Key Steps in Illustration: The History of Illustration, Pt.1

For the first exercise, I researched the life and work of EH Shepard, who is probabyl most famous for his Winnie the Pooh illustrations.

As a war illustrator he captured war scenarios, mostly finding some humour in the darkest situation. He also worked for satirical magazines, which also allowed him to illustrate current events with some irony.

After the war he illustrated the first Winnie the Pooh, which is a sweet story about a boy and his pet friends who discover the safe natural world. This stands in contrast to Shepard’s experience.

In Winnie the Pooh he often portraits a young boy (Christopher Robin), often looking at him from behind or from the side, so his face is not shown fully. The situation usually show the boy playing, jumping, discovering the forrest, or similar. See examples

He often uses black-and-white only, either pen or black ink, to illustrate sitations. He uses a strong black stroke to outline his figures, and sometimes uses watercolours to colour the pictures. The colours are very natural, reflecting the season in which the picture is set. The background is often very simple, without too many details, so the focus is on the people/animals portraited.

The style seems somewhat old-fashioned to me because it does not abstract the details a lot, but rather shows them more realistically. For instance, when he paints trees, he uses small strokes to convey the stem‘s structure. In modern illustration, not that many details would be used. I feel that his illustrations – at least when looking at Winnie the Pooh – were somewhat modern for the time, because they not only depicted real situations, but some fantasy elements.

To get a feeling for his style, I created a few sketches based on his work.



E.H. Shepard: An Illustrator’s War




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