The picture book I’m Gonna Paint: Ralph Fasanella, Artist of the People is a piece of American and art history. It is a powerful and a wonderful introduction to the artist, Raphael (Ralph) Gasanella. Ralph was born in 1914, the same year as World War One started. But I am pretty sure the two are not connected. Even though Fasanella would cause some noise in his lifetime.
A young man, influenced by his modern mother, he would teach himself to read and be active with her union work. With very little professional schooling and the absence of his father, young Ralph would get into trouble and would be sent to a Catholic reform school off-and-on for several years. He would fight for the little man, the worker (like his mother, and the people his mother talked about when he was a child), and was loyal union man. When he was in his early thirties, he would likely have the start of what probably was arthritis, leading to a friend recommending that he draw. Well, he taught himself to read, he could teach himself to draw and paint! And his political commentaries would be the talk of the town for years. Said to be a man who “pumped gas and was a great primate artist in league with Grandma Moses” (a description he never liked), Fasanella would have a fascinating career. The publisher description called him an “American folk artist and labor organizer.”
Illustrated in a manner that mimics Fasanella, but is also its own style, Victoria Tentler-Krylov opens up the world of a man few today probably know about. The art is specifically detailed , and crowded, and busy and tells the story as much as the text by Anne Brouyles. It becomes a character and a supporter of the work. Several extras and timeline are included to flesh out the things the book cannot cover. I think that while I might not actually like Fasanella as a person (he seemed to have a few edges, but then again, that could mean I wold like him) but I am facinated by his life and his work. You can tell that he was a political artist, something he was proud of. This is a perfect book for most ages (though best for the older crowd. However, the picture book format might turn the older kids off. I am not sure how “young” it looks as I read it via an online reader copy.). Due late October 2023, this is perfect for the classroom or personal libraries.