not enough text to turn them off and not too little to feel too young. You get enough information that you have a sense of who Andrews was and what he accomplished and, if you find him interesting enough, a desire to learn more. Sometimes I think picture book biographies try to present too much information for the format and it ends up feeling taxing to read. Almost a bait and switch- you think you’re getting a shorter picture book and you end up slogging through something much longer and more involved. It’s a turn off for kids. Draw What You See balances text and pictures very well and then includes a note at the end, a timeline, and some resources. Kids can decide if they want to seek out more at the end.

    I think this would be a great book for any library with a biography collection. It’s completely appropriate for younger and older audiences, too. It should draw in those kids just coming to picture book biographies, but it could very easily pique older reader’s interest in the artist. Again, another that is on my first list of purchases for next year. We need more diversity in that collection and here is a book that is both interesting and high quality.

  • Danielle

    I love that the artist's own work comprises the illustrations.

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