Quentin Blake

November 16, 2009

mrs-armitage-by-quentin-blake1

Date of Birth:
Quentin Blake was born in Sidcup, Kent, England, on the 16 December 1932

Inspiration:
Quentin Blake draws his inspiration from everyday life situations and objects. Most of his illustrations involve real world objects so drawing from the real world makes sense. He does have an amazing imagination, and this can be seen in his book The Life of Birds. In this book he transforms birds into human personalities, and illustrates them in such a way that is recognizable to us. For example, there are birds in suits and ties, birds at hairdressers and children birds playing in the street. The creativity behind these characters is amazing, and the fact that he can draw them in such a way and with such energy is outstanding.

Education:
Blake did not study art full time, but only part time for 2 years so as to improve his drawing and painting skills.

Works of Note:


He has been responsible for amazing characters such as the BFG, Matilda, Mister Magnolia and Mrs. Armitage. To date he has illustrated over 300 books with some extremely well known authors, most notably Roald Dahl. Although he is best known for illustrating children’s books, Blake was also a professor, and head of the Illustration department at the Royal College of Art.

Illustrator Miscellany:
His favorite bird is a heron, which appears a lot in his drawings, aside many other birds.

In April 1999, Quentin Blake was awarded the first ever Children’s Laureate , which is a British award given once every two years to an illustrator or writer to celebrate outstanding achievement.

His first Illustrations were published at the age of 16 in Punch.

Examination of Materials:
When illustrating a book Quentin Blake tries to stick as close to the text as possible, he believes that the text should lead the way, not the pictures. He tries to work as closely with the author as possible to create a set of good images to be used in the book. Quentin Blake is known for his quick, loose style, which can give the impression of him not taking long to do his illustrations at all, however, it is quite the opposite. There is a huge amount of planning that goes into each of his works, and many discarded roughs. Once he has a rough that he likes, and plans on using, he puts it on a light box, and over that he places a sheet of watercolor paper. It is important for him not to be able to see the rough drawing too clearly, as he does not want to trace it, but simply wants to draw it again, with the elements of the rough being in the same place on the finished drawing.

Style Analysis
blake

This is a career-defining image from Quentin Blake’s career. It is a picture of the Big Friendly Giant holding the little girl from the story. Here we can see his great use of watercolor, from choice of color to technique. In this particular drawing he uses the technique of the rough on a light box under watercolor paper, then waterproof black ink for the outlines, and from there he moves onto the color. The colors used in this piece are very friendly, and while not too bright, they are intense enough to grab the attention of any child. Here we can see his ability to create friendly characters that children adore, a huge, friendly giant, and a small, little girl in a night gown with large glasses. All in all, a very successful illustration for this book.

– Mike Lawrence, Spring 2009

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Endnotes:

Quentin Blake Official Website, “About Quentin Blake,” Quentin Blake Official Website,

http://www.quentinblake.com/about/index.html

Children’s Laureate, “About the Award”, Children’s Laureate Official Website,

http://www.childrenslaureate.org.uk/About-the-award

Quentin Blake Official Website, “Interview,” Quentin Blake Official Website,

http://www.quentinblake.com/about/index.html

Ralph Steadman

November 16, 2009

The Joke's Over

The Joke's Over

Date of Birth:
Born on May 15th, 1936 in Wallasey, Cheshire

Inspiration:
The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson and his Gonzo journalism greatly influenced Ralph Steadman’s illustration. Gonzo journalism, which is a form of ‘fictional’ journalism, which places the journalist in the story using the first person. The journalist blends fact with fiction, favors style over accuracy and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context to the topic. This is not dissimilar from Steadman’s illustration, which provided a visual representation of Gonzo journalism. [2]

Education:
In 1954 Ralph Steadman worked at McConnell’s Advertising Agency. Steadman soon took a course in cartooning while he was conducted his National Service in the RAF. [3] He also studied art part time with Leslie Richardson at East Ham Technical College from 1959 to 1966, at the London College of Printing, and Sussex University. [4]

Works of Note:

Steadman’s first printed cartoon appeared in the Manchester Evening Chronicle in 1956. It dealt with the Nasser and Suez crisis.

Steadman teamed up with Hunter S. Thompson to create the memorable illustrations for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman continued a relationship with Thompson and illustrated several of his novels.

47 pen and ink illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s 1968 British edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Illustrator Miscellany:
Raised in Towyn, North Wales

Illustrated labels for Flying Dog Brewery and Cardinal “Spiced” Zin’ wine, which is banned in Ohio for the “disturbing” interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label. [5]

Contrary to popular belief Steadman was not the unnamed passenger in the car in Fear and Loathing. [6]

He has published three books; The Lives of Sigmund Freud, Leonardo da Vinci and The Big I Am, the story of God.

Examination of Materials:
Steadman is know best for his work with pen and brush ink work, which is what he used for the cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as the inside illustrations. For the color transition He might have used acrylic paint or watercolor (both typical mediums for him). Steadman also used oils, etching, silkscreen and college in other works.

Style Analysis

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Steadman uses haphazard splatters and quick energetic lines in inking to create the figure ground relationship. He uses simple illusion of landscape by hatched lines closer and closer together as they approach the horizon line. The background is simply a smooth transition from a desaturated pink to more of a yellow. His brutal style matches Thompson’s Gonzo journalism to a key and their art forms will always be associated with one another.

– Cameron Loughrey, Spring 2009

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Endnotes:

[1] Flying Dog Brewery, “Ralph Steadman Bio.,”

http://www.flyingdogales.com/Gonzo-RalphSteadman.aspx

[2] Signature Illustration, “Ralph Steadman & Hunter S. Thompson,”

http://www.signatureillustration.org/illustration-blog/2009/07/ralph-steadman-hunter-s-thompson/

[3] “Ralph Steadman Biography,” British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent

http://opal.kent.ac.uk/cartoonx-cgi/artist.py?id=173

[4] “Ralph Steadman Bio…”

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

Helen Beatrix Potter

November 15, 2009

HuncaMunca

Hunca Munca

Date of Birth:
Born July 28th 1866 in South Kensington, London
Died December 22nd 1943 in Sawrey, England

Inspiration:
Beatrix Potter was born into a privileged household in 19th Century England and was raised and educated by governesses[1]. This basically defined who she was, as she was isolated from other children and wasn’t allowed to do what boys did. This meant that as Beatrix was growing up she had many pets and she saw them as her friends and playmates. These pets were the inspiration for most of the characters in her books. For example, her favorite pets were two rabbits named Peter and Benjamin. Along with rabbits she had frogs, newts, ferrets, and even a pet bat[2]. She watched the animals for hours on end and sketched them constantly, developing an early talent. She also has drawn mice, cats, ducks, and hedgehogs and has used them all as characters.

Her family had several summer cottages and she also developed a love of landscape, flora and fauna, which she closely observed and painted. She delighted in the countryside and collected specimens of plants, insects, and animals and took them home to study. She produced many drawings and paintings in little hand-sewn books[2].

Much of Potter’s stories’ vocabulary and artistic practice stemmed from Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories[1].

So basically, the culture, time, and family that she was born into were the largest factors that influenced the subject and style of Potter’s illustrations.

In a way, Beatrix Potter’s stories of animals that have character and costuming have influenced almost all children’s books since then that have animals as main characters.

Education:
Intellectual development of girls was discouraged in that time and so when Beatrix came of age her parents appointed her as housekeeper[1]. Before that her governesses had only taught her the basics of reading and writing. As for her art, Beatrix Potter was entirely self-trained.

Works of Note:


Beatrix Potter didn’t write or illustrate any stories until she was 27.When she was on a holiday in Scotland in 1893 she sent a letter with a story about rabbits to the five-year-old son of her last governess. Here is a reproduction of the first page of the letter, with the first page of Peter Rabbit to compare it with[2].

 

Peter Rabbit Page 1

Here are some more sketches from the letters, only here the text has been printed.

Black and White 1

Later that year her third book was published, The Tailor of Gloucester. I guess her first three books would be fairly important to her career, as their success and popularity would determine how many more she could publish. They were in fact, extremely popular and Potter went on to publish 20 more books in the next 27 years[1].

Beatrix lived on a Hill Top Farm in the Lake District and married the solicitor William Heelis. This is where she wrote and illustrated most of her books, and where much of the scenery and settings of the stories are based on[2].

Illustrator Miscellany:
From the age of 15 until she was past 30, she recorded her everyday life in journals, using her own secret code. The key to the code was not discovered until 15 years after her death and the journal took another 6 years to de-code.

This was the code she used. Actually, it is a cipher rather than a code, because another letter, number, or symbol replaces each letter of the alphabet[2].

CODE 2

Beatrix Potter was also highly interested in botany and mycology. She did many watercolors of fungi and observed lichens, algae, and spores. She wrote technical papers on her studies, but was turned down from any schools because she was a woman, and her research was turned down for the same reason. Potter was actually one of the first to suggest that lichens were a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae[1].

Beatrix Potter was secretly engaged to her publisher, which created a rift between her and her family, because he was of lower status. They were going to marry anyways, until he died of pernicious anemia right before the wedding.

The character Peter Rabbit was patented and produced as a soft toy in 1903. This makes Peter the oldest licensed character.

Once Beatrix became financially independent of her parents she moved to a cottage and became a farmer and then later a sheep breeder. She was very concerned with conserving the pristine countryside and when she died she left all of her property to the National Trust[1].

Examination of Materials:
Beatrix Potter starts all of her illustrations as sketches. She uses pen and ink to create the line work and then works over that with watercolors. Her use of watercolor is thin and playful, and creates a soft texture. She puts much more detail into the animal characters than into the backgrounds. The backgrounds also never have much or any pen work in them; they are just light and loose color. It’s a fairly simple process but she executes the technique well and makes it her own. She also uses the white of the paper a lot by letting it shine through.

Style Analysis

 

Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

I think this is a career-defining image because it is from Beatrix’s first book, which was about her favorite pet rabbit. This image shows how much character she could put into the animals she drew. It also shows how she gave her characters costuming. I think this illustration is absolutely adorable, which is precisely what got Beatrix Potter all of her fame and success as a children’s book illustrator.

Potter is able to put so much action and story telling into each illustration. They are basically spot illustrations, because each one is so small, but they could also be counted as page illustrations, because the entire page and book format is so small. Sometimes she will just fade away the edges, sometimes she will have a square in which she will fill with the scene, and sometimes it will just be a character. Beatrix is able to paint landscapes, animals, buildings, plants, and occasionally people (but definitely not her forte). She develops great characters that can easily be distinguished and have such charming personalities. She is able to draw each animal in many positions, because of all of her studies of her pets, and she can make the animals stand up, talk, wear clothing, and yet they still look very realistic. Her use of texture makes the animal characters look soft and inviting.

As for this specific illustration of Peter Rabbit and his mother and three sisters, it is successful because it shows character development as well as a narrative. No background is needed, because the focus is on the animals. Peter stands alone, since he is the only boy among sisters. He is curious and adventurous, because he doesn’t look quite comfortable in his clothes. You can tell that the sisters are not main characters because you can’t even see all of their faces; however, you can tell that they are obedient to their mother. Peter’s mother looks so loving and huggable. I think in general this illustration is well executed and appeals to the target audience, children, because it is so adorable.

– Amber Zoellner, Spring 2009

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Endnotes:

[1] Wikipedia, “Beatrix Potter”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter (accessed October 17, 2009).

[2] Sandy Ransford, ed. The Big Petter Rabbit Book. [New York: Viking Penquin Inc., 1986], page number