Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I don't know why, but I have always enjoyed looking at Edward Ardizzone's illustrations. Even when I was a wee tot, in the basement children's section of the Lawrence (KS) Public Library (before it got flooded in the 1970s and they built the new (now old) library), I would check out and re-check out his LITTLE TIM books.

I remember trying to figure out why I liked the drawings. Even though I was a little kid, I was still interested in what it was that made drawings "good." Maybe it was the easy, flowing ink line. Maybe it was his choice of colors. I had no idea that Ardizzone had been commissioned to paint a watercolor of the Queen's coronation or that, before that, he was Official War Artist during WWII. (During the years of the Blitz, he was once arrested as a suspected "enemy spy" by the Home Guard when caught sketching in the East End.)

In SKETCHES FOR FRIENDS, which was published in 2002, I learned that he was also a letter writer, and he adorned those letters with ink and, sometimes, watercolor.

The 2 letters above are to his granddaughter Susannah, lovingly preserved since the mid-1950s.

I now look at the letters like I did as a kid. There are the same lush watercolors and the inky characters, always in motion.

You can feel the weight in his drawings. His large caricature of himself leans a bit to the right, like a large vessel listing; while the doctor stands like a cheery martinet, tilting his head, while saying, "I pronounce you cured[.]"

The Gentleman's Lavatory, drawn in gray and yellow tones. So much action in this one! And the look on the faces -- from quietly desperate to becalmed.

Above from a 1973 letter. What a wonderful thank you note!

I urge you to seek out this book. All these years later, I still love to linger over his drawings.

Related: His MY UNCLE SILAS drawings.

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