In a change from the advertised schedule, K. M. Lockwood considers someone special from her own bookshelves . . .

I want to honour someone who brought joy and colour, sometimes sadness and even fear into my 1960s childhood, but always wonder. Someone whose work inspired and widened my reading for decades beyond and whose mastery still enchants.

The children take tea with Mr & Mrs Beaver

I'm speaking of Pauline Baynes.

It was her drawings that created Narnia in my head just as much as Professor Lewis. It was her work that acted as a sign: this will be a good book. And it was her draughtsmanship that led me along the roads of Middle Earth and beyond.

Fifty years ago, her illustrations put me straight into the world of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Children wore pretty much the same clothes then as in 1950 - or at least they did in my rather traditional corner of the West Riding of Yorkshire. One book led to all seven, and both text and illustrations were addictive. For that era, they presented people from different cultures as equals, showed both humour and grace as important, and enticed me toward the medieval.

Aravis the Tarkheena from The Horse & His Boy
I remember spotting a most beautiful reference book in the libary, tall and heavy and only allowed to be touched by clean, inspected hands. I knew it must be good because of the cover - and so asked to borrow it. What wonderful ideas and words I learned from A Dictionary of Chivalry! Heraldry and its glorious colours or tinctures: gules and argent and azure. Blazoning and destriers and of course, all about dragons. It took Pauline Baynes two painstaking years to illustrate that book with nearly 600 plates - and she won the Greenaway medal for it in 1968. Older me took a great interest in medieval costume, and for my A-Level art did a study on it. Guess whose work I found to be both full of spirit, and meticulously accurate?

Cover of A Dictionary of Chivalry

Precision is a feature of Pauline Baynes' work. You can tell the species of trees, the time of year from the flowers, the period something is set in from the clothes. Especially when combined with magical elements, it made it all so real. Child me knew what dragons and castles looked like because she had shown me - and writer me knows that convincing detail is essential. And that comes from observation, practice and research. Good for both writers and illustrators.

Pauline Bayne's Map of Middle Earth - from the finished poster.

Precision and accuracy must have been ingrained: she worked in the map-making department of the Ministry of Defence early in her career. Who better to draw a map for one of C. S. Lewis's Inkling chums? When Tolkien was disappointed with the first intended illustrations for Farmer Giles of Ham in 1948, he chanced upon her work* - and a long partnership was born.

* Full charming story here. I have seen her original map of Middle Earth in the Bodleian's recent Tolkien Exhibition - and it is exquisite. Many a writer has had a thing for maps, Terry Pratchett and Joanne Harris for a start-off. Landscape is a character in my work - and I think I owe that partly to Pauline Baynes.

When I was teaching, her influence still came through. The school made its own Nativity plays with music by the multi-talented Pam Wedgwood. One year we were a bit stuck but then I remembered the delightful legend The Cobweb Curtain - written by Jenny Koralek and illustrated by Pauline Baynes. We had some fun making a spider costume, but there was a happy medieval mystery play feel about the whole event.

Pauline Baynes' workspace.

Shortly before she died in 2008 I wrote to her, expressing how much pleasure she had given me throughout my life. She was still working in her 86th year. She wrote back and I treasure that. Please do tell the creators you admire what their work means to you before it's too late. I am so glad I did.

I hope our illustrators don't mind me making a little pilgrimage into their territory. From passionate memory, and as a book reviewer, I know how important an illustrator's work can be to children, and the adults they become.

Header image: Mr Tumnus and Lucy by Pauline Baynes.


K. M. Lockwood writes, reads and edits in The Garret.  
Once downstairs, she runs a tiny writer-friendly B&B/retreat or wanders off  looking for sea-glass on the Sussex coast.
Twitter: @lockwoodwriter

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful article! It's great to read more about an illustrator who also inspired me when I was a child. I really love that you wrote to her - and that she wrote back. I really enjoyed reading this, thank you.


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