Thursday, 4 September 2008

Anthony Browne Gets into Trouble



Yes, here's another installment, quick on the heels of the last, but I don't want all that techy Photoshop stuff from last time to frighten off my gentle readers...



I want to tell you more about last weekend's CWIG Conference, because there's simply oodles of interesting stuff to pass on, like the talk by Anthony Browne, the award winning author/illustrator, who I'm sure needs no introduction.


Firstly, he told the moving story behind My Dad. His own father died when he was young, and Anthony noticed one day that all the father characters he had created in his books were negative. He wondered if perhaps he was in some way punishing his dad for leaving him. Once he realised this, he wanted to do a more positive book, in celebration of all the good things he remembered of their relationship. By then though, he was a father himself and didn't want readers to think that he was writing about himself. He put the idea on ice.

Then his mother dug out a tatty, old dressing gown that had belonged to his father. It even retained a slight memory of his Dad's smell. Anthony used this as his focus, and the book was written at last.

He talked too about the terrible problems he'd had with copyright. Anthony likes to make visual reference to famous painters in his illustrations. The cover of Willy The Dreamer was inspired by this painting by Magritte.

Anthony carefully copied the exact waves and clouds, so people would make the connection. But the Magritte estate threatened to sue, and the illustration had to be done again.

Unfortunately, the entire book was a series of visual puns based on famous paintings. The publisher, having already paid out some rather hefty lawyer's bills, didn't want to take any chances, so Anthony set about repainting the whole project.


But this was not the only problem. The book Willy's Picture's was also a homage to some of Anthony Browne's favourite paintors. It contained, amongst other things, a funny illustration based on Max Ernst's famous painting, Elephant Celebes (below). You can guess what's coming...

For you to be able to use images without fear of infringing copyright, the artist has to have been dead for 70 years. More re-painting. The book did appear eventually, but almost all of the artists featured in it had to be changed to people long dead..
Unbelievably, Anthony then had a third project that fell foul of copyright restrictions. He created a book all about the Beatles. Paul McCartney was apparantly very pleased and was writing an introduction, but one member of the band refused permission. Anthony Browne never found out who it was, but the book had to be abandoned.

Everybody left the talk wondering how on earth Anthony Browne had managed to put it all behind him and carry on. He didn't come across as bitter and twisted, but I'm sure he grits his teeth every time he thinks about it.

The illustration at the top of this post by the way, is taken from the end of Class Two at the Zoo, written by Julia Jarman. In case you're wondering, it's snake spit that they are covered in. You'll have to read the book to find out why!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your blog is great, Lynne. Thanks for your report on the CWIG conf. I feel I got all the benefits of going without the extra inches from all those puddings. See you at the Stockton Party!

Julia Jarman

Lynne Chapman said...

Know what you mean, but those puddings were so good...

Someone I went up to the lunch counter with (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty - you know you you are!) couldn't decide, so got the summer-fruit pie for herself and the lemon tart for 'a friend'. And all with lashings of cream of course (my tummy's rumbling just remembering...)

granny grimble said...

I loved the story re the father and his dressingown. That was really lovely. As for the rest, being an illustrator is obviously a lot of fun but sometimes it must be so frustrating. Tell about how you have to adjust drawings to cope with the various countries morality rules!

Babs (Beetle) said...

That would have made a lesser person give up and become a builder or something ;O)

Lynne Chapman said...

Couldn't agree more. No way would I be as philosophical about it at he seemed. Although he may well have spent a month in a weeping heap that he hasn't told us about!

Lynne Chapman said...

Be patient Granny Grimble - all will be revealed in good time, and you can't rush a good 'nipple' story!

cassia said...

somehow missed this post first time around. Poor old, anthony Browne. I bet I can guess which Beatle it was too... he's not too popular with the good people of Liverpool at the moment either!

Lynne Chapman said...

Why, missed that - what did he do?

mrs piggott said...

I love Anthony Browne and think he is the most amazing illustrator. I only wish you could buy prints of his illustrations.