I’ve been musing on the drawings of artist, illustrator and writer Edward Ardizzone recently. This week my Pa and I took a look at an exhibition of his work at Wolseley Fine Arts on Cork Street, only on another week but well worth popping in to, fellow Londoners. The Moores have long liked Ardizzone, and funnily enough he frequented some places close to us, the quaint but quiet Kingsdown in Kent (setting for his Tim series) Richmond (where Diana’s Rhinoceros first appeared after escaping from London Zoo). The drawings on show were a real eye-opener. Many were the originals for books illustrations, and as fresh as when his nib had left the paper. Ardizzone drew with light, fluid strokes from a dip pen. Throughout his life his style didn’t very greatly, but softened according to some genres (such as illustrations for children) or loosened at speed sketching from real life (as a war artists or nosily watching prostitutes out of a friend’s window). I admire his drawings for their confidence in ink, the way the lines find their way around forms bit-by-bit in an exploratory fashion, and his bold approach at hatching. Before I drew so much, when I did put pen to paper I hatched, mainly for fear of tone or colour. But I did so laboriously and awkwardly, never quite knowing how to handle flat planes and what angles to use. Ardizzone hatches with relish, this way, that way, loose, sometimes softly curved lines, unafraid to layer and layer his lines, some even scribbles, over each other into rich shadows. It goes against centuries of careful lines found in etchings and engravings. Sometimes I think his pictures are like patchwork quilts, as the multitude of hatching can read as an array of woven fabrics.
Here are a selection from the show.
Shelter scene, lithograph, 1941, published by the National Gallery.
I’ve also been enjoying reading his diaries from his time as a war artist in World War II. I’ve long harboured a secret wish to be a war artist, to draw normal people in extraordinary circumstances, on the move and tested every day. Ardizzone’s diaries capture the everyday life of soldiers, their keeping of meals and routines, and finding moments of calm amid chaos. His diaries are peppered with doodles, noting as much as he can for personal memory and then to use as source material for bigger, developed pictures worked up for the War Artists Advisory Committee. I like them all the more now that I record so much of my own life, friends and activities.
Normandy beaches, 1944