Friday 14 March 2008

Bill Sanderson covering New Scientist

This terrifying image of Margaret Thatcher is all the more scary because the portrayal of her features is only millimetres away from the flattering image that her supporters worshipped. It is the work of the illustrator, Bill Sanderson, whose work was characterised by an uncanny skill in mimicking the techniques of Victorian wood and steel engraving using scraper board. The trick was in applying it to contemporary subject matter and infusing the image with a turbulent, linear driven sense of movement.

These covers for New Scientist are from 1984 to 1988, a period when this magazine was one of the last to regularly commission illustration for the cover. There was a good fit to the relationship – Sanderson’s images recall the wonderful world of Victorian scientific illustration. It’s a pleasure to admire his drawing skills and the subtle use of colour to enhance the period feel. The near Baroque spatial qualities add another dimension. All is described with a sure touch and crispness of line and contour.

I remain highly suspicious of commentators who regularly evoke past golden ages, usually with object of denigrating the present, but I must confess that, as far as illustration goes, the decade from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties seems like just such an age. Artists such as Peter Brookes, Mick Brownfield, George Hardie, Peter Till, Bush Hollyhead, Barry Craddock and James Marsh were producing witty and innovative illustration in response to a genuine demand from the printed media. Bill Sanderson is part of a talented generation that matured in the 1970’s and has carried on working in much the same way to the present. There is a generous selection of his work on his own website that can be viewed by clicking here. In 2005 he won an award for book cover design from the V & A, details of which can be seen here. Authors whose books he has illustrated include Harry Harrison (interviewed here) and Felix Dennis.


Rob Windstrel Watson said...

The images evoke the character of the woman so well.

I had anger attacks for years after the 1990s and the disasters wrought by that woman.

Eventually, I understood that venting my spleen at the TV harmed only myself and didn't help all those who lost their homes and businesses in the 90s recession.

The other day, I even saw somebody at a music festival wearing a 'I Still Hate Thatcher' t-shirt. I approached him and listened to his story. It was very familiar. I suggested that he'd be better to put the anger behind him because he was only hurting himself.

But the next day he was still wearing the t-shirt

Phil Beard said...

Rob - I’m sorry to have revived such unpleasant memories. You are absolutely correct about the uselessness of frenzied reaction to politicians. When my detestation of Tony Blair equalled my loathing for Margaret Thatcher I realised the futility of these tidal waves of hatred. I have some disappointing news for you. In the near future I will be featuring a selection of images of Thatcher made by contemporary illustrators. Please look the other way if you find these images distressing!