Wildsmith’s Lines

I have pretty much always loved books, but this summer I became entranced by the illustrations you find on book jackets. Beginning with the marvellous book The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970, by Martin Salisbury I have really started noticing what wonderful works of art there are on the front covers of books. So I have kept an eye out in charity shops so that I could buy one or two. The ones that have caught my attention currently, are from the 1960’s.

images included with the kind permission of the Wildsmith family

This is by Brian Wildsmith and I love the dynamism of the lines in his ink drawing to illustrate a book that was firstly published in France, and then in England with the title Landslide, 1961. The French title helps you anticipate what the story is about, Les Robinsons de la nuit, but unlike the Swiss Family Robinson who had to survive on a desert island, this story is about a group of children who are plunged into darkness when a landslide covers the house they are staying in, and they find a way to keep fed and watered, until help comes along.

Line, might be thought of as the most basic element an artist uses in creating an artwork. But look what can be created! The slanted direction of the lines train our eyes to focus to what is going on to the left – and query what is going on, where are they going and will they get there? We move through the picture and are caught up in the dynamism of the action – will the villagers get to the children in time? The overlapping lines of the figure on the right, creates an intensity that foregrounds them, what they are carrying, and the part they will play in the rescue. The number of people out to rescue the children is conveyed by the diminishing size of the figures outlined, whose receding footprints suggest a long trek is under way. All of this is conveyed through the expert use of line, something that Wildsmith was brilliant at.

It has been fascinating to research the life of Brian Wildsmith, his passion for drawing and his ability to find work as an illustrator. His break really came, when he created paintings for the book ABC in 1962, which had a lasting influence on the way children’s books were illustrated.

When writing about art, research is an essential part of the background. I like to think of it as a treasure trail, unearthing all kinds gems as well as it being an encouragement to engage in your own art. Keep drawing and keep reading! Be inspired by the skill of illustrators such as Brian Wildsmith and a vision of the world they open up to us.

For more on the theory of line, click here https://howtowriteaboutart.com/elements-of-art/

http://www.brianwildsmith.com is an excellent website.

Published by howtowriteaboutart

Writing about Art is tricky - there are many challenges in writing about a visual experience. I've got lots of ideas to help! See what can help!

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