Gustave Doré – Jan. 6, 1832-Jan. 23, 1883

In researching and reading about the art and business of woodcut illustration in the 19th Century, it is almost inevitable to end up with Gustave Doré. More than a master draftsman or illustrator, he possessed a practically supernatural ability to simply draw. He was recognized as a prodigy at age five, was carving in stone at twelve, and by fifteen he was supporting his family by drawing caricatures for French magazine Le journal pour rire. 

Although Dickens and Doré never met as far as I can determine, their lifespans overlapped, Dickens being born in 1812 and Doré in 1832. And while Dickens labored in the world of British popular fiction and monthly magazines, the French Doré was producing high-quality illustrated art volumes of what we would call “The Great Books”, e.g., Voltaire, Rabelais, Cervantes, the Bible, Paradise Lost, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and many, many others, much of it for a British audience. 

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Charles Dickens and Race

You may know that I was extremely honored earlier this year to be asked to write a blog post for the prestigious Dickens Society in London. It was well-received and there is a standing invitation to write more for them in the future.

The Dickens Society is an academic group dedicated to exploring all facets of Charles Dickens’s* life and work, but it is not an exclusive club at all. In fact I was surprised to learn how easy it is to join: by subscribing to their journal The Dickens Quarterly, you are automatically enrolled as a member.

It is The Dickens Quarterly that I would like to write about. I’ve been a member for a year now, and I am by no means either a Dickens completist, or an academic of any kind. Some of the material is a little over my head, but I’m comfortable with that. What is great is the breadth of subject matter, and how it makes you think differently not only about Dickens but also about nineteenth-century fiction, Victorian England, and much more.

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Online Drawing Class

As an artist I’m always looking for ways to keep my skills sharp, and regular life-drawing classes are a must if you’re drawing the human figure. Nude models, of every size, shape and age, are the rule, but let’s face it, in the practice of our art we’re almost never drawing naked people, we’re drawing people with clothes on.

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“Spot Illos”

So in doing magazine and book illustration for a few decades, I picked up a couple of technical terms. For example, an illustration is called an “illo”, a sketch is called a “ruff”, and a deadline is called a “#!!@! deadline”.

Illos done for print are termed by their size, and from biggest to smallest are called a spread, full-page, half-page, quarter page, and spot. Spots are fun because they are usually simple, a quick visual read, and they don’t necessarily have to carry as much narrative weight as a full-page does.

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Free Ebook Download!

This fully illustrated ebook contains the first seven chapters.

I’m extremely happy to announce the completion of the next step in this monumental project: A free, no-strings-attached ebook download of the first seven chapters of Charles Dickens’ great BLEAK HOUSE.

This is intended primarily as a calling card and proof-of-concept for my ultimate goal, a hard cover print edition of the entire illustrated novel.

As you may have discovered, I am smitten with this book. I began work on it in the Spring of 2019 and have been working on it nonstop since. With the completion of this sample, I will be continuing work on the monumental, 57-chapter novel, as well as continuing to post here on a regular basis.

This ebook in pdf format can be read on any computer, device or reader. There’s no sign-up, no email harvesting, no obligation of any kind. I hope you enjoy it.

Mr. Vholes and Richard Carstone

Richard’s high spirits carrying everything before them, we all went out together to the top of the hill above the village, where he had ordered a gig to wait and where we found a man with a lantern standing at the head of the gaunt pale horse that had been harnessed to it.

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Research Sketching-Costumes

My favorite part of doing any kind of historical or genre art is researching the appropriate costumes. In my magazine illustration days it didn’t come up much; mostly I was drawing doctors, nurses, businessmen and contemporary kids and grownups of all kinds. 

With subject matter like Dickens, costuming the characters not only correctly, but in a way that tells us about their personalities, is part of the job description!

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It’s the Little Things!

As I mentioned in the post on Miss Flite’s birds, I had a bit of an epiphany when I started laying out a sample eBook: I discovered that as a reader I wasn’t as interested in the detailed, heavily-researched full page illustrations I’d been slaving away on, as much as wanting to see smaller, spot illustrations tucked into the text.

A fence-stile that connects two estates whose owners are in a perpetual war over rights-of-way
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Miss Flite’s Birds

Miss Flite’s Birds

She partly drew aside the curtain of the long, low garret window and called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there, some containing several birds. There were larks, linnets, and goldfinches–I should think at least twenty.

“I began to keep the little creatures,” she said, “with an object that the wards will readily comprehend. With the intention of restoring them to liberty. When my judgment should be given. Ye-es! They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by one, the whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt, do you know, whether one of these, though they are all young, will live to be free! Ve-ry mortifying, is it not?”

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