Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book Review : Chandamama Art Book

Chandamama is a classic children magazine from India known not only for its unique story telling, but also for the stunning art work. The magazine has been engaging and captivating the imagination of the young and the old for over six decades in thirteen languages.

Recently the folks at Chandamama have done great justice to artists by bring out a two volume book , Chandamama Art Book, containing their art work , in a large (9.5 x 12.5 ) hard bound format, reproduced in great detail and quality, on very high quality art paper.

Each volume contains about 200 pages of the finest illustrations from India. A page is dedicated for each illustration, and on the left side a brief synopsis of the story is give to set the context.

Volume 1 has art work from Sankar, Chitra and MTV Acharya.
Volume 2 covers Vapa's art, and an interesting section that compares art work of these artists, for the same story. (In six decades I guess you do repeat stories in different contexts, and interesting to note how they recreated them rather than reprinted them)

Sankar's iconic rendering of the Vikram and Vetal... there were 700 stories in all that he illustrated for.

Chitra's own style and palette... Story of Troy

Another from Sankar's beautiful works ...

Here's one of MTV Acharya's masterstrokes..

And the uniqueness of Vapa ..

I have never seen most of these illustrations in such splendor, since when they published it, they were either cropped, or were in pulp paper and never in such original form.

Here are the interesting illustrations comparing the different takes ...

This is not only a feast for the eyes, but great reference for artists.

For me the relationship with the magazine ever since a kid was Summer and the four names that get attached to each one of those gorgeous drawings. Sankar, Chitra, MTV and Vapa. Each artist had his unique style as well as a palette, which one can identify instantly.

They were equivalents if not more of the Alex Raymonds, Norman Rockwells, Hogarths, and Al Dornes and the likes.

The magazine itself was on par with the mighty Classics Illustrated, though it was not in a comic book format.

Most of the pictures would be in monochrome wash with pen drawings, the covers however would be done in full color. Combined withe these beautiful drawings capturing the olden days and the folk tales that were spun in a simple yet enchanting manner, Chandamama would offer hours of entertainment, in a world that had no TV or internet.

For those who want to relish the golden age of Indian illustration, Chandamama has an Archives site. Check it out to read in full the magazines all the way back to the 50s !

Monday, August 1, 2011

Myers School pen, a Gillott 404 Clone

Bob Hurford has an excellent set of articles on dip pens at IAMPETH. He begins a tour of flex pens with the Gillott series of nibs as a bench mark and how all manufacturers had similar series of pens.

For example Gillott's 404, 303, 290, 170 had equivalents in Esterbrook 358,357,356, and 355 , Similarly Hunt had the 56, 22, 99 and 100 and so on..

These are a rarity these days., and Joseph Gillott being the pioneer of steel pens in the early 19th century, has a special place for collectors. A full box of Gillott 303 would typically go for $300 if one can be found. Esterbrooks are relatively inexpensive.

In his article Bob mentions how these pens were copied and imitated by several manufacturers. Recently I chanced upon a box of nibs in Ebay, curiously titled 'OLD ENGLAND SCHOOL PEN 404 '. I took a chance and got the box containing a full gross.

...and bingo ! They were as expected, clones of the 404 ! They are of great quality made of bronze and came from none other than Myers and Sons, another famous pen maker from Birmingham.

Here are the 404, 358 and Hunt 56(also curiously called a School pen) ... amazingly similar.

Needless to say this is one of the best class of dip pens, with solid construction, a reasonably good flex, and the interesting ridge allows more ink to be picked up during the dip. The Gillott though has considerably more flex than the others. With the right ink and a good solid wood holder these are a pleasure to write or draw.

Of these the Speedball Hunt 56 is the only pen manufactured to this day.