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.
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.
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 ! : )
I should start today on a happy note, by thanking my good friend Helen Birch for her blog-swop post which you can find on her great site here at draw draw draw. Talking about myself and my love of dogs… no surprises there then lol
I noticed that Helen had linked this wonderful video about children’s drawing by Delphine Burrus, it holds a message that we often forget !
Continuing, but on a more serious note, I’d also like to mention to all my dog owning readers that there are increasing worries over the dumping of tanker-waste of palm oil out at sea, where fragments are washing ashore onto Britain’s (and probably other countries) beaches. They have already been discovered on the Wirral, Sussex, Kent, Hampshire, Cornwall and Devon coastlines. Dogs are being drawn to the fatty smell but when they eat/ lick these toxic fragments, they are dying.. within hours of contact !!.
More info here, please spread the word to other dog owners you may know, who may not read my blog and let’s keep our dogs safe !!
Ok, onto today’s post…. I feel it’s been quite a wet quarterly start to the year this year. Apparently the average rainfall (month by month), doesn’t vary that much from year to year. I’m hoping that the figures are right and somehow the rain for the next quarter has already been spent !!
One (not quite so damp) Sunday, we braved the winds and made a trip near to Kearsley, in Bolton, to explore part of a canal path walk. The bridge and church looked very pretty, even without the aid of sunshine. Good job my dog Boo is keeping watch, hey, I might have lost my way then if it wasn’t for my trusty lookout lol. I think the birds have been secretly dancing at midnight again.
On the other side of the river, the forest trail begins. You can see how damp it’s been by the moss and wealth of fungus around.
The photos (fortunately for you lucky readers) don’t quite do the mud levels justice. So it all looks much more pleasant than it actually was.
In warmer times I imagine this would be a pretty place to amble. Even though it’s right in the middle of an old industrial landscape, nature has found it’s way to weave back into the environment and we were lucky to see this Heron standing-statuesque on the far side of the canal, some two meters away.
This impressive Meccano-style bridge was constructed on the site of the demolished horse-bridge back in 2012. Designed by the artist Liam Curtin, it is an accurate replica of the original Meccano pieces, but increased in scale by ten. There are picnic tables and a bench too. I’ve submitted this to my friend’s site The World Bench Project. If you have any images of pretty benches or ones in unusual places (or made from unusual materials) then please upload them to the site and share your benches from all around the world.
Here’s Miss Boo looking like queen of the Meccano bridge (who goes there.. you shall not pass… ok maybe if you have biscuits) I think it’s time to head back whilst her paws aren’t too covered in mud ! You can see where the canal locks are being redeveloped.
Tell me…. where have you been to lately ?
Hey it’s the first day of Spring today, and it’s pouring down !..mmm let’s hope it’s not a sign of things to come. ‘Happy Springtime’ everyone.
I met up with an old friend Helen last week. We studied Textile Design together at Nottingham Polytechnic, back in the 80’s (in the days before it turned in to a University) … gosh how old does that make me feel ! Helen is an art lecturer, a social media advocate and has created the highly successful blog Draw Draw Draw, and is the author of two best selling books ‘Freehand’ (which features my own work on the old cover), ‘Just Add Watercolour’ and a third, soon to be released called ‘Drawn From Life’ (out March 23rd).
It’s always good to catch up with my old art school buddy Craig over at Fishkink….or even better – for real – over a lovely cup of coffee
We talked about all sorts. It’s always good to compare notes about what we’ve been making, seeing, blogging about and thinking about doing. The dialogue inevitably includes ‘so what are you busy with right now?’. My reply: I’m waiting for the arrival of my new book ‘Drawn from Life’.
It was lovely to see that some of Craig’s most recent work had included collaborating with a jeweller – combining his love of illustration with his beloved Boo.. this time in 3D. Dog talk is always something I’m happy to do, especially since I’ve become an active borrower and walker of pooches on the site/app ‘Borrow My Doggy’. Canine chats gave us an idea: why not do a guest blog feature on each other’s blogs with a dog theme as our prompt?
Here are a just few dog drawings I’ve enjoyed looking at recently:
The dog drawings of well known artists:
Hockney’s daschunds – always a favourite and a suitably rude but real collaboration from Warhol and Basquiat.
Lucian Freud’s whippet drawings – it’s good to see these studies. The dogs appear in so many of his paintings too.
Rembrandt – studies from 1637 and 1640 rendered in pen and ink and as an etching.
Sally Muir – using a vet collar to make a memorable dog portrait.
Kiki Smith – just the paws and finally Nick Slater’s more graphic-y rendition of a dog.
He bases his observations on his own pet corgis – who have their own Instagram account. We had corgis when I was a kid so I retain a soft spot for them even now.
Many thanks to Helen for being a part of Fishink Blog for today and good luck with the release of the book this week too.
I’ve been nominated for a Mystery Blogger Award by a long-time follower and friend of Fishink blog, Kaori Okumura who writes the Home Spun London Blog, so many thanks for that. Kaori, originates from Japan and says “I am an artisan in London, who specialises in hand-made luxury knitwear. I love true creative works, (not soon forgotten fads) and also enjoy reacquainting myself with London, via my Brompton folding bike.”
The rules of the award are :
1. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog. (Done..tick… see above)
2. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well (that would be Okoto, many thanks)
3. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself. (I am a textile designer, an illustrator and a Reiki Master)
4. Answer the questions from the nominator.. which are…
1. What makes you smile on miserable wintry Monday morning ?
Well apart from my lovely dog Boo …
…. the few ceramics I’ve gathered in my studio space, always grab a smile out of me.
Definitely a coffee drinker, although I like it weak enough, so it looks like tea! When they see it, most people ask me what it is that I’m drinking, and then look at me like I’m crazy when I say it’s ‘coffee’. I love the smell of real fresh coffee but just don’t like the strength of taste.
Again my selection of mugs, helps to keep me happy.
There must be more as these ones are pretty old now, but still favs.
It would have to be a huge bookshop like Foyles. I’d love to sit and read through the children’s books and surround myself with all those great illustrations.
5. What menu would you choose if it were to be your last supper?
Oddly enough, although I do enjoy my food, I’m not a huge foodie. So just for a change I’d like to mix up my countries a bit with something along the lines of…
Buffalo Mozarella and fresh Tomato starter from Italy, Coriander Chicken with Basmatti Rice main course from India, followed by a Lemon Cheesecake for desert from Portugal.
Thanks again to Kaori for the nomination and I’d like to nominate any of my readers to comment and answer these questions themselves…. let’s see how many answers we can generate !