Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Charles Keeping

I went to Hitchin Boy's School at the end of last year on the invitation of Thomas Pilkington, the school librarian. During our email conversations prior to my visit I was pleasantly surprised to hear Tom - an American - singing the praises of the fantastic British illustrator and printmaker, Charles Keeping. Tom was expressing his frustration that Keeping's contribution to illustration was not better acknowledged on this, the 20th anniversary of his death in 1988. Keeping won acclaim and awards when he was alive (the Kate Greenaway -twice - and the Carnegie) but he does seem a little forgotten now.

Keeping could be in a post entitled Why I Write or Why I Draw. I wanted to draw as well as he did - I still do. I wanted to produce exciting and poetic illustrations - I still do. But as well as inspiring me to draw, he also pulled me through those books by Rosemary Sutcliff and Henry Treece that he illustrated so beautifully. I wanted to know what was happening in those pictures and I read the books to find out. A Charles Keeping spine was a sign of quality in the school library and they still call out to me whenever I look round a secondhand bookshop. Here is the title page of a Rosemary Sutcliff from 1965 I picked up yesterday.

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