Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Off the shelf: Wallace Tripp

I bought Wallace Tripp's 'Wurst Seller' in 1982, when it was first published in the UK. In those days I was a bit snotty about puns, thinking they were pretty unsophisticated, but I couldn't resist Tripp's relentless pursuit of double meaning. The book is full of the most cringe-inducing puns (including the 'lesser of two weevils' joke used in 'Master and Commander') with the occasional excellent one thrown in here and there, drawn mainly anthropomorphically in assured pen and ink style, occasionally with added watercolour.
There was no biographical information in the book and for some reason I assumed he was Australian - I have no idea why. In fact he was born in Boston in 1940. He spent three years teaching English before becoming an illustrator and has illustrated thirty-six books by other authors and nine of his own. Like Mervyn Peake his career was prematurely ended by the onset of Parkinson's Disease.
This particular drawing, 'Dante in the Lumbar Region,' is among the minority of drawings that don't depict animals wearing clothes. It may not be the best drawing in the book but it has a cultural reference which I understand, so I can enjoy it while still remaining snotty about puns.
Tripp said, in relation to illustrators: "The first ten thousand drawings are the hardest. Put another way, you have ten thousand bad drawings within and should expel them as quickly as possible." A remarkably similar concept to Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours.

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