December 2016

by Cassie Stephens

Art Teacher

Johnson Elementary


Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Recently I had the pleasure of dropping by the studio of book author Barney Saltzberg. Barney has written and illustrated over 50 children’s books and is constantly dreaming up ideas for more. One of my favorite books to read to my students in art class is Barney’s book titled Beautiful Oops. If you don’t own this book, it’s simply a work of art. The small format of the book fits nicely in small hands and speaks directly to imaginations big and small: you can create something beautiful from an oops! In his book, a torn piece of paper becomes an alligator. A purple paint spill becomes an elephant . . . and a dog! It’s pure magic and a great way to encourage children to learn from “mistakes” and make something magnificent.

Recently, I got the idea to introduce my students to creatives who use art every day in their lives. I am filming these artistically minded folks and sharing the videos with my students in a series I am calling “Field Trip!” By the way, I share my videos on my YouTube channel, which can be found under my name. Feel free to take a field trip along with us!


Barney working in his studio

I’m so fortunate to call Barney my friend. When I ran the idea past him, he was all in. Barney’s home and studio are located in Southern California. I penciled in a date and time to visit him when we happened to be on the sunny side of the states. He graciously hosted my husband and me as we explored his creative space. Directly behind his home is a blue studio where you can find Barney working most days. Just as one might imagine a creative space to be, there were books, art supplies, and wonderful curiosities covering every inch of his workspace. Barney is also a musician. His collection of stringed instruments filled the walls.

Once I had the camera rolling, I asked Barney to walk me through his creative process. Boy, was that fascinating! As one might imagine, there is no direct path to creating a book. Barney scribbles notes on scrap papers, draws on his computer, doodles at his light box, you name it. Inspiration seems to come from everywhere in Barney’s books, and that is what makes them so fresh and fun.


Barney’s blue studio

After chatting and filming for an hour, Barney was kind enough to take my husband and me to lunch. I am currently in the editing phase of Barney’s video. I know my students will be thrilled to go on a field trip to Barney’s studio and learn about his creative process. What an inspiration he will be to young budding artists!

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