I can’t actually remember when or where I first happened across the bold & colourful illustrations of John J. Reiss.
He’s the author and illustrator of a trio of young children’s books, Numbers, Shapes and Colors. He also illustrated Statistics a young children’s maths book written by Jane Jonas Srivastava.
Although highly regarded, he doesn’t seem to be that well-known outside of his home city of Milwaukee. He worked extensively there designing exhibition catalogues, launch invitations and ads for the city’s Art Center (now Museum).
There is quite a detailed biography of the designer on the museum’s blog, written only last month.
Additional image credits:
Simon & Schuster
Vintage children’s books illustrators are always one of our favourite subjects for Designer Desire. This week, we’ve chosen award-winning illustrator and author, William Stobbs (1914-2000).
Originally from South Shields in Tyne and Wear, he attended Durham School of Art before being taken on as a draughtsman at Rolls-Royce.
Stobbs taught at the London School of Printing and Kindred Trades (now the London College of Communication) prior to becoming head of Maidstone College of Art (now the Kent Institute of Art & Design) where he stayed for 21 years.
In 1955 he illustrated Ronald Welch’s Knight Crusader, which won the Carnegie Medal, “the UK’s oldest and most prestigious book award for children’s writing”. Four years later, he won a double Kate Greenaway Medal for his children’s books illustrations for Kashtanka by Anton Chekhov (see the illustration top-right) and A Bundle of Ballads by Ruth Manning-Sanders.
He returned to one of his life-long favourite subjects – cars – publishing picture books entitled, A Mini called ZAC, A Rolls called ARK and A Car called Beetle (see second illustration from bottom, right).
Most of the books he illustrated are now out-of-print. However, vintage copies can be picked up easily from Abe Books, Amazon, eBay and Etsy.
Today, sadly, William Stobbs is little-known and under-appreciated – we couldn’t even find an image online of what the designer looked like.
Lazy Daisy Jones | Little White Crow | Vintage Children’s Books my Kid Loves
Having not grown up in the UK, Jan Pieńkowski unfortunately passed me by until recently. Luckily, I’ve discovered his wonderful, award-winning illustrations as an adult.
Today’s kids will know him as the co-creator (with Helen Nicoll) of Meg and Mog. People of my age, will know his earlier graphic work from his time working on the BBC’s Watch children’s programme in the early 70s – where he first met Nicoll.
We just have to share the the Jessie Gertrude Townsend’s limerick that accompanied his illustration in their Annie, Bridget and Charlie collaboration… you’ll know why!
H is for Horrid young Hannah,
Who has the most shocking bad manner.
She went out to dine
With a party of nine
And she ate every single banana.
His illustrated children’s books (many of which are still in publication) are readily available on WHSmith, Amazon, eBay and Etsy.
Click here to see some more of our Designer Desire series.
If you were a child of the 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, the illustrations of Mary Blair will be really familiar to you. She was responsible for the concept artwork on many Walt Disney films. Bambi? Cinderella? Alice in Wonderland? Peter Pan? That was her!
She designed a breathtaking, multi-storey mural inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort which opened in 1971 (see the top right image in our collage and the film of its making at the bottom of this post). It’s 90′ tall and consists of 18 thousand hand-painted tiles!
The styling and colouring of the original it’s a small world installation is also her work. It began life as part of the 1964 New York World’s Fair’s UNICEF pavilion thereafter moving to Florida’s Walt Disney World. It has since been followed by later versions in Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
She was one of the main illustrators on the Little Golden Books series of children’s books (Another Disney project). Her output can be found in I Can Fly, Little Verses and Baby’s House.
Mary Blair also designed advertising and, on occasion, packaging for Meadow Gold milk, cheese and ice cream, Blue Bell children’s clothing, E-Z underwear, Hanes Underwear, Pall Mall cigarettes, Dutch Boy Paints and Baker’s instant chocolate flavor mix.
You can find numerous books illustrated by Blair, as well as books about her and her work on Amazon.
Check out some of our other past Designer Desire members here!
Flickr | Pinterest
Ceramic Mural from Animation Scoop on Vimeo.
As you may know, we’re massive fans of children’s book illustrations. We have vintage books in our collection by Miroslav Sasek, Bill Charmatz and Alain Grée amongst others. One illustrator we’ve admired for a long time, but don’t actually own any of his books, is Brian Wildsmith.
Wildsmith (who died in the summer of 2016) was an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator with a large portfolio of work behind him. His books were playful but educational at the same time and covered subjects such as ABCs, birds and other animals, fables and bible stories.
In an interview for the Independent newspaper in 2010, Brian Wildsmith explained his ethos:
[Before ABC] the text was the most important thing and pictures would just accompany it, diagrammatically explaining what was going on in the words. But I could limit my text so the illustrations explained what actually happened. And not just the physical event of what was happening, but the vision of the people or the animals or the landscape around them. I was expressing in colour the wonder and beauty of the world in which we live, which had never happened before, and would have been difficult to explain in words for children.
Some of his books are still in production, however, if you’re like us and prefer vintage copies – despite them sometimes being ‘read worn’ – there are always examples available on Etsy and eBay. We’re after a 1st edition of his Animal Gallery which teaches lots of the collective nouns like ‘a corps of giraffes’, ‘an array of hedgehogs’, ‘a herd of seahorses’ and ‘a troop of kangaroos’.
Abe Books | Amazon | Hive
In this week’s Designer Desire, we’d like to introduce you to Alain Grée (if you’ve not heard of him already, that is). Eighty years old this year (2016), Grée is an illustrator, mainly known for his children’s books and board games.
Grée is an enthusiastic sailor – he’s crossed the Atlantic on his own ships – which can be seen in his very detailed educational books about ships, boats, the sea and sea creatures.
Luckily, Grée has had a very prolific output; his books (over 300) have been produced in large numbers and in 25 different languages. This means you can find examples of his work easily from outlets such as Etsy and Amazon.
His work is still being produced by RicoBel based in Ghent, Belgium who own the rights to his works. Button Books, based in the UK, stock a large stock of his early-years books, activity sets and flash cards.
Here’s a short film of the designer himself talking about how he created his books.
Alain Grée | Sam Smyth | Flickr | Pinterest