What: Pictiúr, an exhibition of contemporary Irish childrens’ book illustration.
Where: IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)
When: Ends tomorrow (12th of Jan), so if you want to see it – hurry!
Today I visited Pictiúr, an exhibition of work by 21 contemporary Irish illustrators. The exhibition features 2 works by each illustrator, as well as display cases showing how concepts for illustrations are developed, and exploring the process of making a picturebook. There were also videos about illustration, and a library featuring books by the illustrators featured in the exhibition. My one criticism would be that the works situated in the café can be hard to see when it is busy, but overall I thought it was very well put together and catered for both adults and children. The exhibition was curated by Niamh Sharkey, current Laureate Na nÓg (Children’s Laureate) and is the largest ever travelling exhibition of Irish illustration. Today was also the family day and while my friend and I (at 21 and 20) were a little old for the events we got involved in Monster Doodling, and creating our own Beast of IMMA.
P.J. Lynch is one of my favourite illustrators. I love the soft tones of his work which are created by his use of watercolour, the detail, the emotion and the often fantastical subject matter. The works in the IMMA exhibition are from The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a very moving picturebook about an old man whose heart is softened by a young boy. These works illustrate beautifully Lynch’s mastery of emotion, and I love the warm, earthy tones. The sense of wonder on the young boy’s face as he sees the nativity figures reflects the touching message of the book.
The first display case gave an insight into the development of P.J. Lynch’s illustrations, focussing on the dragon story Ignis. The case features sketches, full spreads, mock ups and finished pieces. It gave a really interesting look into his working process, and into how a picturebook is created.
Niamh Sharkey, current children’s laureate and curator of Pictiúr, is represented by illustrations from her Mavis and Marge book. The bright colours and bold outlines of Sharkey’s work is very expressive, and there is a real sense of humour throughout the images. This warmth and humour is also seen in her book I’m A Happy Hugglewug, which has been made into the Henry Hugglemonster TV show by Disney and Brown Bag Films. Another display case shows Sharkey’s working process through sketches, storyboards, dummy books and more.
Andrew Whitson’s work has a collage effect, achieved through his use of mixed media. His work in this exhibition is the cover imagery for Irish language books Cogito and Ó Chrann go Crann. Whitson works with An tSnáthaid Mhór, a Belfast based publishing house which is now developing apps of interactive picturebooks in both Irish and English. The image below is a section from the cover of Ó Chrann go Crann. I loved the different layers of the image, and the feeling of being lost it conveys. The typography is interesting, as is the contrast between the finished colour images and the pencil sketches.
This Paul Howard image is an illustration accompanying William Blake’s famous poem ‘The Tyger’. The bold use of colour, and striking image of the tiger prowling through the tall grass captures the vivid descriptions in the poem. It also brings the poem to life for the child reader. The image is taken from a collection of classic poetry edited by Michael Rosen.
I love the expressive use of line in this illustration by Donough O’Malley, taken from An Coileach Codlatach (The Sleepy Rooster). This image is one of the first in the book, and sets the atmosphere for the story. The sky is particularly expressive, and O’Malley makes excellent use of his medium – pastel with conté. There is a real sense of movement, created by his use of line, and I love how the rooster has been silhouetted against the moon.
Steve Simpson is another illustrator whose work I find very exciting. The images below are taken from Mise agus an Dragún, a tale about a teddy bear who dreams about an adventure with his toy dragon. The first image shows their travels in space, and is a very striking image, full of movement. I love how the constellations are mapped out in the background. In the second image, we see the end of the story. I love all the details – Simpson is written on the spine of the book on the floor, there is a makeshift telescope and a robot hidden behind a curtain! There are many more fun details to be found throughout Steve Simpson’s work.
Oliver Jeffers is a very popular illustrator at the moment, and has won a lot of awards. I love how distinctive his style is – details like the stick legs are unmistakeably his. The images in Pictiúr are taken from Stuck, an entertaining picturebook about a boy who gets his kite stuck in a tree. One picture shows Floyd carrying an orang-utan, the other shows the various objects he has used to try and dislodge his kite from the tree. There’s a submarine, the kitchen sink, a lighthouse and more! It is a simple story, but a very funny one.
Miss Brooks Loves Books, the story of a reluctant reader whose wacky book-loving teacher helps her find a story she loves, is one of my favourite picturebooks. The illustrations by Michael Emberley match the story very well, capturing the humour and the love of reading. This is a book any bookworm will enjoy, and the illustrations are fantastic!
Chris Judge’s Lonely Beast is one of the most recognisable characters in contemporary picturebooks. Simple but striking, the figure really stands out against the backgrounds. I love the stripy green and pink tie in one of the images! The story of the Lonely Beast is a touching and fun read, and I also love Chris Judge’s picturebook The Great Explorer. The Beast of IMMA workshop run by Chris Judge was a lot of fun too!
Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s book There won a Bisto book award, and two of the illustrations are shown in this exhibition. The first image shows the little boy carrying a small suitcase, about to set out on a journey. He looks very small in comparison to the green hills. It is a very sweet story, and the illustration of the little boy (in cute little wellies!) climbing a ladder to the stars is beautiful. The pastel tones give the illustrations a softness, and the journey throughout the book is very engaging.
Olwyn Whelan’s illustrations accompany Spellbound, a retelling of Irish myths and legends by former Laureate na nÓg Siobhan Parkinson. Whelan’s illustrations are enchanting, and capture the magic of the stories. I love her use of patterning and bright colours, and detail in elements such as the castles. Seeing the illustrations in person, I noticed Whelan’s use of glitter and could really appreciate how detailed her work is. I discovered her work through Pictiúr and I am spellbound by it!
These are just a selection of the illustrators and illustrations featured in Pictiúr, see the exhibition or the Laureate Na nÓg website for more. This is a really excellent showcase for Irish childrens’ book illustration, which is really going through a golden age at the moment!
A video about Pictiúr’s travels abroad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maqYYvMuIIQ