Friday, October 30, 2009

Brian Froud and His Faeries

British illustrator Brian Froud is likely the most highly acclaimed of current fantasy illustrators. Born in 1947, Froud says he became interested in fairyland while in college and one of his major influences is Arthur Rackham.
I was drawn to Froud's illustrations immediately recognizing their Rackhamesque qualities. In an interview in Fairies World, Froud says he was drawn in by Rackham's trees with faces. They reminded him of climbing trees as a child and the connection he had with the souls of trees.

Froud's illustrations are enlivened by his deep connection to the fairy world:

" It's very interesting, people often think that dealing with faery is a retreat from reality and I say 'no' it is not, it is actually a re-engagement with the world."

Here are some of his earlier works from Fairies and Master Snickup's Cloak, both published in 1979.

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I like the fluidity of his mermaid. Froud says fairies are always flowing.

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Very pretty bluebell fairy.

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You can see the Rackham influence particularly in this from Master Snickup's Cloak. Froud said he used more browns early in his illustrating career, and then moved towards more intense multi-layered colors.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Early Illustrators of a Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most illustrated children's books with more than 100 versions. Stevenson's poems capture the wonder and fantasy of childhood and I can see why every illustrator of children's literature would want to add their interpretation. I recently picked up a book that is a sort of anthology of early illustrators of A Garden of Verses. Put out by Chronicle Books in 1989, it includes illustrations of the poems by some 20 illustrators, from 1896 to 1940. The book is a pleasure to browse through, each illustration a delight to the visual sense.
Although all the illustrations are beautiful, some are particularly appealing to my sense of aesthetics. I find myself drawn over and over again to the Clara M. Burd illustrations. She often signed her work, C M Burd. I orignally found her through a rare book, called Friendly Animals. (As the book is in tatters, I have been matting the illustrations).

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C.M. Burd is one of the few illustrators who went to Paris to study art. I think possibly it is her use of color that attracts me -- she often has a mix of muted, neutrals contrasted with brighter tones. This particular illustration is actually more colorful than most of her work. She also make nice use of light - I think she must have painted outdoors.
I would have liked to share all the illustrations in this book -- but I had to stop myself and include some of my favorites as well as some that show the diverse styles.

From 1922, Juanita Bennett -- a similar use of color in a more dream world style.I would like to find out more about this artist --not much information out there.

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Jessie Wilcox Smith, 1905, very detailed, painterly, beautiful -- she is a very popular and well-regarded illustrator -- one of the few women who made it into the Illustrator Sourcebook. She was a student of Howard Pyle.

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Millicent Sowerby, 1908, was primarily self taught and her work shows a great diversity. I was drawn to this one -- I think it has an Arthur Rackham feel to it.

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The simpler, understated style of H. Willebeek Le Mair, 1926.

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And again the prolific Margaret Tarrant, 1918 -- reminds me of early poster art.

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Ruth Mary Hallock, 1940, love the very '40s look of this illustration. There is another of hers I like equally, but it needs more space.

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And another very pretty one by Florence Edith Storer, 1909

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I'd like to find the originals of these books in any condition.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wildlife Artist, Illustrator Walter Alois Weber

Walter Alois Weber is one of the most noted of wildlife illustrators. As I was sorting through my books about wildlife and animals, I came across Homes and Habits of Wild Animals. This is one of my very favorites. The wildlife portraits are breathtaking.

Weber (1906-1979) is a native of my own hometown, Chicago. According to interviews, Weber developed his talent for drawing at an early age and used to sell his drawings at a local tavern so he could buy soda pop. He later studied at the University of Chicago and the Art Institute, and worked for the Field Museum. His resume goes on . . . He spent many years as an artist for National Geographic Society and he was the first artist to win the duck stamp award.

I like the softness of his painting. While his wildlife drawing is excellent, there is a certain romanticism to the the picture as a whole, no doubt enhanced by the beautiful background landscape. Here are three from the book:

The Alaskan brown bear. The soft greens and blues of the mountain stream are lovely. Makes me want to take a trip up north.

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The Barren Ground Caribou on its annual migration through the icy northern country. The lilac and blue tones truly evoke a feeling for that beautiful wintry land.

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In the river otter portrait, I like the way he captures the playful nature of the animal.

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Here, also is the cover of Friendly Animals. While the cover was illustrated by Weber, the inside pages were done by Percy Reeves. Reeves has a less realistic style, but it is quite charming.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Fascination With Antique Book Illustration

There is nothing I love better than going to an estate sale and finding a collection of vintage illustrated books. That is the jackpot for me!

I truly believe all books -- particularly all fiction -- should be illustrated. Artistic illustrations certainly create a more collectible book. Illustrations are like the decor in a home. They can make it more beautiful, more true to its essence.

I recall going through a collection of Limited Editions Club books I acquired. I was looking through each of the Shakespeare volumes. Now, a Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorite Shakespearean plays -- the fairies, the fantasy, the forest.  Prior to opening the book, I had a vision in my head of what the illustrations should look like. I opened the book to find Arthur Rackham's interpretation of the play was perfect -- capturing the essence of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The soft colors, his light-handed, mystical style . . . just right.

Those types of books are a treasure to behold. If you have any stories of books that are perfectly illustrated please share them. 

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