I’ve always loved the pictures in Ladybird Books – but of course my preferences and tastes have changed over the decades. As a child, for example, I found most of John Berry’s ‘People at Work’ series dull and grey and the world of work they portrayed did not inspire me to want to join. Now John Berry is one of my favourite artists and I find the People at Work series compelling.
But even as an adult my appreciation and enjoyment of different artists has been fluid. It would be fair to say that, just a few years ago I couldn’t really understand why everyone made such a fuss about CF Tunnicliffe. To my eye, some of his artwork looked naive and childlike compared to other Nature artists.
A lot of the pictures in his artwork for Ladybird had, to my eye, over-bold black lines around them. The light and shade seemed often crude and the colours seemed more stark in comparison with, say, the work of John Leigh-Pemberton.
|From ‘European Mammals’ John Leigh-Pemberton|
I’m not sure how this came to change, but little by little I came to love the Seasons books (and also the book ‘The Farm’, which tends to get forgotten). What once has seen childlike to me now seemed impressionistic. I came to appreciate the atmosphere and depth of this artwork, perfect for books like these, crammed with detail, when the more you look the more you see.
There’s another quality that I have become more aware of and that’s a sort of William Morris-esque design to the composition. I found myself thinking that some pictures would make good wall-hangings or even wallpaper.
The layout and colour palette of some of the ‘seasons’ artwork makes me think of Japanese prints.
What could make me ‘feel‘ a wet, autumnal dusk more than this:
|What to Look for in Autumn|
Or a hazy lazy summer day than this
|What to Look for in Summer|
The artwork in some of the other Nature books now looks a little ‘stagey’ and static. Still lovely, but …
|From ‘Heath and Woodland Birds’ John Leigh-Pemberton|
I know, I know. I must be a bit slow on the uptake, but at least I got there in the end.