Something I’ve always been fascinated by is old photos in vintage cookbooks that show beautifully plated & presented foods that look completely not delicious to eat. Ambrosia salads, mayonnaise salad globs on leaves of iceberg lettuce, meatloaves shaped like snowmen with mashed potato snow & olive slices for eyes….that kind of thing. The food looks so bright, almost plasticine, and is sculpturally perfect, yet is incredibly unappetizing. I love the dichotomy! Also, I love the color choices, bright red punch sits on a pea-green countertop with curly orange rinds for garnish, or a blobby pink ham salad nestles in a sun-yellow bowl on a red-checked tablecloth. So bright! So pretty! So gross!
A few samples for you:
There’s something about the perfect calmness of an endless pattern that I can’t get enough of. I personally am really enjoying turning little spot illustrations into themed patterns, which can go in so many directions it boggles the mind. My favorite thing to wear & to look at, though, is a nice floral print. They’re sweet, they can incorporate lots of different palettes and styles, and they’ve been around for such a long time (since the beginning of printed fabric & home goods) that you can appreciate flower-y art from any era. Here’s a little trip through time:
1900’s Ceramic Pitcher- Brings to mind a lush, yet contained, British garden.
1920’s Wallpaper- Bolder, yet still sweet & super feminine.
1940’s Dress- More modern, looser lines & less colorful.
1960’s Fabric Print-Brightest and boldest, with a sixties-specific analogous color scheme.
1980’s Shirt- Everything was larger & more tropical themed, with patterns scaled way up in the 80’s.
Modern “Floral Camo” Pattern from design company Pattern People, based out of Portland, OR
Though I don’t love camo things in general, I like the idea of deconstructing floral to this point. I also love the combination of the neon pink & de-saturated colors together in one pattern & the current trend of combining concepts from opposing ends of the spectrum (like flowers & camouflage). I’m into it!
- Lois Lenski (1893-1974): Lenski’s illustration style is solid yet sweet, incorporating heavy line and large blocks of color while still maintaining a simplicity and ease. While early on she illustrated other people’s work, she was eventually able to move into writing and illustrating her own books. She was successful in being able to show the beauty in daily things, and her books encourage children to appreciate the smaller & more basic things in life.
2. Arthur Rackham (1867-1939): In the opposite direction from Lenski’s solid portrayal of everyday life, Rackham’s work is lush and fantastical. He illustrated almost exclusively work that incorporated magical elements. His version of Alice in Wonderland is one of the most well-known, after the classic illustration set from John Tenniel. Rackham’s work is detailed and heavily textured & has depth that pulls the viewer into the scene.
3. Quentin Blake (b. 1932): Blake is a prolific artist and writer, whose body of work so far (either as author, illustrator, or both) includes 323 books. He is probably most well-known for being the illustrator of 18 of Roald Dahl’s books. His illustration style is impressive in its combination of loose, emotional line and washed out watercolor, but a perfect capturing of expression nonetheless. Blake’s art proves that a “childlike” quality can be as beautiful as tighter and less expressive work.
4. Tove Jansson (1914-2001): Jansson was a beloved Finnish artist and writer who is most well-known for her books and comic series set in fantastical “Moominland”. Her art has a classic comic style (heavy line, simple characters) but she also utilized design elements that make it very visually appealing. She constructed a world for her characters that was both magical and very real; she incorporated both darkness and light into her work for children in a way that drew in, and continues to draw in, people of all ages.
5. Maurice Sendak (1928-2012): Few lists of children’s book illustrators are complete without a mention of Maurice Sendak. One of his most defining qualities as an author and artist was that he was unafraid to push the envelope. His work for children never panders, but it maintains a curiosity that relates to a child’s view of the world. As an artist, he always stayed true to his style and it makes his work very recognizable and comforting.