In which we find things on our London Expotition…
Last fall, I had an amazing opportunity. Tipped off by a blog post on Books Around the Table, I learned that it was possible to make an appointment at the Prints and Drawing Study Room of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In an article on the blog, Margaret Chodos-Irvine spoke of going to the V & A study rooms, and seeing some of the original sketches Ernest H. Shepard made for his iconic illustrations for The House at Pooh Corner.
Eeyore explains “learning” to Piglet. Pencil on paper; A belov after EH Shepard
If I could point to one book from my childhood, and say, “that’s the book that made me want to be an artist, and to illustrate books for children“, it would be Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. Okay, that’s two books, but you get my point. The illustrations in Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, were the first time I ever thought, “I wish I’d done that.”
And these were not the finished illustrations that appear in the book.
Tigger notices that something is sneaking up on him; pencil on paper; A Belov after EH Shepard
These were the studies for those illustrations. Complete with visible erasure marks, multiple searching lines, notes, revisions, and smudges, all hanging out there for all, well, for anyone who knew they were there, to see.
Eeyore shows Christopher Robin, Piglet, and Pooh a well built house; pencil on paper; A Belov after EH Shepard
When you walk into a gallery or museum, and look on the wall and see work of incredible complexity, it is hard not to think that the artist knew just where to put each brushstroke, mixed each color absolutely perfectly the first time and that they must be absolute geniuses who never made a mistake.
And even though I, as an artist with more than 4 decades of putting paint on paper and canvas, know, for a fact that this is not true, it was so completely inspiring and disarming to realize that one of my heroes made messes, erased, and tried again, until the drawings and characters came to life. That he had to start someplace, and that he kept trying until he got it right.
Winnie the Pooh, being the bear; pencil on paper; A Belov after EH Shepard
So it is with complete humility and reverence, that I decided that my forgeries this year, would not be to copy a masterpiece that was already finished to perfection, but to copy these quiet, uncertain studies, by that amazing artist, Ernest H. Shepard.
I hope you enjoy them, and that they bring you happy memories of childhood reading.