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Golden Books inspire memories, graphic design illustrations

Graphic design students at Pennsylvania College of Technology have taken inspiration from a Little Golden Books exhibition on campus in creating their own, modern versions of the classic children’s book illustrations.

Students enrolled in Illustration (ART340) classes were tasked with illustrating and designing a two-page spread from one of 33 Little Golden Books. In creating new versions of the illustrations, the students could utilize the computer, hand draw with color pencils or paint, or craft a 3D expression. The results of their efforts are exhibited on the first floor of The Madigan Library.

The Madigan Library at Pennsylvania College of Technology displays graphic design students’ illustrations inspired by Little Golden Books. In the foreground is a 3D interpretation of “Three Little Bears” by Aneesah D. Robinson, of Philadelphia.
The Madigan Library at Pennsylvania College of Technology displays graphic design students’ illustrations inspired by Little Golden Books. In the foreground is a 3D interpretation of “Three Little Bears” by Aneesah D. Robinson, of Philadelphia.

On the third floor of the library, The Gallery at Penn College is hosting “Golden Legacy: Original Art from 75 Years of Golden Books” through March 30. The exhibit, organized by the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, in Abilene, Texas, showcases 65 original Little Golden Book illustrations published from 1942 to 2017.

“The children’s book assignment was my favorite assignment I have been given in the graphic design program so far,” said Abigail V. Thomas, of South Williamsport. “I had so much fun with it, and it really allowed me to explore some new mediums and get super creative.”

A 3D multimedia piece constructed with wood, paper, paint, felting, polymer clay and miniatures was the start of Abigail V. Thomas’ project. The bookmark the South Williamsport resident created can also be seen in this image.
A 3D multimedia piece constructed with wood, paper, paint, felting, polymer clay and miniatures was the start of Abigail V. Thomas’ project. The bookmark the South Williamsport resident created can also be seen in this image.

Thomas chose to illustrate two pages from “The Animals’ Merry Christmas” and constructed a 3D multimedia piece, using wood, paper, paint, felting, polymer clay and miniatures before adding finishing touches in Photoshop.

Little Golden Books are an endearing feature in her childhood memories.

“My grandma had a little wooden shelf in her spare room that was essentially 90% Golden Books,” she said. “We would sit and read them together. My favorite book was ‘The Poky Little Puppy.’ I loved the illustrations in that book, and I loved listening to her read it. We read it together so many times.”

A close-up of an illustration by Karen L. Trinh, of Harrisburg, who chose to reinterpret two pages from “The Little Red Hen”
A close-up of an illustration by Karen L. Trinh, of Harrisburg, who chose to reinterpret two pages from “The Little Red Hen”

Karen L. Trinh, a graphic design student from Harrisburg, also holds fond memories of Little Golden Books.

“Because both of my parents are first-generation immigrants, they do not have the same childhood sentiment that I do with these books. However, although my parents did not understand it at the time, buying these books and reading them to me meant a lot to me,” she said. “This is because, although they were busy and exhausted from working throughout the day, they still spent time with me by reading these stories not only to educate me, but to also have the memories I have now in my adult years.”

Trinh created her two-page illustration from “The Little Red Hen” by using watercolor on paper, then photographing her work and making slight changes in Photoshop.

Alexis M. Burrell, of Danville, gathered foliage to create a “nature collage” that she finalized in Photoshop for her interpretation of “Home for a Bunny.”
Alexis M. Burrell, of Danville, gathered foliage to create a “nature collage” that she finalized in Photoshop for her interpretation of “Home for a Bunny.”

She appreciated the “creative freedom” the task allowed and seeing the imaginative interpretations of her peers. “It shows how differently our minds work even though we are given the same assignment,” she said.

Graphic design student Alexis M. Burrell, of Danville, also enjoyed the artistic exploration the assignment offered.

“The medium was completely our choice, so many of us, including me, took a break from the computer screen,” she said. “It was very different from what we usually do, which gave us new opportunities to challenge ourselves.”

Burrell created a collage with foliage gathered from the woods and a florist. She photographed the foliage composition, scanned some elements and finalized the composition in Photoshop.

A love of the outdoors inspired her selection of “Home for a Bunny” for her illustration project.

“A common theme in any medium that I work in is nature,” she said. “The spread that I chose included the symbol of a robin announcing the beginning of spring. I was immediately inspired and full of ideas.”

Eye-catching vegetables decorate illustrations by Elise A. Miller, of Lincoln University, who chose “Two Little Gardeners” as her starting point.
Eye-catching vegetables decorate illustrations by Elise A. Miller, of Lincoln University, who chose “Two Little Gardeners” as her starting point.

Like her fellow students, Burrell cherishes childhood memories with this particular set of books.

“My mom used to read Little Golden Books to me and my younger sisters,” she recalled. “I still remember that iconic golden spine decorating our bookshelf.”

The students created their illustrations during the Fall 2021 semester so they would be ready for display starting in January. As part of the project, bookmarks were also created from a section of the students’ illustrations.

“Working from these classic children’s books provided a unique challenge to revisualize the illustration style,” said Brian A. Flynn, assistant professor of graphic design. “The students did an exceptional job working through different mediums and styles in their approach to their illustrations. These book spreads should be a valuable addition to their professional portfolio.”

The graphic design illustration project is one example of the ways The Madigan Library and The Gallery at Penn College strive to engage students in outreach activities related to exhibits and special events.

Nicole S. Warner, archives and special collections librarian, helped to coordinate the project and said, “I loved having the opportunity to work with the graphic design department and the gallery for this display for many reasons, including seeing the potential and abilities of our students; but namely, I enjoyed it because introducing children to books at an early age is so significant to their mental, emotional and intellectual development, and for many people, myself included, Golden Books are really symbolic of those early literacy years.”

That iconic golden spine glimmers in the foreground, with Laci M. Sullivan’s illustration from “I Can Fly” in the background. Sullivan is from Newell.
That iconic golden spine glimmers in the foreground, with Laci M. Sullivan’s illustration from “I Can Fly” in the background. Sullivan is from Newell.

The students’ display can be viewed during regular library hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 2 a.m. Sundays.

The Gallery at Penn College is open 2 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. (The gallery is closed on Saturdays.)

Prior to visiting, guests should view the college’s Continuity of Operations Plan page for current guidelines related to the pandemic.

To learn more about Penn College’s graphic design or advertising art majors, call the School of Business, Arts & Sciences at 570-327-4521.

For more about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free at 800-367-9222.

Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor

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