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Aliki Children’s Book Illustrator

May 22, 2017

Aliki Brandenberg is now 87. She has well over 60 books to her name and illustrates in a number of different styles. I love her fun simple lines and her textural work most of all. Aliki says “I write fiction out of a need to express myself. I write nonfiction—out of curiosity and fascination. And I draw in order to breathe.”

Born in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, Aliki’s parents, were originally from Greece, and they taught her to speak Greek as a first language. She started to draw at an early age, and her parents enrolled her in art classes.

After graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1951, she worked briefly at the J. C. Penney Company in New York, in their display department. She then moved back to Philadelphia and worked as a freelance artist, creating art for advertising and display purposes. She also taught classes in art, worked as a muralist, and started a greeting card company.

In 1956 Aliki decided to explore her Greek heritage, as well as many other parts of Europe. During her travels she met Franz Brandenberg, whom she married the following year. After moving to Franz’s native Switzerland, she wrote her first book The Story of William Tell, about the legendary Swiss archer. The book, published in 1960, was well received. Aliki and her husband moved to New York, where she began in earnest her long career as an illustrator and author of books for children.

She has written and illustrated many books and she has also illustrated books for other authors, including her husband Franz Brandenberg. Her career as an author and illustrator led her to explore many subjects of historic and scientific interest. Her nonfiction books, either written by herself or by others, touch upon matters as varied as dinosaurs, mammoths, book manufacturing, Shakespeare, evolution, and growing up. Aliki’s fictional works explore such themes as family and friendship. Aliki’s Greek heritage is also a recurring theme in her works, both fiction and nonfiction.

I have two of her books which display both of her styles that really appeal to me. The first is called ‘The Listening Walk’.

It’s all about the sounds we hear when going for a walk if you listen closely.

I love the simple use of two colours (sometimes overlapping to create a fall on third colour) with black line and textural elements. These cars below are wonderful, you can just feel the speed !

Lovely detail and observations.

The second is called ‘My Five Senses’ and was part of the classic ‘Let’s read and find out Science book’ series.

Lots of textural rubbings, pattern and variation in line thicknesses and scale.

You can read more about her here.

She has been living and working in England since 1977, Aliki continues to produce new titles. “I’m one of those lucky people who love what they do,” she once commented. “I also love my garden, music, theatre, museums, and traveling. But I’m happiest when I’m in my studio on the top floor of our tall house in London, alone with the book I’m working on, and Mozart.”

If you like Aliki’s work, you may also like the work of Helen Borten and Abner Graboff, you can see many posts about these artists, by writing their names into the search function on my blog. Happy viewing.

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Ivan Chermayeff Collages, Models and Logos

May 15, 2017

If you’ve ever watched Showtime or NBC, visited the Museum of Modern Art or the Smithsonian, read National Geographic or a Harper Collins book, or shopped at Barneys or Armani Exchange, you’ve seen the graphic design of Ivan Chermayeff and his firm. Since starting Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv (then just Chermayeff & Geismar) in 1956, he’s created countless logos that are, to this day, ingrained in western visual culture.

The red ‘O’ in the famous Mobil logo was designed to pop out at you when you are traveling fast down a motorway and make you realise that you need to stop for a fuel top up.

Ivan says ” We started our firm in ‘56. That’s quite a few years ago, and I’d been working away for some years as a student before that, and as a little boy before that. It all adds up to a hell of a long time. It means I’ve done a lot of work because I really like work a lot. When Tom [Geismar] and I started, there was no such expression as ‘graphic design.’ When a cab driver asked what you did, if you said graphic design, you’d have to explain it for an hour. Instead, we’d just say ‘I’m a commercial artist.”

Below (in order) are the St Louis Children’s Zoo drinking fountain, Lisbon Aquarium, Tennessee Aquarium and Osaka Aquarium.

Chermayeff’s love of using found objects began when he was at school, intimidated by the skills of his fellow students. “They could all draw and paint a lot better than I could,” he says, ” I was always putzing around with garbage at home, but whatever I made, my father would say it was great. He really encouraged me.”

Now in his eighties, he is still working and shows no sign of slowing down. “And there’s still a lot of trash to get through.”

When talking about his collages he says “It’s important not to think too hard, most of these collages appeared in about 15 seconds – but I might have some of these scraps lying about for years before they find their right home.”

” I do have a small fear of drawing, and an even bigger fear of painting. That’s why I use scissors, and I have lots: short ones, long ones, heavy ones, so I can cut heavy things. Cutting and tearing has a sort of excitement about it. If you tear things, they have a look of being torn, in contrast to a line which has little emotion. ”

” I can’t sit still no matter where I am. Even if I’m lying on the beach in Cape Cod, I’m arranging pebbles in the sand. It’s always play. Play is a very good word for my attitude, even towards making a symbol that has to stand for a company–arriving at that symbol is still a form of play. ”

Ivan has also produced books, his work makes me think of Paul Rand, Matisse and Kurt Schwitters.

You can discover more about Ivan here and here .

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Gaynor Chapman Mid century Artist

May 9, 2017

There are so many fantastic artists from the 1950’s and 60’s who have very little presence online. I feel this is a great shame and that their work should be seen and appreciated by new admirers, it’s always an aim of mine to help promote and reveal these illustrators who’s work I discover and admire. One of those is Gaynor Chapman. She was born in 1935, she attended the Epsom School of Art and was one of the ‘bright young things’ at the RCA in the early 1950’s, where she studied illustration and graphics.

The combination of these two disciplines is very evident in her work, which has a deliberate, compartmentalised graphic structure, emphasised by the use of a visible, irregular black outline. Alongside posters, she also created many book covers and illustrations for other people’s stories.

Some of her most stunning pieces were commissioned by London Transport for its poster series.

She also produced projects for BP, COI, Shell, ICI and Air France, and she created a large mural for the ship SS Dover.

Photo thanks to Airnostalgie

Most of her work appeared in the 1960s/1970s, when she taught graphics at the Brighton College of Art and continued to paint.

She died in 2000, aged 65.

If anyone knows anymore information about Gaynor Chapman or has images you would like to share, please get in touch and I would be glad to do just that. Thank you. Thanks to Mike Dempsey and his wonderful ‘Graphic Journey blog’ for the information used in this post.

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Yayoi Kusama Seeing spots before your eyes !

May 1, 2017

Yayoi Kusama is obsessed with dots, pumpkins and mirrors, so much so that she has devoted her whole life as an artist to these subjects.  She famously creates all of her work in a studio near the Tokyo psychiatric facility in which she has lived, voluntarily, since 1977, having reported experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations her whole life. Prior to her admission, she spent a period of time living and working in New York City, where she was part of the avant-garde art scene, painting dots onto naked folk, in public areas, as part of an anti-war demonstration. Her message was always one, not of war, but to ‘Love Forever’.

During 1968 and 1969, Yayoi staged events across Manhattan, from the United Nations Building and the New York Stock Exchange to the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland statue. Frequently, these happenings involved her working with groups of naked men and women covered with her signature polka dots and dancing on the streets, until inevitably they were forced to move along by the police. In one instance, at the Museum of Modern Art, eight nude participants struck poses in the fountain of the museum’s sculpture garden. By this stage, the art press was familiar with the rhetoric of Kusama’s anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-establishment and free love happenings, however, this particular spectacle attracted front page coverage by the Daily News, who reported that museum security officers spent 20 minutes attempting to coax the performers out of the water. Yayoi famously referred to the art gallery as the ‘Mausoleum of Modern Art’  and said ‘What is modern there ? . . . Van Gogh, Cézanne, those other ghosts, all are dead or dying. While the dead show dead artists, living artists die’

“Pumpkins have been a great comfort to me since my childhood,” said Kusama. “They speak to me of the joy of living. They are humble and amusing at the same time, and I have and always will, celebrate them in my art.”

A retrospective of her 60-year career has recently been touring the world Museums and art spaces, which brought together everything from the 87-year-old artist’s early drawings and sketchbooks through to her iconic installations.

Kusama has also previously created a concept store for fashion brand Louis Vuitton at London’s Selfridges department store, which again featured her signature polka-dot patterns.

She’s also well known for creating her mirrored infinity rooms.

Where even the stars find her work a little dotty !

Whatever you may think about her work, I admire someone who has continued to follow and work with a theme over so many generations. You can read more about Yayoi’s ideas, philosophies and art here.

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Ladybird Books and Charles Tunnicliffe

April 24, 2017

Hello to Monday everyone and I’d like to start by wishing you all a Happy Earth Day from over the weekend. Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in more than 193 countries each year. You can read more here.

So onto today’s post…..

What should make a tapping sound against my window as I sat down to write this (I kid you not)…

… I’m hoping that’s the seal of approval now for this post lol.

Like thousands of other children, I grew up with Ladybird books around me. I didn’t collect them, however, like many others I knew (and boy did kids like to collect things when I was growing up !) but I do remember going into ‘Bookland’ (my local book shop) and being confronted with a wall of Ladybird titles. It was quite literally (and visually) overwhelming !

So recently, I happened across a couple of cheap, possible first edition copies, of two familiar titles I remember owning as a child. Part of the ‘What to look for in… (Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer)’ series. Looking through them as an adult, I remember how beautifully the painted pages were, and I quickly re-associated with these familiar scenes from nature and my youth. What I failed to realise, until I started putting this post together, was that the artist Charles Tunnicliffe, was a name I already had on my bookshelf. These are some of his illustrations for Ladybird books.

Charles Tunnicliffe was born in 1901 in Langley, Macclesfield, England. He spent his early years living on the farm at Sutton, where he saw much wildlife. In 1916 he began to study at the Macclesfield School of Art, and later went on to win a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.

He married in 1929 at the Methodist Church, Whalley Range, Manchester, to Winifred Wonnacott, a fellow art student. In 1947 he moved from Manchester to a house called “Shorelands” at Malltraeth, on the estuary of the Afon Cefni on Anglesey, where he lived until his death in 1979.

He worked in several media, including watercolor painting, etching and aquatint, wood engraving, woodcut, scraperboard (sometimes called scratchboard), and oil painting.  Much of his work depicted birds in their natural settings and other naturalistic scenes. His work was also used to illustrate Brooke Bond tea cards and as a result was seen by millions of young people in the United Kingdom during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Charles’s work was characterised by its precision and accuracy, but also by the way in which he was able to portray birds as they were seen in nature rather than as stiff scientific studies.

From March 1953, he painted many of the cover illustrations for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’s (RSPB) magazine Bird Notes, and several for the later Birds magazines.  At his death, much of his personal collection of work was bequeathed to Anglesey council on the condition that it was housed together and made available for public viewing. This body of work can now be seen at Oriel Ynys Môn (The Anglesey Gallery) near Llangefni.

His work shows such care and attention to detail, that you can’t help but be drawn into each scene, noticing more and more information as the eye works it’s way around the painting.

Charles also created the wood engravings too.

Here’s the other two covers in the series (below) and the only other ladybird book I owned (above).

And this was the book I had on my shelf already, without realising it was the same artist. Such amazing detailed and dedicated work.

Charles also received much recognition for his work on Henry Williamson’s children’s book ‘ Tarka the Otter’ in 1932.

He created many studies for Tarka, the main character.

Beautifully observed watery scenes.

He spent days just observing and creating observational paintings, which were often life-size studies !

Can’t you just feel the frost on this branch below. At least 250 books used Charles’s illustrations on the cover and inside.

Ladybird books had their beginnings in 1915, although the company traces its origins to 1867, when Henry Wills opened a bookshop in Loughborough, Leicestershire. Within a decade he progressed to printing and publishing guidebooks and street directories. He was joined by William Hepworth in 1904, and the company traded as Wills & Hepworth.

By August 1915, Wills & Hepworth had published their first children’s books, under the Ladybird imprint. From the start, the company was identified by a ladybird logo, at first with open wings, but eventually changed to the more familiar closed-wing ladybird in the late 1950’s. The ladybird logo has since undergone several redesigns, the latest of which was launched in 2006.

Wills & Hepworth began trading as Ladybird Books in 1971 as a direct result of the brand recognition that their imprint had achieved in Britain. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the company’s Key Words Reading Scheme (launched in 1964) was heavily used by British primary schools, using a reduced vocabulary to help children learn to read. This series of 36 small-format hardback books presented stereotyped models of British family life – the innocence of Peter and Jane at play, Mum the housewife, and Dad the breadwinner. Many of the illustrations in this series were by Harry Wingfield and Martin Aitchison.

The 1950s to the 1970s are widely considered to be Ladybird’s ‘golden age’. This period saw the post-war baby boomers come of age, creating a mass of new consumers who were open, confident and unrestrained. Ladybird books reflected this optimism with its forward-looking design and illustrations, which depicted a utopian vision of modern Britain.

In the 1960s, Ladybird produced the Learnabout series of non-fiction (informational) books, some of which were used by adults as well as children.

An independent company for much of its life, Ladybird Books became part of the Pearson Group in 1972. However, falling demand in the late 1990s led Pearson to fully merge Ladybird into its Penguin Books subsidiary in 1998, joining other household names in British children’s books such as Puffin Books, Dorling Kindersley, and Frederick Warne. The Ladybird offices and printing factory in Loughborough closed the same year, and much of the company’s archive of historic artwork was transferred to public collections.

Nowadays you can pick up a lovely retro print of a Ladybird book illustration from the company King & MCGAW.

I’ve been told that over 20,000 of the images from the books have been preserved in the world’s first permanent gallery devoted to Ladybird books at Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). The gallery has scores of titles shelved chronologically from 1961’s ‘Learning to read Numbers’ to current titles such as ‘Climate Change’ by the Prince of Wales. His book is one of the new range of “expert” titles for which the first new artwork in over 40 years was commissioned. A proof sheet shows how little the books changed once a standard was established to cope with wartime shortages, a single large sheet of paper printed on both sides gave 56 pages or text, illustrations, plus a cover.

In case you have had your head in the sand for the last year and haven’t noticed, there has been a range of Ladybird books for grown-ups, which use original Ladybird illustrations with up to date, dry humoured and witty, written commentary.

They have been runaway best sellers, earning an estimated £30m for Penguin.

The key illustrators of Ladybird books from that vintage period were: – Martin Aitchison, Robert Ayton, John Berry, John Kenney, B.H Robinson, Charles Tunnicliffe and H Wingfield, (some images of the illustrators exist here).

It is impossible to say exactly how many titles Ladybird Books has published over the past century as records before 1940 no longer exist. We do know that, between 1940 and 1980, Ladybird published a total of 63 different series, collectively containing 646 titles.  By 1990, the annual Ladybird catalogue listed over 600 titles still in print, with new titles being published at an average rate of 100 per year. Today, Ladybird continues to publish around 70 new titles every year.

Finally, and before you start asking me what your ladybird books are worth these days lol, I happened across a site that deals in rare and unusual Ladybird publications called The Wee Web.  They claim that the rarest book of them all to be ‘The Computer – How it Works’ (1971) – this is not the standard issue but rather a private publication that was especially produced for the Ministry of Defence in 1972. The M.O.D specifically asked for the book to be published in plain covers and without copyright information as not to embarrass their training staff !

Which titles do you remember and possibly still own ?

Many thanks to Wikipedia, Penguin Books and The Guardian for the information in this post. Please share this post with your friends and spread the word about Fishink Blog online, thank you for being a reader.

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Jo Peel Outdoor art

April 17, 2017

Happy Easter Holidays to everyone. I hope this find’s you unwound and enjoying your long weekend off.

I recently came across the wonderful work of artist Jo Peel, and got in touch to discover a little more behind her large-scale illustrations.

Let’s start with a small selection of Jo’s paintings on canvas.

What’s your earliest memories of art and how did you first start painting onto buildings ?

For me it was just a natural progression from drawing to painting and another way to visually communicate ideas. I am inspired by everyday occurrences and with paint, my intention is to bring life to the things that could easily pass by unnoticed.

Here’s a couple of interior room commissions Jo has been asked to do and a huge outdoor one for Hagglers Corner in Sheffield.

My blog often covers art from the fifties and sixties, where light blue and orange are often seen together, is there a particular reason these colours pop up repeatedly in your work ?

I’ve always had a love of strong turquoise blues, I can’t seem to leave the colour out of my murals. The orange comes from my love of construction. It’s used so frequently in building sites – and happens to look good with blue!

Your paintings, for me, tell a story of the changing face of towns and cities. Choosing to paint places like The Cod Father, SellFridges etc, do you associate with the humour around us or are these paintings more like statements or questions to challenge how we feel about the spaces we live in ?  In the same way that photographers like Martin Parr have shown a side of life in some places that people would rather turn a blind eye to, you also seem to pluck those images out and capture them in oil. What do these places say to you ?

I tend to be influenced by everything around me. I like watching cranes slowly move above urban landscapes and walking past piles of discarded boxes and piles of bricks. I’m influenced by the idea of telling a story about the world as it is now. There is a sadness in the way that humans strive to build and demolish, but also a hope and a humour.

Can you tell us a little more about your work depicting trees growing into buildings. Is this about nature reclaiming what was originally hers ?

I suppose the main idea running through all of my work is the idea expressed in my animation, “Things Change” made in 2012. I’m interested in how the past influences us now, as well as the way in which people connect to buildings and environments as well as the hidden infrastructures that link everyone together. Nature was here before us and I would like to think that when we mess it all up, she will indeed reclaim what was originally hers.

Great to see that you’ve been asked to paint more globally too. Can you explain a little about the challenges you face, when painting abroad ? For instance do you worry about getting the raw materials you would need, sourced locally ? Long ladders, small cranes etc ?

Generally I’ve been surprised at how easy it is to get hold of materials abroad. You can learn a lot about a place from a builders merchant! When I go to Japan I always try to stock up on tools and paintbrushes.


What was your most challenging painting to date ? and the one that gave you the most pleasure ?

Interesting that you put both questions together as I think that the answer is the same for both. My animation “Things Change” was pretty challenging, as I started it in Brazil but unfortunately all my equipment and memory cards were stolen in an armed robbery, so I had to re-start it in London. There were many more challenges along the way, financially and physically, but it was definitely worth doing in the end and I was so pleased to finish it.

Finally, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the arts scene in Sheffield, where are the must-see places to visit ?

Peak District!  Oh, and B&B gallery for the art.

Many thanks to Jo for answering my questions, onwards and upwards as they say ! I love the work, but I do wonder if she ever gets tired of painting bricks ! : )

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B.O.A.C Mid Century Airline Posters Part 2

April 10, 2017

Welcome back to part 2 of my mid-century feature about B.O.A.C.(British Overseas Airways Corporation) and if you missed it, you can view part 1 here. I would love to have been in my thirties in the 1950’s, how wonderful to have been surrounded by such amazing advertising, such as these and to have visited the Festival of Britain. I bet it felt so modern and futuristic !

How fabulous are these, simple three colour work on two of the USA posters is striking !! Less is definitely more : )

Great Britain and London in particular was a huge destination.

More posters with a Festival theme.

The speedbird logo works so cleverly here.

Of course Britain wasn’t the only BOAC destination.

Do any of you remember seeing these images ? What are your feelings about modern day advertising in comparison ?

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