Monday, August 01, 2011

Runaway Adventure

It's difficult to decide if this book is an exemplum of why an author shouldn't be allowed to illustrate their own book, or that they should. Runaway Adventure (Sylvan Press, London, n.d.) by M. E. Mathews has ten drawings by the author, of which these are just a few. They are, politely, not very good: however, they are so bad they almost slide into the the category of naive art and as such begin to exert a certain charm. I have no idea what the book is about except that it seems to involve a lot of tying up young men and carting them around through the jungle.


Paul Brownsey said...

"They are, politely, not very good:"

Callum, could you explain why they aren't very good? I ask that, not combatively but perfectly naively. They struck me as rather suave and interesting, the sort of thing that could enhance a story and make it stick in the mind in a certain way. I'd just like top know why sopmeone like yourself with experience and knowledge in this area regards them as poor.

Paul Brownsey

Callum said...

Hi Paul,

A good question. And, of course, a humbling one also because, without doubt, as someone who has never written a book, much less illustrated it themselve, I do realise that I was being a bit sniffy about these illustrations. Also, I don't really consider myself an art critic but, since you asked, I feel I ought to write something in self-justification. My feeling is that there is something about these which show an amateur hand rather than a decent artist who has 'chosen' to work in a naive style: the perspective is wrong, but not consistantly so: the figures are fairly awkward but not in a way which does anything to enhance the image. But most of all, I think the biggest flaw with these images (and there are worse ones I didn't scan) is that they are quite difficult to read, they are too muddled and this is something to do with use of black/white balance and space in the picture.

However, to redeem myself slightly, I do say in the post that they have a certain charm, but it is the charm of all genuinely naive artwork and, as you say, very memorable.

Thanks so much for calling me on my rather too glib assertions and I hope I've gone someway to explaining my thinking, even if we are still very much in the realm of the subjective. I'm glad you like them...


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