Wednesday, 10 June 2009

rébecca dautremer

I adore children's picture books, especially those that have unusual narratives paired with beautiful illustrations. From my (admittedly limited) experience, I have found that children's publishing in England can sometimes be a bit narrow-minded and 'safe'. By that I mean that they like to go with things they already know - I once lost out on a job doing some book jackets because the sales team at that publishing house decided that they wanted an already known illustrator to do the covers :-( Or if a book is deemed too 'scary' they will back off it. Most of the very memorable books I read as a child are quite dark: Maurice Sendak comes to mind in particular. I am sure that the editors are very experienced in terms of knowing their market and knowing what kind of books sell the best, but sometimes I wish I could find books here like the marvellous treasures that I've brought back from France. Over on the continent it seems to me that they are a bit more willing to push the boat out into really surreal territory sometimes. We're talking half-finished puppets coming to life and running amok, parents disappearing from home and surreal adventures involving little demons and Brueghelian tableaux (more on that later).

From La Tortue Géante des Galapagos.

I thought I'd share the work of one of my absolute favourite French illustrators, Rébecca Dautremer (sadly her site isn't too great for looking at her work, so you're actually better off with her gallery). I own at least four books illustrated by her and I keep them all on our coffee table because they are so inspiring. Her use of colour and tone are stunning, and the compositions she creates are both unusual and effective. I think the way she captures the light and atmosphere in some of her work is extraordinary - such luminosity juxtaposed against the quietness of shadow and space. She also has a way of scraping and scratching back into her painting to give it texture or highlights that is pretty brave but works a treat. I've just done a quick search on Fnac's website and they seem to stock most of the books. My favourites would have to be Nasreddine, Sentimento and La Tortue Géante des Galapagos. Unfortunately whilst I can translate the large part of the first two books, the last has me completely baffled without a dictionary. Such complex language for a children's book!

From Nasreddine et Son Âne.

I've not been able to find many images online, so I've photographed some of her spreads. I don't think they really do the books justice (plus it's been so gloomy these last few days in England), so go out and buy some if you want to see just how amazing they are.

From La Tortue Géante des Galapagos.

From Nasreddine.

From Sentimento.

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