Art and Design: Lower Fifth Learn from Ladybird Illustrations

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If you are looking for a trip down memory lane, a visual delight and a little socio-historical documentary all rolled into one, then the newly opened exhibition at Bexhill De la Warr Pavilion of Ladybird book cover illustration is an absolute treat.

The upbeat realism and the eternally optimistic world of 'Peter and Jane' or 'Janet and John' take you by the hand (and eye) and bring that childhood world of the theatrical, perpetually sunny and colourful 1960's and '70's back into play.

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There is such a joy about the exquisitely drawn journey of 'Shopping with Mother' and at the other extreme 'Danger Men'. They are unavoidably nostalgic that we forgive all the problematic gender stereotyping of the time.

All is right with the world in John Berry and Harry Wingfield's drawings. We are presented with such refined pencil work and gouache that you could be forgiven for mistaking the pre-Photoshop technical mastery before you, for machine produced colour illustration.

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Seeing the original drawings in all their fine detail is glorious. The colours pop off the paper, the characters shimmer and the detail is staggering. It confirms and inspires all the old school Renaissance ideals that good old fashioned drawing really does underpin all that follows for our budding young artists.

Our current Lower Fifth pupils here at Bede's will no doubt agree that this is no mean feat. It isn't easy to acquire such skills. Learning about drawing, developing visual understanding and artistic confidence requires courage.

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Julia Tang, Lower Fifth, Dorter House

Overcoming the frustration of the blank page, achieving the elusive harmony of correct perspective or capturing the look in the sitter's face, the light upon the landscape or the beauty of the sea is by its very nature challenging and troublesome.

This is a good thing. It encourages deeper learning which will sustain beyond Bede's Art Department.

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 Anastasiya Nazarova, Lower Fifth, Crossways House

As I watch these students drawing, rubbing out, re-drawing, experimenting in their bid to master watercolour or refining a design, I am reminded of the necessity of this genuine struggle which is required to learn new techniques.

Each time a student revisits a drawing and moves towards a breakthrough they build a new layer of visual confidence and expand their repertoire of skills we see in evidence at the De la Warr's exciting show. 

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Birds by Ladybird illustrator Maurice Wilson

Despite the controversial bias of a 1960's middle class vision of Britain, the Ladybird illustrations provide a confection of celebratory visual documents of the emerging post-war aspirational society. The wonder of the building of motorways, the exploration of space and the science of lenses and light is presented alongside the love of the home made, domestic world of making pastry and knitting.

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Birds by Joana Rosell-Pineda, Lower Fifth, Crossways House

A total of 600 book jacket designs in the exhibition reveals a prolific compendium and the hugely ambitious quest to draw and paint the achievements of the human world of that era. It was fascinating to see the high level of engagement in the visitors to the gallery and to spot Bede's students amongst them.

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Bea Hemmings, Upper Fifth, Bloomsbury House

Ladybird's successful formula of observation and traditional technique still offer opportunities to engage with seeing the extremely high level of industry within book jacket design at first hand.

The intense pop art colour and skillful brushwork of the crisp, fresh lines within the magical 'Ladybird World' takes us on a nolstalgic journey.

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Whether as an artist or a gallery visitor, this is an experience which illuminates a period of British cultural history in more ways than one - including by brightening up a wintery February day!

 

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