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Helen Borten Illustration Heaven Part 4 Halloween Special

October 30, 2013

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Exciting news for everyone who appreciates the beautiful work of artist Helen Borten.  Very kindly Helen sent me two of her published books that I didn’t already have, so now I can share them with you too. She even signed them with a thoughtful, personalised message. I was rather humbled and excited at their arrival, as you can imagine lol

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Firstly, as it’s Halloween tomorrow, I thought it rather appropriate to feature this 1965 publication that I already owned but hadn’t yet shared, with Helen’s artwork. There was a whole series of Crowell Holiday books all featuring different holidays in the American calendar. Other artists featured were Aliki, Paul Showers, Ed Emberley and Ati Forberg. As usual with Helen’s work I love the range and diversity captured in her illustrations.

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Pagan festivals and evil demons, they’re all here and I love the purple witch with her broom-riding sidekick !

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The use of a variety of grounds, patterns, papers and materials to construct these collages, somehow makes work from this period stand out.

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Here’s the first or Helen’s kind donations. ‘Purim’ another book in the Crowell Holiday Series. I’d never heard of this before, apparently it is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from a plot to destroy them. The story is recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.

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Purim is celebrated by giving reciprocal gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, a celebratory meal, and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther, additions to the prayers and the grace after meals. Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. I love the way that Helen uses collage to create these outfits below. Such a lovely array of watercolour and pen and ink techniques.

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The last book I’m going to feature today was ( I believe) one of Helen’s first to Illustrate, ‘Little Big Feather’ from 1956 (more info here). Helen’s donated copy no longer has it’s cover but it would have looked like this. This book was featured in the New York Times Ten Best-Illustrated Children’s Books of 1956 and it was this fact that gave Helen’s career a great boost.

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Helen’s beautiful free and easy style shines through right from her first book.

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Aren’t the colours and sketches so creatively put together, I find them very inspirational.

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I can only imagine how much fun it must have been to assemble all the different drawings, watercolours, prints and collages to make each book the illustrative joy that it is. Look at this wonderful beak nosed Red Indian saying ” No. No, No ” ! It’s a style that modern illustrators are copying today, but Helen was one of the first artists to create and introduce it.

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Helen still works but these days it’s more in the radio industry. Here’s a couple of images from a 1997 article published in the New York Times, which writes..

“She works alone recording her interviews on a portable Marantz cassette recorder and, without a transcript, editing on dual Otari machines in her west side apartment in Manhattan. ” She has the ability to see the story behind the story ” said Leonard Lopate, a colleague and host of the National Public Radio Program. ‘New York and Company ‘ who unabashedly calls Ms. Borten a genius ”

Helen said ” People say, ‘How do you get your interviewees to say those things ?’ I just talk to people, sooner or later they forget the mike. ”

She has won awards for her work as a producer of a series of programmes called ” A Sense of Place”. Remarkably with a little internet searching I came across one of Helen’s broadcasts here. How lovely to hear her voice and words. Helen has covered such topics as Mohawk Ironworkers who walk up skyscrapers, barn burnings in Woodstock NY, Circus life and Fisherman rivalries in the shrimp industry. It appears her productions are as cleverly intricate, beautifully drawn out and multilayered as her illustrations. More about Helen’s achievements on the radio here.

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What a talented lady. Thanks again Helen for your kindness and wonderful work, it’s been a joy looking through your work and communicating with you. Happy Birthday to your son, who I believe was also born on Halloween. Hope he wasn’t such a little monster when he was little lol !

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. lostandfoundbooksandfoundbooks permalink
    October 30, 2013 1:54 pm

    What an artist, and I enjoy your comments about her work. I hope she knows she is adored by many!! Thanks for sharing.

    • October 30, 2013 2:23 pm

      When she reads this I’m sure she will ! lol Thanks for your comments always great to hear I’m creating interesting posts.

  2. October 30, 2013 2:37 pm

    I really enjoyed seeing Helen’s work here. I love the different techniques she uses. Very inspirational. Thank you for posting!!!

  3. April 1, 2014 3:39 pm

    Helen’s work is breathtaking, just beautiful. If you can believe this, I’m actually an illustration professor at University of the Arts, where Helen went to school. Her work is still relevant to our students and I will be showing her work to them rather soon. I’ll also have to begin a collection of her books for our library. Thanks for this!

    • April 1, 2014 4:40 pm

      Hi Kevin, great to hear from you and how wonderful that you can talk about Helen’s work in the same school where she went to school herself. I’m still in touch with her so I’ll pass on the news. If you search for her name on my site you’ll see about 5 blogs I’ve compiled of her work. I think she’s an amazing inspirational lady, who’s still full of ideas and working hard in the world of radio broadcasting.

    • April 1, 2014 5:10 pm

      I like your work too. Lovely colours. Please tell your students about my blogpost, the more excited illustrators the better : )

  4. October 31, 2014 1:46 pm

    Another beautiful post and lovely, if scary artwork!! Happy All Hallows Eve!!! X

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