the old mr wang and his dragon painting

The children’s book of my last post

Some thoughts on this.

The children’s book of my last post is not a project in progress, it’s just a play around. If you want to play, come play with us!

Now that I have started with the topic and my last post on it received such positive feedback, I would like to write a little more about it. Thanks again for the helpful and encouraging feedback!

I’m not an expert on raising children, but I have gained some practical experience like all parents. And read more about it – like all of us. Incidentally, I remembered an interview I heard many years ago with the great Swiss children’s book author and educator Urs Widmer. Among other things, the author said on the subject of education: “It is pointless to educate children. They always copy you anyway.”

Tom and Jerry

In my family and spatial environment there are 2 boys, Tom and Jerry (more under extra). Meanwhile, they are three boys. I often played with them and read them stories from their books. But most of the books were, in my opinion, pretty crap. Comics, motley cheap stuff. Then when we went up to my place – they love my apartment because there is so much weird stuff to see – it was time to read stories, but “the real stuff”. Good old quality. And I noticed how they developed a lot more imagination with these books.

My general take on this is that young children generally make beautiful drawings. This is a pure abstraction – like the one below. Many important artists, such as Picasso, have repeatedly pointed this out. Then they come to school and suddenly they often end up with meaningless standard drawings. Because the others draw like that, because of the teacher….

children painting clowns
This drawing is from Eva or Nana, my favorite twins. Painted at the age of 4 years, after I took them to the circus. (ok, their father was a painter).

While we continue to develop rapidly in other areas (reading, writing, arithmetic), “imagination training” falls by the wayside, we all know it. Some people then never manage to dig up their buried fantasy world again.

Of course, there are several approaches to a project like this book. Since I would also like to include the area of learning [1], the following variant in the structure of the book would be a possible way, I think.

Start with classic standard

At the beginning of the book, there are some stories with semi-abstract illustrations. Quite simple stories, but they should stimulate the imagination and gradually lead to abstract vision. For example, a story like that of “Old Mr. Wang and his funny little dragon friend“. Among other things, dragon Fluffy loves to play funny pranks on Mr. Wang. Wang often pretends then to be outraged, but only to make Fluffy happy. He wouldn’t want to be without this lovable, lively fellow, who can’t sit still for 5 minutes, a single day.

Since I can’t write myself, I asked my friend AI to make me a story about it. That’s what came out of it after feeding it with the basics. [2]

mr wang and his dragon painting

Toward the end of the book, there would be a few illustrations then without a story. The little bookworms should think up a story about it themselves. Like the one with “The little girl who loves dogs more than anything and wishes for Christmas that she could be a puppy herself”.

childrens book illustration dog


The book’s middle part is all about discovering: “What I see – what do you see?” For example, finding excerpts that represent something concrete, or tangible. If the little readers already can count: “How many fish do you see?” Not that easy. And there are usually more fish on it than we see at first. It doesn’t matter if it’s “really” a fish. But I guess that’s clear anyway. “I can see 4 faces, how many do you see?” “Which animals in the picture do not belong in the sea?”
Here, too, the spectrum should be from rather easy, semi-abstract, at the beginning to more difficult towards the end.

I’ve seen quite a lot of children’s books, but in almost all of them the illustrations are two-dimensional, often just outlines and filled in with colour. I wouldn’t want to deprive the children of the third dimension in my book.

To show a possible spectrum of levels of abstraction, I have selected a few snippets for the sake of simplicity. (Since I’m already halfway to the sea with the fish, I chose excerpts from this planned diving project.)

details for childrens book with under sea motifs
details of children book

stumbling blocks

As I said, the whole thing is just a mind game. My attitude so far can best be explained with an ancient Chinese story. In a nutshell, the story goes like this: A man spent all his life trying to become perfect at dragon fighting and developed amazing skills of which he was very proud. – But, alas, there are no dragons.

And whether there is a market for abstract children’s books is a question that I would rather answer with NO. [3] The acid test would come at the moment when the pictures are actually shown to children. I’m afraid of that anyway because children can be the harshest critics.
So nobody should mentally put the book on the gift list for next Christmas.


This time I dedicate the post to the two lovely little rascals whose western names are Tom and Jerry and who brought a lot of joy into my life.

Tom and Jerry photo
One of those moments when you feel so blessed….
photo of tom on an antique children chair
Tom on my antique Chinese children’s chair

[1] Children always “learn” when they discover something new. But I don’t have anything in mind in the way of a textbook. Rather, it should be a natural immersion in the world of the abstract, combined with meaningful things like counting or inventing stories.

[2] Of course, I would never let ChatGPT or other AI programs write the stories. I’m sure I’ll find someone who can. For fun, I fed ChatGPT with the outlines story and this is what happened:

Old Mr. Wang was lonely and felt something was missing in his life. One day he found instructions on how to tame a dragon in an old book. He decided to give it a try and after many weeks of hard work, he finally succeeded. He now had a cute little dragon friend named Fluffy.

Fluffy was a delight for Mr. Wang. Always full of energy and joy, he loved keeping his new friend on his toes. Fluffy loved to play funny pranks on Mr. Wang and tease him out of his reserve. Mr. Wang often pretended to be outraged, but he only did so so as not to spoil Fluffy’s fun.

One day, Mr. Wang decided to take Fluffy for a walk. The little dragon flew in front of him, doing acrobatic feats in the air. Suddenly, Fluffy pirouetted and landed right on Mr. Wang’s hat. The hat fell on his face and Mr. Wang laughed. Fluffy had managed to put a smile on his face again.
Despite his pranks, Mr. Wang loved Fluffy with all his heart. He couldn’t imagine life without this lovable, lively fellow who couldn’t sit still for five minutes. Because Fluffy made Mr. Wang feel like he had come alive again.

[3] Even if I assume that there are children who might like such a book, it is usually the parents, uncles, and aunts who buy books for the little ones. And I have legitimate concerns about that. In addition, as an Austrian I would write the book in German, so for the German-speaking area. This is much smaller than the English-speaking and above all more conservative. Last but not least, I would have to review the project with experts in child psychology and education, an idea I dread.



30 responses to “The children’s book of my last post”

  1. swabby429 avatar

    I see value in introducing children to abstract images. By exposing kids to abstractions early, they are less likely to confine themselves to the usual orthodoxy of adolescence. In the end, this enables them to become well-rounded adults.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thanks! Yes, I think so too. It’s similar to music. We can put the little ones off with children’s songs, but we can also confront them with classical music or jazz. I have had very good experiences in this area.

  2. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    I love your ideas, Fred! You could always find some beta testers (kids) to offer insight on the illustrations. I think abstracts for children would be a great way to inspire imagination and develop appreciation for art.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! I am happy to hear I am not the only one to see it this way. Yes, testing is needed. Let’s see what transpires. Enjoy a great weekend 🙂

  3. Renee Espriu avatar

    I believe, also, that children being exposed/introduced to abstract art early on could only be a good thing. I have loved all things relating to art since I was a very young girl. My mind would drift off to somewhere and I could see images within anything that was abstract in my world…all the way from clouds to tree trunks to inanimate objects such as my mother’s dresser. I always wondered if anyone else could see what I saw. I love your paintings and yes, I did see faces in them. The ability to see images within anything abstract has followed me all of my life. Move forward with your art being in a children’s book. I commend you!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much Renee! Since you learned to see more from a young age, you know that this is a great gift. Of course we are all different and we also have different access to seeing, but if we don’t practice it as children, it won’t come out later. Then we start consuming cheap fantasy entertainment.

  4. Rosaliene Bacchus avatar

    > Before embarking on such a transformational project, I would first conduct a small experiment with the target audience from among my own family and friends. This would help to define the parameters of what works and what should be discarded.
    > I can appreciate the daunting task of having the project reviewed by experts in child psychology and education. This could be overcome by first obtaining general feedback (not an official review) from a teacher and psychologist of the targeted audience within your own network of relatives and friends.

  5. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

    Thanks so much! Yes, exactly. Ang I don’t think I would like to do this. So it’s just a play. But, as it seems, this play already showed results and when I am back I will report. Thanks again and enjoy a great weekend 🙏🌻

  6. annieasksyou avatar

    This is all fascinating. It’s great that you move forward toward your vision, unencumbered by concerns about its feasibility and the end result. I just caught up on the two posts. I love the colors and appreciate the depth and space that you were seeking in one particular shot. Worked for me!
    I look forward to following your further development of this idea, which seems vibrant and valuable. I can imagine my daughters reacting well to these abstracts when they were young children.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you for your encouraging words! I’m going on holiday now and that gives me time to think about a few things. Spatial distance is always good when hatching ideas 🙂

      1. annieasksyou avatar


      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        Thank you!

  7. Edith avatar

    Lieber Friedrich, dieses Projekt kann nur gut gehen. Kinder lieben Herausforderung. Und wenn sie dabei eine *gute Führung* haben, dann wird die Fantasie nur so sprudeln. Du weißt, ich war Dipl.-Bibliothekar mit Hochschulabschluss und habe mich mit solchen Projekten regelrecht auseinander gesetzt.Man darf nicht nur vorlesen, man muss die Kinder einbeziehen, dann sprühen sie und springen auf und arbeiten mit Händen und Füßen.
    Das Dilemma ist, dass wir den Kindern zu wenig zu trauen. Doch nur so kann Förderung des Geistes gehen. Und wenn sie dabei noch in die Kunst einbezogen werden, dann hat es diesen Doppeleffekt – sie lernen selbst etwas, schulen ihre Sinne und werden die sein, die dann auch wieder Ausstellungen usw. besuchen.
    Wenn sich dir wieder einmal solch ein Projekt anbietet, dann greif zu. Du wirst sehen, so etwas kommt sehr gut an. Zu deinen Bildern muss ich gar nicht viel sagen, sie sprechen für sich,sind hervorragend dafür geeignet!!!
    Herzlichst, Edith

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Danke, liebe Edith 🌹 Sorry für die verspätete Antwort – ich war im Urlaub 😎 Ja, ganz genau sehe ich es auch. Wir unterfordern unsere Kinder all zu oft. Schlimmer noch, wir Speisen si mit “junk- Unterhaltung ab, anstatt ihnen eine Spielwiese zum Austoben von Phantasie zu bieten. LG f,🐞🍸

      1. Edith avatar

        Alles gut ❤

  8. sandyroybessandbugzy avatar

    Enjoy your holiday. We have the right to play. The book is your fun don’t let it get too prescriptive if you have fun it will come through. I think it has a good chance to entertain the parents and the child.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much for your encouraging words 😊 Yes, it should be for parents and kids. I will think about it. All the best 🌻

  9. Ashley avatar

    At 73 there is something that urges me to draw but something blocks that ambition and I end up using photos to illustrate my verses. It is so frustrating because I can’t find the cause! I keep trying!

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you, Ashley! I know what you mean – though I am 3-4 years younger 😎 I have my own technique now that allows me fooling around. But drawing has always a frustrating aspect as we never do as good as we know we could 😆

  10. Mike U. avatar

    A thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening post, Friedrich. As always, your paintings are sublime and multi-faceted. I love the notion of a children’s book. Being exposed to creative and abstract art of any kind can only help children develop an appreciation for it and an ability to create their own art. Whether this book idea ever reaches fruition, it is such a delight to take a peek inside your mind and see the thought processes occurring as well as get another view of your marvelous artwork. 🙂

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you so much, mike, for your support and encouraging words! I am presently in Egypt and really need this time off. Great place and so much to discover. All the best! friedrich

  11. rabirius avatar

    Amazing pictures.
    I especially like that “Old Mr. Wang” pictures.

  12. rothpoetry avatar

    I love the story of Mr. Wang and Fluffy! A very heartwarming story for children.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much Dwight! I am happy to hear you like it 😊

      1. rothpoetry avatar

        Yes, very much!

  13. Cindy Georgakas avatar

    What a wonderful idea and so inspiring Friedrich. It’s a great idea and I hope you run with it at some point. Enjoy Egypt~! 💞

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 💗 I will try my best if it becomes a real project.

  14. avatar

    Thanks for sharing this. I have also written an article with list of books that turned public domain books in 2023. Do read and share your comments.

  15. vermavkv avatar


    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much 🙂

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