Saturday, August 6, 2016

1268 - Toddler Stork Inked

I've inked the Toddler Stork image, and I hope you recognize my inspiration.  If you guessed E.H. Shepard, either you've read yesterday's JSVB post or else you know literature. 

E.H. Shepard was the illustrator for A.A. Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh stories.  Even though they are intended as children's books, I am having a hard time thinking of a modern-era pairing of text and illustrator that could be better than that.  For the Toddler Stork image, I wanted to evoke the same sweet sensibility that infuse Shepard's drawings.

His style is difficult to match.  Since he was working a full century ago,  not only were his aesthetics different from the ones we enjoy today, but so was his media.  By that, I mean mundane things like paper stock, pen nibs, and the quality of ink, which would have been primitive by our standards.  Yet to properly appreciate that old-time style, you need to use the same tools.  

I didn't.  So, if you look at the above picture and compare it to something by Shepard, it's easy to see where my emulation falls short.  However, I didn't want to set myself up in inkwells and quill pens.  I have a habit of spilling indelible ink: click on these links to see JSVB Post #22 and JSVB Post #1167 to see more.   

I love the Winnie-The-Pooh books.  They were companions when I was very young.  I also enjoy the Disney movies, but I find their style to be more calculated and engineered.  For a while, I had the job of drawing some of the Pooh characters for animation.  It was difficult work and I wasn't at all good at it, so the House Of Mouse version of Pooh fails to generate the same happy memories that normal people would have.  Woolie Reitherman's 1966 take on Winnie-The-Pooh is a masterclass in character design and character animation.  There are hundreds of small details that make the Disney version of Pooh iconic while at the same time distinct from the Milne source material, enough to ensure that the Disney version would be a world-spanning franchise.  

Who doesn't love the loveable bear?  He has so much heart and vitality.  He is the perfect companion to wise, wistful Christopher Robin.  Well, in order of preference, A.A. Milne, his son Chistopher Robin Milne, and E.H. Shepard, have all gone on record as being firmly displeased with Winnie-The-Pooh.  While not a revelation to many JSVB readers, this fact caught me by surprise.  

A.A. Milne was a successful author whose prolific career was completely overshadowed by his handful of children's books.  C.R. Milne felt that his childhood was robbed by the ambition of his father.  E.H. Shepard resented the bear since he felt his more mannerly artwork was more representative of his talent yet was largely ignored (he did find success illustrating Kenneth Grahame's "The Wind In The Willows").  

Like many artists, I believe I wouldn't mind being cursed with being the creator of a wholesome, beloved character that becomes a worldwide phenomenon and that also allows me a comfortable living.  You could compare and contrast Joe Shuster, who first drew Superman.  After DC Comics bought out his artist contract, he resorted to drawing obscure cartoons and providing illustrations for sadomasochistic sex magazines.  He died in debt.  

How can beloved artists become so turned against their creations?  There are theories.  The art business is, after all, a business, and money drives intent.  Where the money comes and goes defines the form of the art.  Society also values some forms of art much more greatly than others.  It's not easy to deal with public ignorance of your work, and I suppose it's equally difficult to deal with adulation.  Nobody trains artists to deal with that.  They either figure things out or they become twisted by their work.  To survive this process somehow makes one a better artist in the end.  To die by it makes the work more valuable. 

It makes one pause to think.