Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scraps and Me

Several blogs ago I told the tale of acquiring my first John R. Neill drawing. It took four years before I finally got a piece of Neill art from an Oz book.

At the time I was working as a stagehand at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. It was my first real job, and I was earning a real paycheck. When the picture at the left came up for sale, the stars aligned, Ozma winked, and I spent two weeks' pay on a 9" x 9" piece of paper.

This, of course, is Neill's drawing for the ownership page of The Wonder City of Oz (1940). This was the first Oz book that Neill both wrote and illustrated. The number one thing that attracted me to this drawing was that it featured the Patchwork Girl. I also liked that it was from the forematter of the book. Somehow I like that it has Neill's hand-lettering on it.

Another little plus is that Scraps's body is largely hidden within the giant book she is carrying and so I can pretend she is wearing her traditional clothing and not the boy's swimsuit she dons for much of Wonder City.

The original art is about a third larger than the printed image in the book (shown at right). the only notation by Neill is the word "bookplate" scrawled on the back. As you can see, there is also a "B" in a circle. This may stand for bookplate, too, or is possibly a note for the printer to show the order of the forematter. You can also see some erased pencil lines showing that the book had been a good deal bigger before. Neill also repositioned Scraps's foot.

The drawing is hardly one of Neill's masterpieces of pen-and-ink like those for The Road to Oz. But when examining this piece up close the effortless lines in Scraps's face are just great! While Neill clearly tossed this drawing off - possibly in minutes! - the life and character he put into Scraps's face, using only a few lines and blips of ink, are what make John R. Neill so wonderful.

1 comment:

Bill Campbell said...

It's the Scrap-Book! That's such a fun drawing.