Of Flying Ships & Cycling Fish - Andrew Taylor

Posted on | Monday, June 18, 2012 | 1 Comment


illustration by Andrew Taylor

Of Flying Ships & Cycling Fish
Whenever my family and I ventured to the northeast to visit the other side of the family tree, my sister and mother would do what they considered an art--shop. My dad and I were about as good at shopping as a badger is good at performing Macbeth, so, naturally, we sat on a bench waning away the hours until they came back with enough souvenirs to sink a battleship. When I was thirteen, I noticed a bookstore across from where my dad and I sat. The name eludes me, but I remember it being a quaint little shop with shelves packed with books in alphabetical order and in their proper genres. I, at least, know how to shop for books. I went immediately to the fiction section tucked in a small corner of the shop and scanned the various titles: Harry Potter, Narnia, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc. Stormchaser from a series entitled The Edge Chronicles caught my eye. It was about a boy who finds himself in the company of sky pirates. Naturally, it became one of my favorite stories (Are you seeing a pattern here?). I quickly became a fan of the author, Paul Stewart, and a lifelong fan of the illustrator, Chris Riddell.
Born in South Africa in 1962, Riddell spent his youth in England where his talent for drawing started. Riddell had once drawn a cartoon entitled “Winegums” which told of how, during his father’s (a vicar) sermons, one of the old women of the congregation would give the child Riddell a piece of paper, a pencil, and candy called winegum in order to keep Riddell quiet. Later, The illustrators of the Golden Age of Illustration (1880’s-1920’s) like John Tenniel (the original illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass) and William Heath Robinson (famed for his wacky and wonky gadgets in his cartoons) inspired Riddell. After he studied at Brighton Polytechnic (1981-’84), he became a political cartoonist, a position he holds to this day. After earning steady pay as a cartoonist and writing a couple of children’s books, he attended a school program for one of his children where he met author Paul Stewart who was taking his child to the same program. Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart became fast friends. While doodling one day, Riddell sketched out a map of a land entitled “The Edge” that sparked an idea. He gave the map to Paul Stewart and basically asked him to create a story about what happens in that place called “The Edge.” After some rough drafts, which can drive writers mad, they finally emerged with the first book in the series, Beyond the Deepwoods. After the collaboration on The Edge Chronicles, they continued with another series entitled The Far-Flung Adventures, which chronicles the adventures of three children dealing with fearsome pirates, unscrupulous clowns, and cycling fish.
Riddell’s work really helped mold my own style of drawing, mainly because his illustrations seem almost like real people, but exaggerated to the nth degree. Even his political cartoons evoke that sense for me. In a video that he did for the Guardian, a UK newspaper, he said that he likes to “draw quite politely, but I like to be quite rude.” What I also think is interesting in Riddell’s method is that he uses a brush and ink instead of a pen because he doesn’t want to “attack the paper” like a dip pen does. His illustrations have a quirkiness to them that are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, Arthur Rackham, and W. Heath Robinson. Yet, they can be so life-like that they seem to be detailed caricatures of an actual being. Since the day I purchased Stormchaser, Riddell’s style of drawing still inspires me. I hope that he inspires whoever cracks open one of his lavishly illustrated books.

----illustration by Andrew Taylor of Andrew Taylor
Andy Taylor is a young, local artist - an inspiration! Please come back for more posts from Andy.

Comments

One Response to “Of Flying Ships & Cycling Fish - Andrew Taylor”

  1. Anonymous
    June 19, 2012 at 3:04 AM

    that is a wonderful discriptive article well done sir

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