Monday, May 30, 2011

Fine Lines & Solid Blacks, V. II

William Heath Robinson's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Brothers Robinson. Throughout the history of illustration— there have been repeated instances of siblings who have found measured success as individual illustrators. Usually there are marked similarities in style and execution, but sometimes there are differences, that will put one ahead of another—at least in commercial success.

In the case of the brothers Robinson, there was not a just pair of brothers, but three. Thomas Heath, (1869-1950), Charles, (1870-1937), and William Heath, (1872-1944). The mutual success they shared is quite amazing, with their total output in Golden Age volumes having tremendous influence, especially when looked at combined. The three of them have far too much to look at or discuss in a single VIEW post, so I'm going to start with the youngest, and by today's measure, the most recognized, William Heath.

As mentioned in the last post, in the current Calla season, one of the volumes I'm particularly stoked about is W. H. Robinson's Illustrated volume of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. W. H. Robinson did do some stellar color work in his career, some of which I hope to show you this summer— but I want to look at the absolutely incredible line art he did for A Midsummer Night's Dream. The book (1914) contained 12 color plates, and 51 line illustrations, many of which were full page. W. H. Robinson had an incredible eye for deciphering contrast, and his inky shadows have some of the best shapes of any line work of the period. Here are a few of my favorite pages and pieces-

W. H. Robinson's career took an unusual turn at the beginning of World War I, when he began designing some strange, complex contraptions (in a comic form) to do simple mundane tasks. This form of cartoon became immensely popular, and while there were dozens of illustrators who could do a fair Fairy-tale page, this kind of design and humor were nearly unique to W. H. Robinson—so he made the most of it, and spent a good deal of his later career doing that type of work.

Jim Vadeboncouer's W. H. Robinson Bio


Yes, An Edmund Dulac Treasury, my latest compilation work, is now available! Shakespeare Illustrated should be right on its tail, here in a few weeks....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

William M. Timlin's One Hit Wonder

And the wonder that it is...

Lot's to discuss here. As many of you know, I have long-standing involvement (on a few levels) with Dover Publications. In the last few years Dover has re-examined the idea of the reprint—out of that, the imprint Calla was born, to bring a selection of the beautiful material we found, crafted so well a century ago, and deliver it in as near a facsimile fashion as we could produce. The line is doing fairly well; there is still appreciation for these volumes out there. With the coming holiday season, Calla has selected 9 new volumes to reprint, seven Golden Age classics, and two modern classics. I'll discuss these seven vintage volumes in the coming weeks, and today I'll start with the book I've been waiting more than two years to talk about, William M. Timlin's (1892-1943) The Ship that Sailed to Mars.

Originally published in 1923, the book saw only 2000 copies printed in England, 250 of those were distributed in the US. it contained 48 color plates, and handwritten text of a fantastic tale, by a British-born South African architect who never produced another comparable book. The Ship that Sailed to Mars has some gorgeous plates. My first encounter with the images was as a young teen, when I found some on notecards. Years later, I found a reprint of the rare book, and scooped it up knowing it was unlikely I'd ever get my hands on a 1923 edition. — even that 1993 reprint now fetches over $100 a copy.

After Dover obtained an original edition to work from, Calla has finally committed to reprinting this stellar work in it's original format. Timlin showed the potential to rival the best illustrators of the period, but this remained his lone statement. It is a supurb collection of images, and Timlin's calligraphy add to the books uniqueness. Until now, it has been nearly unattainable.

Amazon's listing here.

Dying to see the rest of it- catch a peek here-

What? The other 2011 Calla selections? OK, here they are- to be profiled in the coming weeks-
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Illustration by William Heath Robinson
Alice in Wonderland, with 92 color images by Harry Rountree
Oscar Wilde's A House of Pomegranetes, with illustration by Jessie King
Edmund Dulac's Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales
Arthur Rackham's Engish Fairy Tales
Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp in Rhyme by Arthur Ransome, Illustrations by Thomas Mackenzie

The two modern Classics are-
Jan Pienkowski's The Thousand Nights and One Night-, the Arabian Nights done in a traditional style silhouette, with brilliant color backgrounds-
and James Gurney's amazing Dinotopia. How great to have this book back in print. All exciting stuff, happy to bring you the news. All of these, are scheduled to be released in September 2011. Stay tuned for the profiles, and updates.

Monday, May 16, 2011

W. J. Aylward, Old salt from Wisconsin....

It seemed like a fair moment to share with you some of the work of one of my favorite marine painters, and by the end of the post, it'll be clear as to why.

In previous VIEW postings, we've already looked at Gordon Grant, and Anton Otto Fischer, both excellent marine painters. There was plenty of work depicting shipping during the Golden Age, it is a subject that has it's own tricks, and for those that "knew the ropes," there was plenty of work to be had. The next in the seafarer's group is W. J. Aylward. (1875-1956). Aylward was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The son of a ship-builder and lake captain, (for those who didn't do well in geography, Milwaukee sits on the southwest edge of Lake Michigan, and is actually a port city in middle America...) Aylward's fondness for marine subjects stayed with him his entire career.

Aylward was a Brandywine Alumni, and was fortunate enough to receive one of Howard Pyle's career-making "field trips". Pyle had helped arrange for Frank Schoonover to get to the Canadian wild, and for N. C. Wyeth to travel out West. He helped Aylward get assigned (through President Roosevelt, no less) to write about and illustrate an incredible sea journey, with the floating dry-dock "Dewey". The culmination of this project came to be printed in the May 1907 issue of Scribner's Magazine, with 20 pieces of work, four of them full page.

Aylward did lots of magazine work, for the likes of Youth's Companion, Scribner's, and Harper's Magazines, among others. Books too, where the story was right—In the early part of his career, 1904— he caught a big break in getting an assignment to do Jack London's Sea Wolf. 20 years later was the other end of that run, with the 1925 edition of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
In 1950, while still teaching, he published a small book through Pitman Publishing—Ships and How to Draw Them, though somewhat light in the way of instruction, it has some nice grayscale work, and if you're interested in the material, could be worth tracking down. (see the "Looking Forward" illustration, above)

There's a nice start at looking up Aywlard on Paul Giambarba's great site, 100 Years of Illustration and Design

In Dover News- Friday I got my hands on an advance copy of A Dulac Treasury. It'll be trickling out soon, and I'll let you know as soon as it is attainable. Shakespeare Illustrated is currently at press, and Great Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth, whew, that's almost wrapped up. Next post, I should finally be able to give you some news about the new season of Calla Editions.

And in a week of nautical art— it's worth a mention that my own sea-faring work is currently being shown at Krab Jab Studios, in Seattle, if you're out in that direction.