Shadows Cast Against Walls in Art and Illustration

Shadows cast against walls in illustration tend to make a character look larger than life. This can be utilised to horror effect. Below, a big sister tells little brothers a bedtime story. The boys are clearly terrified.

Seymour Joseph Guy - Story of Golden Locks bed shadow
Seymour Joseph Guy – Story of Golden Locks
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner's 1940 The Vigil
N.C. Wyeth from The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Published by Scribner’s 1940 The Vigil
Embossed postcard published by John Winsch, 1912
Embossed postcard published by John Winsch, 1912. The profile of a man relates to the superstition that a young woman would dream of her future husband on Hallowe’en.

The shadow in the Arthur Rackham illustration below catches the eye more than the head of the man.

Arthur Rackham – Jack Sprat could eat no fat, Mother Goose 1913
Arthur Rackham – Jack Sprat could eat no fat, Mother Goose 1913
Carl Friedrich Moritz Muller (German, 1807 - 1865) Christmas Eve, 1848
Carl Friedrich Moritz Muller (German, 1807 – 1865) Christmas Eve, 1848
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Yellow Backgrounds In Illustration

Bright yellow is an unnatural colour to find in nature. So when yellow dominates an artwork it is often to signal that this is a fictional, fantasy or foreign world.

Of course giraffes don’t wear suits and play cellos, so the yellow background of this image indicates a fantasy world.

Hungarian-American illustrator Tibor Gergely. (1900 - 1978) giraffes cellos
Hungarian-American illustrator Tibor Gergely. (1900 – 1978)
CAROLIEN (1940s) Bertram
1942 Saturday Evening Post Cover, Woman Rider at Dude Ranch by Fred Ludekens
1942 Saturday Evening Post Cover, Woman Rider at Dude Ranch by Fred Ludekens
The Carnaval A Book Of Poems by Sef Roman Semenovich 1994
The Carnaval A Book Of Poems by Sef Roman Semenovich 1994
The Carnaval A Book Of Poems by Sef Roman Semenovich 1994
The Carnaval A Book Of Poems by Sef Roman Semenovich 1994
Hairy Maclary Shoo by Lynley Dodd cover
Hairy Maclary Shoo by Lynley Dodd cover
Noddy Book 3 illustrated by by Harmsen van der Beek
Noddy Book 3 illustrated by by Harmsen van der Beek
Handley Page Heracles 1938

Offset printing often makes use of yellow along with red, white, blue and black in a limited palette.

1924 illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham, The Poppy Seed Cakes
1924 illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham, The Poppy Seed Cakes

The off-kilter perspective of the illustration below achieves a folk art feel. The background is flat yellow, to complement the other colours as much as to suggest fantasy or foreignness. Below is another example of a typical palette utilised in offset printing.

Spanish illustrator Ana Albero girl with scarf
Spanish illustrator Ana Albero girl with scarf
from The Thanksgiving Story written by Alice Dalgliesh illustrated by Helen Sewell 1954
from The Thanksgiving Story written by Alice Dalgliesh illustrated by Helen Sewell 1954
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Interesting Use of Negative Space in Illustration

Most often white space, sometimes negative space comprises another colour such as black. In many ways, picturebooks are like film, but negative space is not an option in most kinds of films, where there has to be some kind of backdrop.

Negative space is advantageous because lack of setting means a story may not date so much. Although crisp white backdrops in picture books feel contemporary, we can find many examples which are really pretty old.

Dream boats and other stories 1920 by Dugald Stewart Walker
Dream boats and other stories 1920 by Dugald Stewart Walker
Retold by Edward Holmes Illustrated by Ronald Embleton houses
Retold by Edward Holmes Illustrated by Ronald Embleton
Hike by Pete Oswald
M. Mayofis - Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Lazy Hans negative space
M. Mayofis – Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Lazy Hans
PICCOLI CONCERTI DELLA SERA (1980) Josef Palecek
PICCOLI CONCERTI DELLA SERA (1980) Josef Palecek
DIE WEISHEITEN DES HERRN APRIL (1963) Vladimir Fuka tobacco
DIE WEISHEITEN DES HERRN APRIL (1963) Vladimir Fuka tobacco
André François cover design for LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (Jan. 1966)
André François cover design for LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (Jan. 1966)
Alone Together, Toonerville Trolley (1921) Fontaine Fox
Alone Together, Toonerville Trolley (1921) Fontaine Fox
Photo Magazin No 2 1956
Photo Magazin No 2 1956
Mirko Hanák birds negative space houses
Mirko Hanák
Barbara Cooney (American, 1917-2000) 'Chanticleer and the Fox' adapted from The Canterbury Tales 1958
Barbara Cooney (American, 1917-2000) ‘Chanticleer and the Fox’ adapted from The Canterbury Tales 1958
Animals from the Bible, part 1, all Kinds of Birds and other Creatures Fritz Hug 1960 mice
Animals from the Bible, part 1, all Kinds of Birds and other Creatures Fritz Hug 1960
The Hypocritical Cat. Heath Robinson. 1937
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman soft city
Tall City, Famous Sally (1966) Chas. B. Slackman soft city
ANIMALS AT HOME THE BEES (1967) Iliane Roels
ANIMALS AT HOME THE BEES (1967) Iliane Roels
A Children's Garden Of Verses,1966 , Robert Louis Stevenson,illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
A Children’s Garden Of Verses, 1966, Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith
Nicole Claveloux, Animaux étranges, 1993
Nicole Claveloux, Animaux étranges, 1993
Albert Dubout (1905-1976)
Albert Dubout (1905-1976)
Niroot Puttapipat - The Red Fairy Book white space
Niroot Puttapipat – The Red Fairy Book
Niroot Puttapipat - The Red Fairy Book
Niroot Puttapipat – The Red Fairy Book
Salvador Bartolozzi, 1923, Little Red Riding Hood
Salvador Bartolozzi, 1923, Little Red Riding Hood

One Point Perspective Picture Book Houses

The one point perspective house is commonly when children draw when they first start drawing houses. Here’s an example from my own kid. I think they were about 8 years old when they drew this one.

Another reason this perspective can look childlike: The doll house effect.

Jane-Werner (1914-2005) and Cornelius De Witt (1925-1970) collaborated and produced this 1949 book called Words: How They Look and What They Tell
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Large Shapes In Illustration

Below is a motley collection of illustrations but I feel they share something in common: They seem to have started from an assemblage of large shapes of colour. On top of those shapes, some are rendered and shaded while others aren’t.

The peak example of what I’m talking about is the illustration below.

KÔ & KÔ (1933), Vieira da Silva (illustrator), Pierre Gueguen (author)
KÔ & KÔ (1933), Vieira da Silva (illustrator), Pierre Gueguen (author)
KÔ & KÔ (1933), Vieira da Silva (illustrator), Pierre Gueguen (author)
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Ladders in Illustration

'Seasons - Fall, Winter' Illustrator not found c1890, German influence likely autumn

The belief that walking under a ladder is bad luck comes from Ancient Egypt. A ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle. This is a sacred shape because it represents the trinity of the gods. Passing through the triangle would desecrate them.

Upper Rhine c 1420-1440, Zurich, Zentralbibliothek Wsing a ladder to cross a river. A portable bridge, I guess.
Upper Rhine c 1420-1440, Zurich, Zentralbibliothek Wsing a ladder to cross a river. A portable bridge, I guess.
'Atta Boy' starring Mario Bianchi a.k.a. Monty Bank - Illustrator unknown, 1926 ladder
‘Atta Boy’ starring Mario Bianchi a.k.a. Monty Bank – Illustrator unknown, 1926 ladder
Sovereigns No.80 Caricature of The King of Prussi, James Tissot, Vanity Fair, January 1871
Sovereigns No.80 Caricature of The King of Prussi, James Tissot, Vanity Fair, January 1871
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Pink in Illustration

In the last half century or so pink has increasingly become femme coded. This wasn’t the case before the second world war.

If an illustrator utilises a predominantly pink palette today, does this mean the work will therefore look as if the target market is ‘girls’?

Below find a selection of illustrations with a hugely varied mood and genre. Pink can be soft, harsh, romantic, and everything in between.

Mead Schaeffer (1898 - 1980). A woman and two men, all in white suits, are in a restaurant.
Mead Schaeffer (1898 – 1980)
A woman plays a harmonica in a forest full of pink trunked trees. A kangaroo watches.
Prelude – The early life of Eileen Joyce C.H. Abrahall, illustrated by Anna Zinkeisen. Published by Oxford University Press 1950
Magic Secrets by Rose Wyler & Gerald Ames, illustrated by Tālivaldis Stubis (1967) cut a woman in half
Magic Secrets by Rose Wyler & Gerald Ames, illustrated by Tālivaldis Stubis (1967)
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The Beach and Shore at Night

The beach during daytime is mostly a fun experience: sandcastles, surf, sand in your sandwiches. Beach cricket, volleyball, fun with friends and family. Occasionally, storytellers take the happy beach and invert it for Gothic purposes.

But return to the same beach at night and you have something completely different. The beach at night requires no Gothic inversion. Under a cloak of darkness, the moonlit shoreline is now ethereal and spooky.

Frank C. Pape for Children of the Dawn Old Tales of Greece written by Elsie Finnimore Buckley 1908
Frank C. Pape for Children of the Dawn Old Tales of Greece written by Elsie Finnimore Buckley 1908
Dale Bissland, Glasgow artist,  ‘Camusdarach Reflections’,  Oil on Panel
Dale Bissland is a contemporary painter from Glasgow. This beautiful creation is called ‘Camusdarach Reflections’, Oil on Panel. His website is here.
Night Sea, 1930, Hasui Kawase; 1883-1957
Logan's Rock, Cornwall, Laura Knight, oil on canvas, 1916
Logan’s Rock, Cornwall, Laura Knight, oil on canvas, 1916
1953 Floods at Southwold, Suffolk by Frank Forward, oil on canvas 1953. The painter started work on this painting that very night, January 31st. Natural disasters which happen in the middle of the night feel worse, somehow (not counting one Christchurch earthquake which killed fewer people due to happening in the middle of the night.) The 1953 floods saw people clambering onto the tops of their roofs to escape drowning. People with boats tried desperately to rescue everyone.
House On The Beach by Eleanor Elford Cameron
Pursue The Wind by Leslie Richards
Pursue The Wind by Leslie Richards
Ivan Bilbin Night on the shores of Lake Ilmen (1914)
Ivan Bilbin Night on the shores of Lake Ilmen (1914)
'Teignmouth', Douglas Lionel Mays, oil on canvas, 1957
‘Teignmouth’, Douglas Lionel Mays, oil on canvas, 1957
John MacWhirter - Night, most glorious night, thou wert not made for slumber
John MacWhirter – Night, most glorious night, thou wert not made for slumber
Chris Dunn Peter Pan and Wendy The Jolly Roger
Chris Dunn is a British watercolour illustrator. Here is his blog. Alongside Inga Moore, Chris Dunn’s illustrations of The Wind In The Willows are my favourite. This scene of a shoreline at night is from Peter Pan and Wendy. The ship is the Jolly Roger. The fire on the cliff is the ‘eye of the duck’, in my opinion. (David Lynch uses the term ‘The Eye Of The Duck’ to describe a critical moment in film.)
Nightly Walk of the Monks to the Mountain Monastery Athos by Hermann Corrodi, oil on canvas, 1888
Nightly Walk of the Monks to the Mountain Monastery Athos by Hermann Corrodi, oil on canvas, 1888
Low Tide, Moonlight by William James Henry Boot, oil on canvas, 1874
Low Tide, Moonlight by William James Henry Boot, oil on canvas, 1874. Mr Boot worked for The Illustrated London News. (If you search their archives, you find some treasures.)
Julius Olsson Moonlit Shore exhibited 1911
Moonlit Shore exhibited 1911 Julius Olsson (1864-1942)
Peder Balke (1804–1887) - North Cape
Peder Balke (1804–1887) – North Cape
Cover art from A Relative Stranger by Anne Stevenson
Cover art from A Relative Stranger by Anne Stevenson

Okay so there’s no shore in sight in this one. Just two heads bobbing about in the open sea.

Anton Otto Fischer (1882 – 1962) 1932 illustration for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Hunting And Trapping In Art And Illustration

The Story of Siegfried illustrated by Howard Pyle (American, 1853-1911)

Stalking Horse: a person or thing that is used to conceal someone’s real intentions. I heard this phrase used to describe a tactic used by Woolworths Australia, who installed a digital mirror at some self-serve check outs. They said that they were not retaining any images, and if customers don’t like it, customers were free to use the staffed check outs instead. Then it turned out they were indeed (allegedly) retaining customer images after all. More literally: the stalking horse is a screen (traditionally made in the shape of a horse) behind which a hunter may stay concealed when stalking prey.

Georg Pencz, The Hunter Caught by the Hares, c. 1535
Georg Pencz, The Hunter Caught by the Hares, c. 1535
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