Sunday, February 19, 2012

More from Erik Blegvad

This past Christmas, one of the gifts I received was a vintage copy of "Dusty and the Fiddlers," by Miska Miles with illustrations by Erik Blegvad.  Followers of this blog will know that Blegvad is one of my favorite illustrators,so it should come as no surprise that I was delighted to receive one of his books that I was not familiar with.  The book was published in 1962 by the Atlantic Monthly Press as part of their Weekly Reader Children's Book Club. It's a charming little book, just a little over 50 pages long that is about a feud between two fiddle players and how the feud is resolved by an ingenious young boy named, Dusty.

Blegvad created a number of double page spreads for the book, but instead of having the illustrations run across the gutter, he split the spreads into two illustrations.  This was a smart move on Blegvad's part and I'm sure he planned it this way to keep his detailed line work from getting lost in the gutter of the book. You might think that a wide gutter between the illustrations would be distracting, but Blegvad skillfully composed each side of the page so that each half of the illustration was able to stand on its own, but when you pair the two together, you see one panoramic scene.  As usual, Blegvad's illustrations are filled with wonderful details, and yes, the artist's trademark little black cat appears in many of the illustrations.

In the images below, I've included both sides of each double spread as they appear in the book, including the text so that you can see how Blegvad composed his layouts.

In this illustration, I particularly like how Blegvad has used the barn to divide the image.  On the left side, we see some of the guests as they arrive at the party.  On the right side, we see more guests on their way.  Each half of this two-part illustration works beautifully on its own.

In this illustration I think it's interesting how Blegvad has split the space to accomodate the text.  On the left, the text is above the illustration of the audience, while on the right, the text takes up the lower part of the page and is placed beneath the illustration of the performers.  Once again, each of these illustrations can be looked at as separate, beautifully designed compositions, each with their own balance of lights and darks and areas of interest.

I love what's going on in this illustration, a scene of a busy train station with a train just pulling into the station. On the left we see the train has arrived, a dog is barking, people are rushing to catch it and a little girl covers her ears to block out all of the noise. All of the activity on this side of the illustration lends it a sort of snapshot feel.  On the right, the scene is calmer. We see Dusty and Viola sitting on a trunk where they have been waiting for the train.  They look off to the left, their gaze carrying us back across the gutter to the train. Some other nice details on this side of the illustration are the two swallows perched on the telephone wire, about to be joined by a third bird, and the horse in the pasture that is running toward the train. A man on the right edge of the illustration is also looking toward the train. His positioning, which is almost a mirror image of the position of the little girl on the left, makes a nice bookend for the illustration.