Jonathan Gibbs


The Great Outdoors- Artifice & Adventure Beyond the Picture-Plane


This paper explores contemporary aspects of landscape in Illustration and its various modes of representation, from BewickSendakGorey and Ardizzone to Angela Barratt, Sara Midda and Chie Chihiro. 

 At nursery school I was informed, “always do the background first – the sky,  mountains, then the dog. That is a dog isn’t it, Jonathan.” 
My poster-paint painting was made-up from my imagination, and such logical advice from teachers continued through primary and secondary schools. Dogs may leap towards the reader, exit from the edge of the page, or retreat towards the horizon. 
You can take the man out of Cherryburn, but you cannot take Cherryburn out of the man. Thomas Bewick’s deep knowledge of the land around his birthplace informed his life’s work. This was a place for walking or riding; for poaching, fishing, hunting, or farming: a land for the common man. Although he moved away to work in the city, I would cite Bewick’s landscapes as seminal Northern English places. There is no sentimentalty, and Northumberland today retains such earthy qualities. Bewick’s love of the Northumbrian small-pipes connects his art to traditional music in a detailed view of nature with life and death in a cycle of the seasons. 
Likewise, Sendak’s monsters populate a mythical backdrop: trees, rocks, sand and water. They  appear theatrical, reminiscent of folklore and fable. They depict no particular place, but an idea of place and one that is habituated by wild things: a lland of dreams. 
In Babar the King, Celesteville is a tamed landscape as a housing scheme for happy elephant- families, including a convenient lido and park nearby. De Brunhoff’s places are reminiscent of France and the Mediterranean as well as presenting an idealized and futuristic vision.  Written landscapes can be altogether more vivid than a pictorial counterpart. It is significant that Alfred Sisley’s painting was used for Alain Fournier’s Le Grande Meulnes, by. A great painting becomes an illustration in this context; an enhancement to great literature. Penguin Classics made many such intuitive parternships of image and text, as did Virago in their all of their early imprints. 

Jonathan Gibbs teaches Illustration in the University of Edinburgh. Currently he has been working on fabric designs for St Jude’s and a series of new wood engravings for Editions & Objects at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Jonathan Gibbs exhibits regularly in London and Edinburgh and is represented by the Central Illustration Agency, London.  He studied at the Central School of Art & Design and the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Jonathan Gibbs lives in Scotland and has recently made illustrations for the Radio Times, Granta and the London Sinfonia. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s