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Welcome to the sixteenth issue of The Featured Image newsletter, a place where writing meets art. As a reminder, the goal here is to add visual creativity to our work and gain inspiration from those already doing it.

One of the joys of parenting is having an excuse to re-discover parts of your own childhood that have been locked away for ages. This magical book below has found its way back into my hands again and I have been basking in nostalgia going through it with my kids.

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Where the Sidewalk Ends looms large in the halls of my childhood memories. Shel Silverstein was truly one-of-a-kind in his ability to craft kid-friendly (but not childish) poems. I would describe the style of his short poems and accompanying drawings as whimsical, yet oddly terrifying.

Here are a few of my favorites:
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Like I said, oddly terrifying.
Silverstein had many other popular books like A Light in the Attic and The Giving Tree, but Where the Sidewalk Ends is that one I owned and obsessed over. I still regularly think of the words “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout would not take the garbage out.”

Outside of being this unique poet who also draws, I honestly didn’t know much about Shel Silverstein until very recently. I knew he played guitar because of the scary picture of him that was in the back of his book.
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Terrifying for a child!
But did you know he is a two-time Grammy winner? And guess what? He WROTE the song A Boy Named Sue for Johnny Cash.

Here is a delightful video of them playing the song together.

It’s the first time I’ve heard his voice, and now I’m even more of a fan. On top of his extensive song writing, he was also a traditional writer and a playwright. The man had some serious talent. 

While reading through his Wikipedia, this part stood out the most:

Silverstein began drawing at age seven by tracing the works of Al Capp. He told Publishers Weekly: "When I was a kid—12 to 14, I'd much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls, but I couldn't play ball. I couldn't dance. Luckily, the girls didn't want me. Not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write. I was also lucky that I didn't have anybody to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.

The same is said about his poetry, where he had never studied the poetry of others.

As it relates to our mission here to explore visual creativity, I absolutely love this. A common line of thinking within art is that you first need to learn the proper form of a medium before you can experiment. Kind of like how Picasso was a true fine artist before breaking down the form in various ways. But Silverstein shatters any kind of assumption that this is the only path towards mastery. 

He wasn't influenced by the famous artists within comics or poetry and was able to develop his unique style. Good thing too, because it was the strangeness of his work that appealed so much to me when I was younger. This strangeness would have been squeezed out of him if he ever studied others while developing his style. 

So, go forth and master your own thing, and be strange.  
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Ok, that's it for this week. Be sure to create something cool and share it with someone.

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