Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Joys of Research...

I must say that research is practically my favorite aspect of illustrating. As you may have noticed, I tend to work with a realistic bent, and enjoy idiosyncratic things like historical and anatomical accuracy - hence I generally photograph models or reference search for the majority of the jobs I do. Luckily, I love learning about things, and must therefore, watch myself so that I do not become too immersed in the research phase and never get to the drawing phase...

The current story I'm illustrating is a bit hazy on the time frame, but there are enough references to quaint, older-style living that I'd like to set it in the early part of the 20th century - somewhere between 1905 and 1915 or 1920. (Who has reference sources to recommend for clothing and log-cabin-in-the-New-England-woods from that time period? I need 11 year old boy, and period post-man attire, as well as some building interiors and exteriors). I could set it later, but once we hit the 1940s, everything becomes too formal for me.

I've reserved some books at the library and hit my favorite used book stores. Pretty slim pickings for the decade I'm looking for, but lots of old readers from the late 1940s. Some of them are hilarious and so culturally dated that I had to pick them up. These are from a reader, copyright 1949, called "Peter's Family":

Baby safety has come a long way. A couple of gals from my critique group are currently working on some educational readers - and we are always bemused at how politically and culturally correct they insist on being. (You have anthropomorphic chipmunks who are riding oak leaves in the river like a canoe - they MUST have life jackets on! Where they get ready-made, chipmunk-sized lifejackets out in the woods is a mystery, but one must always model 'correct', proper and safe behavior!)

I was amused at "The Family Works" chapter. Everyone dresses very nicely, regardless of the task. Mother always wears a dress, and father paints furniture, rakes leaves, and builds tree houses all in his shirt, tie and trousers (not to mention all the times he wears his suit coat - like at the dinner table, shopping, reading the paper in the living room, and playing the violin).

This is probably my favorite spread. I love the colors of the kid's bedrooms (which run counter to our current cultural-color-mores) and the master bedroom picture just cracked me up. What a difference 50 years make!


andrea said...

I used to spend all my time looking at the pictures in basal readers ... probably because I learned to read early and the words were dull-dull-dull. But the picture-postcard-perfect interiors and neighbourhoods in Janet and John's life amazed me. (J&J were the Canadian Dick & Jane equivalent I think...?) There was never even a blade of grass out of place.

Rebecca Bush said...

I love these old children's book illustrations. Good luck with your research-- wish I could be of help!