As I mentioned in the first of my Incredible Illustrator posts, I recently treated myself a pretty big stash of beautifully illustrated picture books - they were originally on my Christmas list, but after the boy and I decided we were only going to spend a limited amount on each other this year, I wanted them so bad I ended up buying them for myself! The majority of the books I bought were written and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith. Many of these are out of print now, as they were all printed in the 70s and 80s, long ago before I was even born (!!) but I was lucky enough to find copies of most of the titles I wished to purchase, and luckily all the second-hand ones I bought are still in lovely condition.
I was initially drawn to Brian Wildsmith's work after coming across some of his squirrel illustrations a few months ago. My total love of squirrels is no secret, so you can imagine how excited I was to discover that Wildsmith had created a picture book entitled Squirrels - a whole book dedicated to my favourite animal, and completely packed with Wildsmith's beautiful squirrel illustrations - I had to have a copy!
I have to admit that since it has arrived, I haven't taken a great deal of notice of the text in the book - although it did amaze me to discover that squirrels can swim! - I've been far too busy looking at all the pictures! I could happily spend hours looking at the illustrations - they're beautiful, and many of them - the snowy little fella above in particular - I would happily frame and hang on my wall.
These are some of my favourite illustrations from the book Squirrels (I've tried not to get too carried away, honest!)
As you can see in the above images, the techniques Wildsmith uses to create his illustrations is vast - paint layered upon paint, splattered paint, crayon layered over paint, collaged paper. These techniques create the most incredible bold and intense backgrounds for his illustrations, vivid and colourful. This is particularly evident in the images below, where the range of materials and techniques employed are clear to see;
Although the squirrels are definitely my favourites, I also want to share with you some of my favourite illustrations from a few of Wildsmith's other picture books - these are entitled Brian Wildsmith's Animal Gallery, The Owl and the Woodpecker and Professor Noah's Spaceship. All the animals are in gorgeous detail, and their facial expressions seem to give them little personalities of their own. Each illustration is so complex, and with individual brushstrokes and different mark-making evident in the images, they draw you in and make you want to look closer.
Woodland creatures are my favourites at the moment - in addition to squirrels, I also adore hedgehogs, foxes and owls - and the illustrations featured below are perfect! I love the tiny details in the images, such as the interaction between the different species of animals, and also all the little added details on certain pages - teeny tiny frogs and insects and creatures crawling around the bases of trees. So cute, and it displays the amount of thought obviously put into the composition of each page.
Although this post naturally focuses mainly on the illustrations in Brian Wildsmith's picture books, the stories that these images accompany are sweet, although slightly retro in style. I am especially fond of the fact that the stories often see every type of animals - different sizes and shapes and colours - all working together, and living in harmony amongst each other. Although this may not be true to life, it's lovely to see - a raccoon causally chatting with a mouse, or frogs and butterflies frolicking together happily - such situations are sure to spark a child's imagination. The intense colour and vividness of the illustrations are sure to appeal to children, and the gorgeous animal illustrations are perfect for introducing children to different animals of the world. At the rate that I am currently adding to my beautiful-picture-books-for-my-future-children collection, we're soon going to have to buy yet another bookcase!