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Helen Borten Illustration Heaven Part 3

October 25, 2013

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This is the third post concerning Illustrator Helen Borten that I’ve been able to assemble recently. I’ve been a fan of her 1960 and 70’s illustrated books for some time. By chance I came across Helen’s contact details and we have been emailing one another for a while now.  She kindly agreed to send me some images of her own artwork that she has framed in her home.  Also graciously allowing me to post it here so that we can all appreciate her beautiful sense of line and colour. Here’s a few of her early sketches.

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She recalls ” The charcoal figure was done from a model in art school– I was 18 years old and afire with the idea of becoming a fine (as opposed to commercial) artist.  Then life intervened… ”  I love these two birds,  you can gather all the information necessary to explain what is happening from such fine and stylish linework .

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A couple that were made in 1968 from Helen’s book ‘The Jungle’.

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Finally a couple of Oils. Such vibrant movement in this bird and beautiful colour in the fruit-bowl still life.

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I’ve some further images from two more of Helen’s books.  Firstly ‘Do You See What I See ?’

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Such a variety of mark-making , textures and use of minimal colour here.

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Another book ‘ Do You Hear What I Hear ? ‘

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You can feel the speed of the train and the wind in the trees here.

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Helen and I were discussing various books of hers and I said that I hadn’t seen her ‘Tales of America’ … she had an interesting memory of it.

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”  It was my first book illustration job and its author was quite famous at the time.  Does the name Burl Ives mean anything to you? He was our foremost folk singer and became an actor too, his best-known role being Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.  I was a kid less than 3 years out of art school and showed my portfolio to the art director at World Publishing (now defunct, I believe).  My professional samples were book jackets and record album covers at that time.  He offered me the Ives book at a ridiculous sum and, novice that I was, I countered that it wasn’t enough for the work required!  He was so taken aback he looked at me as if I’d suddenly grown horns.  So there we were, arguing over price, this little nobody (a female yet !) and the big-time art director.  I seem to remember I asked for double the amount but I can’t be sure. Amazingly, he accepted my terms — but with a very bad grace.  In other words, he was sore as hell. Then, when I handed in the job,  he was so pleased with the results that he apologized for the former tiff!  Actually admitted he was wrong to offer such a pittance!  There ‘s an interesting twist to that tale that happened after the book came out — how much later I don’t remember.  My husband and I were on holiday at a seaside resort and I spotted Burl Ives sitting in a boat tied up to the dock.  We walked up and I introduced myself as the illustrator of “Tales of America”.  He invited us on board and we spent a couple of delightful hours chatting with the famous man as the sun went down — he even strummed the guitar and sang a folk tune for us ! ”

There are other past blogs about Helen’s work which you can discover by typing her name into the search box on the right of my postings. More about Helen to come as a Halloween treat. Watch this space. If you enjoyed this post, please pass it on or share the site with your friends. Thank you.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2013 7:01 am

    Thanks for sharing these – they’re truly lovely. As an avid collector of children’s picture books, I found these fascinating.

    • October 25, 2013 7:04 am

      Thanks for your comment, Helen’s work gives me such pleasure I simply have to pass that on : )

  2. October 25, 2013 8:28 am

    Brilliant artist !

  3. October 25, 2013 3:25 pm

    The colors are such a delight. Loved that little story about her negotiation skills!

    • October 25, 2013 5:02 pm

      Isn’t it great that Helen shares these things. All apart of life’s rich tapestry so they say lol

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