Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Inspiring Black and White Art - by Andrea Offermann

Gustave Doré: illustration for "London", 1876
I shared my experience with working on a papercut cover for „The Kairos Mechanism“ recently on my website, and talked about my process at the wonderful lost weekend at David Diaz’ house that Jen and  Debbie already posted about. I have been fascinated with black and white art for a long time, and in view of the Tomie dePaola competition deadline coming up and the fact that the illustration has to be black and white, I would like to share some black and white art that I have come across and been very inspired by:

Arthur Rackham: illustration for "Sleeping Beauty", 1920
Arthur Rackham: I have been a great admirer of his work for a long time, but only recently found out that he illustrated two fairytales, „Sleeping Beauty“ and „Cinderella“, in black and white silhouettes. His artwork is intricately layered, I especially loved this illustration from Sleeping beauty, where he manages to show different layers of depth only with black and white. The image is elegant, beautiful and holds loads of storytelling and action while managing to appear clear and simple at the same time, incredible!

A still from Lotte Reininger's "The Adventures of Prince Achmed", 1926

Lotte Reininger: She was a German papercut artist and animator in the first half of the 20th century and completed the first full length animated film, „The Adventures of Achmed“, in 1926. Inspired by traditional eastern shadow theater, she invented a technique to adapt silhouette for animated film. Her figures, backgrounds and compositions are beautiful, and it’s amazing how she can convey emotion and acting with her silhouette figures. Here is an excerpt from „The Adventures of Achmed“:

and her version of „Cinderella“:

Karel Zeman: he was a czech artist, animator and director who experimented with stop motion animation, artwork, mix of painted backgrounds and real backgrounds, stilization and very creative special effects. For many of his feature films he drew inspiration from artists who had illustrated the books he was turning into movies, such as Gustave Doré’s illustrations for „Baron Munchhausen“, or Zdenek Burian’s illustrations for „Journey to the Center of the Earh“, thus creating a unique artistic vision.

Gustave Doré: illustration for "Baron Munchhausen", 1866
Especially „Die Erfindung des Verderbens“ based on a Jules Verne book is unique, filmed in black and white and using stilized line work background and overlays, patterned costumes and stop motion animation to convey the surreal world of the film and create a unique artistic style. Here is the trailer:

I hope you will enjoy these examples!


Andrea Offermann recently illustrated  Kate Milford’s „The Broken Lands“, Cornelia Funke’s „Ghost Knight“ and Sonya Hartnett’s „The Midnight Zoo“. You can see her work at www.andreaoffermann.com .


  1. I love Lotte Reiniger and share my DVD of Prince Achmed with everyone I can. It has a great biography of her that's inspiring to anyone who thinks they are too old to be creative. Thanks for showing all this wonderful black and white art.

  2. These are great! Are you also familiar with Fiep Westendorp, and her illustrations for the Jip en Janneke books? I love her silhouettes! If not, check out this site dedicated to her: http://www.fiepwestendorp.nl/fiepamsterdam/

  3. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful artists with us, Andrea! Really great post!!