Illustrator Andrew Rae shares the pictorial tomes that have inspired him

1 March 2017
Reading Time
5 minute read

London-based illustrator Andrew Rae’s style is detailed and full of clean, measured linework. He’s able convey character through subtle expressions and gestures, and his ability to depict complex narratives in his work is why he’s built up such an impressive client list including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the Science Museum and Google among others. He is known for his graphic novel Moonhead and the Music Machine published by Nobrow, but has also illustrated other publications including This is Warhol, This is Dali, Where’s Warhol and My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook published by Laurence King.

With such a deep knowledge and passion for illustration, here Andrew shares his most prized books that have inspired him along the way. Featured is a classic story illustrated by Tove Jansson, a book on how the brain responds to music after trauma and an illustrated tome in an unidentifiable language.

Saul Steinberg: All in Line

My wife Chrissie bought me this book from Henry Pordes books on Charing Cross Road as a birthday gift. I love the simplicity of these drawings, the linework is so confident, the characters are so expressive and he uses the space so well. As print processes have become cheaper and more convenient and artwork is created for full colour screens, the need for black and white drawings has dropped off so I often find I’m obliged to colour drawings that I’d rather leave uncoloured. Art directors often consider a simple line drawing unfinished but there’s something so nice about how immediate these are.

Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Tove Jansson: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I’ve always loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it influenced my graphic novel Moonhead and the Music Machine but Ive chosen this book specifically for the illustrations. Obviously Tove Jansson is best known for her Moomin stories and comic strips but she was also an accomplished illustrator and the drawings in this book are some of her finest that I’ve seen.

Again there are lot’s of black and white line drawings and beautiful expressive characters. Some of my favourite drawings are the simple groups of characters such as the little mushroom guys or rodents and I’m weirdly fond of a drawing of crockery that heads one of the pages. On a side note, Lewis Carroll’s original illustrations are worth checking out as well, they have them in the British Library.

Daniel Clows: The Complete Eightball

I’ve been buying Daniel Clowes Eightball comics for years but I had a few missing so I was super excited when this collection came out. Daniel Clowes is probably best known for Ghost World which was written in instalments in the Eightball series, which has been compiled in its own book. But I prefer reading it alongside the weird creepy stories such as Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron which is like a comic storyboard for a David Lynch film. It also features the amazing Art School Confidential and On Sports a study of the sexuality that underpins sports. It’s filled with the kind of weird, geek, loser characters that inhabited the underbelly of America before the internet gave them a voice.


Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia

Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia

This book combines my interests in music and in the workings of the brain. It’s a really fascinating collection of case studies from Oliver Sacks many years working around people with brain disorders. Sacks was a keen amateur musician and his interest in music and his warmth as a human comes across while explaining stories, such as the man who became a pianist after being struck by lightning, or people who can only hear music as clattering like pots and pans, or how people who have lost the ability to talk from illness can still sing or play songs they remember from their youth when given the right stimulus. Music is mysterious in many ways and this book illuminates quite how incredible our ability to hear and to play music is.

Luigi Serafini: Codex Seraphinianus

I first discovered pages from this book online around 2006. Some mysterious drawings started surfacing on a few web portals. The images were coloured pencil drawings of various bizarre scenes such as a copulating couple gradually morphing into crocodiles, or trees that could walk on their roots and go for a swim, or mushroom-headed people putting skin back on to skeletons and all sorts of craziness. The images appeared to be from an encyclopaedia and were surrounded by what appears to be an alien language.

After a bit of digging I discovered they were from the Codex Seraphinianus, a bizarre book written in an as yet undeciphered language. It was published in Italy in 1981 and written and drawn by a white cat channelled through the hand of Luigi Serafini. There weren’t many copies and many library copies had a tendency to go missing so I assumed I’d never be able to own one but fortunately the renewed online interest in it meant that a new edition was printed.

Illustrated by W. Heath Robinson: The Works of Rabelais

I have to admit that I haven’t read this book and once again I’ve selected it for the illustrations, this time by W. Heath Robinson. Published in 1921 and carrying on my theme of expressive black and white character drawings this book is jam-packed with illustrations of gnarled old men and women with lovely expressive body language and beautiful line work. Heath Robinson seems incapable of drawing a character without making you believe that they have an inner world and a life beyond the page. I recently discovered that Heath Robinson lived near where I live in Highgate and he even drew one of my favourite places, Waterlow Park. which sits well with me as he constantly inspires me to make better drawings.

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About the Author

Rebecca Fulleylove

Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.

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