Collage Sheet Illustration In Picture Books

Crafters sometimes talk about ‘collage sheets’ and we can use this term to describe a certain type of picture book illustration. Basically, I’m talking about a piece of art which looks a lot like a sticker sheet, or, if you’re a generation older than modern adhesive, like a sheet of paper dolls, yet to be cut out. Think also of a page in a stamp collector’s album.

Technically, a ‘collage’ is a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing. But when talking about illustration, a ‘collage’ work can give the appearance of having been made in this way, even when there’s no ‘sticking’ involved.

I first saw the following image described as a ‘collage sheet’. Clearly, someone has used a two different coloured pens to create this artwork. No glue. No sticking. There’s an expanded use of the word ‘collage’ to mean ‘a collection or combination of various things’. Let’s go with that.

Raoul Chareun (Cagliari, 1889 – Milan, 1949) chicken collage sheet
Raoul Chareun (Cagliari, 1889 – Milan, 1949)

Images like this go back as far as cave paintings, which we might also describe as ‘collage sheets’. It seems we’ve always like to create images with animals that are important to us. These sheets have very little visually discernible organisation unless the viewer is acquainted with the story it tells. There’s an emphasis on repeatable patterns. They are examples of simultaneous narrative art.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Cat Lover's Animal Puns of the Tōkaidō, 1847-52 collage sheet
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Cat Lover’s Animal Puns of the Tōkaidō, 1847-52
Utagawa Yoshifuji, Horse zukushi, late 19th century collage sheet horse
Utagawa Yoshifuji, Horse zukushi, late 19th century

Kenneth Mahood’s New Yorker cover below is a more contemporary example, with drawn dogs (instead of chickens). This could almost be a sticker sheet.

Artist Kenneth Mahood (1930-) The New Yorker cover dogs
Artist Kenneth Mahood (1930-) The New Yorker

THE PROVENSENS

Alice and Martin Provensen created picture books with this sheet collage look on a white background. Notice how ‘stage perspective’ rather than ‘cinematic perspective’ is possible with this style. The limited poses of folkart characters are a feature. (Front, back and sides.)

Collage gives a flatness to the image that draws attention to its constructedness.

Playfulness in Lauren Child’s Picture Books
THE ANIMAL FAIR by ALICE and MARTIN PROVENSEN 1952
THE ANIMAL FAIR by ALICE and MARTIN PROVENSEN 1952
Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen in 'Fireside Book of Folk Songs' Selected and edited by Margaret Bradford Boni. Simon and Schuster, 1947
Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen in ‘Fireside Book of Folk Songs’ Selected and edited by Margaret Bradford Boni. Simon and Schuster, 1947
La Vidalita, Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen in 'Fireside Book of Folk Songs' Selected and edited by Margaret Bradford Boni. Simon and Schuster, 1947
La Vidalita, Illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen in ‘Fireside Book of Folk Songs’ Selected and edited by Margaret Bradford Boni. Simon and Schuster, 1947

ROGER DUVOISIN

CALEF BROWN

GOMI TARO

Japanese illustrator Gomi Tarō also appears to create collage sheets. The huge advantage of collage sheets, as in other types of collage:

Collage lends itself to playfulness by its nature, as it constructs a new image out of remnants of others. In doing so it mimics children’s imaginative play.

Playfulness in Lauren Child’s Picture Books

When Gomi Tarō creates collage sheet illustrations, there remains a calm sense of order.

Gomi Tarō
Gomi Tarō
Gomi Tarō illustrations food in jars
Gomi Tarō

Although white helps colours to pop, the background can be any colour. In the case below, a ‘mouse colour’ is used to work well with the palette but not to compete with the vibrant pinks and greens.

The Fireside Cookbook by James Beard. Illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen. Simon and Schuster, 1949 3
The Fireside Cookbook by James Beard. Illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen. Simon and Schuster, 1949

LEO LEONNI

Leo Leonni created work in a similar way to Eric Carle. The example below makes use of black instead of white as a background colour.

A detail from Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, by Leo Lionni
A detail from Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, by Leo Lionni

Leo Leonni lived from 1910 to 1999. His books include “The Alphabet Tree” and “A Color Of His Own”.

DAHLOV IPCAR

"World Full of Horses,"  written & illustrated by Ipcar, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1955
“World Full of Horses,” written & illustrated by Ipcar, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1955

Dahlov Ipcar is another sheet collage illustrator who liked a background starting with black. She is best known for her vibrant collage-style paintings of jungle and farm animals. Like many animal artists such as Beatrix Potter, Ipcar’s love of animals is partly due to the summers she spent with her family in Maine. Ipcar’s parents were also famous artists: William and Marguerite Zorach. In 1923 the Zorach family bought a farm at Robinhood Cove in Georgetown, Maine. It was during a Maine summer that Dahlov met her future husband Adolph Ipcar.

BRIAN WILDSMITH

Another artist to mention here is Brian Wildsmith. His white backgrounds make his collage-y illustrations seem more similar to Carle’s than to Ipcar’s.

Brian Wildsmith’s website

A Brian Wildsmith illustration from The Hare and the Tortoise, 1971
Illustration by Brian Wildsmith in ' The North Wind and the Sun', Oxford University Press. First published 1964
Illustration by Brian Wildsmith in ‘ The North Wind and the Sun’, Oxford University Press. First published 1964

JOANNE AND DAVID WILEY

IVAN GANTSCHEV

Ivan Gantschev (1925 – 2014) was a Bulgarian-German illustrator and author of more than 70 children’s books. He created a lot of full bleed paintings but below is an excample reminiscent of the collage sheet/dye technique which, in the West, we tend to associate with Eric Carle.

Gantschev’s work is especially well-suited to the highly metaphorical genre of fairytale, because the positioning of the elements lends itself to the Surreal. The huge advantage to this style: the artist can wreak havoc with the laws of physics. There are no laws of physics.

Interestingly for this style of art, he has included shadows in the image below. Shadows stand out all the more when the viewer has no real insight into how they would come to be.

THE PEAR TREE (1973) Ivan Gantschev trees
THE PEAR TREE (1973) Ivan Gantschev
THE PEAR TREE (1973) Ivan Gantschev
THE PEAR TREE (1973) Ivan Gantschev

SAKURA FUJITA

Takahashi Shu and Fujita Sakura were artists who married each other in Setagaya (Japan) and then moved to Italy for 41 years. The couple achieved international recognition for their art before eventually returning to Japan where they chose to make their home in Okayama Prefecture in the beach town of Sami.

1972  from The moon and the fishes

ZBIGNIEW RYCHLICKI

Polish graphic artist Zbigniew Rychlicki (1922 – 1989) had a number of techniques, including a woodcut style, but here is an example of the ‘painted and textured shapes’ style of collage.

This is a style seen in contemporary illustrators such as Jon Klassen, who himself is said to be much emulated.

Zbigniew Rychlicki
Zbigniew Rychlicki

FIEP WESTENDORP

WOELEWIPPIE ONDERWEG (1960) Fiep Westendorp
WOELEWIPPIE ONDERWEG (1960) Fiep Westendorp

MICHE WYNANTS

NOAH’S ARK (1965) Miche Wynants back cover

JAMES FLORA

James Flora (1914-1998) was a prolific commercial illustrator from the 1940s to the 1970s and the author/illustrator of 17 popular children’s books.

Kangaroo for Christmas (1962), written and illustrated by James Flora (1914-1998)

But Jim Flora was probably best known for his distinctive and idiosyncratic album cover art for RCA Victor and Columbia Records during the 1940s and 1950s. In contrast to a children’s book illustrator such as Gomi Taro, using the collage sheet style he achieves for his album covers a sense of diabolical chaos and disorder. That’s a feature of this collage sheet style: It can be extremely ordered (lined up like a stamp album) or all over the place.

Many illustrators have been influenced by Jim Flora.

ANTONI BORATYNSKI

Antoni Boratyński was a Polish illustrator who trained during the 1950s and created many illustrations in the second half of the 20th century. He is well-known for illustrating The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende.

The background below has aged to yellow, but he was working on white.

Antoni Boratyński, Nie płacz, Koziołku, 1973
Antoni Boratyński, Nie płacz, Koziołku, 1973

This style of art isn’t limited to children’s illustration. Like graphic novels, when pitched at an older audience, there tends to be more on the page. But not always. Dahlov Ipcar’s dual audience popularity and her complicated collages are one example of a collage-style illustrator working with great complexity.

ADOLF HOFFMEISTER

Adolf Hoffmeister, Abkhazian Viticultural Landscape on the Shore (from the cycle Typographic Landscapes from the Caucasus), 1959, Newspaper collage, india ink, paper
Adolf Hoffmeister, Abkhazian Viticultural Landscape on the Shore (from the cycle Typographic Landscapes from the Caucasus), 1959, Newspaper collage, india ink, paper
Rince an dara ceim - Irish Dance Rhythms - May Keogh and Tommy Delaney 1968 collage sheet
Rince an dara ceim – Irish Dance Rhythms – May Keogh and Tommy Delaney 1968

The illustrations below are interesting because they make unusual use of borders. Some of the illustrations expand through borders like diptych, but these are basically separate images colocated on the same page, collage sheet style.

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Symmetry In Art and Storytelling

Symmetry is one of those words whose everyday usage is a little different from the scientific meaning.

Everyday usage

a sense of harmonious and most appealing proportion and balance

Scientific meaning

In biology, the repetition of the parts in an animal or plant in an orderly fashion. Specifically, symmetry refers to a correspondence of body parts, in size, shape, and relative position, on opposite sides of a dividing line or distributed around a central point or axis.

SYMMETRY IN PROSE

The collection of images below are examples of symmetry and off-kilter symmetry. Images which are almost symmetrical — but not quite — can take readers into the realm of the uncanny. A standout text example comes from Shirley Jackson’s novel The Sundial.

The Halloran estate’s plans and set up are meant to be symmetrical, but the badly placed sundial disrupts this sense of stability. Like the door symbol in Hangsaman, the sundial is an inescapable presence: “Intruding purposefully upon the entire scene, an inevitable focus, was the sundial, set badly off center and reading “WHAT IS THIS WORLD?”

“Homespun” Horror: Shirley Jackson’s Domestic Doubling by Hannah Phillips
Continue reading “Symmetry In Art and Storytelling”

Birthday Presents For 13-Year-Olds Who Love To Draw

I love art equipment. I love researching art equipment. My kid has expressed appreciation that their parent is an artist. Although I’m mostly digital these days, our kid receives awesome traditional art equipment as gifts.

LYRA WATERSOLUBLE GRAPHITE CRAYONS

These are big. Sharpen with a craft knife. Good for laying lots of colour down on large paper.

Continue reading “Birthday Presents For 13-Year-Olds Who Love To Draw”

Inky Illustrations of Cats

There are many ways of rendering cats in illustration. By letting ink run into the paper, cats can look beautifully soft and furry.

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) ink blot cats by Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol (1928-1987) ink blot cats by Andy Warhol
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970) cat kittens
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970)
Louis Icart, (1880-1950) detail from an etching, c. 1925
Louis Icart, (1880-1950) detail from an etching, c. 1925
Tsuguharu Foujita (Japanese-French, 1886-1968) from Book of Cats, 1930
Tsuguharu Foujita (Japanese-French, 1886-1968) from Book of Cats, 1930
Hannes Kilian - Cat Nero in the Snow, 1953
Hannes Kilian – Cat Nero in the Snow, 1953
Endre Penovac Serbian artist cat
Endre Penovac Serbian artist
Marjorie L. Cooper (American, 1910-1999), pen name Elizabeth Webbe, An illustration from the book 'The Kitten Twins' 1960
Marjorie L. Cooper (American, 1910-1999), pen name Elizabeth Webbe, An illustration from the book ‘The Kitten Twins’ written by Helen Wing 1960
Clare Turlay Newberry (American,1903-1970) - April’s Kittens cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (American, 1903-1970) – April’s Kittens cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (1903-1970), c. 1937 cat
Clare Turlay Newberry (1903-1970), c. 1937

1920s Fashion In Art

1920s Hair

1920s Hairstyles History- Long Hair to Bobbed Hair

1924 haircut
1924

Exoticism

An Evening Soirée, Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) 1921 mirror
An Evening Soirée, Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) 1921
Jewellery catalogue 1927
Jewellery catalogue 1927

Fur

Illustration by Earl Christy 1920s
Illustration by Earl Christy 1920s

1920s Children’s Fashion

Clothes in children’s catalogues offer a glimpse into how the wealthy classes were dressing their children.

1920s school dresses
1920s school dresses

The dresses above look quite similar to girls’ dresses which came back into fashion in the 1960s.

The 1960s version was likewise a tunic style of dress with dropped waist (or no waist). The a-line shape, or a pencil shape, came back into fashion at the turn of the decade 1959-1960 and remained all through the Kennedy years.

The difference between the 1920s and 1960s dresses: different colours, simpler styles, new polyester fabrics. Hemlines were higher.

Continue reading “1920s Fashion In Art”

Eye Lines Guiding The Viewer in Illustration

Artists and illustrators use tricks which tell the viewer where to look. Since humans tend to naturally follow the gaze of others, one focusing trick is to create eye lines all pointing to the focus of the work.

In the Norman Rockwell image below, the viewer’s eye is drawn straight to the dog. Notice how Rockwell does this. Almost every single character is looking at the dog, except for one guy who is looking at us and pointing to the dog. The characters looking at the dog also form a circle arond the dog, placing the dog at centre of that circle, though not at the mathematical circle of the artwork. (Compositionally, that wouldn’t look good.)

Rockwell has also utilised various examples of ‘pointing’. A boy’s violin case also seems to point towards the dog. An artist uses his paintbrush. Even the postie is holding something that seems to point to the dog. (I can’t work out exactly what it is, but that doesn’t matter.)

Norman Rockwell Road Block - Issue of The Saturday Evening Post alley way
Norman Rockwell Road Block – Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Continue reading “Eye Lines Guiding The Viewer in Illustration”

Illustrations Of Ominous Faces In Shadow

Photographers understand that faces can change significantly depending on how they are lit. Illustrators also know this. Faces obscured are ominous. Below are examples of ominous faces making use of shadow.

NACHTMERRIE OVER NEDERLAND (1945) L.J. Jordaan
NACHTMERRIE OVER NEDERLAND (1945) L.J. Jordaan
THE PSALMS FOR MODERN LIFE (1933) Arthur Wragg, man in front of sexual health clinic, 'Absolute Secrecy'
THE PSALMS FOR MODERN LIFE (1933) Arthur Wragg, man in front of sexual health clinic, ‘Absolute Secrecy’
Poster Art 1932 Fantomas, illustrator not found, ominous faces in shadow
Poster Art 1932 Fantomas, illustrator not found

Obscuring the eyes is an effective way of creating horror. In the illustration below, the deep-set eyes are entirely in shadow, or perhaps the eyes are not even there.

Fear (1945, L. Ron. Hubbard) illustration by Edd Cartier psychological horror
Fear (1945, L. Ron. Hubbard) illustration by Edd Cartier psychological horror
When the top half of a face is in shadow, it can mimic the look of wearing a bandit mask. The villain in this image also has a green tinge to his skin, another marker of ‘evil’. (See: Why are witches green?)
Here’s another example of a scary face in shadow, though in this case the villain really is wearing a mask.
The face lit up as if through open blinds has a specifically detective story feel about it.
Robert Maguire (1921 - 2005) 1959 book cover illustration for 'Negative Of A Nude' by Charles E. Fritch, although this art was used for several other titles too
Robert Maguire (1921 – 2005) 1959 book cover illustration for ‘Negative Of A Nude’ by Charles E. Fritch, although this art was used for several other titles too

In children’s books, shadows aren’t utilised as often, apart from grounding shadows an unobtrusive indications of light-source. That’s because most picture books aren’t meant to be scary. However, the picture books of Chris Van Allsburg are a notable exception. Starting out as a sculptor, Van Allsburg makes heavy use of shadows, to the point where his shadows carry meaning.

Chris Van Allsburg, ‘The Hooded Congregation’, ”Ghosts” by Time-Life Books, 1984.
from The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, meeting the magician face to face
from The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, meeting the magician face to face
Cover by Marcello Dudovich, 1930
Cover by Marcello Dudovich, (1878 – 1962) 1930. This looks like death warmed up.
Photo Magazin July 1953
Photo Magazin July 1953. The shadow across this guy’s face almost looks like a Rorschach test.
Mead Schaeffer (1898 - 1980) ominous face
Mead Schaeffer (1898 – 1980)
Mead Schaeffer (1898 – 1980)
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Aurora In Art

Aurora are works of art in their own right. Of course artists have been reproducing aurora in paintings and illustration since it was possible. Below are some examples of aurora in art, including various media. It’s interesting to see how the aurora can even be reproduced using woodcut.

Frederic Edwin Church (American), Aurora Borealis, 1865, 56x83, 1911.4.1, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Frederic Edwin Church (American), Aurora Borealis, 1865, 56×83, 1911.4.1, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Edward Whymper (British mountaineer and illustrator, London, 1840 - Chamonix, 1911), Aurora Borealis, color woodcut, with watercolor
Edward Whymper (British mountaineer and illustrator, London, 1840 – Chamonix, 1911), Aurora Borealis, color woodcut, with watercolor
Northern Lights by Meyers Konv-Lexicon, 1870
Northern Lights by Meyers Konv-Lexicon, 1870

'Aurora Borealis' Woodcut print by Finnish artist Aukusti Tuhko. 1937
‘Aurora Borealis’ Woodcut print by Finnish artist Aukusti Tuhko. 1937
Authors & illustrators Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, Ingri Parin d'Aulaire, 1972
Authors & illustrators Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, Ingri Parin d’Aulaire, 1972
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Simultaneous Narrative In Picture Books

Let’s say there are 7 main categories of Narrative art. Narrative art is art which tells a story. This post is about the subcategory which has been called ‘Simultaneous Narrative’ art.

  1. Monoscenic — represents a single scene with no repetition of characters and only one action taking place
  2. Continuous Continuous narrative art gives clues, provided by the layout itself, about a sequence. Sequential narrative without frames.
  3. Sequential — very much like a continuous narrative with one major difference. The artist makes use of frames. Each frame is a particular scene during a particular moment. Think comic strips.
  4. Synoptic offers the synopsis of a bigger story. You must know a story before you can understand synoptic narrative. In a picture book, the text will help with this.
  5. Simultaneous — has very little visually discernible organisation unless the viewer is acquainted with its purpose. There’s an emphasis on repeatable patterns.
  6. Panoptic — depicts multiple scenes and actions without the repetition of characters. Think of the word ‘panorama’. ‘All-seeing’ (pan + optic)
  7. Progressive — a single scene in which characters do not repeat. However, multiple actions are taking place in order to convey a passing of time in the narrative. A progressive narrative is not to be interpreted as a group of simultaneous events but rather a sequence that is dependent on its positioning on the page. Actions displayed by characters in the narratives compact present and future action into a single image.

The concept of simultaneous narrative art is interesting when it comes to picture books because if you take, say, an illustration of a country fair, where one person is eating candy floss, another is riding the merry-go-round, another is shooting balls into clown mouths and so on and so forth, until all of the various ‘country fair-ish’ acts have been covered, is the viewer really meant to believe these things are occurring a the same time? If you visited a real life country fair, you’d never get a photo of that. You’d have to stage manage it. Yet it’s possible that within the fantasy world of the picture book, these events truly are going on at the same time. The reader is not meant to perceive them as sequential.

Alternatively, it doesn’t matter if the reader does read the events as sequential. The takeaway point from a busy circus scene: These things all went on at the country fair that day.

This circus scene could be an example of simultaneous art, because we don’t know which event happened when.

At first glance,the image below might also an example of progressive art. Characters don’t repeat, but multiple actions are taking place to convey the passing of time at the fair. However, positioning on the page is not relevant in this picture. Characters didn’t visit the theater first, next the ferris wheel, working their way down the page. We do require the text to tell us what the characters did and in what order.

progressive narrative art
Artwork by Bodil Jane. Is this an example of progressive narrative art, or panoptic? That depends on whether you believe all these things to be going on at once.

More likely, temporality is not important, because the picture book adventure is a carnivalesque, dream space.

progressive narrative art
Do you believe the trapeze artists are performing at the same time as the bear tamer? Or do they instead perform in the same place at different times? Your experience of a live circus performance will inform your interpretation of the static image.
progressive narrative sticker sheet
Circus friends stickers by Helen Dardik. The ultimate simultaneous narrative is perhaps the sticker sheet? (I call this the ‘collage sheet’ style of illustration.)
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