Illustrated Britain.

This is an art attack.
This is an art attack.

This is Art Attack.

Those words have haunted me since I was seven.

Every weekend I would mither my dad to go to Staples and bring me back some water colours, rolls of printing paper and, vital to every budding artist, some PVA glue.
And I would always fail miserably in making anything that.. that…. that man featured on his show.
I’m sorry Mr Buchanan, but it is scientifically impossible to create a Barbie Dream House using a plastic milk carton and a few egg cups and PVA GLUE.

I think my love, obsession, passion- whatever you want to call it- for illustrated books came when I realised that I’m absolutely terrible at drawing.
Seriously, I’m so bad.
You do not want to be on my team at Pictionary.
So after spending about 3 years of my life being covered in glitter, sugar paper and pretending the pencil shavings in my hair were intentional, I realised it would be easier and safer (Mum was not impressed with Play-Doh in the carpet) to just look at pictures in books.
But, living in Britain, it wasn’t as if I was going to be short of beautifully illustrated books, was I?

My favourite type of illustrator are the ones who have become synonymous with the books that they illustrate..

Can you imagine a Beatrix Potter book without illustrations as beautiful as this?

I’m so desperate to go to Hill Top Farm in the Lake District (which isn’t even far from my house!) but I don’t have much luck with visiting literary places. My trip to Wuthering Heights ended up in a near-flash flood and my sister nearly got eaten by a disgruntled cat on our trip to Sylvia Plath’s grave.
But one day…

And what about these stunning pastel pictures produced by E.H Shepard for A.A Milne’s masterpiece?

On my staircase…

I probably don’t need to talk about Quentin Blake and how much I love his illustrations. I always find myself wandering through card shops, grabbing handfuls of his cards and buying them all.
Well that’s nice, I hear you say. Your friends will love them.
No no. Not for them.
For meeeee.
I once saw a version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore on the front and I nearly wept in the book shop.
I’m not really a big fan of film tie-in book covers… but there must be some law against that one, no?

But how about Jacqueline Wilson’s books without Nick Sharratt’s fantastic illustrations?

My well-thumbed collection…

What I love most about Mr Sharratt’s illustrations are how colourful they are. You can tell that he had so much fun drawing them and they capture the. From Tracey’s cheekiness to, Ms Wilson’s character’s leap off the page with the aid of the pictures and it’s no wonder that Ms Wilson’s books are the second most borrowed books from Britain’s libraries (behind Ms Rowling).

Sans my colouring in…

Even though the illustrations on the inside are black and white. And, I’ll tell you a secret, on my first copy (I’ve gotten through about three!) of The Story of Tracey Beaker I actually grabbed my pencil crayons and coloured them in.
I know that book readers will be grasping their pearls at the mere thought of colouring a book in… but don’t blame me, blame Mr Sharratt!

I’m willing to bet that every child in Britain has read at least one of the Horrible Histories books, or if not read them they will have heard of them and therefore be itching for the birthday/Christmas fairy to bring them one.
These books have been a firm favourite of mine and I always, much to my parents distress, brought at least two home from every school fair/ Blue Peter Bring and Buy sale. A couple of years ago I gave most of them away to charity, but I kept my two favourites.

Like Mr Sharrat’s, Martin Brown’s (who is actually Australian but he lives in Dorset, so he still counts) illustrations adopt a more cartoon-esque stance as opposed to more realistic drawings.

I don’t know why, and this is probably just me, but I always think of the HH books as the first step on the graphic novel road, because a lot of the pages adopt this aesthetic. But along with this there are also illustrated letters, recipes,
Either way, they’re a visual treat and they’re informative and they’re funny and they’re horrible. 

Another of my favourite things about these illustrators are their personal websites. I know nothing beats seeing these drawings on a page in context but, mate, these websites are the best.
I could spend hours on all of them.
And, actually, I did!
This was my weekend.

(You’ll also be able to see the pictures better because my camera and shaky hands could not do them justice…)

Beatrix Potter || Packed full of fascinating information Ms Potter’s life and career, combined with her beautiful illustrations (Lovely winter ones to get you in the Christmas spirit!) and photographs of the Lake District which inspired many of her stories. Also, it’s packed full of pictures of her early sketches, a chance to ask questions about her, resources for teachers and parents, recipes, a shop to buy Beatrix Potter merchandise and even a downloadable advent calendar for your computer which is just gorgeous! Hurry up December!

Quentin Blake || Information about his foreign events, how Mr Blake got into illustrating, his friendship with Dahl himself, advice on young illustrators, information on how to use Blake’s illustrations in classrooms and libraries and even at home. Also, some brilliant information on his Dahl-free books and a chance to buy his merchandise!

Nick Sharratt || I love this website. Brimming with bright colours, great interviews and a chance to see what other books Mr S has illustrated and a brilliant page that provides an insight on what a real illustrator’s studio looks like!

Horrible Histories || A perfect companion to the books and the BBC TV series. A chance to walk around 5 virtual worlds, competitions, jokes, print outs, Villain of the Weeks and interesting “On this day…” facts! (To find out more about Martin Brown here is an interview with him from Scholastic )

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about children’s illustrators, please have a read through the Guardians series on Children’s Illustrators.

AND, saving the best until the last, the wonderful Amy (from Turn the Page) has fast become one of my favourite British illustrators… just look at them! I have no doubt that her stunning creations will be gracing the books on the bookshelves in years to come and I’ll be the first in line to buy them all!

There is so much talent… I wish I could do an illustrated book year!

Who are your favourite illustrators?

Find out more here.

6 thoughts on “Illustrated Britain.

  1. Oh man I loved Art Attack pva glue for miles!
    The one where he makes that cartoon cat was always my favourite but I could never do anything either.

    Also I love this week, I shall be watching closely

  2. Thanks ladies!
    I bet there was a disclaimer at the end of the credits that said “Kids! You're creations will never look like this!” that we just blissfully ignored because we were too busy trying to get permanent marker off our skin. :-D

  3. Aww thanks for your kind words Jo! :D

    God how loo rolls and toilet paper did I nick to mash up with PVA glue and water to create weird looking things. Piggy banks, Pencil holders, a suitcase…. it used to drive my parents insane lol! I used to love the gigantic art attacks! They were cool :)

    Rebecca Dautremer is my favourite illustrator – all french children's picture books are like pieces of art. Just stunning.

    Oliver Jeffers is one of the top ones working over here at the moment :)

    Im looking forward to your posts this week!

  4. I'm so glad you did this post, books would be so much poorer without great illustrations. Long may the renaissance of illustrations continue — I've nearly finished my degree in illustration and design, and I would like to have work at the end of it ;-)

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