Hutchings and the Provensens

My introduction to Alice and Martin Provensen was via my sister Jo's Milton Bradley Memory Game (which she still owns!), that I loved so much as a kid. We played it so often I knew every image like the back of my hand, including the lovely little illustrations by the Provensens.

I posted a while ago some scans from a favourite book of mine I've had since I was little, Nurseryland Annual 1970 (doesn't that age me?!), that's illustrated by an artist called Hutchings, who was clearly influenced by the Provensens when you start to compare their textures, fine, sketchy linework, and even the forms of some of their stylised people, animals and architecture. Just who the mysterious Hutchings is has been a topic of conversation on a couple of other blogs here and here, but there's not a lot of information out there. I thought a side by side comparison between the Provensens and Hutchings might be interesting.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

I don't like to suggest that Hutchings was nothing more than a copycat, because he is clearly a very talented, inventive artist, but there is definitely a relationship between his style and the Provensens'.

Yet you might also say there are resemblances between the Provensens and Mary Blair, and so on it goes; no one lives in a cultural vacuum, and there's nothing wrong with being influenced by your contemporaries as long as your work is still your own. Perhaps though, this might explain why Hutchings is not better known as an illustrator, because his work is derivative of an earlier style compared to Mary Blair and the Provensens, whose trail-blazing work influenced illustrators for many decades to come.

My own work very much references the past, it's deliberate, and I don't disguise it, but I hope there is enough of myself in it to make it unique and relevant. I think one of the keys is to draw influences from a variety of sources, rather than just a few (and not just other artists!), and to go back to the original sources rather than take your influences from someone else whose been influenced by a particular style. That's rather like a game of telephone where the message loses its meaning and integrity as it hops from one to another, and another.

I'm not here to dismiss Hutchings, since his beautiful, magical illustrations had such a huge impact on my childhood. In his defense, here is one of his most glorious pieces from Nurseryland Annual 1970, which beautifully references the textures and linework of the mid-20th century, whilst also using the bright, contemporary colour palette and style of the late-1960s that extended well into the 1970s. Groovy!

Illustration by Hutchings from Nurseryland Annual 1970.

Australian Home Journal: Part One

I used to make my own clothes waaay back in the eighties and nineties, but for some reason I stopped. I think I was just much more focused on the result rather than the process and eventually grew tired of it. I've recently revisited my sewing machine and I'm loving it! This time, I'm much more engaged in the whole process and and I'm finding it really rewarding; not to mention all of my past sewing projects were pre-internet so I'm now discovering for the first time all the fabulous resources that are out there - so many great blogs, fabric shops and downloadable patterns - yaaay!

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All of this sewing buzz prompted me to pull out my stash of vintage Australian Home Journal magazines. Some of them still have the dress patterns inside, but I'm more interested in looking at the beautiful covers for now. My collection spans thirty years from the early-30s to the early-60s, so I thought I'd dedicate a few posts to sharing this beautiful cover art with you. Here are the first seven that I've selected, spanning 1932-38; just look at all of those gorgeous dresses! As a bonus, here's a sassy lassy in a sporty tennis pullover from 1932...

Vintage Scrap Album

Look what I found at a recent secondhand book sale!

Penrose Annual 1958

This is one of my favourite secondhand book finds this year - Volume 52 of the Penrose Graphic Art Annual from 1958. I bought it from the same market as the King Penguins I posted about a few months ago, & it's in nearly perfect condition! I can't quite remember how much I paid for it, but it was something like $28 - a super-duper bargain. I would love to collect more of these, particularly the late 1930s through to 1960, but they can be a little pricey. One of the best things about this book is that it's stamped on the front endpapers with "Hardwicke Knight Collection". Upon doing a little Googling, I found out that Frederick Hardwicke-Knight was a New Zealand author, photographer & collector who died in 2008 leaving behind a lifetime's treasure trove of amazing stuff. I feel honoured to own one of his books! You can see the man himself & some of his incredible collection here. How interesting!

King Penguin: Woodland Birds

I thought I'd better blog about something other than recipes for a change - it's been food, food, food lately! Must be the nippy winter weather & bracing seaside walks making me peckish! Here's my latest King Penguin acquisition, Woodland Birds. It's in beautiful condition, & is the first one I've bought that still has its dust jacket. Published in 1955, it was one of the last King Penguins to be released, & is written by Phyllis Barclay-Smith & illustrated by Peter Shepheard, who also designed the gorgeous cover. The colour plates are so beautiful, don't you think?

I Hit the Secondhand Book Jackpot!

I've posted before about the June long weekend secondhand book sale. I go every year (they had one in March this year too). As usual, I went with Mark & Stevie, & left feeling like a pirate who'd just plundered the most amazing treasure trove ever! Stevie found this big stack of King Penguin books from the 1940s (all of them $5 or $7.50 each & in pretty good condition) & in a very civilised fashion with no hair-pulling whatsoever, we went through them, picking out favourites, divvying them up so we each got to buy a few. I can't recall all of theirs, but there was one about freshwater fish, another mushroom one, wild flowers, reptiles, one about ballet, children's art, Scottish costumes - lots! Here are mine, with a couple of plates from each. The covers, as you can see, are gorgeous, & the illustrations are as fresh & rich as the day they were printed. What an amazing range of subject matter the King Penguins explore, I think I might have to collect some more - I love them so much! Popular English Art, written by Noel Carrington, illustrated by Clarke Hutton. 1945.

Ladies Home Journal: January 1949

Fabulous vintage advertising & typography from 63 years ago...

From the Archives: Children's Dictionary

I went to a secondhand book sale yesterday with Mark & Stevie, & this is one of the treasures I bought - a children's pictorial dictionary from about the late 1940s-early 1950s. I love that it's Australian & features some familiar images, such as the galah I included in my montage below & the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Stevie spotted the book first & knew I'd love it because of the incredible endpapers (above). I love the vivid colours & the weird juxtaposition of images.

Mark also found an amazing design book from the 1950s for me - I'll show you some pictures of that one another time. It's nice to rummage at book sales with friends who can keep an eye out for things you'll love!

In other news, I was interviewed for The Finders Keepers blog recently, where I talked a little about my influences & work process. If you're interested, you can read it here.

From the Archives: Art & Industry

I couldn't find much information about Art & Industry, but I can tell you it was a British commercial art magazine that was in circulation pre-WW2, at least until the 1950s. I own twenty-one issues spanning from 1937 through to 1941. With the onset of war, the magazine shrunk from 8x11.5"(20.3x29.2cm) to a slim 5.5x8" (14x20.3cm), but the publishers displayed exceptional tenacity by not only surviving paper rationing, but the bombing of their offices during The Blitz. In the November 1940 issue, they report:

"We apologise to our subscribers for the late appearance of this issue owing to air raid damage in which we lost much valuable property and suffered great dislocation of our organisation. This is not our first loss from the raid, but it merely adds to our determination."

In the December 1940 issue they show photographs of the total destruction of their building & relocation from Leicester Square to Covent Garden.

Unfortunately there are no colour plates in the wartime issues (although fabulously colourful covers, as you can see). The two images below are from September & August 1937 respectively. On the left we have Hungarian wrapping papers, & right, a selection of book jackets by Barnett Freedman (top), Edward Bawden (centre), Eric Fraser (bottom left) & Rex Whistler (bottom right).

From the Archives: 1970

Here are some of the gorgeous illustrations from my favourite book when I was three - Nurseryland Annual 1970 - an illustrated book of poetry.

I loved poetry when I was a young'un, & loved this book in particular because of the beautiful pictures.  Google hasn't been very enlightening about the book's illustrator, simply credited as Hutchings, but what a talented artist - I love his use of textures. I thought these pictures were so magical when I was little, in fact I still do! I loved this book so much, it eventually fell apart. My mum repaired it with tape, which you can see in the third image. I could have Photoshopped that out when I scanned the pages, but I think seeing the repairs on this beloved old book is kind of nice!