Book: Dragons, Unicorns and Other Magical Beasts
Illustrator: Don Bolognese
Author: Robin Palmer*
Publisher: Henry Z. Walck Inc.
Year Published: 1966
One of the hardest challenges for an illustrator is to take the gestural and lively nature of work in a sketchbook and keep it equally fresh when working on finalized pieces. This is one of the best examples I have seen of that process in a long time. From analyzing these brilliant illustrations, it looks like Bolognese found his own way of achieving this. From what I can tell, these pieces are three color screen prints (Pink, yellow and black) with the overlap of the pink and yellow layers making that great burnt orange. A screenprint is made by drawing each color of an image on a separate piece of acetate or film. For me, the most interesting part is the line work on the black layer. To create that spiky, energetic line, he first drew the image with a dip pen and ink, and then (after waiting for the black to dry) carved back into the solid inked areas with something like an awl or a nail. This creates positive and negative aspects in the image, and a great deal of liveliness.
Black linework in my research speciality, but I have not been many illustrators work this way so effectively. Ralph Steadman, perhaps, would be a good comparison, as very few illustrators have the insane ink line quite like he does. But where Steadman’s color palettes veer more towards the traditional primary colors with a fair deal gory reds, the retro palette in Bolognese’s illustrations feel much more magical.
If you are wanting to find more of Bolognese’s work, stick to the 60’s and 70’s. As the trends in publishing shifted to more realism and watercolor muted palettes of the 80’s and 90’s, so did his work. I can’t fault a man for trying to make a living, but also cant help but imagine that if he has found a way to continue studying and developing the work he produced earlier, what sort of gems would we have today?
*It should be noted that Robin Palmer wrote the text but that the legends and fairytales already existed in cultures and books from around the world*