Friday, January 30, 2009

Arthur Szyk and "Andersen's Fairy Tales"

This was another book that I studied real hard when I was a little kid because the drawings were so elaborate and scary. Although we had the 1968 Encyclopedia Britannica in the house, there was nothing in it about monsters or ghosts. I looked. And unfortunately I was born before every little kid got to study dinosaurs in school and become an expert paleontologist. I knew the names of the dinosaurs of course, but monsters....those were the exotic creatures I really wanted to learn more about.

This illustration is for the story, "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf." I can't quite recall the story but I think this little girl decided she'd rather step on the loaf of bread to cross a puddle rather than ruin her shoes. I'm not sure why pride is considered a deadly sin but pride is what caused this kid to sink into the puddle permanently attached to that loaf of bread, to be carried down, down, down, to be surrounded by lots of monsters in a black, cold cesspool......I think forever. When you're a kid, what's not to like in a story like that? And even better, an illustration like this to look at?

Personally, I think she was just being smart but I'm sure there's a moral message in the story somewhere. And apparently the moral had no effect on me since I think of this story with a weird sort of fondness.

And then there is this one. That pink faced devil still just gives me the creeps.

This illustration for "The Snow Queen" shows three demons holding a mirror that when it reflected anything that was good, would make it look bad and if it reflected anything horrible, would make it look even worse. Sort of like what you find in  a modern day fitting room, you know?

Arthur Szyk did have some illustrations in the book that were really pretty but even the pretty ones had a certain sense of ugly or weird in them. Which I liked.

Dick said one time he wouldn't want to work in a place where everyone was happy. And when I draw, I have to make sure I don't make everything pretty (...because I can really get carried away with that. An art director once told me that I could make anything look pretty and it wasn't meant as a compliment. Ha ha ha.). When things are all calm and happy, or things are all pretty and sweet, you have to have some sort of an edge to make it interesting...although  I think Arthur Szyk used the opposite proportions of pretty and ugly than what I do. :-) But he did make me notice that ugliness or exaggeration or caricature is something really dynamic and will make a character come alive. Also, that a little bit of ugly can make the pretty really stand out.


kim said...

those are stunning pictures, I've never seen that book...

Country Girl said...

There's another one I've never seen before. And that devil is one scary dude. Didto that hairy centaur in front of him. Ick.

Anonymous said...

i love your turtles !!

Sharon Jackson said...

This has been one of my favourite illustrators for abut 50 years. I loathe Hans Christian Anderson's preachy bowdlerizing of these great old stories, but the illustrations are brilliant

Unknown said...

My aunt, a teacher, gave me this book when I was little. The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf served a dual purpose: It taught me what "trod" meant and it scared the crap out of me. I still have the book, in fact. Still scares me.