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Tag Archives: illustration
Once upon a time, the children’s book illustrator, Molly
Bang, was told she really didn’t understand how pictures worked. Bang agreed and set out to learn more.
She took classes, read books and went to art museums. Eventually she set out to create a composition with emotional resonance from the most basic elements–simple geometric forms and a palette limited to four colors: red, black, white and lavender.
She decided to see how this all worked with the story Little Red Riding Hood beginning with the idea of the girl as red triangle.
Of course, this choice echos the idea of a hood and the color is obvious, but beyond that, she asked herself, “Do I feel anything about this shape.” Although it wasn’t exactly fraught with emotion, she knew she felt some things about it.
How about you?
Here’s what Bang came up with: it isn’t huggable because it has points. It feels stable because of its flat bottom and equal sides. And red makes it feel bold, flashy–a good color for a main character. Molly also felt danger, vitality, passion. She felt that added up to the feeling of a warm, alert, stable, strong, balanced character. It did more than simply echoing the name of the story.
Then she set about making the forest. She tried triangles for the trees…
…but eventually settled on rectangles.
She liked how you can’t see the tops of the trees, suggesting how tall they are and how she could create a sense of depth. Now to put Little Red Riding Hood into the scene…
…but this wasn’t as as menacing as Bang wanted.
So she made Red much smaller. And she needed room for the wolf.
But before introducing the wolf, she knew she could create even more sense of danger.
Diagonals create a sense of instability, so now she had Red out in an older, more primal forest, a less certain place, and it was time to bring in the wolf.
It’s obvious why she would choose sharp triangles and to bring him into the forefront. Even so, she thought she’d experiment with what happened if she changed various elements.
How about if she made him smaller?
Or softened the triangles?
Or changed his color?
What big teeth he has.
What big eyes. But let’s make them more menacing.
Nothing has changed but the color. Not only is red–the color of blood and fire–more threatening than lavender, it links the wolf with his prey.
What if you changed the eye shape?
I was surprised how much difference it made. He looks slightly goofy. Maybe this would be the way to go if you wanted to do a Little Red Riding Hood spoof of some sort.
But Bang wanted to push the menace.
So more “blood”.
And finally she made it a gloomier day and, just for the fun of it, added even more focus on those sharp, sharp triangles of teeth.
This is how Molly Bang’s classic book, “Picture This. How Pictures Work” begins. The rest of her book talks more about basic composition and how it works. What horizontals do. What verticals do. How to make things look stable and unstable. How to create momentum and depth, chaos, calm and drama simply by compositional elements.
She talks about her theories as to why these elements work the way they do, often linking back to primal instincts–such as pointed shapes feeling scarier than rounded shapes or curves. One can hurt you, the other is less likely to.
It’s fun to think of these same principles and how you might apply them to writing. For example, I’m thinking of the sense of character created by a plump woman with sharp eyes. After all, we writers are in the business of creating pictures, too.
I would highly recommend “Picture This: How Pictures Work” for anyone interested in art or picture books. Or just for the fun of it!
Lately, for some reason I’ve been thinking about how much you need to know to understand a simple cartoon. Here’s the cartoon.
I have it pinned to my refrigerator door because I love to nap, so that’s the first reference point for me. But what else do you need to know to “get” this cartoon? I mean I figure a Martian wouldn’t begin to know what to make of this.
We earthlings need to know that a cat (or any creature) lying in a bed with other similar creatures of different sizes gathered around it is typically a death bed scene. Here you get a further hint out of the fact that this a hospital bed, which we know because of a mutually understood visual shorthand.
You need to know that at death, people sometimes express their thoughts on life including their big regrets. You need to know that those regrets are usually about rather grand things—I regret not loving more. I regret not appreciating every day. It’s a doorway into the deep wisdom of someone at the end of their life.
You need to know that napping is considered a pretty negligent use of one’s time. You need to know that cats nap a lot, so much in fact that it is improbable that any cat could nap more. How much napping does any cat need? And so the grand is turned into the banal, and yet, it’s touchingly real, too.
Finally, at a very basic level, you need to have learned how to decipher lines and shades on a flat surface as images. Not to mention that you need to know our current conventions in clothing and size for indicting age and gender; that the creature with an open mouth is the one speaking in a cartoon. Oh, and you need to be able to read.
For a lot of you, you’ll know something more. You’ll recognize this as a New Yorker cartoon. You’re unconsciously picking up on conventions that are telling you that.
That’s a lot piled up into appreciating this. I love that. I love how layered our awareness is and how so many layers can be captured so simply and so perfectly in this ephemeral bit of humor.
That’s what I love about writing, too. One of the best descriptions of I ever heard about poetry was from a professor at San Francisco State University who taught a class on Shakespeare. I don’t remember his name (I never do) but he said something to the effect that a poem is words compressed into a seed that only blossoms in the mind.
And that description blossomed in my own mind. I “got” it. I got what is so powerful about poetry; what’s so special about it. Why you experience it differently from other art forms. All writing blossoms in the mind to some degree, but poetry is the ultimate compression and gives it that deep, internal “oh” that you don’t quite get from other writing.
Cartoons especially single panel cartoon can also be wonderfully compressed, too. But they rely so much on current, temporary associations that they rarely (never?) achieve the timelessness of poetry. Just try reading old New Yorker cartoons.
Want to play? What all is compressed into this cartoon? What do you need to know? Is it so specific to writing that it’s more of an in-joke? I’m betting that our current “meta” approach to art makes this much more universally accessible than that.
Last week I returned to House of Illustration to see their current show – A New Childhood: Picture Books From Soviet Russia.
It is an excellent, eye-opening exhibit. I snapped a few subversive shots to share with you.
Before the October Revolution of 1917, children’s books were beautifully illustrated but expensive. Only children of the upper classes were regularly taught to read. Children’s books were not for the masses.
Ivan Bilibin, 1895
After the end of the Tsarist regime, fairy tales were considered irrelevant. Children were reimagined as “builders of the new egalitarian future.” New children’s books would promote socialist beliefs and give practical instruction.
Galina and Olga Chichagova, poster design with text by A. Galena, 1925.
“The images of old storybooks. Out with the mysticism and fantasy of children’s books!! Give a new children’s book!! Work, battle, technology, nature – the new reality of childhood.
On the positive side, during this time there was a blossoming of creativity in children’s literature. The influence of folk art as well as past art movements and picture books from Europe converged in these new books.
Eduard Krimmer, How the Whale Got His Throat (Rudyard Kipling) 1926.
Illustrators explored new styles and techniques. The Soviet government lifted a Tsarist ban on Yiddish publishing.
Issachar Ber Ryback for In The Forest (Leib Kvitko) 1922.
Books were considered valuable tools in disseminating new ideals. Publishers flourished.
Eduard Krimmer, Numbers, 1925
Vera Ermolaeva, Top-Top-Top (Nikolai Aseev), 1925
Absurdism proved useful in communicating the regime’s ideas.
Illustrations for The Flea (Natan Vengrov) by Iurii Annenkov, c. 1918
Konstantin Rudakov’s work was humorous and zany, but considered “bourgeois dregs” by Nadezhda Krupskaya, noted theorist and Lenin’s wife. Some of his books were banned.
Konstantin Rudakov, Telephone, 1926
Picture books would show children how to build the future.
Evgenia Evenbakh, The Table, 1926
Aleksandr Deineka, Electrician (B. Uralski), 1930
Tevel Pevezner, The Cow Shed (Evgeny Shvartz), 1931
Tevel Pevezner, The Poultry Yard (Evgeny Shvartz), 1931
Georgii Echeistov, What It Carries Where It Travels, 1930
Unknown illustrator, First Counting Book (F. N. Blekher), 1934
The circus was still popular, but the Lion was no longer portrayed as King of the beasts. Instead he was President.
Maria Siniakova, Circus (Nikolai Aseev), 1929
Vladimir Lebedev, Circus (Samuil Marshak) 1925
Some illustrators were still determined to show children at play and having fun. Some got away with it.
Vladamir Konashevitz, unpublished illustration for Pictures For Little Ones, 1925
Vladamir Konashevitz, Mugs, 1925.
Others delved further into the new reality of childhood.
Aleksandr Deineka, The Red Army Parade, 1930
The atmosphere of experimentation ended in the mid-1930s when “socialist realism” became the assigned aesthetic ideal. Children’s books could only support Soviet approved aspirations. State censorship was enforced. Yiddish publishing was no longer tolerated and high taxes caused many Russian publishers to close. Many illustrators continued to work but ceased experimenting. Some fled to Europe. Others were arrested.
I visited Soviet Russia when I was a child in 1970. What I remember most about Moscow was how bleak it was. Saint Basil’s Cathedral rose like a glorious fantasy out of the concrete. Everything else, including the people, was grey and heavy. Our guide was afraid to answer any of our questions. People spoke to us in whispers if they spoke to us at all. They were the children who had grown up under the Soviet regime.
For those of you who aren’t able to make it to London to see this show before it closes in September, you can look for the book, Inside the Rainbow, Russian Children’s Literature 1920-1935: Beautiful books, terrible times, which inspired House of Illustration to exhibit works from this collection.
My favorite books to find in used book shops are those that are fun to look through, useful, and not easily available. Gwen White’s A Pictorial Perspective is that kind of book. I found it at Foster’s Bookshop (actually a visiting friend found it but didn’t buy it – thank you, Rachel!). It was published by William Morrow and Company in Great Britain in the 1950s. According to the jacket copy, “Miss White” presents all the fascinating tricks of Perspective “in the pleasantest possible way.”
Perspective has never been my strong suit. I learned only the barest basics when studying art in college. I think the style of my work has evolved to avoid perspective. It is still evolving in that direction.
However, sometimes I can’t avoid perspective. This book will be excellent reference.
At first glance, I thought the book was a children’s picture book. The images are colorful and charming, although they did seem oddly placed on the page.
But then I realized their placement wasn’t arbitrary. It corresponded to the line art on the opposite side.
So if you hold the image up against a light source, (like my window), it shows the perspective used to create it.
Each concept has a diagram and explanation,
and an illustration demonstrating its usage,
which you can hold to the light from either side to see how the perspective works.
Gwen White writes in her introduction to the book:
Just as a study of verbs is necessary in order to speak a language, … so is a knowledge of Perspective helpful if you wish to convey a feeling of depth. It is not concerned with Flat Design or Decoration, but it enters into outdoor sketching, scenery, film backgrounds, dioramas, and many book illustrations.
For example, if you wanted to illustrate a book about rabbits in moonlight…
or pigs in sunshine…
Or mice playing…
or a variety of other scenes, Pictorial Perspective will help you.
She called this technique of holding the pages to the light her “lift up” idea.
Even the endpapers are explanatory.
I tried to find out more about Gwen White, but there doesn’t seem to be much on her that is easily accessed. She did illustrate children’s books, and authored a book about patterns as well as others about dolls and toys. She was also a painter who exhibited at the Royal Academy and was ARCA (Associate Royal Cambrian Academy). She dedicates this book to her three sons. I hope to find out more with continued research.
In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy learning perspective in the pleasantest possible way.
Last Spring I visited Berlin. On the side of the former House of Ministries building, (originally built for the Nazi Ministry of Aviation), there is a 60 foot long mural by German artist and illustrator Max Lingner (1888 – 1959). Lingner worked on the mural from 1950 to 1952. It was commissioned by the Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) who had Lingner revise the drawing five times. Lingner’s original concept centered on the family. The final image looks stiff and militaristic by comparison. Apparently Lingner hated the final version, and refused to look at it when he went past.
Nonetheless, the mural fascinated me. I didn’t take in the image in its entirety (which, granted, is hard to do as it is placed behind pillars), but I spent a long time studying how the image was built with layers of line, color and texture. (The image set into the plaza in front commemorates the Uprising of 1953.)
I took a number of photos so that I could examine the images further when I returned to London.
(I don’t have a thing for shoes, it’s just that the feet of the figures were at eye level and easiest to photograph up close.)
What intrigued me was the use of stenciling through a grid structure to achieve tonal variations. I often use stencils in my work, (it’s a printmaking technique, after all) and Lingner has inspired me to experiment with similar techniques.
Since visiting Berlin, I have been trying to gather more information about Lingner and the materials he used. Unfortunately, there is not much information available in English, probably because he was a communist artist working in post-war East Berlin.
I have purchased a number of books from Amazon.de, all in German. I studied German for one year in college. This gives me just enough German to (sort of) figure out what they are talking about, but not enough to know what they are actually saying. Translating online is a slow and inaccurate process, but here are some of my favorite pictures from the books I have collected.
This is the final painting that was then transferred to tiles and installed by a team of artisans from the Meissen porcelain factory.
I haven’t figured out the whole story yet. It’s something about a princess and a goatherd and forced labor and dancing and the future … for children aged six and up.
Someday I hope to learn more about Max Lingner’s work. Maybe I will get lucky and someone will publish a book about Lingner in English. In the meantime, Ich studiere, um mein Deutsch verbessern…
Moving to London has brought new challenges, which is in part why the move appealed to me.
But moving someplace new doesn’t mean you don’t seek out the familiar.
Last October I visited the London Print Studio on the recommendation of a friend. Perhaps it was the scent of burnt linseed oil, but I immediately felt at home.
The studio offers classes and studio work sessions for printmakers. It also has a gallery space and small shop.
I signed up for a screenprint workshop. It was good. I asked if they could use any volunteer workers (I figured I might as well make myself useful while I’m here). They said Yes.
I met with the LPS founder and director John Phillips and the operations manager Nadia Yahiaoui. They asked me to put together a print media display for their upcoming 40th anniversary exhibit, “Printopia – How and Why Artists Reproduce.”
In addition to showcasing all of the techniques the studio provides equipment and materials for – letterpress printing, etching, screenprinting (or silkscreen) and stone lithography – John also asked me if I would like to produce a print to demonstrate each technique in the display.
Well sure. I am still fairly new to silkscreen, I haven’t made an etching since the early 80s, and I’ve never done stone litho. But hey, why not?
Fortunately, I had help from many, but especially from the LPS Print Studio Coordinator, Darren van der Merwe, who was kind and patient enough to give me an very quick intro to stone litho.
To start with, I had an excerpt from Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris that John planned to use for the letterpress demo. The piece is from the chapter, “This will destroy That. The Book will destroy the Edifice.”
I decided to interpret (illustrate) this quote in the three remaining media, adapting the image to suit each technique.
I started with etching.This is the first state (proof stage) of the image done freehand on hard ground.
I then moved on to the stone lithography piece. This involves drawing on a slab of finely grained limestone mined from Jurassic Era deposits. A fresh stone has a surface Darren describes as “like velvet.” It instantly absorbs any grease you apply, including that from your skin. Wherever the grease is absorbed will show up on the final print. If you mess up, the stone has to be ground down. Grinding down a stone takes hours. I didn’t want to mess up. It was a bit intimidating.
After drawing on my stone for a while it occurred to me that I am not really a line-work person. I am much more comfortable working with form, which is probably why I mostly work in relief printing where I can cut out shapes and leave the line-work to my preliminary drawings. My litho image was looking very timid.
I went looking for Darren, who suggested I could move some of the line around with tusche and even remove some of what I had done with mineral spirits.
That’s when things got really messy but much more productive. I began rubbing out lines, cutting out stencils (shapes) and splattering tusche. I got so carried away I dissolved some of the gum arabic that Darren had laid down to mask out the border areas. It doesn’t resemble what I started out with, but I am relieved and pleased with the end result. It looks like I meant to do whatever it was I did.
I then proceeded to add aquatint to my etching plate. However, I misread the handy timing guide posted in the acid room. The sign showed progressive darknesses of aquatint with a guideline that read; 5″, 10″, 15″, etc. I thought ” meant minutes, but it wasn’t till I had dunked my plate in the acid four times, for a total of sixteen minutes, did I realize that ” meant seconds. #@$%&
So I ended up with a very dark plate, but at least the print doesn’t look timid!
That left the silkscreen image, which I had no choice but to create digitally and send to Darren to transfer to the screen and print.
Darren printed everything for me as I had to leave town for two weeks in the middle of the exhibit preparations. I came back with barely enough time to build the displays before the opening.
John had purchased thin metal sheeting imagining it could be sandwiched between the printed images and a blank sheet of paper to create the effect of the prints “magically” lifting off the plates. I was skeptical. I tested it out. It worked beautifully.
I assembled the displays, and now I can add display-building to my list of new skills.
I had fun. I problem-solved. I got to work with a great group of art people. I created my first (and perhaps only) stone litho image. I made something useful. The LPS gained an extra pair of hands for a few weeks and I felt welcomed. I’m looking forward to the next challenge.
Last Wednesday, I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London’s Bethnal Green area.
This is not a simply a children’s museum, though many thousands of children visit here each year. This museum houses the British “national collection of childhood-related objects and artifacts.” The extensive array ranges from the 1600s to modern times.
As you enter the exhibit area, the signage includes this quote from Plato:
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
So, Plato isn’t just talking about children here? He was implying that adults should be observed playing too? Those Greeks.
It would be a hardened and steely adult who would not feel the pull towards play when viewing this collection. No matter what age you are, you will see items that remind you of toys and games you played with as a child, and the rest will make you envious of the children who played with them before they became museum pieces.
Isn’t that writers and illustrators of children’s books are supposed to be able to do – access the emotions and wonderment of being a child? This museum would be a worthwhile field trip for any of us.
Viewing the collection as an illustrator, it was fascinating to see the progression of imagery through time and across cultures.
My favorite part of the exhibit was the Optical Toys section. Some of these toys use special visual effects – tricks of the eye – to make two-dimensional pictures appear to be three-dimensional. Others make pictures move, or appear to move.
These and other such moving-picture toys led to the invention of modern moving-picture technologies,
And then there were the toys that really do move, like the amazing automata of the French company Roullet et Decamps, 1870-1880.
Though far less elaborate in mechanism or decoration, this hand-carved and hand-painted wooden cuckoo on wheels is also beautiful. Pressing down on the bird’s tail makes the white-leather bellows create bird-like noises. A traditional toy from Germany, circa 1900.
Of course, an exhibit of toys that move must include toy cars.
And other vehicles with wheels.
Puppets are moving toys that have taken to the stage.
The Yellow Dwarf theatre, 1868; a theatre made for one family and designed to perform one play, The Yellow Dwarf. The story comes from fairy tales published in France in 1697 by the Clountess D’Aulnoy.
What I like so much about all the toys that move, or seem to move, or move with us, is the ingenuity and inventiveness involved on the part of the creator. The artists and craftspeople that invented these toys knew how to access their childlike imaginations to fill our hearts with wonder, which is something children, and adults, will always be drawn to.
Maybe creativity is really just another form of play. If so, it’s something I never want to grow out of.
Two years ago I wrote about my deep appreciation for my local library in Seattle. Now I live in London, where public libraries as we now know them got started.
Founded in 1753 as part of the British Museum, The British Library is the grandmother of them all. It was originally intended as a kind of national museum created to build on its initial collection of books, manuscripts and prints. Over time, as it’s collections increased to include drawings, scientific materials, maps, music, stamps, coins, periodicals – anything printed with historic significance – it became clear that it needed its own facility to house and exhibit its treasures. The current British Library was formally opened in 1998 near St. Pancras station.
In planning my first visit to the British Library, I scheduled myself a (free) tour of the Conservation Center. There, I saw the staff working on a number of current projects: preparing 19th century maps for an exhibition in India; repairing the disintegrating bindings of letters of state from Oliver Cromwell’s era; building boxes for a Franz Kafka award for magic realism and a torch from the 2012 London Olympics; mounting original, handwritten lyrics by John Lennon. Sorry, no photos allowed, but I did take pictures of some of the Royal binding stamps in the hallway.
I also visited the library’s permanent exhibit on the first floor. There it displays some of its most impressive treasures. These include a Gutenberg Bible, pages from Da Vinci’s notebooks, and Shakespeare’s first folio. The Magna Carta is usually there, but it is off display for a future exhibit. Some of my favorite items there are: Jane Austen’s writing desk; a page from the 11th century Beowulf poem; a letter from Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII to Cardinal Wolsey, dated 1528; a Kufic Qur’an from AD 850;
The Guthlac Roll, a 12th – 13th century scroll showing events in the Life of saint Guthlac of Crowland;
The various scripts and handwriting were fascinating to see all in one room. From Florence Nightingale’s wispy report on her nursing staff in the Crimea (1854-56), to John Lennon’s lyrics for “A Hard Day’s Night” scrawled on the back of a birthday card for his son, Julian. Sorry, no photos here either.
In the center of the building is the King’s Library, a towering glass-encased structure that houses the foundation of the library – King George III ‘s book collection. It consists of 65,000 printed books and 19,000 pamphlets from Britain, Europe and North America from the mid 15th to the early 19th centuries. I guess he was a bookish sort of king.
Then there was the “Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination” exhibit which ends later this month. The history of British Gothic literature from its beginnings in 1764 with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, to present day Whitby Goth culture. It appears to be true that Goth with never die.
The items chosen for this exhibit included some I expected, and others I didn’t. I took a few photos of pieces that intrigued me. If there was a no-camera sign posted, I failed to see it…
“The Nightmare,” by Henry Fuseli (1782). It combines “the supernatural, the macabre and the erotic to brilliant effect” and “highlights the importance of the unconscious,” all classic Goth elements.
The Wicker Colossus of the Druids from a 1771 travel guide to England and Wales, illustrating the legend that the Druids made human sacrifices by burning people inside giant wicker effigies. Is this where the idea for Burning Man came from?
“The Man of the Crowd,” another short story by Edgar Allen Poe, here illustrated by John Buckland Wright (1932).
I finished my full, bookish day with a round through the British Library Bookstore. I bought a dozen or so postcards to send to my American friends (and some to keep for myself). The world of books is a place in which I am quite happy to linger. If you are a library lover, you will enjoy it too.
Imagine what the quintessential British bookstore might look like. If you picture a little shop in an 18th century building stocked untidily with old and unusual books from floorboards to rafters, then you could be thinking of Foster’s Bookshop in Chiswick, London.
The owner Stephen Foster is a second generation bookseller who bills himself as a purveyor of “outmoded educational tools and antiquated entertainment devices.” He looks the part, don’t you think?
I had stopped in the shop a few times since moving here, and thought it would make a good blog post source, so I made an appointment with Stephen to come in and photograph some of his children’s books – if he wouldn’t mind.
What I had thought would be a half-hour visit turned into the better part of an afternoon, talking and viewing.
The first volume he took down from his shelves was a 1906 (U.S.) edition of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, by J. M. Barrie, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
Stephen told me that he grew up near Kensington Gardens and that he and his siblings visited the park often when they were young. Walking through the park where Peter Pan’s stories took place must have been wondrous for a child. Would that not make you believe in fairies, too?
Most Americans think of Peter Pan as Disney portrayed him in the 1953 animated film – an impish young boy in a pea green suit and elf slippers. That is nothing like J. M. Barrie’s original character as shown by Rackham – an infant wandering the park and befriending it’s otherworldly denizens after closing time.
I clearly remember the first time I saw illustrations by Arthur Rackham. It was in a little bookstore owned by a friend of my parents, and she carried a number of publications from Green Tiger Press, which specializes in reproducing antique and vintage illustrations. I was a pre-teen who was still enthralled by fairy tales, and who drew a lot. Rackham was like God.
A few years later I visited London with my parents, and was ecstatic to find whole books about Arthur Rackham that I could purchase and take home with me. I spent hours looking at the illustrations in those books, wishing I could see more of his work, but 19th century picture books were not something a teenager could easily access in the U.S. in the 1970s, at least not in my home town in California. I had to be content with the few images that had been chosen for reproduction.
Until last week.
Next Stephen pulled down a 1905 edition of Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving, also illustrated by Rackham.
Because there were so many illustrations in each volume Stephen showed me, only a few of which I had seen before, I was determined to take as many pictures as possible to share here. The photos aren’t great – I was taking them under poor lighting on the only space in the shop that wasn’t piled high with books and prints – but I hope they will still give you some of the thrill that I felt turning those pages to reveal so many wonderful images.
I learned a few things from studying Rackham as a teen that I still keep in mind when I work: Don’t just illustrate what the author describes – imagine scenes beyond the text; if you limit your palette to a only three or four colors, nothing in your image will “clash” with anything else. It is part of why Rackham’s illustrations are so pleasingly quiet, visually.
My favorite image of Rackham’s as a teen was from Undine. The coquettish creature coming up from the sea had a lot of appeal to me then. I wondered what that look in her eyes was about, and what story the other pictures from the book would tell. I had only seen a few.
And there it was, between Spike Milligan and The Hobbit.
Okay, so I went all out here. I took photos of pretty much every image in the book, just in case there was another teenager out there who wondered the same thing about this girl.
The story is similar to The Little Mermaid. Lots of romance and melodrama and a moralistic ending.
Even the endpapers are beautiful.
I hope this wasn’t too much of a good thing for you.
If you like old books and happen to be in London, you should add Foster’s Bookshop to your sightseeing list. It will be worth the tube ride to Chiswick.
I plan to go back and peruse the shelves further, and I’m sure another blog post will come of it. At least, that will be my excuse for taking more photos…
I have been living in London almost three weeks now. My jet lag has worn off. My post-flight cold is gone. I am settling in and learning how to get around this amazing city.
For my first post as “foreign correspondent” for Books Around The Table, I chose to visit Sir Quentin Blake‘s “Inside Stories”, the inaugural exhibition at the recently opened House of Illustration gallery space.
House of Illustration was begun in 2002 by a group of UK illustrators, led by Blake, to establish the world’s first “home for the art of illustration.” Over the next decade, the founders worked to raise awareness and garner funding to find a permanent home. In July of this year, they opened its doors in Granary Square, near King’s Cross, London.
“House of Illustration’s gallery and education space is the place to see, learn about, and enjoy illustration in all its forms, from adverts to animation, picture books to political cartoons and scientific drawings to fashion design.”
Blake pledged his massive archive of original drawings and illustrated books to House of Illustration, so it is fitting that the opening show be of his work.
I know Sir Quentin Blake’s work best from his illustrations for Roald Dahl’s books, but he has done hundreds of others (not all of them for children) that many of us from the US aren’t as familiar with. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many of his illustrations at once, but even more valuable to see his thoughts, notes and preliminary sketches included as well.
The entry to the exhibit immediately immerses you in Blake’s world with a floor-to-ceiling drawing of his studio space. The case beneath presents you with insights into how Blake approaches his art.
(You must excuse the poor quality of these interior photographs, as I was surreptitiously snapping these shots with my smart phone on the sly. I risked admonishment for you, so please don’t turn me in to the authorities).
One entire room was devoted to Michael Rosen’s Sad Book. This was the part of the show that impressed me most deeply. Blake managed to balance sadness and joy with delicacy and subtlety. Perfect in its gentleness. I’m still thinking about those images.
Blake defines illustration as “drawing with a purpose.” That is the most accurate, least condescending definition that I have heard to date. It doesn’t try to fit it somewhere along a hierarchy between fine art and craft. It just says what it is.
And this is just the beginning at House of Illustration. There are four more exhibitions scheduled through June 2015, and I plan on being here for all of them. Stay tuned!