Monday, 31 August 2009

Off the shelf: Peynet

This drawing is from the book 'L'amour' by Raymond Peynet, published by Penguin, in paperback, in 1964. Peynet's work is just a little bit too soppy for my taste. When I did a lot of work for women's magazines, some years ago, my own drawings were once described to me as 'twee', but this guy was in another class altogether. Peynet's famous couple, Les Amoureux, is shown here sheltering from harp strings, and I have to admit it's the only drawing in the book I can appreciate without the aid of a sickbag. Tellingly his early work as an advertising designer involved illustrating chocolate boxes.
Here's a biographical sketch from the front of the book:

'Raymond Peynet was born in Paris in 1908. His first cartoon was published in the Boul'vardier, an English journal intended for English residents in Paris, when he was only twenty-two. He continued to illustrate books and publish cartoons until the war, since which his drawings have appeared in Ric & Rac, France-Dimanche, Ici-Paris, Le Rire, and, for the past ten years, in Lilliput, Men Only, and other journals in England, Germany and Denmark. He has also designed the décor fro a number of theatrical productions, including Love's Labour's Lost in French, and both décor and costumes for ballet, apart from numerous poster designs for films and advertising... Raymond Peynet married the original and only 'Elle' - an art student named Denise - and they live happily ever after, with their daughter, in a flat in Paris and a restored chateau in the south of France.'

Of course he didn't actually live forever, happily or otherwise. He died in 1999, three years after his wife. He's not on Wikipedia (the English language version), but you can read a more up-to-date biography in this Obituary from the Independent.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Analog dog

A canine
of non-
I don't
his name;
I didn't
ask him.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé 10

Here's the back cover and then that's it for Sempé (for now). I haven't written much about the man, but you can learn more from looking at his drawings than from any rubbish I've got to say. Looking at these drawings again has reminded me of something I still haven't learned properly: that drawing is about feeling as much as it is about seeing.
'What is important in a cartoon, he explains, is to "capture the essence of something, not to try to copy it".'

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé 9

"More and more I want to do drawings where nothing happens, without gags, without justification..."
A quote from Sempé in the 1981 book 'Man Bites Man' by Steven Heller.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé 8

Here's a tour de force drawing of the Tour de France on a rainy day. I thought I had alot to say about Sempé, as I really like his work, but I can't seem to find any words this week. I've got writer's block - and I'm not even a writer!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé 3

Here's a short biography from a recent English reissue of 'Le Petit Nicolas' which Sempé co-wrote and illustrated with René Goscinny, first published in France in 1960:
'Jean-Jacques Sempé is one of the most successful cartoonists and illustrators in the world, whose works are featured in countless magazines and newspapers. Born in Bordeaux, France in 1932, Sempé was expelled from school for bad behaviour. He enjoyed a variety of jobs, from travelling toothpaste salesman to summer camp worker, before winning an art prize in 1952. Although Sempé was never trained formally as an artist, more than twenty volumes of his drawings have been published, in thirty countries.'

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé 2

This excellent drawing is from the end-papers of 'Simple Question d'Équilibre.' These three ladies, pedaling madly to try and get home ahead of an approaching storm, are typical of Sempé's view of humanity.
My writing finger isn't working today so here's a quote from an interesting 2006 interview in the Independent which says the necessary:
"Now that you mention it, though, I've always been astonished that we humans assume somehow that we are big. If you look at a person beside a tree or a building or a town, we are just tiny, little scraps of things. I never consciously set out to draw that way. But I suppose I do often make my people small. That's just the way that the drawings come to me; that's what works for me."
Please click on the image to see it larger - it's worth it.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Off the shelf: Sempé

One of my most treasured books, is 'Simple Question d'Équilibre' by Jean-Jacques Sempé, published in 1977 by Éditions Denoël, Paris. I found it in a now vanished second-hand bookshop in Crouch End, North London, when I was living with friends as a childminder. It's not in great condition, as you can see by the cover, but it's a beautiful book, arranged and designed by Sempé himself. Unfortunately a few of my favourite drawings in it coincide with where the sections are glued together, so they can't be scanned without damaging the book, but all the drawings are good so I'm going to post a selection of them this week. I'll write more about Sempé as we go.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Stairing into space

Here's a bit of tat from college which I didn't post earlier when I was posting lots of tat from college (I don't remember posting it earlier anyway).
One of the good things about art college is that occasionally they actually teach you something interesting. One such thing was how to do perspective, with real measuring and everything. Luckily I've forgotten it all now.
This piece of scrap was a drawing I did at college, on paper, with real measuring and everything. Unable to take the third dimension any more seriously than the other two I ended up adding another one, thus making it a stairway to nowhere. Why I did the checkerboard thing I can't remember. It must have seemed logical at the time - it doesn't work very well. As usual this kind of thing is pretty common now as it's so easy to do with even basic 3D modelling software - but I wasted hours on it.
I spent a long time at college, you know.

Friday, 14 August 2009


Click for larger.
(from Pleasure with
A. van Breda, 1968.
First published in
England, 1954)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Honorary cartoonist: Goya

This drawing by Goya is entitled: 'Showing off? Remember your age.' It shows a probably old woman (it could be a man) falling down the stairs and comes from the Black Border Album, drawn between 1816 and 1820. The full effect of Goya's drawings is felt in their composition, but this is from a flyer for an exhibition in 2001, and has been cropped of it's black border. I failed to buy the catalogue at the time for some unknown reason, probably to do with the price, and I can't find the full image anywhere online, so this is all I've got.
Francisco Goya started his personal albums of memories, observations and imaginings after (partially) recovering from an illness which left him totally deaf for the rest of his life. Isolated by his deafness he became more introspective and took to recording his thoughts on human behaviour - he wasn't exactly impressed by it.
This flyer has been stuck on my wall with so-called Magic tape since I visited the exhibition. A probably old woman (it could be a man) falling down stairs may be fairly basic on the humour front but I think it's hilarious, and I'm inclined to imagine Goya had a good laugh when he drew it.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

O brother, how old art thou?

I find myself with an absence of thing-to-post today, so here's a card wot I done for my brother's 50th birthday, which occurred just the other day (I would like to stress that he's my older brother). He's somewhat obsessed with steam railways and belongs to the British Enginemen Steam Preservation Society. Why not visit their website: BESPS (you don't have to).

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.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 5

This is the last drawing from 'The Hunting of the Snark' illustrated by Mervyn Peake. It appears in 'Fit the Eighth - The Vanishing.' The hunting party are having no luck when suddenly the Bellman spots the Baker (who, by the way, wears seven coats) in the distance:

'..."There is Thingumbob shouting!" the Bellman said.
"He is shouting like mad, only hark!
He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
He has certainly found a Snark!"

They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
"He was always a desperate wag!"
They beheld him - their Baker - their hero unnamed -
On top of a neighbouring crag,

Erect and sublime, for one moment in time.
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
While they waited and listened in awe...'

Though they search till darkness the Baker is never seen again, and the Snark is never seen at all. The End.
Peake would go on to illustrate The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Brothers Grimm, Jekyll and Hyde, Treasure Island, both Alices, Bleak House, and several other works besides his own writing. He eventually succumbed to Parkinson's Disease, which gradually robbed him of his ability to do what he loved. He died in November 1968, aged 57.
There's a site dedicated to him here, maintained by his son, Sebastian, with plenty of his work. There's also a book called 'Mervyn Peake - The Man and His Art' (which I must get hold of when I've got a few spare quids) cowritten by Sebastian and edited by Peter Winnington, who wrote to me earlier to correct my appalling research.
If you want to read 'Snark' in full you can find it here with the original stiff Victorian illustrations by Henry Holiday.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 4

This wonderful drawing is my favourite in the book. It comes from 'Fit the Seventh - The Banker's Fate,' and shows a Bandersnatch in the process of attacking the Banker, who has rushed madly ahead in his zeal to discover the Snark:

'...He offered large discount - he offered a cheque
(Drawn "to bearer") for seven-pounds-ten:
But the Bandersnatch merely extended its neck
And grabbed at the Banker again...'

When the others appear the Bandersnatch flies away, but the Banker has had such a fright that his waistcoat has turned white. In fact he goes insane and, on the insistence of the Bellman, is left behind:

'..."Leave him to his fate - it is getting so late!"
The Bellman exclaimed in a fright.
"We have lost half the day. Any further delay,
And we sha'n't catch a Snark before night!"'

Friday, 7 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 3

This drawing is from 'Fit the Fifth - The Beaver's Lesson.' In this chapter the Butcher identifies a scream as 'the voice of the Jubjub' and repeats himself three times thus proving it (it having been established by the Bellman that 'What I tell you three times is true'). The Beaver, though counting with scrupulous care, loses count after two, and the Butcher proceeds to give him a lesson:

'...Taking Three as the subject to reason about -
A convenient number to state -
We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
Exactly and perfectly true...'

This then turns into a lesson on Natural History and the nature of the Jubjub bird, at the end of which the Beaver claims to have learned more in ten minutes than all books could have taught him in seventy years and the Butcher and Beaver become friends.
Peake studied the work of many artists looking for a suitable technique, including Hogarth, Cruickshank, Durer, Blake, Doré and Goya. His aim was to 'subordinate myself totally to the book, and slide into another man's soul'. His method with crosshatching often involved scraping back areas with a scalpel, which could cause problems when working on poor quality war-time paper.

PS. I've received an email telling me I've got my facts wrong about Peake's time in the war:
"Yes he started his military career at Dartford, but was moved to Blackpool in mid-October '40 and it was there that he received the contract for the Snark drawings, in Feb 1941.
Yes he was given work for six months in the Ministry of Information after his stay in the Southport hospital, but he was certainly not a "war artist" there. The work in the section he was in was essentially commercial in character and he was not suited to that. It was only after this that he was invalided out of the Army. And so forth."
Perhaps I should keep the biographical stuff to a minimum as there seems to be enough misinformation on the web already.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 2

Lewis Carroll's brand of nonsense is, for me, in a different league to Edward's Lear's. The absurdity in his work reflects the absurdity of human nature and the nonsensical ideas seem to have their own internal logic. Like Lear he suffered from various illnesses, including epilepsy. 'The Hunting of the Snark' was originally published in 1876, eleven years after 'Alice,' and has invited all sorts of theories about hidden meanings ever since.
The book is subtitled 'An Agony in Eight Fits' and this drawing is from 'Fit the Second - The Bellman's Speech.' It shows the Bellman - giving his speech, which is about the five qualities that distinguish the Snark from other creatures:

'...The third is it's slowness in taking a jest,
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun...'

Also in the picture is the Beaver. Being the pet of the Bellman he is in constant danger from the Butcher, who could 'only kill beavers,' though they eventually become inseparable friends.
Another thing the Bellman brings on board ship, apart from the Beaver, is 'a large map representing the sea, without the least vestige of land,' i.e. it's completely blank. The crew are pleased about this, as they find it's 'a map they could all understand.'

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 1

I first came across the work of Mervyn Peake, novelist, poet, painter and illustrator, while researching a talk I had to give at college on the illustrators of 'Alice in Wonderland.' No illustrations for 'Alice' were quite as strange and original as Peake's, and that sent me off to look for his other work and to read his 'Gormenghast' trilogy of gothic fantasy novels.
One of his books that I managed to get hold of (apart from his 'Alice') was 'The Hunting of the Snark.' First published in 1941 the drawings were completed while he was at Dartford army training camp, having been conscripted the year before. At the same time he was writing the first draft of his novel 'Titus Groan' and composing a set of poems entitled 'Shapes and Sounds.'
He made several applications to the Ministry of Information to become a War Artist but was turned down, and that, plus his 'unsuitability for army life,' led him to a nervous breakdown. He was eventually invalided out of the army in 1943 and became - a War Artist for the Ministry of Information. More stuff on Peake later.
My copy of 'The Hunting of the Snark' is a fifth impression published in 1958 by Chatto & Windus. I thought I'd post a few drawings from it this week. This one is the title page, which shows various members of the crew including the Bellman, the Beaver, the Baker, the Barrister, the Butcher, the Broker and the Banker.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Competition dive...

... with a little encouragement from the sponsor.

This is a drawing I did for Nonstick some time ago but didn't post it because it was too obvious and I couldn't think of a title. Both conditions still apply, but these days I'm less fussy due to a bad case of Missingchronicity.
I hope it's not terminal.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

From the files: Ronald Searle

I was planning to post a drawing today but I had an attack of the Saturdays, which left me unable to do anything except drink tea and coffee and read newspapers.
Instead here are a couple of obscure small-ads with drawings by Ronald Searle. These are taken from the June and January issues of 'Stitchcraft' magazine, from 1955. It must have been quite an interesting brief, to come up with ideas illustrating 'a clear case for Cash's woven name tapes.' These two ideas are fairly straightforward but they're nice drawings, and I particularly like that logo. The company is still trading, with a very similar logo, today.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sweet nothings: UK

These sugar wrappers have turned out to be more boring than even I anticipated, so this will be the last post about them - ever.
This is a scan of a selection of wrappers from around the UK, all once containing sugar produced by Tate & Lyle. You'll be interested to know that I have over 150 wrappers by T&L - I can't be more accurate than that because I can't be bothered to count them. They've been so tightly packed together that some of the colours have run. Such is life.
It's (almost) interesting to see how some places have chosen to represent themselves on their sugar. Northamptonshire is the 'County of Spires and Squires,' Suffolk is 'Constable Country,' and Cornwall is the 'Land of Legend - where the sun comes early and stays late' (1541 hours of sunshine a year according to Wikipedia). Lincolnshire, on the other hand, has chosen 'The Lincolnshire Poacher' which seems a rather strange choice, but it's actually a famous song.
I would have tried to think of something funny to say about these sugar wrappers, but my sense of humour is taking a long holiday at the moment. Wherever it's gone on its travels I'm just hoping that it doesn't decide to bring home any more of these bloody things.