It is my firm belief that every artist has a moment of inspiration, where they come upon their favorite form of medium and fall in love. My ‘love at first sight’ was with illustrations, and happened when I was four years old. My grandpa used to sit me and my sister on the sofa with him and crack open an old volume of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis. As we flew into the world of Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan, I was enchanted by the beautiful and whimsical illustrations made by Pauline Baynes. I loved the inky black and white world, where Lucy was taking her first steps into Narnia, hand in hand with Mr. Tumnus.
Later on, Shel Silverstein’s artistic and humorous books of poems showed me the fantastic mess words can make. It helped me understand how the literal and symbolic usage of a word or phrase could paint a very interesting picture, if you let it. I still have to bite back a smile when I hear ‘with everything on it’. After all, no one orders a hot dog with a sink on top, along with the relish, right?
Another illustrative genius is Quentin Blake, artist for the acclaimed Roald Dahl’s books. The tipsy, ragged edged quality of his drawings emphasizes the quirky world in which Dahl’s character’s exist. His technique somehow succeeds is making the children look like…. children (slight, high energy, smart, yet vulnerable) while making the villainous adults look particularly fearsome.
As a teenager in high school, I found refuge in books like The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. You can’t imagine how surprised I was to find out that my favorite childhood illustrator had once again captured my heart, this time with her amazing depictions of Bagend and Middle Earth. To this day, Pauline Baynes holds a permanent spot in my personal ‘Artists Hall of Fame’.
JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit [image source]
In spite of the rich legacy that artists like Bayne’s, Blake, and Silverstein have left behind, there are so many other illustrators out there who have allowed their work to transform the art world and bridge the gap between the writer’s mind and our imaginations. I look forward to discovering some more.