the mystery of vyaceslav legkobit

Judging by the frequency with which images from Everyone Likes to Draw by the Ukranian illustrator Vyaceslav Legkobit turn up on blogs, they must be a favourite of artists, graphic designers, illustrators and people who enjoy vintage children’s books. It was originally published in 1968, though my copy in English dates from 1975.

It’s not hard to see why so many people, adults and children alike, are attracted to Legkobit’s images. His illustrations have a confidence and swiftness indicating an artist steeped in the folk-art traditions of his country, to the point where the pages seem not so much to be designed, as to have sprung from a world where things just look that way. That ease of creating a complete and plausible imaginative universe can only come when an artist/illustrator has skills honed to perfection. The positive and negative shapes in these illustrations are masterful, making the images hover somewhere between narrative and sheer pattern. Colour lends them theatricality. All those plushy reds, vibrant blues and sunny yellows make me smile. The books are flimsy, slender paperbacks, and it’s a testament to how much they were loved that they’re still around, evidently treasured by generations of readers. I know that had I seen these when I was a child, the illustrations would have been a great encouragement to get busy with my crayons and paints. Their apparent effortlessness isn’t off-putting to fledgling painters, who can get started  by the age-old tradition of copying.

The internet yields relatively little about Legkobit beyond his nationality and the fact that he was born in 1941, and I find the absence of information to be remarkable given how well-loved his images are. It seems unlikely that he’s still alive and illustrating, as the cut-off point of his work seems to be prior to 1980.

I have another book by the artist, dated 1975. Just a glance at the cover makes me hear the music of Stravinsky!

Above and below: two of my favourite Legkobit illustrations. Perfect combinations of form, colour, pattern and character.

I’ve found Svetlana Skryabina’s HanaRivka Etsy shop to be an excellent source of Russian children’s books. Svetlana is knowledgeable on her subject, as can be seen in her excellent blog. Moreover parcels from her arrive promptly and the books are always as she describes.

UPDATE:

My thanks to Svetlana Skryabina, who guided me to a Russian site that has some information, though there is nothing beyond 1978.

Legkobit was born in 1941 in the vicinity of Kiev. His parents died during the war and he was thereafter raised by a family who gave him his surname. In 1964 he studied at the Faculty of Graphic Art at the Kiev Art Institute. He is described as an illustrator and animator, his output listed as ‘picture books with his own text’, ‘children’s magazines’ and ‘illustrations for children’s poems’. In an article dated 1971 he explains that his time at art school was quite brief, followed by three years of drawing ‘art cartoons’ and making drawings for children’s magazines and books. He also says that he doesn’t yet know whether he’s exclusively a ‘children’s artist’, but he definitely ‘draws for kids like me’. He sounds very likeable and open to where his art might carry him. A comment has been left on the site by ‘Igor’, who writes that his parents knew the artist. Igor fills in a few tantalising details. It seems that Legkobit was married to a woman named Svetlana. The couple lived on the 16th floor of an apartment block, and they had no children. The marriage failed, there was a divorce and it seems Legkobit may have suffered a ‘creative crisis’. Igor ends by saying that he remembers the artist’s wonderful smile. And we can see that he did indeed have a lovely smile, because unexpectedly for a man so shrouded in mysteries, there’s a photograph:

5 thoughts on “the mystery of vyaceslav legkobit

  1. Pingback: My Illustration Heroes. Part One: Sendak, Potter, Trnka, Bombová and Legkobit | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

        • Oh dear. Sorry to be tempting you!

          Svetlana found both my Legkobit books after I e-mailed to enquire whether she might be able to locate copies for me. It took her a little while, but she came up trumps.

          Chloe replies:

          Submitted on 2013/03/14 at 11:02 am
          ‘Ooh not at all, I always like to find new books to add to my ever growing wish list.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s