Thursday, July 9, 2015

Favorite Illustrator - Garth Williams

So it's time for me to tell you about another favorite illustrator of mine, and probably yours.  When I think of Garth Williams I think of my childhood and reading his books in the tiny bedroom of my childhood home.  I read every single one of the "Rescuers" books multiple times.  I read them for the illustrations because I loved Garth Williams pen and ink drawings.  I would copy those drawings over and over again.  Bernard and Bianca were brought to life for me by those drawings.  And their adventures took me to new places.  I knew when I read a description of a predicament that they found themselves in, Garth Williams' drawing would portray it perfectly.  I remember a description of Bernard and Bianca escaping the Black Castle through a small opening that lead to a gushing stream outside.  It was a detailed description, but I couldn't quite picture it in my mind.  Then I turned the page and the illustration showed it perfectly.  It made my enjoyment of the book complete.  I remember staring at the picture below and being amazed at how he crafted the details of a little girls face with just hatches of line.  I think it was the first time I came to appreciate the power of value.

And of course my favorite book of his was "The Cricket In Times Square".  The little world that he created for Tucker the mouse, Harry the cat, and Chester the cricket in the subway enthralled me.  Tiny matchbox beds and thimble tables.  I loved every drawing! I often copied the drawings trying to get his pen and ink style.  It was my exposure to Garth Williams' drawings that made me fall in love with drawing as a child and made me want to be an artist.  I loved that he created these magical worlds where adorable creatures lived and had these memorable adventures.  His work touched both the artist and the adventurer in me and has influenced me to this day.

Garth Williams was born in New York City to artist parents.  Like many great artists he studied art in Europe when his parents moved to England.  He studied architecture and then switched to painting and sculpture.  He graduated from the Royal Academy of Art and served briefly as the headmaster of the Luton Art School outside of London before resigning to immerse himself in art.  When he returned to the United States, he tried to become a cartoonist for The New Yorker, but his work was rejected because it was considered too wild and European.  Isn't that funny!  His work was considered too wild?  I wonder what he showed them!

He eventually found an opportunity at Haper and Row when a manuscript for a children's book came in.  It was E.B. White's "Stuart Little".  I guess he wasn't too wild for children:)  That was the beginning of a long and successful career as a children's book illustrator for Garth Williams.  And while his illustrations were the reason for the success of such books as "Stuart Little," "Charlotte's Web," and "Cricket In Times Square" at the time of their success he was often not credited.

For me, almost all of Garth Williams work sits on my bookshelf.  He is frequently a "go to" resource for me when I want inspiration.  He captures a sense of innocence and wonderment in his illustrations that I want to develop in my own work.  He has not been with us since 1996 when he passed away, but his art has left a permanent mark on me and maybe on you too.

What is your fondest memory of Garth Williams work?  Leave me a comment below.

1 comment:

  1. Bonsoir,
    Je suis très heureuse de lire vos commentaires sur le travail de mon oncle. En effet, il avait 1 frère et 2 sœurs en France. Je reconnais dans ses dessins la même main que mon grand père, artiste peintre, et même celle de mon père. Ce qui est étonnant c'est sa signature, qui est la même que mon grand-père, mon père et mon frère ! Il y a dans cette lignée un graphisme et une écriture "génétique" ! Je n'ai rencontré mon oncle que deux ou trois fois, à cause des distances nous séparant. Il était très humble par rapport à son art. J'ai découvert beaucoup plus tard, sur internet ses nombreuses illustrations. J'adore les illustrations animalières, petits lapins, hérissons... ce sont mes préférées. Je les trouve très anglo-saxonnes. Petite, il y avait de tels dessins dans ma famille, ceux de mon grand père. Ce sont des souvenirs d'enfances gravés dans ma mémoire, et ça me fait plaisir de savoir que les illustrations de Garth ont baigné l'enfance de beaucoup de jeunes.
    Voilà, un petit clin d’œil de France de la famille Williams