Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bill Baker

Bill Baker is one of many talented British artists lost to anonymity. Active between the 1950s and 1970s, Baker worked via the Temple Art Agency for a wide range of boys' and girls' titles, yet his name is almost unknown and I have been unable to track down any biographical information beyond the fact that his name was William G. Baker.

His earliest traced appearance is in the pages of Top Spot, where he drew one-off strips in 1959. A year later he could be found in the pages of Girl, drawing the strip 'New Rider at Clearwater'. This was the start of a fairly long association with that paper, as Baker went on to illustrate '21 Newlands Park', a long-running text serial that ran between 1961 and 1964.

Baker remained within the pages of girls' comics for at least 15 years, contributing to Princess Tina ('Life with Tina'), June ('Call Me Cupid', 'Wedding in the Family') and providing illustrations for Pixie Annual 1974, some of which can be seen in this column.

Baker went on to produce some of his finest work in the pages of Look and Learn, adapting novels by Jack London ('The Call of the Wild' and 'The Sea Wolf'), Jules Verne ('20,000 Leagues Under the Sea'), Miguel de Cervantes ('Don Quixote'), Edgar Allen Poe ('The Fall of the House of Usher'), Mark Twain ('The Prince and the Pauper'), Herman Melville ('Moby Dick'), Charles Kingsley ('Westward Ho!') and Charles Dickens ('A Tale of Two Cities'). Baker also did the occasional illustration for features (at least one dating back as far as 1964).

These strips ran in Look and Learn between 1974 and 1978, some of them brief but others, like 'A Tale of Two Cities' more substantial, running for three months. All shared a wealth of detail and some, like his two-part adaptation of 'The Fall of the House of Usher', are little gems that deserve to be reprinted.

Examples of Baker's artwork for sale can be found here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sergio Asteriti

Sergio Asteriti was born in Venice on February 13 1930 and, after junior school, attended the Venice's Scuola di Magisterto d’Arte, intent on a career in advertising. His first comics work appeared in 1949 when he drew the series I bucanieri for Risveglio, which was distributed around schools in Venice.

After taking only one examination, he left school and moved to Milan, finding work with the publicity agency SPINTA where his workload included drawing movie posters featuring many of the actors in vogue at the time. Two years later, the company went bankrupt and Asteriti found himself in Milan without any work.

Not wishing to return to Venice in defeat, Asteriti hawked his portfolio around various publishers. His interest in comics had developed as a child and, whilst still in Venice, he had known Giorgio Trevisan and Leone Frollo, the latter a Venetian contemporary who introduced him to Giorgio Bellavitis, and other members of the Asso di Picche group, Faustinelli, Ongaro and Pratt.

He found work with Giuseppe Caregaro in 1955 and was one of a group of talented newcomers who began working for Caregaro's Edizioni Alpe around that era. Asteriti created the character 'Bingo Bongo', the comic adventures of a young black boy, for the weekly Cucciolo. Other strips from this period included 'Congolino' and 'Capitan Jolando', as well as covers for Voici d'Oltremare di Bianconi/Missionari Combboniani and contributions to La Vispa Teresa.

In 1958, Asteriti began working for the English market via Creazioni D'Ami, often working in collaboration with Antonio Lupatelli, who had been drawing 'Fun in Toyland' and 'The Funny Tales of Freddie Frog' for the nursery weekly Jack and Jill since 1956. Asteriti assisted on both strips and eventually took them over, 'Freddie Frog' was passed on to other artists in 1960, but Asteriti continued to work on 'Fun in Toyland' for many years, as well as contributing to the Jack and Jill Annual. Some of his work was translated into Italian in the pages of Bimbo e Bimba, an Italian edition of Jack and Jill.

He continued to draw for the British market until the mid-1970s, also contributing to Bobo Bunny, and illustrations to Disneyland and Walt Disney's Now I Know.

His work also continued to appear in Italy where he worked illustrated romance novels for Rizzoli editore in the late 1950s and then revived the character 'Formichino' (created by Roberto Sgrilli) for Selezione dei Ragazzi. In the early 1960s he also drew 'Hayawatha' for Corriere dei Piccoli in collaboration with Antonio Lupatelli. Asteriti has alos illustrated fairy stories for AMZ, Boschi and Carroccio.

In 1963, Asteriti produced 'Pippo e la vacanza culturale', his first strip for the Italian Disney magazine Topolino. Over the next decade he contributed to Disney Italia with increasing regularity, drawing both Pippo (Goofy) and Topolino (Mickey Mouse). He quickly became recognised as one of the leading contributors, both as an artist and, since 1974, a scriptwriter (a task he occasionally shared with his older brother, Franco), and eventually dropped his other work in order to concentrate on Disney characters full time, especially Mickey Mouse. Asteriti has described Mickey as "the best friend of my childhood", a character with whom he grew up. "The only drawback is that I have grown older while he has remained the same, young and healthy, without ever catching a cold!"

Having written and drawn hundreds of stories, Asteriti continues to be one of the major contributors to Italian Disney comics, his illustrative, decorative style perfectly suited for adventures set in medieval and fairy-tale locations

"The public prefer Donald... Personally, what I like most about Mickey Mouse is that he is pure adventure, with situations that are not necessarily comic. [Mickey] can live in any age, in any circumstance, whether it's western, historical or science fiction. There are no limits of time or space for him. It's greatly satisfying and never boring... I love Mickey Mouse when I find the right balance between adventure poetry and humour. It's a difficult balance which involves a good dose of loving effort by both those who write it and whoever draws."

He was awarded Il Premio Papersera in 2008.

Examples of his artwork can be found for sale here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

G W Backhouse

Geoffrey William Backhouse was born at Holywell, Flintshire, in North Wales, on 16 November 1903 and, after studying at Heatherleys, worked for Modern Art Studios. In 1927, Backhouse began drawing ‘Strongheart the Magnificent’ for Comic Life, the comic strip adventures of a magnificent German Shepherd modelled on a canine Hollywood film star. Strongheart, one of the earliest adventure strips to regularly appear in British comics, continued his adventures when Comic Life was relaunched as My Favourite and would continue to appear, drawn by a number of different artists, until 1949.

Shortly before the war, Backhouse drew ‘The Stolen King’ for Comic Cuts and ‘Buffalo Bill’ for Butterfly. After the war, Backhouse illustrated a number of books for Collins, including Mr. Mole's Circus by Douglas Collins and a number of books by Denis Cleaver, including Pongo the Terrible, On the Air, On the Films and A Dog's Life, which featured the adventures of two dogs named Pongo and Peter. Backhouse's association with Collins also included illustrations for The Children’s Picture Dictionary (1951) and modern editions of Alice In Wonderland and Enid Blyton’s Shadow the Sheepdog.

Backhouse’s expertise at drawing animals and nature made him the perfect choice to draw a colourful feature strip starring George Cansdale for Eagle in 1954, following Cansdale's trips around the countryside, and the adventures of ‘Tammy the Sheepdog’ for Swift (1955-58). Backhouse subsequently contributed many wildlife illustrations to Look and Learn and Treasure, appearing in the former from 1962 onwards. Some of his most notable contributions were for a series of short animal stories written by F. St. Mars, Alan C. Jenkins and F. G. Turnbull that appeared in 1967-68.

He lived at 16 Upper Tollington Park, London N.4, and died on 1 August 1978.

Artwork by G. W. Backhouse can be found for sale here.