The History of Illustration

(Part 1/Getting started/The history of illustration)

Exercise – The History of Illustration


Wit, satire, expressionism and surrealism are all aspects of illustration which are now taken for granted, created for a viewing audience credited with high levels of visual literacy and the ability to decode and read imagery beyond its face value.

Workbook p10

My chosen artists are Ardizzone and Hale.

Kathleen Hale

I have chosen Hale as I quickly recognised her drawings for Orlando the Cat.  These books were published in the 1940’s by Puffin Picture books. I didn’t have my own copy but I remember the book was still a favourite in schools in the early sixties. The Orlando books were very popular from their inception in 1941 as Puffin believed in books for evacuees. The first Orlando book,  Orlando’s Camping Holiday, appeared in 1938; the eighteenth and last, Orlando and the Water Rats, in 1972.

Obviously there is a very ‘dated’ look about the book ‘A trip Abroad’ which places it in its time’.

The limited colours, font/typeface and general style are not currently in favour.

When Puffin first published the book, Carrington , who worked for Puffin, “took inspiration from posters commissioned by companies such as London Transport and the work of artists using a low-cost but evocative printing technique called autholithography, which involved the artist drawing or tracing with a brush and pen directly onto a zinc plate.

The technique had been employed in the brightly coloured educational books being mass produced for Soviet children at the time, as well as by home-grown artists such as Kathleen Hale, the author and illustrator of Orlando the Marmalade Cat, which had been published by Country Life the year before.

As I do not have access to the wherewithal to produce an autholithograph or photolithograph, as some references call it, I have created a simple pencil drawing and used coloured pencils for the colour. I have used a very limited palette as Hale was told to do by her publisher.


Below is my attempt to mimic the style of Hale ( using coloured pencils – not my usual medium of choice). I started with a quick pencil drawing done fairly lightly.

I then added an outline of red as Hale had done. I then rubbed out the pencil lines and coloured in the image using only four pencils – red, blue, and yellow.

As an artist, Hale had many different styles and painted pictures which are easily identifiable as of a particular period but also some which would look perfectly at home in a modern childrens’ book.

On the left, the crayon drawing is very much of an earlier period, the clothing being a big clue. Most children’s illustrations today are coloured.

Manda the cow, a watercolour painting, however, looks really up-to date with the stylised face .

Having misread the exercise brief, I did also look at the work of Edward Arizzone, principally as I have a copy of Stig of the Dump. I bought it shortly after it was published in 1963 to use as a ‘class reader’ with my 8yr olds. I then went on to read it with my children and that was when we looked at the drawings.

The drawings are done in pen and ink and could be from any earlier period. This had been a universal style of drawing for many years when the book  came out. Here is a picture of Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, illustrated by John Tenniel in 1866. The style is much the same.

At school we were taught to draw with a (real) pen and a bottle of ink.

I have done a small sketch in the style of Ardizzone but using a modern drawing pen as I am out of ink and scratchy pens.

On Ardizzone’s website I discovered an excellent article which he wrote about ‘the Born Illustrator’. It gives a superb view into how he looked at his art/craft.

Ardizzones inspirational … prototypes were such artists as Cruikshank, Leech and ‘Phiz’ in England, and Doré, Granville, and possibly Daumier, in France.

He said “ …. It might be truly said that the born illustrator is not very interested in life as it is. He likes to create his own version of the world around him. ….At his best, the good illustrator does more than just make a pictorial comment on the written word. He produces a visual counterpart which adds a third dimension to the book……. The illustrator, however, besides a sensitivity of eye, and a feeling for colour and design, has to have his own special skills, which are:


  1. Inventiveness
  2. The power to draw away from life, or, in other words, to make up.
  3. The power to draw small.
  4. The ability to use a pen and that intractable fluid, black ink, which is a craft in itself.
  5. The ability to read, which is by no means so common as one would think. All can read andunderstand the words, but how many fail to get the meaning and implications of a book.
  6. The ability to compose with figures and place them together in space. “