We are already at the 10th guest in our weekly (every Saturday) Meet An Illustrator and we’re very pleased to welcome Ian Beck. [Visit the backpages of this feature.]
Ian is now in his seventies and still hard at work creating. His best-known work is probably the album cover for Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Here is a fascinating interview about how the album cover evolved.
Ian had moved into album cover design from doing illustrations for magazines. He started publishing books in the 1980s, beginning as the illustrator of rhyme collections. His first original, self-illustrated book was The Teddy Robber , since when he has published work in many formats, including several full-length novels.
Please watch this excellent short film to learn more about Ian’s life and work, in which he talks about currently working on a series of interlocking cards or ‘myriorama’ referred to in the Q&A.
As a child, what were the first illustrations you remember being pleased with?
The original small scale Thomas the Tank Engine books read to me around 1951. The drawings by Diana Stanley [1909-1975] in the first Borrowers book circa 1953 and the Buck Ryan comic strip in the Daily Mirror.
Who/what inspired you when you were young?
Any drawings by Ronald Searle, especially those in the Molesworth books.
Who inspires you today?
Mostly things from the past I’m afraid. The more I dig deeper and further back the more it keeps me going forward….
Did you study art/illustration?
I did, I studied Graphic Design with an option for illustration at Brighton College of Art, as it was then. There was a glittering roster of illustration tutors: John Vernon Lord, Raymond Briggs, John Lawrence, Ferelith Eccles Williams, and more…
What is your favourite artist tool/product?
The velvety black of the Faber Castell Polychromos pencil.
Where do you buy your art supplies?
At the moment online from various such as Jacksons Art Supplies or even Amazon for basics
What software/apps do you use?
None, strictly pencil, pen, watercolour and paper.
What was your first commission?
To illustrate The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler for Heron Books circa 1968. Work done, book never published…
What are you working on at the moment?
An elaborate Myriorama (a set of continuous landscape cards connected with The Dark Materials) in collaboration with Philip Pullman.
Twitter or Instagram? Both
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Cat or dog? Very much dog
Grape or grain? Grape
Sunrise or sunset? Both
What do you listen to when you are working? A mixture of music, mainly orchestral and mainly French, plus healthy British lumps of Vaughan Williams, Delius, Malcolm Arnold, Arthur Bliss, Arnold Bax etc.
Ian tells ACHUKA that later this year we can look forward to:
- The Light in Suburbia, a collection of paintings he has been making during the year of lockdown
- A reissue of Philip Pullman’s Puss in Boots all fresh minted
For those who are not so aware of Ian Beck’s novel-length works, here are three suggestions: