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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