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Pieter Bruegel, Flemish, born almost 500 years ago, was a miracle of a painter who gave us images we can still understand and delight in without a thick book or an expert.

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Most of his pictures have their origin in the Christian Bible, but if you never saw a Bible in your life you would see and feel the humanity of what is staring you in the eye.

And you would see the children, somewhere in the frame.

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You need to look, sometimes, for the children.  But they are almost always there, busy, preoccupied, stocky/stubby, lovely.

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This is a detail of the Census of Bethlehem

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Wherever you find them, these, Bruegel’s children are identifiable as today’s children, even if so much around them is bizarre.

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Above, The Hunters in the Snow also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting.

It is a quiet cold wonder in the palace of great art–thanks in part to those small boys and girls.

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Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him.  On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.

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As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.

You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.

It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.

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The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work

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Ads for the Italian herbal aperitif Campari have used a weird little jester/devil of a man in a body stocking wrapped in an orange peel.   Nothing about Campari is ordinary.

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The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.

 

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Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically

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and ceramically

 

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If you, man or woman, drank aperitifs in European bars in the 1920’s, chances are you lit up a cigar at some point. This little German guy was the guy to call.

 

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But if you wanted music with your beverage, at home, you’d ring up Little Mr Disquehead  shown in this Dutch design for record players, disques, and radios.

 

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Yes, you can say this is not a little man at all, but I don’t think we should exclude the hard-working fella just because he is red and has a trunk.

 

For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin.  Salute.  Santéchaplin

Sometimes you spend time looking at children’s books because there is a child in your life that you want to please, and sometimes you just want to please yourself.   Above is from an edition of the Wizard of Oz illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerther seen here.

Happily, books are alive and well in stores for kids, and  if  you go looking,  you will find in these little books the work of some of the most gifted and imaginative artists/illustrators/cartoonists from around the world. Above is from a recent book called ICE written and illustrated by Arthur Geisert who is very fond of little pigs, as are we. Read more here.

Above three books are just a sliver of Mr Geisert’s shelf of wonderful work, which has plenty of pig tales, but plenty of pigless wonders  too.  See more here.

Once you start down this path you will find yourself with a lot more than you bargained for.  If you could only have one, how would you choose between a pig tale by Arthur G or a rabbit tale by Komako  Sakai?

Ms Sakai is certainly something special.  Her simple stories and beautiful way with line and colour will fill your eyes and pinch your heart.  She has worked in the textile industry in Japan, they say. More about her books here.

Bears of course have a solid place in children’s stories too.   Thanks to Jon Klassen, there’s a new bear on the block and he wants something.

Nice review of Mr Klassen’s book in the NYT here

Along with creatures of the farm and the woods, book artists have found plenty of inspiration among the critters that become part of the household.

Like the wonderful Max brought to life by the wonderful Maira Kalman.  Go here

People who love picture books love them as much as other people love chocolate or ABBA–i.e. totally.  There are many wonderful websites with tons of these books to show you, including Children’s Illustration, which you’ll find and feast on here.

To send you off, we selected Paul Thurlby an artist from England who, among lots of other things, has made an amazing alphabet, which you’ll find on his site here.  Books and pictures, sentences and pictures, letters and pictures, they all go together like summer and running through the sprinkler.

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Here at less, we are fans of a lot of uncommissioned public art, namely the kind that 1) makes you smile 2) makes you admire how well it is made and 3) makes you glad no damage was done in providing you with this unexpected smile.  The category of u.p.a. that succeeds most often on all three scores is the kind that people stick on walls with paste.  Like this swell white rabbit.

As you can see he’s just a little guy on the run caught in full motion on a nice blue/grey wall, found here

Here’s a white dog or doggish creature  stuck on a wall in a lavatory in Melbourne, where quality public art of the non-commissioned kind seems to thrive.  This colour spewing critter is the invention of an artist named Ghost Patrol, who is said to be one of Melbourne’s most prominent artists.  See here.

According to the internet, at least, the top spots for really good stick-on art are Australia (Melbourne and Fremantle) and England (Bristol and London)

This fine little two dimensional shamrock green dachshund lives in London.  He was spotted by the keen-eyed, generous, prolific photographer mermaid99, bless her heart.  Find the pooch and much much more from the mermaid here.

Looking for the uni-coloured dachshund is this colourful kitty, another mermaid 99 find in London  here.

pretty weird squidman in Mexico City.

And here’s a lovely bird, a swallow stuck up in Rye, East Sussex England.  The artist goes by De Wilde when he’s outdoors.  See this fine woodcut and more here

The finders of this paste up, called “Hello Stranger”, on a lamp post in North Oakland CA, are Alex and Allison who rightly point out that it is equal parts pretty and sinister, as all good childrens’ tales should be, we think.

This is just swell, another one from Melbourne.  Thanks to we heart it 

Why is it that “Steve” is the perfect name for this little white dino?  Go here to meet Steve and other Fremantle sights.

These two bandits are having a lot more fun than Bonnie and Clyde.  Found here at a site called Oakown Art (“an exposé of cool public art & culture in and around oakland, california”).  The artist goes by “Get Up”.

Below, three finds of our own in Paris, 2011.

On this one old wall you’ll find a white paste up figure of indeterminate species grasping maybe a large slice of pizza and a coffee (?), a nifty green octopus attacking…Popeye (?), and a whole bunch of tulips.  Also way at the top, a space invader.

And here’s a dapper masked fellow with a rosy fleur for his sweetheart.

And here is another sweet little space invader eyeing/protecting a sweet little cafe.

Space Invader is all over Paris (and quite a few other places too).  These are also stick-up art but made of ceramic tile not paper so they last and last.  They have become part of the fabric of Paris, not a poke in the eye, but an unexpected treat for those who love the sight of children at play without supervision.  This image from here

Let’s give London the last smile:

Again thanks to mermaid99  for this fox. Find it here.  The artist is Surianii.

Norman Rockwell has been turned into an industry.  But before that, he was just a man who loved to draw and paint, and the magazine industry gave him a job where he could do that

Above from here

Above three wonderful examples of American Illustration are all the work of Andrew Loomis.  Like Mr Rockwell, he was a man who could draw, and he lived at a time when there was a way to make a nice living doing that.  I first encountered Mr Loomis in the books he wrote and illustrated, which you could find in the library, if you were lucky (I was).  From here

 

If you like illustration, there is a lot to like at todays inspiration

 

Paul Hogarth is not an American Illustrator, he was born in England.  But he did a lot of illustration work in the US, particularly for Fortune Magazine.  This from here

 

Another illustration by Mr Hogarth.  He is a good example, we think, of the artists who bridged the world of Rockwell/Loomis  and the free spirits who came later.  Above found here.

 

Welcome to R.Crumb and his world.

Above is from Mr Crumb’s short history of america.  A lot of the artists (cartoonists, illustrators) who were well known in the 1960’s and ’70s have faded away.  But Robert Crumb is still going strong in 2010.  The difference?  Well, that is probably quite complicated, but one differnce is that Robert draws very very well.

He is arguably as much of an icon as Norman Rockwell, though few seem to like the work of both as much as we at the R of L.

Short film of short history of america is here

Bravo Mr C.  Almost single-handedly, you have kept alive the tradition of people who make a good living by drawing.

Yes kids, hang on to your pencils and crayons.  It CAN be done, even now.

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