Visitors to Worlds of Words get a close-up view of the oil erasure technique Floyd Cooper uses in this newly donated painting. (Photo credit: Rebecca Ballenger/UA College of Education)
Visitors to Worlds of Words get a close-up view of the oil erasure technique Floyd Cooper uses in this newly donated painting. (Photo credit: Rebecca Ballenger/UA College of Education)

Worlds of Words Secures Donation of Original Art from Award-Winning Illustrator

The painting Floyd Cooper donated to WOW depicts Joyce Carol Thomas on a train passing through what could be Tucson, judging by the mighty saguaro outside her window.
July 1, 2016
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In a collection already bursting with important works by children's book illustrators, Worlds of Words added one more.

The untitled piece from "In the Land of Milk and Honey" by award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper recently went on display in the University of Arizona collection, housed in the College of Education.

“Floyd Cooper brings life to his work and that is especially visible in this piece," said Kathy Short, director of WOW, which holds an estimated 30,000 volumes of children's and adolescent literature focusing on world cultures and Indigenous peoples. "His process is innovative and the result is spectacular."

Cooper's oil wash on board technique is unique. He refers to his technique as a "subtractive process," whereby he paints an illustration board with oil paint and pastels, then he erases using a stretchy eraser to bring out the color and create a picture. Cooper often demonstrates this technique for kids to show "that there can be different approaches to age-old problems."

"In the Land of Milk and Honey" is based on the true story of Joyce Carol Thomas's childhood trip from Oklahoma to California in 1948, when many African Americans relocated west. Publisher's Weekly wrote of Cooper's sepia-textured illustrations: "Light and joy are integral to Cooper's hazy paintings."

Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in "The Blacker the Berry" and a Coretta Scott King Honor for "Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land."

His donation to WOW required a special mounting process to prevent the dust from settling so the color and texture will be preserved for patrons of all ages throughout the years.