Monday, July 04, 2011

Inspirations Old and New, Part 2: Ink

In this installment I'm going to focus on pen and ink artists and 19th Century Engravings. I've tried to choose artists

J.J. Grandville

J.J. Grandville was a French artist famous for his anthropomorphic portrayals and caricatures. He was a great influence on Gustave Dore and many artists that followed who worked in a similar vein.

One thing I like about Grandville is how accurate the animal parts of the character's anatomy are. There's little attempt at caricature. It's an approach that I've adopted in doing my own anthropomorphic images.

I also love these grotesques that you would often see in these 19th century engravings.

And here's a trope that you don't see often anymore--anthropomorphic insects with no attempt at idealization:

These aren't cute mice. These are rats.

Rodolphe Töpffer

Töpffer is a major precursor to what we would call comics now, using images in sequence to portray continuous action.

Felix Lorioux

Felix Lorioux is another French artist whom I've recently discovered through a posting by the fantasy artist, Charles Vess.

John Tenniel

Tenniel first got his name for his illustrations for the humor and political satire magazine, Punch...

before doing the Alice drawings that he's best known for.

Heinrich Kley

In 20th and late turn of the century there was a revolution of pen and ink artists, particularly in America with guys like Joseph Clement Coll and Charles Dana Gibson, but my favorite of this era is the German artist Heinrich Kley. Kley inspired a number of Disney artists, particularly for some of the sequences in Fantasia.

His animals and figures have this almost weightless grace and life to them.

T.S. Sullivant

T.S. Sullivant is another favorite. His anthropomorphic images have an animation and character that feels like a kind of hybrid of Kley and Tenniel.

John R. Neil

John R. Neil illustrated all of the L. Frank Baum Oz books but the first, and his illustrations are truly original. He and Baum's imaginations were well matched. He even wrote a few of his own Oz books, like this one:

And here are some grotesques in that 19th century tradition:

ou just don't see children's books with these kinds of images anymore. Contemporary children's book publishers err a little bit too much on the side of caution when it comes to the kinds of imagery that they think will frighten or disturb children, but I think kids can handle a lot more than they think. It's valuable for kids to have an outlet for their nightmares. It helps them to contain them, and to ease the transition to the realities of adulthood. Kids need these kinds of stories!

Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson, best known for her Moomintroll series of comic strips and children's books...

did her own, inspired version of Alice.

Ralph Steadman

Alice's Adventures and Through The Looking Glass, both for C.S. Lewis and Tenniel, has been a seminal influence, and there are few other illustrator's to illustrate the material who have really done it justice. Jansson is one. Lizbeth Zwerger is another. I don't even care much for Rackham's version, though I do appreciate Rackham in general. Steadman both managed to pay tribute to Tenniel, and demonstrate his own unique take on the material.

Gerald Scarfe

Perhaps my favorite caricaturist working today this side of Drew Friedman and Steve Brodner, is Gerald Scarfe, a contemporary of Ralph Steadman.

He even did some character designs for Disney's version of Hercules, though, unfortunately, the animation didn't quite live up to the character of his drawings.

To be fair, I can't imagine how a roomful of animators could truly capture the character of Scarfe's line. The closest anyone's come, yet, are the animated sequences in PInk Floyd's The Wall that Scarfe directed himself.

Nicolas DeCrecy

I can't get enough DeCrecy! DeCrecy is a contemporary of Chomet, the director of the animated films, The Triplettes of Bellville and The Illusionist, and the similarities are very apparent. Chomet is wonderful with character, but DeCrecy's imagination is boundless! He also has a gorgeous line.

DeCrecy primarily works in comics.

Jim Woodring

Jim Woodring is another comics artist. It's as if he's receiving these images from this vivid and fully realized world, and he's just doing the best he can to translate them for the rest of us. He took a break from comics for a few years to do painting and gallery work exclusively, and for a while it seemed like he was content to never do comics again, but he's recently returned to the medium with some of the best work he's ever done.

Jillian Tamaki

Jillian Tamaki recently illustrated a young adult graphic novel written by her sister, Mariko called Skim, one of the best young adult books I've read in any medium. Outside of comics she's done freelance editorial work and just about everything else.

Here's a book she illustrated entirely with thread:

Lars Henkel

Here's another recent discovery and new Facebook friend, Lars Henkel.

And here's his interpretation of one of Maurice Sendak's "Wild Things":

Yuko Shimizu

Inspiration and long-time acquaintance, Yuko Shimizu!

Eric Orchard

And last, but not least, Eric Orchard. Eric Orchard and I have gotten into a lot of great and heated discussions in recent years on Facebook, and it's been a pleasure to see his work progress. I'm looking forward to his Maddie Kettle graphic novel coming out soon from Top Shelf!

Click below for websites and blogs of:

Ralph Steadman, Tove Jansson, Gerald Scarfe, Jim Woodring, Jllian Tamaki, Lars Henkel, Nicolas DeCrecy, Yuko Shimizu and Eric Orchard.

Pfew. I think that covers everyone who's still alive!( except for Tove Jansson, who has a website, but died in 2001). Thanks for reading!

All images are copyright their respective copyright holders. If you're one of the creators in question, I'll be glad to remove any images posted here at your request.


  1. Pretty awesome collection of inspiration here... thanks so much for sharing! (I've been checking out each and every one of these artists... excellent!)

  2. Anonymous4:11 AM

    Thanks for this! So many great artists all in one place =D

  3. Great collection! Thanks for sharing.