Picture This: How Pictures Work

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday January 21, 2021

In Picture This: How Pictures Work, illustrator Molly Bang explored a single idea as the central concern of all picture book art:  How does the structure of a picture—or any visual art form—affect our emotional response? 

She takes Red Riding Hood as her experimental subject and proceeds to delineate every possible emotional response to the classic fairy tale, using shapes cut out of construction paper to illustrate feelings. From the very subtle, a softly curved shape that conveys comfort [mother, home] to fear-inspiring pointed jagged forms [dark woods at night, a wolf], she artfully diagrams the elements of the fairy tale, one by one. What she has done is to get down to the core of performance as an elemental quality of the picture book, which creates a vivid context today.


The results were groundbreaking when the book was first published 30 years ago. Her advisor at the time, Rudolf Arnheim, said that by taking the prettiness of the nursery out of the fairy tale story and reducing it to the basic sensations, she emphasized the human action that derives from the direct visual sensations. This, he stated, is “pure looking.”


Still groundbreaking today, in a recently revised 25th-anniversary edition from Chronicle Books, Picture Thishas relevance across many areas, from making art to writing about it to teaching it..  

Picture This: How Pictures Work (Chronicle Books) is available where books are. Info

Note from the Home Office:
AI39 and AP36which have been delayed due to censorship issues, are now expected in New York at the end of February. Advance copies will be here next week, so stay tuned for more info as it becomes available.

AP37 Call For Entries is Open – With Reduced Entry Fees! American Photography 37 | Still / Here. Deadline: February 5, 2021. Enter here

Notes from the Editor's Desk at the Home Office

I will be teaching Present Yourself, offered by Sculptors Alliance, on Mondays, February 1-22, on Zoom. Thanks to funding by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, this 12-hour writing intensive is again FREE to NYC residents. Just scan the red QR code [left] for info, and the orange QR code [right] to register. Note: You don't have to be a sculptor to enroll for this course, which is open to emerging and mid-career artists ready for new opportunities in the post-COVID art world.