Sunday, March 7, 2010

On Children's Books

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland made its debut in theaters on Friday, and while I'm skeptical of it at best, all of the hype has reminded me of and inspired me to write about how much I love the 19th century children's book aesthetic. The illustrations from the original Alice books, The Wind in the Willows, the Beatrix Potter books, The Velveteen Rabbit, and others like them are what inspired me to get into art in the first place when I was a kid. I always wanted to illustrate kid's books, and I totally still do. I love kid's books. Folks read for the purpose of escapism, and what serves that purpose better than the simple, whimsical worlds of Alice, The Mole, Jemima Puddleduck, and the like? Such books were what got me hooked on the fantasy genre and played a large part in developing my imagination and artistic style.

Children's book illustrations are certainly no example of high art, but they're among my favorite works. They take me back to the fun experiences of reading the books. In my book, art doesn't always need to make some kind of socially relevant statement. Art can be silly, it can be fun, it can just be pretty. If it gets your imagination going and takes you to another place, then it's art. That's what these illustrations do for me: they take me to these other worlds that I created in my mind that are devoid of anything but whimsy and fun. Whether or not it has some kind of artistic merit or deeper meaning to it, I love it. So, without further ado, let's enjoy some of my favorite classic kids' book illustrations:

The Wind in the Willows: poor Rat, always having to cart Mole around

Toad and Badger, looking classy

The Mole!

Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin. Just some squirrels rowing down the river, doing what squirrels do.

A childhood favorite of mine, Jemima Puddleduck

Humpty Dumpty, looking pompous as usual

Clearly for children: the caterpillar with his hookah (on that note, Alan Rickman's caterpillar is probably what I am most excited about for the Alice movie.)

I wish i had these little guys under my command

Not an illustration, I know, but this was definitely the highlight of my trip to Disneyland a couple of years ago. He's late! He's late! For a very important date!