U-46 art teacher helps illustrate children's book
After 17 years of teaching art to elementary school students, Heather Lass finally knows what it feels like to be recognized as an artist.
Lass helped illustrate a children's book by New Jersey-based author and artist Eric Gibbons titled "If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree." She was one of 30 art teachers from around the world who collaborated on the project.
"I feel very honored to be a part of it," said the 39-year-old St. Charles resident. "It's gotten a lot of recognition. It's just very humbling."
Lass teaches art to first- through sixth-graders at Liberty Elementary School in Bartlett. Her students don't yet know about the book, but Lass' 10-year-old daughter, Aerin, a fifth-grader at Fox Ridge Elementary School in St. Charles, was thrilled with her mother's accomplishment.
"She was very excited to show everyone that Mommy had a picture in a book," Lass said.
Gibbons used Facebook to seek out multicultural and female art teachers, who then created artwork inspired by their favorite artists, from the Renaissance era to modern genres.
Lass' Christmas tree illustration was inspired by the art of the late Jacob Lawrence, who style was dynamic cubism. She said she learned a few things trying to emulate the style of another artist.
"Emulating an artist is something we do often in the art room, not to copy, but to study a master artist and walk in their shoes," Lass said. "It's so interesting for me, as a teacher, to see other art teachers work, not just famous artists. It was very interesting to see how they tackled the challenge of picking an artist from the different eras in history, and the cultures, and what their vision of a Christmas tree would be."
Lass teaches Lawrence's artwork in her classroom every year. She said her experience illustrating Gibbons' book tied in with what she is required to teach in the classroom by the new Common Core standards, which she hopes to share with her students.
"It incorporates literacy along with rhyming," she said. "It will just be fun to be able to show that teachers can also do other things. It's important to publish your work and show that art is important, and this is one of the ways to do it."
Lass donated several copies of Gibbons' book to the school's library. She also will be framing the original 11- by 14-inch canvas piece she created and donating it to the school for display.
Published by Firehouse Publications, "If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree" can be purchased through Amazon or directly from the publisher's website, which includes a link for teachers and parents to download lesson plans.