The nature of the beast

Ursell, Martin (2016) The nature of the beast. In: 7th International Illustration Research Symposium - Shaping the View: Understanding Landscape through Illustration, 10-11 Nov 2016, Edinburgh. . [Conference or Workshop Item]

[img] Image (JPEG) (Image by Martin Ursell) - Supplementary material
Restricted to Repository staff and depositor only

Download (5MB) |


A lecture titled "The Nature of the Beast"; 40 minute lecture.



When I was first urged to submit a proposal for this symposium by my colleague, my immediate reply was, ‘I don’t know what I would say about landscape?'

My colleague replied, “ You could do something with your animals”. He was referring to my longstanding practice of drawing at zoos, I think. No suggestion followed as to exactly what I might do with my animals.

However, I thought about this quite a lot.

As a child I loved stories about animals and in particular Bernard Rutley’s TRUE ADVENTURE STORIES. These stories were originally published in 1951 and brilliantly illustrated by Stuart Tresillion. They were thrilling stories about wolves and tigers, and they were terribly exciting. I loved them.
Looking at Stuart Tresillion’s illustrations now, I STILL love them and think how clever he is in making a child want to read and find out exactly what is going on. He really uses the landscape to bring atmosphere and a sense of time and place to these stories. (I once visited a weather station hut on a mountain outside Banff in Canada and it was like being in a Tresilion illustration.)

Another huge favourite were Willard Price’s Adventure Books. Lion Adventure, South Sea Adventure, Diving Adventure…they featured Hal and Roger who had unbelievably exciting adventures all around the world. They got the bends in Diving Adventure and dressed up as a crocodile in African Adventure to fool a lion, THRILLING.

These books were illustrated by the mysterious Pat Marriot, who it is rumoured was actually Edward Gorey. Again the illustrations are packed with action and as an illustrator of children’s books myself it occurs to me how both illustrators use the landscape to heap on the thrills. SO, the flashing lightening and a furiously dark and stormy jungle reinforce the thought that these elephants in Willard Price’s Elephant Adventure are terrifying and aggressive beasts. This seemed to me an idea that I could pursue that was indeed something to do with my animals. What I mean is that the landscape that the illustrator or artist chooses to place his animal in, indicates how we should think of the animal. AND, further that over centuries as our attitudes towards animals have changed, the landscapes behind the animals in art have changed too.

Yet, when I mentioned this to my colleague yet his reaction was I don’t get it!

Looking around to find examples of the images that I was thinking of was, I admit, more difficult than I thought. For one thing, in many of the images I found to support my theme, the beast itself carried the information. The background was passive or non-existent the beast either ferocious or in attack mode. Ideally, I was after images were the landscape, and animal, were used together to convey our attitude towards the beast OR even better, images where the landscape alone indicated how we thought of the beast. There weren’t many of these!
BUT there were some!

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Additional Information: Attached image created by Martin Ursell to accompany the lecture
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
Item ID: 25992
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Martin Ursell
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2019 15:59
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2019 11:58

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.