Each country, like each person, bears its own character – an individual artistry. In describing Belarus, its beauty comes not from fields of light blue, flowering flax, nor from the white wings of a stork in flight, but rather from its kindness. Perhaps true goodness can only come from a people who have drunk from the cup of suffering and emerged victorious.
In fact, it is likely because they witnessed the horror and destruction of both world wars – one in every three people in Belarus died during World War II; every other per- son died in the particularly hard-hit Vitebsk region – that the Belarusian people are so good and kind. It’s as if each citizen lives and works not only for himself but carries in his soul the desire to live for those whose lives were snuffed out by the Nazis.
Even the new generation of children in Belarus share this feeling with their parents and grandparents, an awareness that can be called proliferating goodness.
One of the world’s most famous illustrators of children’s books, Anton Lomaev,
was born in Belarus. The derivation of his “good” works comes from his Belarusian land.
“I was born in Vitebsk,” Lomaev said. “It’s a special city – the birthplace of the great artist, Marc Chagall. When you wander around the wooden outskirts of Vitebsk, you can feel the viscous flow of time, as if continuance stalled in flight. The first time I saw Chagall’s paintings – his house, incidentally, remains not far from where our family lived – I was struck by how little this part of the town changed. In pite of the fact that Vitebsk almost completely underwent ruination during the two world wars, at first glance, the spirit of this ephemeral area, specifically, seems to be the most tenacious. Wooden homes, uneven fences, spring brooks, lush green orchards and gardens, here and there dot- ted with stone buildings or small Orthodox chapels or churches or synagogues – the most human effects always seem to me far from what is fashionable, and more what you would characterize as real.”
Lomaev’s works include illustrations for a multitude of famous books: Her- man Melville’s Moby Dick, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Theatrical Novel, as well as works from Shakespeare, Kafka, Nabokov, Bunin, and Conan Doyle. But Lomaev’s main work can be seen in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales and other great children’s tales of the world, including The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, and Little Red Riding Hood. Scores of parents and children adore the artist whose colorful illustrations for these books are filled with magic and humor.
Lomaev’s artwork for Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots stands as the crowning jewel of his wonderful collection. In one interview, he said the book was a special project for him.
“The tale about that rascally cat always made me smile,” he said. “A comedy of masks, a parody, a taste for elegant slyness, nonchalance, ‘delicious’ textural fashion of the gallant era – these are the elements in which my hero lives. In this book, I tried out new ideas in designing the book, even in the actual manner of drawing and the flow of the text. My hope was, in this programmed and technological era, to be able to awaken children’s imaginations. I tried to make the drawings not only highlight the text, but to become alive themselves. I was attracted to the idea of a wholly drawn book as a complete object without gaps, pauses or white pages. This iridescent, uninterrupted stream of images formed its own continuous rhythm.”
The illustrated edition came out in the usual paper format, but now a digital and interactive version is being prepared to be released by Windy Press – a look to the future, ushering in a new age of reading.
“Publishers complain of falling circulations and it’s sad,” he said. “But I don’t believe books are dying out. I think that both formats – paper and digital – can coexist. Digital will continue to be more widely demanded in both text and reference books, and this will save our forests. With children’s books, I think they feel good on paper. Kids’ books should be printed in higher quality on paper because they are engaging. It just wouldn’t be the same to read together with your child on a black- and-white [electronic] reader.”
“If you refer to book tablets with colored screens, then you will still have the illustrations,” said Lomaev. “This format will offer new artistic possibilities. Puss in Boots, for example, with my artwork… will not just be an interactive application. It is a huge, very labor-intensive, largely experimental project – a book and musical. It will be released immediately in several languages, with specially written music and songs and the voices of famous actors. Two-time Grammy winner, Jimmy Dale, a famous storyteller in the English-speaking part of the world, will lend his voice to the project. Along with the text and animated illustrations, the book will include minigames.”
“Having dealt mostly with traditional books, at first I was skeptical to take on such innovation,” he said, “But I changed my mind and I very much hope that this original musical fairytale will bring many smiles to our young readers and will help them believe that good always overcomes evil.”
As the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote, “Every work of art belongs to its time, its people, and its environment.” However, fairy tales are not limited to certain time periods or boundaries. They build a magical bridge of kindness between all nations and all human hearts. Those who write and illustrate these stories truly make this world a happier place, if only for the fact that they help the new generation, our children, keep their faith in a true miracle: hope.
The country of Belarus, generously watered with the tears and blood of its people, proves that good is always victorious over evil, and it should stand as a proud example of this victory before the entire world.
For more information: http://www.lomaevart.com/index.html
By Yuri Maksimov