My husband D found these illustrations featured on “boingboing” and called me over right away. For those who have already seen them, I know you won’t mind enjoying them again, and they’re worth passing on for any who haven’t encountered them yet.
Apparently, illustrating the Russian translation of The Hobbit (published in 1976) was young artist Mikhail Belomlinsky’s first big job out of art school. These illustrations, while they have much in common with the look of relief prints, were actually done with scratchboard. The only time I’ve ever tried working with scratchboard was when I did a Greek vase project with my seventh grade students. School art budgets being what they are, we had the cheapest scratch paper I could find. The project was fun, but it was next to impossible to get a clean white without scratching right through the paper. I’d love to try some high quality scratchboard some time, and see how it compares with carving relief blocks. Both techniques make white marks on black background, and both have an emphasis on strong areas of black against white and white against black, with no grey. You can see the use of black and white beautifully demonstrated in one of my favorites: this image of Laketown burning. I love the way the layers of dark and light provide backgrounds for each other.
Check out all(?) the illustrations in the book at “English Russia.”
You can visit the artist Mikhail Belomlinsky’s own web site here.
And finally, thanks to “boingboing” for bringing this treasure to my attention. http://www.boingboing.net/2010/05/27/soviet-hobbit-illust.html
(Thanks to D, too!)
[Pictures: from The Hobbit, scratchboard by Mikhail Belomlinsky, 1976.]