Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Illustrator Elsa Beskow was a Work at Home Mom

Children and Nature Inspired Swedish Illustrator's Art and Stories

Elsa Beskow, 1874-1953, stands out among Golden Age women illustrators not only for her charming and detailed illustrations but also for her imaginative storytelling. 
Beskow was born in Stockholm to an artistic family. She grew up listening to fairy tales and started inventing her own stories as a child and telling them to her little brother. 
She married artist Nataniel Beskow who became a clergyman. Her work as author and illustrator helped support their family which included six children. She had to create one book per year while caring for her children to help support the family. (And illustrating a book a year is a quite a task.)
Beskow's art was inspired by her children with many of the characters being based on her own children. I can relate to this as I often end up adding either my dogs or young versions of my son (even myself) into my illustrations.

Elsa Beskow Mother's Little Ollie

Mother's Little Ollie

I love this observation by Elsa of her children:
"With a great deal of planning and bother, you can take the children to the zoo and show them the wolves and the bears. Once there they become enthralled by a tiny stone at the side of the road or can talk of nothing but the ladybug creeping along the bars of the wolves’ cage. You might just have stayed home in the garden – there are both stones and ladybugs there,” said Elsa Beskow.
I can so relate; I remember taking my son to the zoo when he was a toddler and he was more interested in the sewer grates than the animals.

Elsa was a nature lover and her favorite season was summer. Her images recall the innocence of children in a rural environment during the long days of a Swedish summer.  Her illustrations are full of detail and reflect back her love and appreciation for the outdoors and fuel a child's imagination.

Elsa Beskow The Sun Egg

A mysterious orange egg has fallen into the woods. "It's a sun egg!" declares the elf who finds it nestled on the forest floor. Soon she and her friends find out what it really is, but not before the little elf goes off on one of the best adventures she has ever had.

Elsa Beskow The Flowers' Festival

The Flowers' Festival

A lucky little girl is invited by the flower fairies to join them for their Midsummer festival. Gathering around Queen Rose, all the flowers and bumblebees and birds tell their enchanting stories, while Pea-blossom and the Dew-cups serve refreshments.
Elsa Beskow Children of the Forest

Children of the Forest

The children of the forest live deep in the roots of an old pine tree. This book invites children to follow their engaging adventures through each season as they play hide-and-seek with the squirrels and throw snowballs in winter. 

Elsa Beskow Children of the Forest

Elsa Beskow Land of Long Ago

The Land of Long Ago

Kelly and Kai love to play on the gnarled old tree trunk outside their cottage in the woods. Sometimes it becomes a horse, sometimes a crocodile, and sometimes even a dragon. One day a mischievous gnome brings the tree trunk to life, and the children are whisked off to the Land of Long Ago on the back of the old tree dragon. 

Delightful verses and delicate, playful illustrations take young children through the special joys of each month of the year, from icy February to the green shoots of April, the red poppies of July, September's apples, and the delights of December.

Elsa Beskow Pelles New Suit

Elsa Beskow's classic story. Pelle has a lamb whose coat grows longer and longer, while Pelle's Sunday suit grows shorter! Pelle shears the lamb, and the wool is carded, spun, dyed and woven. Finally, the tailor makes a new suit for Pelle.This is a wonderful book to help children understand where their clothes come from and the traditional craft of working with wool.

For more visit: Elsa Beskow website.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Gyo Fujikawa's Multicultural Kids

Japanese American Illustrator was a pioneer in depicting multiethnic children in picture books.

I have long been drawn to vintage children's books, but something they lack overall is diversity. Not so, with the books from author/illustrator Gyo Fujikawa (1908-1999).

Way ahead of her time, the California-born illustrator is noted as the first to depict children of many races in her books in the early 1960s. 

It was not a smooth road. Her book "Babies" was illustrated with a racially diverse cast of sweet little babies. A sales executive at Grosset and Dunlap told her to remove the black babies because it would hurt sales in the South. But she refused and continued to depict the diversity of children that portrayed real life. 

gyo fujikawa diverse babies

 Fujikawa experienced racism through her family members who were sent to a Japanese interment camp in Arkansas after the Pearl Harbor bombing. She was working in New York at the time and escaped that fate.

gyo fujikawacome follow me

Fujikawa's illustrative style was full of details, a technique she developed while working for Disney.  "In illustrating for children, what I relish most is trying to satisfy the constant question in the back of my mind--will this picture capture a child's imagination? What can I do to enhance it further? Does it help to tell a story?"  

Fujikawa multicultural children

Her children are sweet, nostalgic and full of joy. They are the type of books children can keep returning to and spend hours and hours connecting to the characters. 

"Children want facts," Fujikawa once told an interviewer. "[W]hen many things are mentioned, I include them all in the art because I know children sit and look for them when the stories are read." LA Times

Multicultural illustrator pioneer

Fujikawa never had children of her own, but yet she understood children. She explained, "Although I have never had children of my own, and cannot say I had a particularly marvelous childhood, perhaps I can say I am still like a child myself. Part of me, I guess, never grew up.'' New York Times


Friday, January 23, 2015

Margaret Tarrant, Illustrating the Wonders of Childhood

Illustrator Margaret Tarrant (1888-1959), of London, was nearly a child herself when she illustrated Water Babies at the age of 20. She illustrated children's books in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I want to dive into her soft pastel sea world in this illustration from Water Babies. 

She truly captured the wonder of childhood. This illustration of a little girl smelling the flowers is captivating with a touch of fantasy. Yet, it reveals how small children perceive a world where everything is bigger than they are. This illustration inspired one of my wool paintings. I could spend hours gazing at Margaret Tarrant's illustrations and gaining inspiration. 

Tarrant was prolific in illustrating the fairy world. I love everything about this Christmas card--the subdued and limited color palette, the cuteness of the little robin and that sweet expression on the little elf's face. Tarrant illustrated postcards and calendars for the Medici Society. 

Another triumph in pastels by Margaret Tarrant, Fairy Sea Horses. Truly inspiring.

Don't you want to go on the boat to fairyland?

Tarrant was also known for her religious illustrations of Jesus. I found it interesting that Margaret Tarrant was good friends with another Medici illustrator Molly Brett. They met at the Guildford School of Art. She went to live on Brett's estate when she was older. She was also a good friend to well-known fairy artist Cecily Mary Barker. 
One of the best biographies of Margaret Tarrant is on Mystical Myth. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Golden Age Illustrator Ethel Franklin Betts


Ethel Franklin Betts (1878-1956), golden age illustrator, is another female artist from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts -- the school is famous for the numerous book illustrators, led by Howard Pyle.

These illustrations are from A Host of Children by James Whitcomb Riley.

Betts style is unusual, combining a collage feel with folk art with traditional fine painting. Or at least that's how I perceive it. Above, the Pixie People.

Here are some more illustrations from the book:




The Land of Used-to-Be


The Bear Story

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ruth E Newton's Chubby Kids and Cubs

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Ruth Eleanor Newton (1884-1972)was a prolific illustrator as well as a doll designer. She illustrated more than 40 titles for Whitman Publishing. She was known for her adorably chubby babies and toddlers.

Along with many other of the best illustrators of the day, she studied art in Pennsylvania. According to a Wikipedia article, she studied at the Philadelphia School of Fine Art, but that was probably the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.

Here are some images from Ruth E. Newtons Nursery Rhymes. I like the texture of this cloth-like book:

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Mistress Mary Quite Contrary

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Little Miss Muffet

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Lion Cubs -- Newton's animals are just as huggably cute as her children. They should have made stuffed animals based on her images.

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One of my very favorites. I really like the use of color in this illustration.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Three Bears, Victorian Illustration by R. Andre

The Three Bears McLoughlin Bros 1888

This was a great find, 1888 McLoughlin Bros. The Three Bears -- that was before Goldilocks name got into the title. Wonderful Victorian illustration by R. Andre. I really like the story as well, lots of detail. I will need to transcribe the story before I sell the illustrations. Since the book was very damaged, I decided to sell the illustrations rather than the book as a whole.

Here are the three bears going for a nice walk in the woods, dressed in their finest.

The Three Bears McLoughlin Bros 1888

Along comes Goldilocks, "She was very merry and lighthearted and when she laugher her voice rang out with a clear silvery sound that was pleasant to hear." And that is very pleasant to read.

I like the sense of humor here, with the Bears house plate -- Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Ursa Minimus. But, of course, Goldilocks couldn't read Latin

The Three Bears McLoughlin Bros 1888

After Goldilocks eats the porridge and destroys some furniture she takes a nap in Little Bears bed, but soon the Bears come home. Little Bear wasn't happy to find her in his bed. Papa Dear and Mama Dear found her very sweet and did not want to hurt her.

The Three Bears McLoughlin Bros 1888

However, when she awoke to find the Bears all peering at her, she became scared and ran away.

The Three Bears McLoughlin Bros 1888

I am missing the last page of the book, but it looks like Papa Bear is trying to return Goldilocks' ribbon as she flees. A story that is sympathetic to the bears, who were very kind and forgiving of the home invader.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jessie Watkins Over The HIlls, Illustration with Victorian Charm

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This darling Victorian children's book gives us a glimpse into the life of a child in the 1880s. Very sweet. Over the Hills has poems from a child's perspective by E L Shute with accompanying illustration by Jessie Watkins. The book was published by Frederick Warne & Co. There is no date, however, similar books were published in the 1880s.
I have not been able to find any biographical information on the author or illustrator. Here is the cover illustration.

over the hills

In the pages we see the beauty of creative childhood play. Children had limited toys, but their imaginations were unlimited.

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Although we still have hula hoops, you don't see children playing these types of hoop games anymore (unless you visit a living history museum like Old World Wisconsin)

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Two little girls thrilled with seeing a bunny. Biophilia (love of nature) is natural for children, if they are allowed to experience nature.

I think the following two illustrations are very pretty.

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I love the way the illustrator chose peacock feathers as a border for this puppy love scene.

Quite a treasure!