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Man standing in the Great Hall at the Library of Congress
Marcellus Anthony Wilson — University of Notre Dame Student Intern in the Latin American, Caribbean and European Division (LACE) in the Great Hall.

Commuter Scientist’s Approach to a Coloring Book: have we missed anything?

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This is question and answer guest post by Marcellus Anthony Wilson — a DC local who is currently a student at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Marcellus was selected for an Internship in the Latin American, Caribbean and European Division (LACE) as a part of the Cross Cultural Leadership Program organized by the Department of Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He joined the division on June 14, 2023, after a 38-minute bike commute that google maps estimated at 28 minutes.

Marcellus, tell us about your academic background and how you are applying it at the Library of Congress:

I come from a computer science background at Notre Dame, so like others in my field I aspire to work in technology or at least for the tech department, maybe at the Library of Congress. Under the tutelage of Nanette Gibbs, I have learned how the degree I am pursuing can be utilized in Library outreach. In my first three weeks, I got firsthand experience with collections, including books, manuscripts, periodicals, and audio recordings housed at this institution. I also journeyed through these halls completing various tasks to get acclimated to the “Office Space”. Crazy thing is, the details of my coursework have not been applicable, but my academic engagement with problem solving and communication systems has enabled me to be versatile and think outside of the box each day. One notable project has been to examine the murals of Cândido Portinari in the Hispanic Reading Room and develop a plan for a coloring book that will inform the public of Portinari’s personal story of triumph. Portinari transferred his brush techniques to colored pencils after health concerns led his physician to demand that he discontinue using paint.

man sitting at tale drawing with colored pencils
Marcellus Anthony Wilson testing his product in the Hispanic Reading Room

 

Tell us about your process in this project:

While preparing for a VIP visit, we started talking about the murals and an illustrated book of poetry displayed in the Reading Room. We decided to connect the murals of Portinari with his published drawings in a coloring book for the children and adults we were expecting. Nanette tasked me with the development of the coloring book. I began by taking photographs of the artist’s rendering of animals, using a pen and paper to trace the shape of the animals for an outline. I took the photos home to produce the outlines with software I have available on my personal computer. To ensure that the figures were blank for coloring, I inverted the image. Converting the images this way varied in terms of difficulty on account of differences in the artist’s colors. For instance, the goat image had darker coloring, so it was easier to invert. The light brown color of the capybara left a brown coloring on the inverted image, which required editing. After editing all images, I began to search for more of the artists’ renderings of animals. I found other artworks, mostly of roosters, intricate in their designs and similar to the rooster in one of the murals in the Hispanic Reading Room.

After completing this conversion process, I placed all of the animals on a document with their Spanish names at the top of an empty page encouraging the users to try different drawing techniques themselves. The next morning, I awoke to an early email from Nanette with a tight deadline for that day. I sent her my homework and set out for my daily bike ride from home to the Library. I arrived to find Nanette, a ladder, and an interesting task to isolate the image of an anteater at the top of the mural in a photo. I couldn’t get a good angle the day before. Then we proceeded to edit the animals’ names with the help of Carlos Olave, Head of the Hispanic Reading Room, who added Portuguese. I then searched the Portinari Museum’s online gallery for a suitable title page. I found a piece called the “Chest and Calabash”, which seemed more kid friendly. In the end, we produced a good product for that visit and we kept editing and exploring other possibilities.

Man in hallway with card catalogs in the backdrop
Do you remember the card catalogue? Marcellus Anthony Wilson got up close and personal with this history in the Madison Building

 

Climbing and exploring: sounds like an adventure. Where does you project go from here?

Nanette and I have researched, networked, and entertained new connections. We even searched for a banjo specialist to advance this project. Nanette always says the editing process happens thousands of times before it is complete, I just didn’t think it was true. Regardless, what I know now is that the editing process was the most fun because it required us to crowd source the public’s response. When Nanette asked me to display the Portinari Coloring book at a teacher professional development workshop, as a way to demonstrate what the Hispanic Reading Room could do for the teachers and their curriculums; I introduced the project and emphasized the significant learning gained from everyday experiences of the things and people we encounter. I have submitted the prototype of this coloring book to the Chief of the division for additional edits. Now we wait for another edit as we plan meetings to discuss publication venues.

Any notes for other computer science majors who find themselves in the Hispanic Reading Room?

Throughout this project I had the chance to engage in rigorous research about a topic obscure enough to identify a lot of different intriguing facts about the artist Cândido Portinari. Nanette and I engaged with many research divisions: Prints and Photographs, Copyright, and Newspaper and Periodicals. We searched for photographs of Portinari, correspondence, and publications. We even thought of the legal elements that would be involved with this project in terms of Copyright. All in all, this was an incredible experience that has given me skills and knowledge that I can use for the rest of my career. I want to thank Nanette, Carlos, Henry, Joseph, Dani and the rest of the Hispanic Reading Room staff who have welcomed me and aided me through this endeavor.

Would you like to try some of the techniques below on Portinari’s goat?

examples of stippling, back and forth lines, hatching and cross hatching
Everyone can use these methods to fill spaces while coloring with pencils
Outline of a goal
Feel free to print this page and color in this outline of the goat you’ll find in the Hispanic Reading Room

 

Discover More

Take a virtual tour of the Hispanic Reading Room by linking to If These Wall Could Talk Story Map

Visit the Hispanic Reading Room Web Page

Library of Congress Research Guides include both online materials, and materials only available on site. The guides related to the Caribbean, Iberian, and Latin American Studies can be found here.


 

Comments

  1. I’m so proud of my brother Marcellus for all he has accomplished and continues to accomplish. Lee up the great work bro, God bless you!

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