An incomplete list of reasons I have bought illustrated books

Close up of a drawing/watercolour painting of a girl with short-fringed purple hair and a red pinafore over a stripey topy, holding a book that says "MAPS"

I keep buying illustrated books thinking, hmm, what an interesting compendium of mark making, technically this is a reference text…

“If they could trick themselves into filling a full double-page spread with intricate cross-hatching, I can get through this mere section of an illustration.”

This book has this one weird trick and I need to keep it on my shelf as a reminder that magical techniques do exist.

‘I will never be able to draw like this and I need this gorgeous book as a reminder that I do not need to attempt it, the task has already been done’

O no, a tiny illustrated book I did not know existed, by a favourite illustrator many of whose books I already own.

There was a great podcast episode about this graphic novel and I need a copy of it so that I remember the life advice from the conversation.

“A friend mentioned this while I was on the phone and the computer simultaneously and either the internet heard me or my hand slipped, and now I appear to have bought it.”

The colour is so thick I want to lick it.

‘What an unusual size. Clearly I need this book to remember this is a size books are allowed to be.’

The map. The map! Look what they did with the map.

“I’m going to be short on money soon at this rate, so I had better get this book while I still have some.”

Oh look, a book by an illustrator I hadn’t registered as A Significant-To-Me Illustrator, but whose art when seen in one place clearly HAS been significant to me, but it’s only available in a very expensive Japanese edition and yet this is clearly a sign from the universe

It does represent a remarkable commitment to an aesthetic.

‘NICE diagrams’

It’s so tiny, though. It fits in my hand like a little bird.

“I might never recover from the placement of that one shadow.”

It made me cry, and must therefore be contained.

“Oh wow, so many colours! Who knew?”

We’re allowed to DO that?

‘The textures! I just want to rub it on my face!’

It looks like it was done in another medium than it was actually done in, and is therefore forbidden knowledge.


It made me feel like my knee-joints had come loose.

This art is so rough it feels like the artist put down paper and made a rubbing of the surface of the world.


Look at their BOOTS!

“Okay, but considered as price per gram—”

It’s so ugly. So gloriously ugly.

Engravings. ENGRAVINGS! Of public transport!

Block prints! Of public transport!

“These endpapers are important.”

Now, but I want you to consider: the construction detail you can see in the clothing.

Pulleys. Pulleys AND levers.

“We used to HAVE this one!”

I know I already have an illustrated version of this, but these are different illustrations, and therefore it is relevant for comparison purposes, what do you mean how many Rubáiyáts do I need?

You see, it’s an illustrated book ABOUT illustrating books, and therefore both recursive — and of technical interest — and directly informative; it’s like getting two books

Sketches sketches sketches!

So I’ve been watching this artist’s process videos and they did one about the books THEY own and—

It’s on CARDS, you can SHUFFLE it, it’s practically infinite books

“Okay, but consider, while I do own many books by this illustrator, this Art Of book may render it unnecessary to acquire the remaining books, or at least simplify the selection process”

Noir. NOIR.

It’s an anthology, so it’s like a THESAURUS of techniques.

But it’s shiny.

“Yes, but I went to their panel and they said they use a Hunt Crowquill #102 nib, and that’s what *I* use, so it’s directly relevant to my work”

It’s so scribbly!

“But every image is so fleshy, so weighty on the page.”


“Good lord, the *clouds*!”

But it’s an accordion fold. Look! You can stretch it oooooooouuuuut and fold it back, and stretch it ooooooooouuuuuuut and fold it back…

“Will it help if I make accordion noises?
OHHHHHHH AAAAAAAAA-maaaaaanda, LIGHT OF MY LIFE, fate should have made you—… no, wait, come back!”

(This began as a thread on Twitter)

3 thoughts on “An incomplete list of reasons I have bought illustrated books

  1. Pingback: The Tallow-Wife arrives! | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: February 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

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