Tuesday, 19 April 2011

(TSATTF) Part 2 / While Flocks Last...

The king of bird illustration has to be the legendary Charley Harper whose love of birds can be seen in every one of his works including them. "I don't count the feathers, I just count the wings" is an apt quote by the late great man. I had 2 books illustrated by his amazing artist when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, who is famous for his wonderfully stylised images of birds as well as all sorts of other things. His magical way of rendering animals in a graphic yet accurate way still amazes me today. He manages to reduce a form into it's key parts, with such clarity, using minimal fuss and frills to do so, I am in awe. I mentioned him in a previous post, but thought it was only fair to tell you how I came across him. He is huge in the USA & popularity for his works grows year on year. I knew there must be some more magical children's book illustrators out there that would inspire me as I do have a little collection of books bought just for that reason as an adult. Whilst in Melbourne I caught a show at the State Library of Victoria, called Look! The Art of Australian Picture Books Today. I have to say it was the most enjoyable exhibition, & I encourage anyone to go see it if they get the chance. Don't worry if you are a grown up, if you feel silly borrow a friends kid for the day, but go see it! As I grew up in the UK with very different reference points regarding children's literature, it was joyous to see what kids the other side of the world were reading. As this post is about flying I have to include my favorite findings from this magical exhibition.

The first I'm not entirely sure if he qualifies as a bird as Mr Chicken is only his name, not neccesarilly his species. Needless to say, 'Mr Chicken goes to Paris' is an absolute classic! The wit in both the drawings & the story are fantastic. Pictured here is the instalation in the exhibition, marvelous. The most comical ominous scene like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, Mr Chicken leers at the world atop Notre Dame as storm clouds gather above. To render such emotion & comic style into is surely to benefit of all whom come across Leigh Hobbs work. The illustrator, or artist as I'd prefer to call him (illustrator somehow seems less than fair) Leigh Hobbs is interviewed on a program including all the artists in the show. The film is great, showing each artist's methods for drawing, painting or even constructing their characters. The differences are what makes it fascinating. There are small delicate works, loud works, precise works, homely, funny, scary, fantastical pieces on display. I cannot praise this show or the curation of it enough. It is true, that Mr. Chicken may be no such thing, but its my blog & I'll use artistic license if I want to. Plus he carries a camera, what's not to like? Perhaps I'm getting clucky (excuse the shameless pun) but I feel as if I should be buying these children's books just in case they go out of print before I have a sprog of my own. (This may be far in the future, mother don't get excited yet.) It would be a tragedy not to share these amazing tales & pictures.

Bird photography is often a little obvious. However, Roni Horn's series Bird captures taxidermied Icelandic wildfowl, shot in a studio-style but from the back. The anthropomorphic association with the back of peoples heads is unnerving. The detailed images allow you to immerse yourself in the sheer beauty of their feathers.

Also, Jim Dine's Birds have a far more haunting approach, paying homage to Fukase's Solitude of Ravens. How we view another species can vary so dramatically from one interpretation to another. I am always looking for new ways to be intrigued, enamoured & inspired by bird imagery (all imagery for that matter, maybe this is another post...) so all suggestions are gladly welcomed.


  1. Hi Laura what fun just had my chums here fro Melbourne too Love fay xx

  2. Yes a great city, much better than I was expecting. Nice people too. xx Laura