I’ve spent the past few evenings attempting to recreate a Moomin illustration from Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. This is part of my self-imposed study schedule of the greats of ink illustration, which has taken me from Tenniel to Peake. It’s probably my last of these for a while, but it’s definitely not the end. (There’s a reason for me doing all these, by the way, but I’m not going to explain for a while!)
Any way, the illustration I chose is a full-page plate, which is quite different from most of the Moomin illustrations. It’s possibly my favourite, and it’s the only one I can think of where the chiaroscuro lighting allows for the full 3D shape of Moomintroll to be described.
Once again I drew it in ink with a paintbrush, forcing myself to not make mistakes and do it without under-drawing. And crikey, what a lot I learnt. Starting with Moomintroll, the greatest lesson to be had is the direction of the pen marks, and the use of the highlights.
Tove Jansson was a master of using stark contrasts, and by leaving the band of white inside the outline, Moomintroll’s belly really pops out!
Another example of the line direction can be had in the window.
Again, the white is as important as the strokes, but the swirling effect of the lines brings out the beauty of the moonlit night. It also provides a contrast against the vertical strokes that colour the wall.
The method of shading the illustration is also of massive importance. There are some huge areas of pure black, and some huge areas of pure white. It’s a surprisingly brave thing to do, but never once do they take your attention away from the subject. The composition is perfect, as is the lighting.
And finally, the best thing that I’ve taken away from attempting to draw like Tove Jansson, is how time-consuming and patient you need to be to create work like this. I don’t know the size of the original, and it has a far better use and economy of line than mine, but the work involved in creating a piece like this is exceptional.
I admire Tove Jansson now more than ever!