For a long time now I've admired the work of C.F. Tunnicliffe RA (1901-1979). He was a prolific book illustrator, which is how I mostly knew his work but since I got hold of his biography 1 just after Christmas I've learnt that he produced so much more than those exquisite line drawings and watercolours.
Apart from his obvious draughtsmanship and beautifully understated and sensitive use of colour, I think the thing I love most about his work is his eye for design, the way he works a scene to create movement and interest on every area of the page.
Charles Tunnicliffe was born on a farm in Langley, Cheshire, near where my parents now live, and spent the early years of his marriage living in Whalley Range, Manchester, very near to where I now live. However, this is where all similarity ends, as he was an incredibly hardworking, prolific and observant artist who quickly rose to prominence and was seldom without work. 2 Some of his most well-known and loved illustrations were for Henry Williamson's beautiful book Tarka the Otter.
He has an incredible affinity for and understanding of the British countryside, and every single piece of his work seems to somehow embody the damp, earthy magic of this land which means so much to me.
He was never really happy in Manchester (hmm, perhaps we have more in common than I first thought) and in 1947 he moved to a little cottage overlooking the Cefni estuary on Anglesey where he painted and drew, drew and painted. The birds, the light, the water.
Tunnicliffe was devoted to accuracy, and over the years he built up a huge portfolio of measured post mortem drawings of birds and animals like these, with friends and neighbours often helping by delivering dead or frozen creatures to his house. Even in these purely technical reference works, his incredible genius for layout and design shines out.
Hopefully many of you will already know and love C.F. Tunnicliffe's work, but if not, I hope you've enjoyed this little introduction. You can see more of his drawings and illustrations as well as reading more about his life and the writers with whom he collaborated at the splendid website of the Charles Tunnicliffe Society.
1 Ian Niall, Portrait of a Country Artist, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1980
2 This is not any kind of weird false modesty! I am a very slow worker who takes ages to process ideas, and usually have very little to show for time spent 'being creative'.
All images belong of course to the estate of C.F. Tunnicliffe and as usual mustn't be reproduced or used for anything important.