The 1960s was an amazing time for kids illustration with some of today’s favourite authors publishing their most iconic works during the decade. You may know many of these illustrators but hopefully there will be a few new discoveries too. This selection emphasises the diversity of style achieved by these artists, particularly considering that contemporary printing techniques often left them with a reduced colour palette to work this in order to remain cost effective. Despite the varied styles we can see a few core techniques repeated in different ways:
Line and Colour Blocks – Aliki
The work below by Aliki we see the continuation of the style of layered two or three colour images most synonymous with the fifties. This style was afforable to print and the loosness worked well allowing a larger error margin for matching up the plates. While the shapes and style feel very mid-century a very similar approach can be found later in the 1980s with the rise of the risograph which similarly allowed artists to create often using a combination of line and colour blocks designed to be printed in layers.
Collage – Ezra Jack Keats, Dahlov Ipcar and Eric Carle
Ezra Jack Keats, Dahlov Ipcar and Eric Carle all use collage in different ways to produce their images. The papers used are actually created by the artists allowing them to make something unique but also coherant, from Keats’ patterns to Carle’s painted tissue papers. These days many illustrators continue to use collage to create. Advances in software allow illustrators to go one step further and use programs such as Adobe Illustrator to get a similar effect.
Pen and Ink– Dr Seuss, Tove Jansson, Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein
The techniques of varying line thickness and cross hatching create depth and even without the colour the images would be distinctive and recognisable. These methods are almost unchanged for centuries and we can see the similarity to the very earliest printed works – wood cuts – which also used line thickness and hatching. What differs with the 1960s is the evolution of the shapes. In the works below we see some of the finest examples. Tove Jansson had been creating his Moomintroll books for nearly twenty years by this point so while the style wasn’t new for him, we can see how it fits into the broader style happening in the 1960s.
Painting – Judith Kerr and Józef Wilkoń
Finally, no discussion would be complete without some of the beautiful painted images. These also use some of the techniques above and similarly some of the images we have already seen also use paint. I have picked these two however for their use of colour and of paint textures. In the Wilkoń example in particular the brush strokes are visible and form an integeral part of the style.
I hope that you enjoyed my selections. Please let me know in the comments if there are any other authors or techniques from the 1960s that inspire you.