Following My Paint Brush

Following My Paint Brush

by Gita Wolf, Dulari Devi

To earn more money, we worked in people's houses, washing their dishes.
When we were done, I liked arranging the pots and pans in rows.
When I grew up, I still did the same work. I had never gone to school, so I was not trained to do any other job.
Sometimes I wished I could do something else. Everyday was the same, as it had been from the time I was a


To earn more money, we worked in people's houses, washing their dishes.
When we were done, I liked arranging the pots and pans in rows.
When I grew up, I still did the same work. I had never gone to school, so I was not trained to do any other job.
Sometimes I wished I could do something else. Everyday was the same, as it had been from the time I was a small girl.
Then one day, when I was passing the village pond, a strange thing happened. As I stood and looked, the scene turned into a picture in my mind. It came alive, bright and lively, telling stories. I was happy the whole day, thinking of my picture.

Following My Paint Brush is the story of Dulari Devi, a domestic helper who went on to become an artist in the Mithila style of folk painting from Bihar, eastern India. Dulari is from a community of fisherfolk whose occupation is river-fishing. Used to a life of hard and relentless labor, she discovered painting while working as a domestic helper in an artist's house.

Dulari learned by doing, and very soon came to adapt artistic rules and conventions to her own expressive needs. Following My Paint Brush narrates Dulari's momentous journey from a worker who knew no rest to an artist who is willing to go where her imagination leads her. This is Dulari's first book.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"I am an artist, but I wasn't always one," opens this autobiographical picture book, told from Devi's first-person perspective and written by Wolf. Devi describes a simple, rural Indian childhood, working in a rice field with her mother, going to market, and doing cleaning work. Change comes through an encounter with a painter, who encourages Devi's interest in art, as she learns how to hold a brush and paint, while never having learned how to read or write. Set against plain white backgrounds, Devi's artwork, in the Mithila style of eastern Indian folk painting, vibrates with bold reds, yellows, and greens. The focus of Devi's artwork is her immediate environment—religious imagery, trees, pottery, fish, and children at play—her delicate linework adding complexity and texture to the mural-like tableaus. Ages 8–up. (July)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This is the artist Dulari Devi's story as dictated to Gita Wolf. Devi comes from a poor family. They all work hard; she cannot go to school. One day she goes to work as a cleaning woman in the house of an artist. Inspired, she goes home and, lacking any other materials, forms a bird from mud. She asks her employer if she can teach her how to paint. "It wasn't easy." But once started, Devi paints constantly, scenes from both traditional tales and from her life and that of the village. In Devi's distinctly decorative style, objects and characters are primarily rendered in profile with multiple clothing patterns, all set in space with no attempt at contexts. The end pages display about fifty cups and bowls with similar attractive patterns. The people have white skins and side-view faces with stylized staring eyes. The intricacies of the textile patterns suggest the resource of traditional Mithila art from the Indian state of Bihar for the variations on the themes of fish, leafy trees and birds as well as the elaborate fabrics. Notes add information on the art and the artist. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—This unusual picture book depicts Indian artist Dulari Devi's transformation from housekeeper to artist. The text, based on her own oral narrative, features Devi's paintings throughout and describes the woman's life of monotonous menial labor until she discovered a hidden talent. Done in typical Mithila style, people and animals are depicted in profile with large eyes, and objects and people are thickly outlined in black. Though white space abounds in the background and in the faces and bodies of characters, rich hues of red, green, yellow and orange infuse the book with color. While pleasing to the eye, the illustrations don't convey emotions: there is no difference in terms of color, characters' facial expressions, or composition between scenes depicting Devi's impoverished childhood and her moments of joy upon becoming a painter. The quality of illustrations is inconsistent. The intricate patterns on a bird's feathers or the leaves of a tree are appealing, but the book's cover features an image of a "bad lad" smoking where the object that he awkwardly grips isn't readily apparent as a cigarette. The text relies heavily on ellipses and exclamation points in an unsuccessful attempt to create feelings of surprise and delight. Though Devi's story is poignant, the dull phrasing won't hold children's attention for long. The images alone are potentially useful for lessons on art from another culture, and those looking for books specifically on Mithila painting may find it worthwhile.—Mahnaz Dar, formerly at Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
Kirkus Reviews

??A village girl in India follows her inclinations and becomes an artist, in spite of her upbringing in a very poor family.

Devi, a woman from the state of Bihar, has illustrated her life story with Mithila folk-art paintings that employ bold patterns of parallel black lines, swirling shapes and intense solid colors. The straightforward text in Devi's voice tells of her childhood and her hard work in the rice fields and the marketplace. Unschooled, she is doomed to be a cleaner in someone else's home. When she finds work at an artist's house, her creative yearnings find an outlet, and an artist is born. In an afterword, Devi is described as combining community traditions with modern themes, and her double-page spread of "Raju Ice Creame Wala" ("The Ice-Cream Man") surrounded by eager children in traditional dress, under a spreading leafy tree with a highly decorated trunk, is the best example of this synthesis. The paintings, based on traditional floor and wall decorations, have been commercialized, but they also provide a way for rural women to make a living. Devi's story has been put into written form by Wolf, but it is the paintings that stand out here.

While it will be inspirational to young readers who may be exploring their own talents, this is probably of greater interest to adult folk-art lovers.(Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Product Details

Tara Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.10(d)
Age Range:
8 Years

Meet the Author

Dulari Devi is an artist who paints in the Mithila style,characteristic of painting communities in Bihar,eastern India. This is her first book.

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