I'm always on the lookout, anywhere and everywhere - like
a visual Hoover. All these things get stored away. So I am going to feature
some random graphics that I have stumbled across and like. This book jacket for
example, designed in 1961, (yes over 50 years ago ) has a lovely graphic naivety that I just love.
If you’re interested to read a little more about me (yawn), I'm over at
Michael Johnson's illustrious blog taking part in his jolly 'Second Thoughts' series.
You can see it here. , and learn why this funny old spread from a 1950s encyclopedia is so important to me...
Back in the late 1960s, I found myself working in publishing. Nestled in a
small office at the very top of a building on Queen Street, Mayfair, I was
installed as the art director of William Heinemann at the tender age of 24.
For me, it was the beginning of a wonderful decade of education. I came into
contact with not only some of the world’s greatest authors but
also many of the best designers, photographers and illustrators working at that
time. One of these was an illustrator who visited me to show his work. His name
was Justin Todd and I was instantly smitten by the sheer originality and
quality of his approach to illustration.
Book jacket for a Georgette Heyer novel around 1972
Following that meeting, he was constantly on my radar and became a regular
collaborator on many of the book covers that I was responsible for, both at
Heinemann and a little later when I moved onto William Collins’ Fontana
Paperbacks in the mid-1970s.
At my original meeting with Todd, he left me a copy of a calendar that he’d
illustrated for Midland Bank. Now, 44 years later, I still have it. The
quality of that work still moves me…
Lombard Merchants for Midland Bank 1970
My admiration for Todd was such that I edited and designed a large format
illustrated paperback of his work, published by Fontana in 1978. Here it is: Todd worked (and I’m sure still does) in a painstakingly laborious way, using
gouache paint and a collection of extremely fine brushes. He slowly works from
one side of his watercolour paper to the other within a predetermined grid in
which he has meticulously planned his image.
Todd at work sandwiched between two anglepoise lamps. 1978
Each illustration takes many, many days, if not weeks, to produce and must have
taken its toll on Todd’s eyesight. But he has been labouring away now for
almost 6 decades and his later, exemplary illustrated bookwork earned him many
awards and much praise.
The Wind in the Willows 1987
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 1996
The Wind in the Willows 1987
Throughout his working career he also taught illustration. A large part of this
was spent at the Brighton School of Art, where he encouraged and guided
hundreds of students; I’m sure many are now flourishing as illustrators
themselves. They owe a great debt to Todd’s dedication and enthusiasm.
Cover for The Journey East 1972
Cover for Tolkien's World 1975
Trial painting for The Legend of Tetuna 1977
Cover for Good News in Letters of Paul 1975
Christmas Witch card for the V&A
I have enormous admiration for any individual who spends their life adding
nourishment to our world by creating things of beauty. They rarely earn a
fortune for their labours, unlike those in the world of banking or equity
management who give nothing and take everything. It is so unfair.
Justin Todd is a hero in my view, with a body of mind-bogglingly beautiful work
that shines far brighter than any gold ingot.