The Boy/Pig, the Handsome Chaps and the Scary Witch

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The Toby Twirl Story Book was published in 1947. I was born in 1951, and so perhaps the copy I read had been handed down to me from my older sister, Jacqui.

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Not only did the stories and images in the book capture my imagination, but the feel of it under my fingers, too. Printed simply in two colours per spread on heavy, absorbent paper, it was my love for The Toby Twirl Storybook that underpinned my approach to the illustrated edition of The Sonnets of Richard Barnfield, made in 2001 with Nicolas McDowell at The Old Stile Press.

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It was a long stretch from the adventurous Toby and his friends, to the lustrous boys of Barnfield’s homoerotic sonnets first published in 1595, but the idea of borrowing from The Toby Twirl Story Book was so fully formed in my head from the moment Nicolas suggested the project, that the edition didn’t so much as evolve, as explode with the swiftness of a Demon King in a puff of smoke out of a star-trap!

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The book took time to make, of course, as all beautiful things do, but the idea for it came to me in a moment, and I never swerved from my vision for it.

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And it would seem that the influence of The Toby Twirl Storybook in my work goes on, because it can be no accident that my first artist’s picture-book, due out this year from Random Spectacular, is to be a darkling version of that grimmest of the Grimms, Hansel & Gretel. The steeple-hatted witch of E. Jeffrey’s illustrations has always stayed with me, lurking in wait to scare another generation. She is the the stuff of my nightmares and dreams, and has clearly been biding her time, waiting for me to be ready for her re-launch!

She’s a little scarier this time around, and meaner too.

 

The Cuts that Kill

While there are myriad illustrated editions of Hansel & Gretel that explore the story in ways that remain essentially ‘Black Forest’ in tone… all picturesque woodland and iced gingerbread… few illustrators have taken up the challenge of radically reinventing the iconography of the story. An exception is the German artist Susanne Janssen, whose collage/paintings for Hänsel und Gretel, published by Hinstorff in 2007, eschew the usual gingerbread ‘gemütlich’, replacing the sugariness with a a bleak chill.

However, when I began searching for images to post online, I discovered a number at Janssen’s website that showed the original artworks in an uncropped state. Suddenly it was apparent how much of the quality of what she’d made, had been compromised by decisions to ‘tidy’ the edges of the illustrations for book.

In this image the top and bottom edges of the collage elements behind the witch, create a sense of the world skewed and out of kilter. It feels as though the stage has been shaken by an earthquake, and the scenery is buckling and falling.

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Below, in the published version, the crop has not only excised that sense of the chaotic, but it has also lopped off the witch’s feet. The result, to my eyes diminishes the disconcerting power of the original, intact image, where the irregular shape of the composition enormously enhances the sense of strangeness. Certainly the crop pushes the viewer closer to the action, but I really miss that sense of the jagged and incomplete.

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The same thing happens in this image, seen here with the edges of the composition visible…

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… and here as it appears in the book. Both Gretel and the witch have lost a foot, and I like the image a great deal less because of it.

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Despite these misgivings, Janssen’s vision of the tale is one of the most powerful I know, though I wish that the raw edges of the artworks had not been lost, and I wish too that the illustrations could have been printed onto matt paper, as I dislike the sheen of the art paper used. Nevertheless the book is one I repeatedly return to and enjoy, and the final image in it possesses such enigmatic beauty, that it’s stayed with me ever since I first saw it. The duck that will carry the children to safety on her back, floats like a ghost over a blood-red carp in the fathomless darkness beneath, its tail fluted and ruched like the dress of the witch dispatched in the oven. It leaves the viewer with a sense of something queasily unresolved, an evil that is not so much vanquished, as lying in wait. And for once, I find myself approving the crop, that in this case tightens the image and draws the viewer in to the mysteries.

 

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The Oz Toy Book

It’s no secret that since I was a boy I’ve had a passion for making things out of paint and card. I seem to have had a pair of scissors in my hand for as long as I can remember. Here on the Artlog I’ve posted about my love of the art of ‘ Toy Theatre’, and I’ve written at length about my practice of making articulated maquettes out of painted card as a part of my discipline as a painter. There’s no doubt that the two are connected. ‘Cutting-out’ was one of the great pleasures of my childhood. All I can say is that had I ever laid eyes on the book I’m about to share with you here, I would have thought I’d died and gone to Cut-Out Paradise.

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The Oz Toy Book; cut-outs for the kiddies, was published in 1915 by Reilly & Britton. The publisher used artwork drawn by regular Oz illustrator John R. Neil, though neglected to tell the author Frank L. Baum about the publication, perhaps because it was originally intended as a promotional ‘give-away’ to encourage sales of the books. Clearly it was produced with much care, and so whatever had originally been intended, it was eventually released as a pay-for-product.

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When he found out, Baum was impressed neither by the the product… he never liked Neil’s illustrations… nor by the fact that the The Oz Toy Book had been published without his knowledge or permission.

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The book consists of 16 full-color pages containing 54 cut-out paper characters from the first nine Oz books. The sheets were perforated and held in place between its covers with ribbons, so they could be removed for cutting-out with no tearing from the spine.

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Baum persistently lobbied his publisher to release Neil, and made several suggestions for a replacement. However, due to his good relationship with the publisher, Neil remained, and Baum eventually desisted.

To date only four complete and intact copies of The Oz Toybook are known to have survived. In the image below, one of those copies has been dismantled and presented framed.

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In 1994, eighty years after the publication of the original book, illustrator Eric Shanower produced his own companion piece, The Oz Toy Book Volume 2. In comparison to the sumptuous, full colour character sheets of the original, this ‘second’ volume, is essentially a ‘colouring-book’, with all the images reproduced in black and white.

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All images of the 1914 book courtesy of the Mel Birnkrant Collection.

Read about the Monster Rupert Cut-Out Book HERE.

Vojtěch Kubašta’s Hansel and Gretel

I’ve long wanted Vojtěch Kubašta’s pop-up book of Hansel & Gretel, and now, with the excuse of ‘It’s research for my own Hansel & Gretel project’, I’ve finally found and acquired a pristine copy. Here it is in all its glory.

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In the Forest.

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The Witch beckons Hansel and Gretel into the gingerbread cottage.

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A clever slider-mechanism removes Hansel & Gretel from the corner of the cottage, shutters the left-hand window, opens the door to reveal the Witch, and has the children, now inside, waving from the right-hand window.

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There are lovely details in the picturesque interior.

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Hansel caged.

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Cage door up …

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… and down!

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The children slide the Witch into the oven on a wooden baking paddle.

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They escape, crossing a river on the back of a friendly swan.

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This edition published in 1976 by Artia, Prague.

Vojtěch Kubašta, genius of pop-up books, 1914 -1992

My Illustration Heroes. Part Five: Jeffrey Alan Love

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Jeffrey Alan Love is an illustrator. He makes dynamic images for a wide range of clients, but the published works of his I enjoy most, are his book covers.

Below, forthcoming from Small Beer Press in July 2016

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His drawing is sure and beautiful, as evidenced by a video at his Facebook page where with a few strokes of inky black, he trails an impressive horse and armoured rider out of a Chinese calligraphy brush the size of my fist.

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There are other videos there too, tiny, speeded-up microcosms of creativity, where he wields pens with a dexterity and flourish that ensure his drawings are never less than brimful with energy. He stabs with the nib, twists and drags it, trails viscous ink in filament-thin threads, or sweeps it into dense puddles of shadow. He is master of his tools, and that gives him leave to be playful.

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Love’s sketchbooks, pages from which are generously represented on his website, show an artist on top form. They’re full of wonderful textures and mark-making, a combination… judging from their mono-print qualities… of offset printing and stencilling techniques combined with ravishing brush and pen work. Whatever the means of their making, the images remain fresh. Never laboured, never over-wrought, they draw the gaze with their grace and sureness, and entrance with the dense, organic richness of their surfaces. This is an artist who works fluently and fast, and knows when to stop.

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Much of his work is genre, fantasy of the Tolkien variety. He relishes the elegant sweep of impossibly long horns atop tiny heads, and his armour bristles with spines and reptilian plating. He takes the visual styling of the Samurai and sends it spinning into the stratosphere, making caves of helmets out of which glimmer baleful eyes.

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Then there’s a variety of imagery that reminds me of Weird Tales and ‘Noir’, a Mickey Spillane world gone literally to the devil!

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If he doesn’t already know them, I want to introduce this artist to the short stories of Robert Aickman (1914 – 1981), an until-quite-recently lamentably neglected British writer of wonderfully twisted tales. (Aickman has long been revered by genre writers who know what’s what!) Jeffrey Alan Love would rock Robert Aickman. Some enterprising publisher needs to put the two together.

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Jeffrey Alan Love’s website may be found

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and his Facebook page

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Gold Medal (Books), Society of Illustrators 56

Academy of British Cover Design Award (Best Series Design with Nick May/Gollancz)

Academy of British Cover Design Award (Best Science-Fiction/Fantasy with Nick May/Gollancz)

Nominated for World Fantasy Award – Best Artist (2015), BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award for Best Artwork (2014) , Spectrum Award (Books, 2014), Spectrum Award (Institutional, 2014)

 

My Illustration Heroes. Part Four: Atak

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I love my copy of Pierre-Crignasse so much, that I keep it by the bed. With illustrations by Atak and a ‘reinvention’ of the Heinrich Hoffman text by the comic book artist Fil, it’s a version of Hoffman’s Der Stuwwelpeter (Shock-headed Peter), the rhymes and illustrations for which were a significant part of my childhood.

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Just look at him! there he stands,
With his nasty hair and hands.
See! his nails are never cut;
They are grimed as black as soot;
And the sloven, I declare,
Never once has combed his hair;
Anything to me is sweeter
Than to see Shock-headed Peter.

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Konrad, as depicted above by Atak, bleeds to death after his thumbs are scissored off in punishment for sucking them! I greatly like the vintage Mickey Mouse, the Blue Meanie from Yellow Submarine, and the Batman ‘action-figure’.

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Atak is the nom de plume of Georg Barber, a German artist from Frankfurt. Rich with cultural references and boldly graphic, his illustrations combine unfussy brushwork with an admirable directness of expression more usually the province of the outsider artist.

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Above: Friedrich is a bully and a torturer, but gets his comeuppance when the dog he has brutalised, bites him on the leg. The boy falls ill and dies in short order, and the last image shows his mother, another victim of his bad-temper, looking rapturously happy as she feeds the dog, sitting in Friederich’s place at the dinner-table!

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Atak’s direct-from-the-heart expression can be a little misleading, because when you start looking closely at his work, his draftsmanship is impeccable and the textures are ravishing. He is a painter to his fingertips. His vitality flirts with the notion of crude, though is far from it in detail. On top of all this, he conjures worlds I want to wander freely in. Page after page unfolds, offering enticing vistas, swathes of uncharted terrain and characters I long to follow. He layers his surfaces seductively, making no attempt to obliterate what he has chosen to abandon beneath by painting over. The paintings feel like pools you look into, with layers and layers beneath their surfaces. He is the real deal. Seek him out.

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Der Struwwelpeter oder lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder was originally published in 1844, and such was its popularity that it was translated into English four years later as Struwwelpeter: Merry Tales and Funny Pictures. That ‘Merry Tales’ is a tad misleading, because while the jauntiness of the verses and their sprightly gallop might lend a gloss of merriness, the horrors that unfold within them have probably given nightmares to more children, than saved the lives of those dissuaded from the cautionary exhortations not to play with matches.

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In 1998 the text was set to music by the Tiger Lilies for a stage production, and with such mesmerising effectiveness that I simply can’t read the verses any more without hearing Martin Jacques voice in my head.

 

My Illustration Heroes. Part Three: Weisgard and Tokmakov

Leonard Weisgard was an American illustrator much-loved by all those raised on copies of the books he produced in the iconic Golden series. Weisgard had a talent for capturing ‘spirit of place’. In Pantaloon (1951), a black poodle aspires to be a baker, and the illustrations have a Gallic charm leaving me yearning for the patisseries of Paris… their windows crammed with artfully mouth-watering displays… for pavement cafés, the morning  scent of fresh bread from the many boulangeries, and for a soundtrack of Maurice Chevalier!

In his images for Mr Peaceable Paints, published in 1956, Weisgard employs the idiom of American folk art to capture the toy-town colonial vistas of red brick and white-painted clapperboard.

The vivacity of his colours in the Mr Peaceable illustrations is a delight. He brings the same attentive eye to his contemporary subjects, populating the seaside community of Pelican Here, Pelican There (see below) with fishermen, a painter and decorator on a ladder, and even an artist at an easel on the beach. (It’s an idyll that Hitchcock subverted so mischievously in his ‘nature-attacks-man’ chiller, The Birds, and Weisgard’s charming coastal scene has a touch of the fictitious ‘Bodega Bay’ about it.)

Below: Pelican Here, Pelican There, 1948

I acquired a copy of Pelican Here, Pelican There some years ago, having long admired the illustrations in it. The artist has a marvellous skill for simplifying town and landscape into flat planes, inviting the viewer to walk around the buildings and terrain by using a forced-perspective, elevated viewpoint. I never saw the illustrations when I was a child, but I know that I would have loved and studied them endlessly, imagining myself in them. They become both views and maps.

I have one book by the Russian illustrator, Lev Tomakov, and it’s his Fairy Tales About Animals, published in 1973.

Although Tomakov adopted different styles for the many books he produced, there is an underlying calligraphic fluency to his best images. Judging from the flat, opaque brilliance of his colours, I imagine that he worked in gouache, loading brushes with multiple colours to make single, deft, thereafter unmediated strokes. There is a delight taken in the simple arabesques of the wolf’s legs in the image below, and no less delight taken in the single hairs fringing his tail, painted dark against light and light against dark.

Tomakov’s sense of design may be formal, but the spirit of fun in the fox eyeing up a  grouse on top of a conifer tree, or a cat someone has rubbed up the wrong way,  is unbridled.

Likewise a fox curled in its’ den in the void beneath a sawn-off tree, while almost abstract in approach, is compelling in the use of shape and space. We’re invited in by the artist, who has cut the den in half to afford us a view. I love the way the tail pokes out above ground, like an exotic bottlebrush plant.

Tomakov’s fluency with brush and paint means that even the simplest of page decorations become intensely beautiful.

A goat is conjured out of disconnected shapes, each one pleasing, and a tabby-cat rides it using the horns like the handlebars of a Vespa! Swift, shimmering, inspired. The work of a master.

My Illustration Heroes. Part Two: Alexeieff

Above: Alexander Alexeieff illustration from Danilo the Luckless in Russian Fairy Tales

Alexander Alexeieff, as with Viera Bombová in my last Illustration Heroes post, is present on my list for a single book: Russian Fairy Tales, published in 1945 by Routledge. There are other books he illustrated, some of which I would give much to own. (I particularly love his illustrations for The Fall of the House of Usher.)

Above: from Two Ivans, Soldier’s Sons in Russian Fairy Tales

But it is the Fairy Tales that I have a copy of, a book that gives me endless pleasure and is the reason for the artist being on my ‘list’! Despite my esteem for him, I suspect that to most Artlog readers Alexeieff’s name and work will be unfamiliar, and so I’m dedicating this post exclusively to him.

Above: from Go I know Not Whither, Bring Back I Know Not What in Russian Fairy Tales

My research yields no other book from the artist that uses the ‘style’ he adopted for the Russian Fairy Tales. While the images have a folk-art quality, and clearly draw on Russian visual traditions of illustration and toy-making, they also take a wonky spin through what feels like Surrealism, and with maybe even a nod to the Bauhaus.

Above: from The Cat, the Cock and the Fox in Russian Fairy Tales

Unique both to the artist and to the art of illustration, I wish only that Alexeieff had made more images like these, and more books to sit alongside the Fairy Tales. I want more of this sublime invention, because in it he created a complete and compelling world, a coherent universe that’s consistent throughout the book’s pages.

Above: from The Maiden Tsar in Russian Fairy Tales

It seethes with pattern-making. The cat in The Maiden Tsar, is marked with glowing yellow ellipses that mirror the rug on which it sits, as though the pattern has been absorbed into its fur. A cat/chameleon hybrid, contentedly cat-napping.

Above: from Ilya Muromets and the Dragon in Russian Fairy Tales

For the reader it’s rather like boarding a train, passing through a tunnel and arriving in a fully-realised and alternative country. Moreover it’s one I’d happily stay in. The limited colour of the illustrations is one of the books strengths, and the vibrancy of pink, blue and primrose against the paper, makes it glitter like sunlight through a prism.

Above: from Koshchey the Deathless in Russian Fairy Tales

By comparison to these scintillating images, the artist’s ‘drawn’ illustrations for Gogol seem restrained and wan. But in the Russian Fairy Tales he really lets rip, giving free-rein to his inspired interpretation of Russian folk-art, and we can ride his coat-tails through a kingdom of delights.

In some respects it’s for the pioneering animation technique of ‘pin-screen’ that the artist, and his creative collaborator Claire Parker are most celebrated. Pin-screen works on the same principle as replacement cel animation, except that instead of drawings on transparent film, steel pins are employed, stuck into a board and then raised or lowered to make images in large part conjured from their shadows. Each frame of film requires an adjustment of the pins. The screen constructed to make Alexeieff’s and Parker’s pioneering animated film, Night on the Bare Mountain, contained one million pins.

Still from the 1933 pin-screen animated film, Nuit sur le Mont Chauve (Night on the Bald Mountain) set to the music of Mussorgsky.

It sounds bonkers and must be agonisingly slow to accomplish. But the results are ravishingly atmospheric like no other animation technique I’ve seen, and it comes as no surprise that stills from Alexeieff’s and Parker’s films bear a striking resemblance to the aquatints Alexeieff produced both as stand-alone etchings, and as illustrations. However, the artist was forced to abandon etching when vapours from the nitric acid used to make them destroyed one of his lungs. After two years spent recovering in a sanatorium, Alexeieff turned instead to the medium of animation, the art that preoccupied him for the rest of his life.

Alexeieff Illustration for Les Nuits de Siberie

Here are some of Alexeieff’s aquatint illustrations for Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Beautiful work!

Part Three of Illustration Heroes coming soon.

My Illustration Heroes. Part One: Sendak, Potter, Trnka, Bombová and Legkobit

Above: book cover by Ukranian illustrator Vyaceslav Legkobit

I wish that art wasn’t compartmentalised. I wish that every time I talk about making images for books… for their covers or their pages… I didn’t have to think so carefully about how to describe what I do. I know I’m not an illustrator. That description would be misleading, suggesting talents and experiences that I don’t possess. But I know within my chosen sphere, I have transferrable skills that serve me well enough to make a cover for a novel, or a vignette for a page of poems. Or make a picture-book. So I dance about when asked, and say I am a painter who sometimes makes book-covers. When being grandiloquent, I lay claim… particularly in relation to working with Marly Youmans, for whom I have made more covers and vignettes than any other author… to being an ‘illuminator’, because that suggests something different in terms of my ambition. Many of the artist/illustrators I most admire might be said to be illuminators inasmuch that they shed light on text, which is the quality I most aspire to.

My favourites? Well, the list has changed over the years, though some of the names remain constant. There are many artist/illustrators I greatly admire, Ardizonne, Bawden, and the contemporary Isabelle Vandenabeele being among them. But here I’m going to stick to the artists whose books are never far from my hand, and whose creations inspire me at every turn.

Maurice Sendak is a genius. A god, even, in book terms. His drawings for The Juniper Tree (in two volumes) are one of the great achievements of twentieth century book illustration.

Moreover he resolutely refused to talk down to children, knowing that they understood only too well the complexities of life, and that it was his duty to be emotionally truthful in his books for them.

So much of what I most admire is European in origin. Interestingly Sendak, searching for inspiration when preparing to make his images for The Juniper Tree, came to Europe because he wanted the German landscape to be present in the finished images, and the European illustration (and engraving) traditions, to underpin his version of the Grimm Brothers’ tales.

During the trip Sendak visited Wales, where he discovered in the Wye Valley a dramatic, conifer-wooded and mood-drenched landscape he recognised as being a spiritual equivalent of what he’d been searching for on the continent. Wales became, in part, a stand-in for what he’d sought in Germany, and his drawings made in the vicinity of Tintern Abbey were later referenced for the  Juniper Tree illustrations. In his diary of the time, he wrote “Use Wales for cheerfulness, Germany for gloom.”

In company with Sendak, Beatrix Potter, too, is a genius. Her characters are drawn with precision, and although they walk on their hind legs and dress in clothes, it would be a mistake to consider her sentimental.

Like Sendak, Potter is truthful. We have no doubt about the intentions of the sandy-whiskered gentleman toward Jemima Puddle-duck, and the black Berkshire pig, discovered by Pigling Bland in Mr Piperson’s farm, answers bluntly when Bland enquires why she was stolen, ‘Hams’!

There’s no getting around what Pig-wig knows to be the fate of her kind, and Potter doesn’t mislead the young readers. Read the stories again if you doubt me. It’s not just Potter’s illustrations which are works of genius. Her prose is glitteringly sharp. There’s not an extraneous word. She pares to the bone, and the stories are all the better for it. When I read Potter, I know I hear her true voice.

Jiri Trnka was a Czech artist, illustrator, puppet-builder and film-maker. He made images for countless books, and among my favourites are the two volumes he made for the publisher Paul Hamlyn of stories by Hans Anderson and the Grimms.

Both volumes are on my shelves in multiples, because they were published more than once, and some versions are better produced than others.

The cross-fertilisation between Trnka’s disciplines bring a compositional dynamic to his illustrations that enlivens the books. Moreover, he is a master of mixed media, which gives his illustrations a wonderful vitality.

An artist that few will be familiar with now, and I include her on the strength of a single book that I adore: Die Goldene Frau (The Golden Woman), published in 1972. Illustrator Viera Bombová was active principally in the 60s and 70s.

She won awards at the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava in 1967 and 1969. Images for Die Goldene Frau are considered to be among her best, something I can’t verify, as it’s the only work of hers that I’ve seen. If you love illustration, find a second-hand copy of this book. There are plenty available online.

Vyaceslav Legkobit continues to be a mystery. I’ve written about him before at the Artlog, and by the time I’d finished that post, I knew considerably more than when I’d started. To put it baldly, he vanishes.

He vanishes from the worlds of publishing, and from any records I’ve been able to trace. That he’s highly regarded by so many artists and illustrators is phenomenal, given that there isn’t a massive body of work to examine. He caught something direct and universal in the fragile, paper-bound books that he produced images for, and it works as well today, as it did when freshly minted.

To be continued

From Painting to Printing: part one

Above: early stage drawing for Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel is my first picture-book, Given that I’m sixty-four, there has to be some likelihood that it’ll be my first and last, and so there’s a great deal tied up in it for me. It’s something I have to get right, because for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make a book with the story told in pictures, though I never seriously thought it would happen. Before even the change of career that took me from the stage to the studio aged forty, I’d fantasised about making picture-books, so this is a long-held dream made reality.

Becoming a painter was the biggest surprise to me at the time it began to happen. I’d thought that with luck and a following wind I might become good enough to be able to put brush to canvas without embarrassing myself too much, but I never once thought that things would go the way they did, until I found myself regularly exhibiting and selling. Eventually I realised that my career was shaping in a way that meant I was becoming a ‘gallery’ artist, and that a future of regular exhibitions was going to be the way I made my living. But I never lost my love of illustration, and from time to time I pondered on whether working as a painter might offer opportunities to explore the possibilities of making books.

Below: an Old Stile Press image I made for The Sonnets of Richard Barnfield

The first books I produced images for came as a result of an invitation from Nicolas and Frances McDowall at The Old Stile Press. The McDowalls make limited edition hand-printed and hand-bound books, collaborating closely with artists and printmakers. At the time I started working with Nicolas, I was not a printmaker (I  was barely established as an artist) and so it was a great leap of faith on Nicolas’ and Frances’ part to invite me to work with them. Moreover they understood me as a painter, because almost from the beginning of my career as an artist, they had collected my work. As I see it my apprenticeship in book-making was thanks to them, and to date I’ve made a number of books for the Old Stile Press, the last of which was the illustrated edition of Peter Shaffer’s play Equus.

Below: Frontispiece image of Equus

It’s a matter of great pride to me that I illustrated the covers of the two volumes of The Old Stile Press Bibliography.

I remember once telling my partner Peter that I’d really feel like a painter when someone came along and put a work of mine on the cover of a book. Oddly enough, when that happened and an ink drawing I’d made of a Mari Lwyd on paper was put onto a paperback volume of poetry, the result was disappointing. The image was reversed, the colour was digitally stained so that it looked as though it had been pinned to the wall of a room where people had smoked for forty years, and the title and author letterings were lamentable.

In time I began to see that though reproductions of paintings on book covers could occasionally work, they too often didn’t. More often than I was comfortable with, the reproduction, the cropping and the design and lettering let the whole thing down. Having your work on the cover of a book, I learned, is only satisfying when the design is beautifully executed. Sometimes that happened, as when Anita Mills designed the cover of a book for the Carolina Wren Press that featured a painting of mine, and she did it so beautifully that I loved the result. For the front cover of Yvonne C. Murphy’s volume of poetry, Aviaries, for the Carolina Wren Press, Anita cropped the image to a detail, but then added a smaller illustration of the full painting on the back of the book, which I thought worked wonderfully.

Below: the full picture. It’s titled, Paper Theatre.

When time allowed and opportunities came my way, I began to make book cover images for some of my friends, the chief  among them being Marly Youmans, who because of her reputation as a writer was able to persuade one of her publishers to employ me. For The Foliate Head she even persuaded the publisher to take on my brother-in-law, Andrew Wakelin, as the designer, and he produced a splendid book-cover and ensured the layout inside was handsome. It was The Foliate Head that also established my regular practice of making page-division images and vignettes for Marly’s books.

Above: cover of The Foliate Head, and below, vignette for the book.

Marly’s books at Mercer University Press are designed by Mary-Frances Glover-Burt. I trust Mary-Frances. We regularly work together and she is a rock.

These days, while I wouldn’t lay claim to being an illustrator, I balance my ‘easel’ work with graphic projects that interest me. I continue to make book covers for Marly, and I make covers, too for Damian Walford Davies, at the Welsh publishing house of Seren.

For Seren I also recently produced a cover for Mary-Ann Constantine’s forthcoming novel, Star-Shot, together with vignette drawings for the interior.

After having produced some Hansel & Gretel images for Simon Lewin’s second edition of his fund-raising-for-charity periodical, Random Spectacular, he suggested that we work together on expanding the collaboration into a full-blown ‘picture-book’.

Below: a Hansel & Gretel spread from Simon Lewin’s Random Spectacular Two

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This is a dream project for me. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m going about it with a huge amount of pleasure. It’s interesting that at the same time I’ve been preparing H & G, I’ve been forging a friendship and partnership with printmaker Daniel Bugg of the Penfold Press, producing with his help my first screen-print, Man Slain by a Tiger. I’m enjoying bringing my experience as an ‘easl’ artist to these new fields of making images for the medium of print.

Part Two coming soon.