Why did I name my cat Edward after Ardizzone?

The cartoonist and illustrator Jacky Fleming on cats, Ardizzone and copying from illustrators we admire...

Details

  • Jacky Fleming
  • Exhibitions

My neighbour told me my cat was an asset to the neighbourhood, and it’s true, he was. My neighbours on the other side had him round for roast chicken every Sunday.

©  Jacky Fleming 

He was irresistible, and so are Ardizzone’s drawings, where the everyday is worth recording, crises pass, life is mostly good, strangers are kind, and friendship is paramount - with cats and dogs as well as people of all ages - something he conveys without sentimentality or cuteness.

© Edward Ardizzone Estate

His formidable technique says something similar - that a classical technique can be applied to the ordinary, in the present. He conjures up the emotional response he had (and I had, and you probably had) to the tiny, irresistible wood engravings which pepper old books, such as the illustrations in his copy of Pilgrims Progress, also much admired by R.L Stevenson who lavished praise on the man who drew them - Eunice Bagster as it turns out, the publisher's eldest daughter.

His technique, developed by copying his favourites (Daumier, Rowlandson, Rubens), is always at the disposal of the narrative. It’s only if you step back to study an image that you realise it’s magically suspended in a network of fine lines - blocks of tone, light against dark, dark against light, and everything in between.

© Edward Ardizzone Estate

He recommends that we copy the illustrators we admire, so while I listened to recordings of Ardizzone being coaxed to talk about his years as a war artist, I decided to try it.

By Jacky Fleming, after Ardizzone

His pen and ink drawings are just a step away from those wood engravings, but they capture us in the same way, creating from blank paper a peephole into another world. He has a knack for locating the dramatic moment which shows us we can be the brave child, or the kind stranger - a concept in short supply at the moment.

Many of his illustrations feature dogs and cats in show-stealing cameo roles, like this one, not just sniffing but taking 'deep sniffs' at a mouse hole.

© Edward Ardizzone Estate

That's what makes Ardizzone's illustrations irresistible - noticing more and drawing it better. Time to get copying and learn something.

© Edward Ardizzone Estate