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Tag Archives: Illustration

Flickr Friday: I’m Alvin

The examination of kiddie books from my youth continues with these scans from I’m Alvin, the story of a baby squirrel who is fished out of a river and nursed back to health. It seems weird that my mom decided to get us this book, since squirrels were nowhere to be found in Scottsdale, Arizona where I grew up. Published in 1967, the book was written and illustrated by one Elizabeth Rice. Our copy was very well-used, as you can see:

Although this book isn’t the greatest example of ’60s illustration style, it is pretty funny for the “annotations” I made in it. Apparently I decided that Alvin the squirrel needed some dialogue:

I couldn’t spell right (gimme a break, I was only 4 or 5), and had some trouble drawing normal looking cartoon dialogue balloons:

In the book, Alvin ventures out into the forest and meets all sorts of woodland animals. Saying “hi” to each and every one of them, of course!

Flickr Friday: The Secret Hiding Place

Since I no longer have the webcomic occupying my time, I’m going to introduce a new feature here called Flickr Fridays. Each week, I’ll share an image or more that’s been added to my Flickr photostream. I have a lot of “catch up” work to do with my flickr, anyhow, so we’re not in danger of running out of material.

What do we have for today? Recently I went back to my parents’ home and came across a bunch of dog-eared old books that I loved as a kid. One of them, I vaguely recall, had a family of hippos and a lion. It was called The Secret Hiding Place, written and illustrated by Rainey Bennett and published in 1960. Here’s the cover:

This was an old library book, which holds its own potential for surprises. Like this sticker on the title page:

“Please wash your hands before you read me and keep me clean” — sound advice, then and now! As with most of my childhood books, I don’t remember the stories so much as the pictures. This particular book had a nice, loose drawing style with the animals rendered in black ink, surrounded by wispy watercolor clouds printed in red, blue and yellow. The book is now very yellowed and old, but the scan below captures some of the colors:

I remember one part in the book where the little hippo hides in the cave and is totally black. This kinda freaked me out as a youngster. Turn the page, quick!

I will be sharing more childhood books (and other stuff) in future installments of Flickr Fridays. Thanks for readin’!

Book Review: Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s

The decade of the ’60s seems to conjure up a lot of images of femininity to me — slinky James Bond gal, mod miniskirted model, Donna Reedy housewife, hippie chick, California beach bunny. All of those archetypes, and many more, are on full display in Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s, a brick-like volume of vintage magazine illustrations expertly selected by Rian Hughes. Sure, there are some men pictured within these pages, but since the illustrations come from various popular British women’s mags of the era (Woman, Woman’s Own, Homes and Gardens, Woman’s Journal to name a few) they tend to focus on the fairer sex rendered in every color of the rainbow. The women are generally seen in swooning, romantic poses with body language and facial expressions that hint at some intrigue or outside danger (what is the trench coated beauty on page 322 looking at?).

What most impressed me about this book is how craftily the illustrators worked with white space and printing techniques to make a visually stunning statement. The artwork is presented in chronological order, reproduced in graphic layouts that punch up the often stunning color palettes the artists used. The earlier examples are more conservative subject-wise, with prim ladies emoting in billowy dresses, but the art is surprisingly daring in technique. As the ’60s move along, we see wilder colors and looser, more artfully sketch-like renderings, until 1966-67 brings on a mod, Carnaby Street influence with a graphic punch. Cartoons, collage, surrealism, revival and psychedelic styles all get their due, but by 1969 we’re back in the realm of glamorously swooning ladies rendered in washy paints. Some things never change, it seems.

This book focuses solely on British publications, which honestly let me down a little, but many American artists of the era are represented here with quality work by the likes of Coby Whitmore, Andy Virgil and Lynn Buckham. One of my favorites from that period, Bob Peak, is represented only once — a striking image of a kissing couple dominated by the black space between their profiles. Wow!

Lifestyle Illustration of the ’60s is available at Amazon.com, of course. I got my copy at discount seller Edward R. Hamilton for much cheaper, however. Fiell is set to release a companion volume, Lifestyle Illustrations of the ’50s, later on this month.

Cheap Thrill: Junior Deluxe Editions

For years I’ve seen these colorful ’50s hardbacks known as Junior Deluxe Editions in antique and thrift stores, but I’ve never given them much thought before coming across the beautiful Flickr group devoted to them. Though the books are not particularly rare or collectible, the covers have a charming, folk-meets-modern sensibility — and they look dynamite sitting on a shelf. From what I’ve gathered, the Junior Deluxe Editions were a mail-order based program from Doubleday in which customers signed on to receive new volumes on a monthly basis. In a plan similar to the Columbia House record club, the highlighted book of the month was automatically shipped to customers unless they specifically asked to opt out. There were about 90 titles in all, issued from the mid ’40s up to 1962 or thereabouts.

My official quest began a year ago at our local VNSA used book saleorama. Surely they would have a few Junior Deluxe Editions. I didn’t find any, however, until this year’s sale on February 12th. For fifty cents to a dollar apiece, I managed to snag nice copies of National Velvet, Sherlock Holmes, Tales from Shakespeare, Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe. Even the volunteer lady who helped me check out was impressed. Coincidentally I also got a rather beat-up library copy of Bible Stories for Young Readers this week at a Wickenberg, Arizona thrift for two quarters. Score!

I set up a little Flickr set for my collection, adding to it as it grows. I suppose they’ve been an inspiration for LitKids as well (and, who knows, might serve as the background for future prints). Enjoy!

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Child Life, 1959 Style

Here are a few scans of the May 1959 issue of an obscure ’50s kiddie magazine called Child Life. All three are nice examples of stylish child-oriented book illustration of the era, but the magazine didn’t credit any of the artists — so any help on the IDs would be appreciated! This mag was a birthday gift for Christopher, my 1959 baby.

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Inspiration: The Night Zoo

I’ll put the cover of The Night Zoo by illustrator Bob Staake here as a little pick-me-up to get me going through the week. Staake drew these animals on paper, cut them out with an x-acto, then arranged and spruced them up digitally. It falls into the kind of whimsical and charming stuff that I dig.

My own creative venture is coming along well. Despite a few mishaps, I hope to have it live this Spring. It seems like I’ve been working on this thing forever (just over a year, in fact), but the light at the end of the tunnel is appearing. Better make sure it isn’t a train.

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