British Storybook illustration – the golden time of the childrens’ book …

After drawing for many nights I didn’t feel I wanted to let go just yet. True, my paintings are calling urgently, but what are a few hours? So I kept on drawing and I used John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland illustrations as an inspiration. Alice again, why do I keep coming back to Alice? Well, if I do at least I am in good company. To this day Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel keep inspiring artists worldwide.

These ball pen drawings are based on the original illustrations by John Tenniel. One cannot tire of those original illustrations any more than one could tire of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. There have been many beautifully illustrated versions of Lewis Caroll’s Alice (Alice in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass), for example the great illustrated version by Robert Ingpen,  and Grimms’ Fairy Tales as well (have a look at the version illustrated by Albert Schindehütte!) – but Tenniel and Rackham are surely not only the archetypes of Alice and Grimms’ illustrations but also provide some kind of archetypical blueprint for childrens’ book illustration in general.

Arthur Rackham also illustrated Alice in a fluid, strange way, I think 1907, but as a child I clearly preferred the Tenniel characters in their weird, warped precision. Yet I seemed to have known that the Rackham illustrations of Grimms’ fairy Tales provided a direct gate into the realm of the story and later, much with the same feeling, I swooned over the Hawthorn’s Book of Wonder illustrations by Rackham but then didn’t care as much for the Walter Crane edition. Kate Greenaway, though once as successful as one of the best British illustrators, was not quite dark enough for my five-year-old taste. I still remember, children do have an appreciation for the dark places, for their imminent terror and promise alike.  Well, you see, this small excursion into the world of Tenniel was a nice diversion for me. Next weekend I will take some of the characters and try to use in a Photoshop-Crashcourse my very talented cousin and illustrator Lotta NUSUM will treat me to. I’ll keep you posted!

This is the sort of book we like

(For you and I are very small),

With pictures stuck in anyhow,

And hardly any words at all.

C.H Chesterton about Randolph Caldecott

I am looking forward to reading your comments!

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