Following my recent review of the 2001 children's picture book, Big, Bad Wolf is Good, I blithely contacted the illustrator, Lynne Chapman, to let her know how fond we were of her illustrations and to declare that I had copied images from her book on my blog, when, lo and behold, she replied last night. That is me, above, leaping in my PJs.
I have nothing but admiration for book illustrators of any type and from any era - children's literature, anatomical text books, histories, cook books, atlases, architectural guides, maintenance manuals, encyclopaedias and field guides to the birds of Australia. You name it. They are the real working artists, the tradesmen. They just quietly go about their anonymous ways, creating small masterpieces for mass reproduction which are accessible to every-one and put to immensely practical use... like, in Ms Chapman's case, learning to read.
This is functional, nut and bolts, art for every-day use. The works become stained with coffee, wine rings, lemonade spills, splashes of dish water, gravy blobs and baby's dribble. The corners of their images are creased, pages torn and margins filled with hand-written notations. They are lugged about inside and out. No vast canvasses and brooding temperaments (well, maybe some), no opening nights, curators, critics, dealers, dimmed lights or freight in thermostatically controlled crates.
Now that I have enthused over the these unrecognised and undervalued artists, let me tell you more about the lively Ms Chapman of Sheffield who has the most charming dimples, a pair of very fancy new spectacles and an outstanding collection of novelty socks, not to mention a huge talent.
Her website and blog contain abundant examples of her sketches and final illustrations, as well as fascinating information and step-by-step images to explain the book design process for those of us who have absolutely no idea of what is involved behind the scenes. Not only that, but there are exquisite sketches of people and places, on buses and in waiting rooms, and from her holiday travels.
That she should draw some characters from her imagination in pencil and pastel, and have them published in a book which ends up on my shelves on the other side of the world, to be read often to three children for almost a decade, then become a real person at the other end of the computer is astounding and thrilling. Isn't it!
Just wait until I tell the children. We must work our way through her entire collection before they grow up, and learn more about the art of book illustration and the people who work as illustrators.
Image by Lynne Chapman
Her blogs: An Illustrator's Life For Me! and The Picture Gallery