Friday, 27 March 2015

What to Look for in Tunnicliffe

I've always loved the pictures in Ladybird Books - but of course my preferences and tastes have changed over the decades.  As a child, for example, I found most of John Berry's 'People at Work' series dull and grey and the world of work they portrayed did not inspire me to want to join.  Now John Berry is one of my favourite artists and I find the People at Work series compelling.

But even as an adult my appreciation and enjoyment of different artists has been fluid.  It would be fair to say that, just a few years ago I couldn't really understand why everyone made such a fuss about CF Tunnicliffe.  To my eye, some of his artwork looked naive and childlike compared to other Nature artists.

 A lot of the pictures in his artwork for Ladybird had, to my eye, over-bold black lines around them.  The light and shade seemed often crude and the colours seemed more stark in comparison with, say, the work of John Leigh-Pemberton.

From 'European Mammals' John Leigh-Pemberton

I'm not sure how this came to change, but little by little I came to love the Seasons books (and also the book 'The Farm', which tends to get forgotten). What once has seen childlike to me now seemed impressionistic.  I came to appreciate the atmosphere and depth of this artwork, perfect for books like these, crammed with detail, when the more you look the more you see. 

There's another quality that I have become more aware of and that's a sort of William Morris-esque design to the composition.  I found myself thinking that some pictures would make good wall-hangings or even wallpaper.

The layout and colour palette of some of the 'seasons' artwork makes me think of Japanese prints.

What could make me 'feel' a wet, autumnal dusk more than this:
What to Look for in Autumn

Or a hazy lazy summer day than this

What to Look for in Summer

The artwork in some of the other Nature books now looks a little 'stagey' and static. Still lovely, but ...

From 'Heath and Woodland Birds' John Leigh-Pemberton

I know, I know.  I must be a bit slow on the uptake, but at least I got there in the end.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Storing or displaying?

Seeing some of my lovely books so beautifully displayed at the De La Warr pavilion recently really made me think about my collection in a new way.

These books had been sitting in boxes in my shed for years, if not unloved (never that!) maybe rather unappreciated.  They had arrived at Bexhill in odd boxes, much as they had been stored for years (although carefully filed according to age and series) - looking something like the jumble you might see on the car-boot field(though frankly, that would be a pretty cool car-boot find)

Plastic stacking drawers - efficient but meh
The curators at Bexhill are good at what they do.  Placing them into this white, custom-made shelving - covers facing outwards - is transforming. It's as if the self-esteem of these same books suddenly receives an enormous boost.  Suddenly they face the world with quiet confidence, enjoying the unexpected, unaccustomed attention.  I watch the visitors walking up and down the long corridor of the book-lined gallery, drinking in the details and the memories, pointing and reminiscing. Suddenly, just as a result of artful display, my everyday boxes of books were cultural artifacts!

It has made me realise I really should do more to display my 'real' collection in a better way.  Of course if I had a living room the size of a gallery, this would not be hard to do.  Space is always going to be a major factor when you have a lot of books in a small house. Most will have to stay stored in drawers and on shelves, showing only their spine.  But now I want to take my 'A-Team' collection and make a bit more of them.

The 'A Team'
Got a fairly small collection? Then these original table-top carousels are lovely ( I don't know if you can still pick them up easily; I found them both cheaply on eBay a few years ago) but are no use when your collection grows in size.

 So I've started looking around at what other people do with their collections - large and small - and there's some real inspiration out there.

Visiting the home of Caroline Alexander recently I saw her collection beautifully grouped around a doorway (with a portrait of her father Douglas Keen, looking  down approvingly).  What added to the visual impact was the way she had combined efficient spine-forward storage with occasional cover-facing - as they often do in libraries and book shops.  This works really well and it's something I'd like to try.

Some people 'colour-code' their books on the shelf and, if you have enough of them, it can have a real impact.  
@sophiefielden's shelves

The trouble is, I'd never be able to find anything this way - I want to be able to display them in terms of series if not chronology and that would work against a neat colour-scheme.

Here are some more shelves I've seen online: asymmetric shelves; glass cabinets; custom made for a snug-fit; shelves where only the smartest covers are displayed; shelves where spine-less, well-loved books are proudly intermingled ...

(clockwise from left - From the collections of @geekisnewchic @muzzerdaftbat @hwarlow  @navyandbrown)

Have you found an interesting way of displaying books?


Friday, 6 March 2015

The last page?

Such a lovely day here today!

We're at the start of March and I believe Spring officially starts on 20th but perhaps to hurry it along a little I've made this video.  I was inspired by another one I saw which took a lot of Tunnicliffe pictures long with a few others and turned them into a video.  For someone with a lousy attention span like me, that one was beautiful but a bit slow.  This one is perhaps a bit fast, but I haven't worked out how to make fine adjustments yet.

Anyway, if you're a fan of the wonderful Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe, I hope you enjoy it: