Profile Friday: Illustrator Peter de Sève

January 29, 2010

New books containing de Sève’s illustrations.


Left: Cover of "A Sketchy Past" © Peter de Sève.

If you have read the New Yorker Magazine, or any major print publications over the past 20 years or so, or have watched one of several popular animated films (such as Ice Age), then you've seen the work of illustrator Peter de Sève.

And if you've seen his work, you'll know how full of life and visual interest, story, and humor it is. And you'll want to own this book: A Sketchy Past: The Art of Peter De Sève.

I purchased my copy about 10 days ago and have been smiling ever since. It hasn't moved from the corner of my desk. I pull it out and look at it in odd free moments, or make time to savor it with longer looks. His work to me seems to capture what I love best about all my favorite illustrators (book and magazine) from the past with a melding of insights from growing up in an animated world.

In these pages you'll be able to read something about his life and influences and see pages from his sketchbooks. But even more fun, you'll see early drafts of illustrations before they took on their final form. Also included are pages and pages of character designs that animators later brought to the big screen. (His notes for the Troodon [Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs] detail the transparency of skin at the wrist as well as the profile of the tail and other body parts—he sees in three dimensions and his illustrations reflect this.)

An artist's drawing is a catalog of the shapes that he loves. When I'm drawing something, I'm trying to find the shapes that please me. I believe that's what makes up what people refer to as a style.—Peter de Sève

I found out about this book at the same time I learned he had illustrated a children's book written by his wife. You will want to check out The Duchess of Whimsey, as well. It is a lovely story with charming illustrations that will engage adults and children.

Several months ago I was able to purchase Peter de Seve: Sketchbook which is a delicious collection of drawings culled from his sketchbooks. The black and white reproductions in this book show how with pen and pencil the artist captures emotion and character. I also recommend this book. I see that it is available in the store on the artist's website.

In the 1990s one of the "how-to" graphics magazines (I believe it was "Step-by-Step Graphics," but I can't swear to it) did a feature on de Sève. They walked the readers through the creation of one of his illustrations ("Rogue's Gallery" from Islands Magazine; the illustration is in A Sketchy Past) with step by step photos. It was fascinating to see his working method and watch the illustration emerge. He used one of the brown Derwent Drawing pencils to marvelous effect with watercolors. De Sève already had a brilliant style, one made up of lines that obviously pleased him, but also pleased his audience. Over the years he has continued to provide us with interpretations of our world (and others) that can impact us emotionally, intellectually, and visually. You really owe it to yourself to look more closely at his work. Now these books will allow you to do that easily.

Note: Nita wrote in to remind people to check out de Sève's blog and I'm putting that reminder here because not everyone makes it to the comments. Go check out Peter de Sève's blog now!

    • Nita
    • January 29, 2010

    People shouldn’t miss his blog, either:

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