How are you all faring? Well, I trust!
So, for this glorious May bank holiday, I want to share with you another biographical book about the illustrator of Rupert Bear, Alfred Bestall!
And what a book! Gentle and insightful and beautifully written by Caroline G Bott, god-daughter of the man himself. Half of the book is his life story and the other half (which I wasn’t actually expecting!) is a selection of Alfred’s holiday diaries complete with his sketches – an utter joy to read.
Alfred Bestall didn’t create Rupert Bear, Mary Tourtel was the genius behind him and she drew and wrote the Rupert Bear stories for fifteen years before deciding to hand over the task to another artist when her eyesight began to fail. Alfred Bestall landed the job.
Alfred was an extremely talented artist who drew for Punch and other magazines and illustrated books for Enid Blyton and several other authors. He was also very proud to have exhibited his oil painting of an air raid post at the Royal Academy.
I love his different styles of drawing/painting - he seemed to be able to turn his hand to almost anything.
From the more stylised advertising pieces
to his looser and more atmospheric painted holiday scenes.
His diaries are full of descriptions of the scenery and people that he observed around him and it’s wonderful to read his account of his experiences and what he saw and then to see his detailed ink drawings of those scenes.
There’s nothing quite like the honesty of diaries too, those little moments of the realities of being an artist. Friday the 1st August 1913 found Alfred up a mountain in Wales; “It was not very successful as the heat was too intense and also I had forgotten my pen holder, and had to use a bit of gorse-stalk which did not prove a very efficient substitute.” - Brilliant!
I am also captivated by the beauty of the scenes that he painted – the feelings that they invoke are those of happiness and nostalgia.
Alfred’s use of light is so effective and I could gaze into his pictures for hours.
Who wouldn’t love to be here?! - You can even hear the sound of the cricket ball hitting the bat and the soft ripple of applause…
Alfred Bestall was awarded an MBE (rightly so!) in 1985 and studying his art will only enhance your life! He featured in a documentary directed by Monty Python’s Terry Jones (who was a huge Rupert Bear fan) in 1982 and a quick YouTube search will result in a version of this, split into four parts – (footage of Alfred Bestall appears in part three) well worth the watch!
Planksters, I have only good things to say about this wonderful artist – this is a book worth investing in on so many levels. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or opinions on this (or any other creative matter you care to share!) so please don’t be shy and comment with abandon!
With a sudden and unexplained yearning for a piece of roly-poly pudding,