Monday, August 11, 2008

Mervyn Peake 1911-1968

My first introduction to Mervyn Peake was through this 1979 paperback reprint of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Well executed pen and ink drawings have always been a great joy for me to look at. I have the impression that Peake must have been a painter before he was a pen and ink artist. He uses line to create tone. His shapes have a painterly soft edge. He separates shapes through a contrast in value, generally not with a solid outline. Even the line, on the illustration of Long John Silver's face, is not solid -- it is a broken line. A few of his edges do have longer lines. On the crutch, the use of a long, straight line seems to help emphasise the hard texture of the crutch in contrast to soft clothing.

Mervyn Peake's illustration from Grimm's Household Tales, 1946, is another fine example of how he created silvery tones with rich and varied textures. He again saves longer unbroken lines to add emphasis in key spots within the drawing. In the tale being illustrated, The Nose-Tree, the absurdly long, winding nose is the important storytelling element in the art.


Peter said...

You should get yourself a copy of Mervyn Peake: the man and his art (2006; paperback edition due out in the autumn): it's got hundreds of Peake drawings and paintings to delight you, as well as more about the technique you discuss here.

Uncle Ernie said...

Thanks for the heads up!! I'll keep an eye open for the book.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to copy Mervyn Peake illustrations in pencil with slight alterations and sell them as pictures but with acknowledgement that they are copies of a Mervyn Peake illustration on the back?

Uncle Ernie said...

Copying a drawing line for line can be a great exercise in understanding someone's technique; but copying to sell…well, can be another matter. It might be tough to trace the copyright holders of some of Peak's drawings; but ethically, it just isn't right. There was once the misguided notion that changing something by 10% was enough to allow you to call it your own, but that isn't true.

The best thing to do might be to copy some of his drawings, as exercises, to study and learn the technique of crosshatching and then create your own drawings in that style to sell.

Samsung toner cartridges said...

I love Mervyn Peake. I agree with what your saying about Peake must have been a painter before he was a pen and ink artist. Well, actually I agree with every thing you said about him. The man is a genius. In my opinion his best pen and ink artist. I recommend you too to get a copy of Mervyn Peake: the man and his art. I have it. Its very interesting paperback and the techniques that the paperback talks about are very useful. Anyway, you used a good example (illustration from Grimm's Household Tales, 1946) to emphasize his god work.