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, January 26, 2011

Michel Atkinson

Something of a mystery man with regards to cover artwork. Michel Atkinson was an irregular contributor to various romance and schoolgirl pocket libraries from 1961 until the 1970s, producing covers for Romantic Confessions PL (1961), Love Story PL (1961-62, 1965, 1969-70, 1973-74), True Life Library (1961-62, 1965-66, 1968-69), Princess PL (1961-63), Schoolgirls PL (1961-62), School Friend PL (1962-63), June and Schoolfriend and Princess PL (1968).

There were some fairly substantial gaps during which time he was probably doing book covers. He is known to have been a regular cover artist for the Hank Janson novels published by Roberts & Vinter in 1961-65 and a wide variety of genres for Digit Books in 1963-65.

Although fairly prolific, it is likely that 'Michel' (as he signed most of his book covers) found more regular work outside of producing book covers for paperbacks and for Fleetway Publications from the mid-1960s on.

Examples of Atkinson's work for sale can be found here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ray Aspden

Ray Aspden has been a irregular comic strip writer and illustrator for 35 years, contributing 'Philpot Bottles' Orfice Boys Own' to Denis Gifford's Ally Sloper in 1976-77, a cartoon strip that harked back to the 1930s penny comics, which would often feature a column from the paper's office boy recounting (in badly spelled text) what had been happening that week.

Ray, also a playwright, started writing for D. C. Thomson in the late 1970s, selling two strories to Victor, of which only one appeared ('Stokehold Joe' in 1980). In 1978, having spotted an advert in The Guardian, he contacted the editors of the upcoming science fiction pocket library, Starblazer, and began contributing scripts. His first submission, 'The Basilisk Face of Fear' - based loosely on the story of Perseus and the Gorgon's head, was accepted and published as Starblazer #2, 'The Domes of Death'. A second story, a reworking of the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, followed, published as 'Sinister City' (Starblazer #19).

Ray eventually became one of Starblazer's most regular writers, penning 28 issues published between 1979 and 1986. Discussing his work for the series recently, he admitted that the pattern set for those years was to have one in three of his outlines accepted, either immediately or after some amendment. One ploy used by the editors was to send a cover, bought through an agency, and have Ray write a story around it - 'Terror Tomb' (Starblazer #62) being one example.

His best-known work for the series featured Hadron Halley, the idea springing from a reversal of 'sci-fi' (science fiction) - that fi-sci could stand for Fighting Scientist. The concept of 'Moonsplitter' (Starblazer #50) was to contrast the rational scientific approach of Halley to the gung-ho militarism of General Larz Pluto, although in writing the latter as a buffoon he "transgressed Thomsons moral code of wanting figures of authority to be seen as worthy of respect." He considers the final book "a mess".

"Due to the childhood influence of Eagle, I tried to have characters driving the plot and the nuances of character revealed in the dialogue. Jack and Bill [Starblazer editors] wanted action and gadgets. They also imposed a word limitation on speech bubbles and had total control over the ultimately published dialogue. As a result, many Starblazers based on my scripts have the characters making bland statements of the bleeding obvious instead of the witty one-liners I originally gave them. I used to complain regularly. I think Jack understood that it was nothing personal and told me I shouldn't care so passionately about my creations. His advice was to completely forget about a script once I'd had the cheque and make a start on the next idea." (Ray's article on his days with Starblazer can be found here.)

As well as his Starblazer writing, Aspden also began contributing strips to two Welsh language publications Sboncyn and Deryn in the early 1980s, writing and drawing two humour strips, 'Jac-Do' and 'Alys Ofalus'. Sboncyn was relaunched as Penbwl in 1989, for which Aspden wrote and drew 'Huwi Hurt', a Dennis the Menace-type character which Aspden turned into a Hungry Horace clone. The monthly comic folded in 1995.

Since 2004, Aspden has written and drawn two regular strips for Spaceship Away!. Both 'Mekki' and 'Our Bertie' owe a stylistic debt to the Knockout in the 1950s, rather than Eagle.

Ray's interest in history has also led to him producing illustrations for the series 'Cutha's Chronicles', written by Karl Wittwer and Paul Finlow-Bates, for the quarterly magazine Wiðowinde (Bindweed), for members of The English Companions (a study group for people interested in the Anglo-Saxon period of British history), since 2005; he has also drawn strips for the historical magazine Facts & Fiction and recently supplied illustrations for the book Derbyshire Folk Tales (2010).

An example of Aspden's early work can be found for sale here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jordi Penalva

Jordi Penalva was one of the leading for Fleetway's War and Battle picture libraries in the 1960s and, as such, featured heavily when David Roach and I compiled The War Libraries index some years ago. In the seven years between 1963 and 1969 he provided about 75 covers for each title, marked by their quality. In The Art of War, David describes Penalva's work as combining "a wonderful, gritty sense of the dramatic with a textural, highly accomplished painting ability." His were the most interesting in creating the heroic ideal, "his heroes ruggedly handsome soldiers often striking dramatic poses, usually surrounded by blazing guns, smoke, explosions and vast swathes of colour."

Penalva had, prior to that, been the regular cover artist for Cowboy Picture Library where he debuted in early 1958. In total he painted 146 covers for the library, including covers for 44 of the 48 issues that appeared in 1961. In the early years he also provided covers for the weekly Sun comic as well as Thriller Picture Library and Lone Rider Picture Library. Some of his most dramatic covers appeared on the 'Front Line' series of the Fleetway Super Library series.

Penalva was born in Barcelona in 1927, the younger brother of Antonio Bosch Peñalva, who was also a notable artist, providing covers for many issues of Schoolgirls Picture Library and June & School Friend Picture Library). His full name was Jordi Bosch Peñalva, the Spanish tradition being to retain the mother's surname as well as his father's family name. However, as his older brother signed his work 'Bosch Penalva', Jordi used his mother's maiden name when signing his work.

Penalva was educated at the Escola d'Arts Aplicades i d'Ofocos Artostocs de Barcelona (School of Arts and Artistic Trades), popularly known as the Esola de la Llotja (School Market), before attending the Escuela de artes y Oficio de Barcelona (School of Arts and Trades). He subsequently furthered his studies of anatomy at the Fomento de las Artes Decoratives and, completing his education, was a free student at the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de Sant Jordi (School of Fine Arts), studying under painter Ernesto Santasusagna. He also studied architecture and was employed briefly in the architectural section of the Generalitat, the Catalan government.

He also began producing illustrations in the late 1940s for publishers Janés and Juventu, and, more memorably, producing covers for Lars and Bruguera for books by P. C. Wren and Zane Grey. One of his contemporaries, Jorge Longarón, recalls that even this early work showed a quality beyond Penalva's years, comparible to artists Riera Rojas and Juan Palet and even the leading American artists whose work appeared in Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post.

Around this time, Penalva would have been called up for military service and, in 1952, he moved briefly to Brazil. Returning to Spain he began illustrating covers for magazines and books. Through the Belgian agency A.L.I. and the Spanish-British agency Bardon, he began working for Fleetway, producing over 300 covers, not only for their various pocket libraries but also weekly comics like Hurricane.

In the mid-1960s, Penalva also began working for D. C. Thomson's rival Commando pocket library and over the next decade produced 180 covers, averaging just over one a fortnight between 1969 and 1974. Penalva was also supplying illustrations and cover for Scandinavian magazines—notably for Semic's newspaper strip reprints of The Saint, James Bond, Modesty Blaise and others—and for the German publisher Bastei.

Penalva, like many other Spanish artists, could also be found contributing to James Warren's magazines, providing covers for Eerie, Vampirella, 1984 and The Rook in 1978-82—his cover for Eerie 96 was voted the best cover of 1978. During the same period he was painting covers for DAW Books and Playboy Press.

In the late-1970s to mid-1980s he was also painting covers for Josep Toutain's magazine 1984 (later Zona 84), Comix Internacional and Thriller in his native Spain as well as comics from other publishers, including Blue Jeans, Super Bumerang and Kung-Fu.

Subsequently, Penalva was able to concentrate on painting, in oils, watercolours and acrylics, with occasional more commercial diversions, such as producing paintings for commemorative plates, providing background paintings for the Spanish animated movie Katy, Kiki y Koko (1988)—he had previously been involved as a layout artist on an earlier Spanish animated film El mago de los sueños (1966)—and occasional returns to painting book covers, such as the Circle of Magic series by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, and illustrations for a C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa childrens' book (based on the TV series), in the 1990s.

Examples of Penalva's work can be found for sale here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Virginio Livraghi

Virginio Livraghi was a painter, born in Dovera in the province of Cremona in the Lombardy region of Italy, in 1924. Dovera is only 35 km southeast of Milan and it is no surprise that Livraghi gravitated to this centre of artistic excellence. In the late 1940s he worked as an animator on the famous Italian film La Rosa di Bagdad directed by Anton Gino Domenighini and quickly found a market for his illustrations with Milanese publishers Carroccio, Gino Conte, Fratelli Fabbri, Piccoli and others in the 1950s and 1960s. His talents lay in illustrations for young children, especially fairy tales (including classics like Snow White, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio) and stories about animals (including Penny, an Italian translation of Isobel St Vincent's Penny Pullet, and Maria Pia Pezzi's Curly Pig, which made the reverse journey in translation into English).

Working via Creazioni D'Ami, Livraghi began producing delightful colour strips and illustrations for British nursery comics, beginning with a run of strips starring the comical adventures of Playhour's 'Leo the Friendly Lion', taking the strip over from Harold McCready in April 1960 and later handing over to another ex-animator, Bert Felstead, in February 1961.

That year, Livraghi began drawing illustrations and covers for the British educational magazine Knowledge and the Italian nursery magazine Michelino, published by the Fabbri brothers. In February 1969 he returned to the British market after a four year absence to draw illustrations featuring 'Brer Rabbit' for Once Upon a Time. These beautiful colour illustrations would continue to appear until October 1971, although Henry Fox provided an increasing number of fill-ins from mid-1970.

It is a shame so little is known about this immensely talented artist: he was one of the best artists in the field of anthropomorphic animals to work in the UK; in Brer Rabbit especially he captured the humour and sense of mischief of the stories he illustrated as Brer constantly outwitted the wily creatures who wanted to capture him.

The following list of books illustrated by Livraghi is almost certainly incomplete, but is the best I can manage. Any further information would be very welcome. Artwork for sale by Livraghi can be found here.


Illustrated books
Pel di Carota by Jules Renard. Milan, Carroccio, 1950.
Storielline minuscole per i piu piccini by Laura Okely Romiti. Milan, G. Conte, 1951.
Alcino by Laura Okely Romiti. Milan, G. Conte, 1952.
Storie di animali by Lina Carpanini. Milan, Fabbri, 1953.
Penny by Isobel St. Vincent. Milan, Fabbri, 1953.
Biancaneve divenne regina. Milan, Boschi, 1956.
Gli insegnamenti di Frilli by Philippe Halsmann. Milan, Fabbri, 1958.
Davy Crockett e il pellirossa by Tom Hill (Karen Bruns). Milan, Fabbri, 1959.
Il gatto dagli stivali by Charles Perrault. Milan, Piccoli, 1959?
Compane: Letture per il primo [-seondo] ciclo by Mario Comassi (& Alberto Manzi from vol.3). Milan, Fabbri, 5 vols., 1960.
La lampada di Aladino e altre fiabe dalle Mille e una notte. Milan, La Sorgente, 1960.
Bisto-Beo gatto sportivo by Bruno Paltrinieri. Milan, Fabbri, 1961.
Il bosco di Freccia d'oro. Milan, Fabbri, 1963.
Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jane Carruth. London, Odhams, 1963.
Gatto Maso by Maria Pia Pezzi. Milan, Fabbri, 1963.
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Milan, Europea, 1963; Paris, Editions mondiales, 1963.
Il porcellino Spiru by Maria Pia Pezzi. Milan, Fabbri, 1963; translated (and adapted) by Kathleen N. Daly as Curly the Pig, New York, Golden Press, 1964.
Quando la terra trema by Frederick H. Pough. Milan, Fabbri, 1970.
Brer Rabbit by Barbara Hayes. Vero Beach, Florida, Rourke Enterprises, 1984.
Una storia d'amore: ibrido poetico italiano-milanese by Stefano Fedeli. Gruppo letteraio Acarya, 1985.