Tag Archives: illustration


Is there anything so abysmally bad as Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy? In your conscience, now. Have you ever seen anything so atrocious? Be honest.

I may be alone in my desperate bull-brained hatred of those particular films, but I think everyone has felt the anticipation, hope, excitement and disappointment of having a beloved book slashed to ribbons and stitched into a patchwork quilt of cool mediocrity. For some, it’s the Hunger Games. For others, it might be Frankenstein.

It doesn’t matter what your book was. When you saw it pale and sterilized on the silver screen, you knew that something had gone horribly wrong.

What happened?

I remember my mom used to make covers for some of her books. She covered up the original illustrations with plain white paper so she wouldn’t have to look at them. When I asked her why she did it, she said something like this:

“I don’t like the picture of (the main character). That’s not how I picture her in my head.”

The commercial artist who did that cover illustration had messed something up. He or she got it wrong. There was a disconnect between the vision that the author projected into the reader’s mind and the vision that the illustrator had executed.

And this happens all the time. Authors are painters with words, and unless an artist is intimately familiar with those words, how can they visualize them authentically? The reader and writer are very close, and illustrators have to wedge themselves in, somehow.

So why bother with illustrations at all?

Really, some books should not be illustrated. Non-fiction should not be illustrated. Autobiographies of politicians should not be illustrated. But sometimes, artists can show you something in a new way.

5Tove Jansson, The Hobbit, 1962

Pictured above is one of Tove Jansson’s illustrations for the Hobbit. These caught me off guard this morning, and I had to look for more of them.  Tove Jansson was a Finnish illustrator and storyteller, best known for her stories about the Moomins, a lovable race of hippo people.

title-alternativ swedish-hobbit-illustration-1962-12

They’re so free, loose, and fun! This is appropriate, because the Hobbit is a fun book. It’s chock-full of songs, dancing, and feasting.

finnish-hobbit-illustration-1973-26 de398dda760357e19042359fbaa2d872

Tell me this, Peter Jackson. Which is a better interpretation of the Hobbit: your high-definition, 30 frames-per-second slaughter-action-fest, which altogether runs for nearly 9 hours, or the picture below?


My apologies to people who like the Hobbit movies. I just get so mad sometimes.

Bonus! Here’s one of Tolkien’s original artworks for the Hobbit. See more here.


J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1936


New Book Available

Welcome to National Toot-Your-Own-Horn Day.

Toot toot.

I’ve got a brand-new book out, the first in a series of four:

 Journey Stone: Book I

It was done in cooperation with Jacqueline Druga, a Pittsburgh native and author of many terrific thrillers.  My contribution? The illustrations!

JourneyStoneNate Taylor, concept for Journey Stone, 2014

Asrene map

Nate Taylor, concept for Journey Stone, 2014

So, is it good?  Yes, it’s very good.  Just look at this trailer.


It’s about imagination and friendship (but NOT the power of love, that’s the next book).

Check it out on Amazon.com!

Preview_Chapter7Nate Taylor, Journey Stone, 2014

preview_Chapter8Nate Taylor, Journey Stone, 2014

Great Job, World.

The World has treated its brilliant minds well. Beethoven, Michelangelo, Andy Warhol (hmm, maybe not Andy); they’re all comfortably ensconced in shrines of eternal adoration, their names ringing through the halls of history. While they were alive, they had the best of everything.  Now that they’re dead, they’re immortal.

And then there are the others. The World nervously bites its lip as we list the names: Van Gogh, Bach, Oscar Wilde. The ones who died face-down in the World’s ditch. Yeah… about those.

Kay Nielsen was one such artist.

Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen_1924Kay Nielsen, from Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, 1924

Nielsen_In Powder and Crinoline_1913Kay Nielsen, from In Powder and Crinoline, 1913

A contemporary of Arthur Rackham, he was one of the last “greats” of illustration’s Golden Age (roughly 1880-1930). He began his career in book illustration, tackling the traditional fairy-tales with singular flair.

Nielsen_In Powder and Crinoline_1913_02Kay Nielsen, from In Powder and Crinoline, 1913

Hansel and Gretel and Other Stories_1925Kay Nielsen, from Hansel and Gretel, and Other Stories, 1925

Nielsen_eastrofthesun_troll_1914Kay Nielsen, from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914

In the late 30’s he moved to California to work for Disney, where he did concept work on Fantasia and The Little Mermaid.

Night On Bare Mountain_Nielsen_1939Kay Nielsen, concept painting for Night on Bare Mountain from Fantasia, 1939

And then, after 4 years at Disney, he was let go.

Returning to his native country of Denmark, Nielsen attempted to renew his career in book illustration, but he found that his turn-of-the-century style was no longer in vogue. Vogue is a capricious mistress.

Need I say more? He died a brilliant pauper, sick and penniless. When a friend tried to place his work in museums, none of them expressed any interest. Good job, World.

Nielsen_EastoftheSun_1914Kay Nielsen, from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914

Nielsen_WestofTheMoon_1914Kay Nielsen, from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914

This is upsetting. So I want to take this moment to say: Kay Nielsen, we’re so sorry. You were pretty great, and we should have taken better care of you.

At Rest in the Dark Wood_East of the Sun and West of the Moon_1914Kay Nielsen, from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914

Czech Animation Festival

Gosh, there are so many great places to start.

While considering what to post first, I was struck with the vast amount of really great work out there.  How could I possibly just choose one artist, one book, one film?

That may sound trite.  But that’s how I think.  Tritely.

I chose Jiri Trnka, for several good reasons:

1. He’s the Czech Uncle I never had.

2. He was an illustrator AND an animator.

3. The man’s work is matchless.

Here are some selections of his illustration (he illustrated more than 130 books during his career).


(Trnka, Andersen Fairy Tales, 1969)


(Trnka, Andersen Fairy Tales, 1969)


(Trnka, Fireflies, 1959)


(Trnka, Fireflies, 1959)


(Trnka, Fireflies, 1959)

Notice the colors.  And the textures.  And the composition.  And the details.  These images are so rich, you almost don’t need the stories behind them.  They become stories of their own.

When you have a few minutes to spare, do a Youtube search of Jiri Trnka’s animation work.  It’s just as startling and eye-catching as his book illustration.

You can see how the meticulous detailing carries over into Trnka’s animation in these stills:


(Trnka, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1959)


(Trnka, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1959)


((Trnka, The Hand, 1965)

My all-time favorite is The Hand.  It’s one of the greatest stop-motion films ever made, and still universally relevant to creative people.