April 7, 2011

Lisbeth Zwerger...

As I was packing my room up a few nights ago (in preparation for moving out and getting married), I ran across this book...


It didn't take me long to remember why I love it so much.  Not only is the story beautiful, but the illustrations that accompany it are AMAZING.  I've had a rather difficult time tracking down information about Lisbeth Zwerger, other than the fact that she was born in Vienna in 1954.  Her style resembles classical (19th century) English illustrators like Beatrix Potter (who couldn't love Beatrix?) and Sir John Tenniel (who oh so brilliantly illustrated the original Alice in Wonderland). 


Alice in Wonderland



The Gift of the Magi

I suppose what I most admire in Zwerger's illustrations is her delicate paint application, and by that I mean the smoothness with which each layer is applied.  Watercolors are a very sensitive and volitale paint to work with...too much water and the pigment runs, too little and the paint won't move at all.  And since it's a transparent medium, every layer shows through the next, making it rather difficult to hide any mistakes.


The Gift of the Magi
Another aspect of her work that is so impressive is her use of negative space (the space between objects).  Her balance of negative and positive space seems very natural, like it's second nature for her to simply leave things out, to simplify each painting and give only the essential details, to use the empty space on the page to balance the painted space.  Seeing negative space and using it in a painting are actually pretty difficult things to do.  I, for example, tend to get carried away with the paint, feeling as if I should cover the whole paper with paint just because I like the color I happen to be using.  It also requires quite a bit of planning for which I tend to be impatient.  But just notice (in the above picture) the white foreground and white stairs, even the white scarf and how that strong use of negative space balances out the heavier color on the top.
 
Wizard of Oz
Of course I could go on and mention her use of color (I'd kill to know her palette) and how she always seems to balance the cool and warm colors (what's the name of the red she used in those poppies and the yellow she used to paint the dog?).  I could talk about her draftsmanship and the flow of line and how she seems fearless in letting her drawings show right through the paint.  I could mention all the gobs of books she's illustrated.  But for now, I will just leave you with one more image...

The Nutcracker

I love it.
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