Friday, July 20, 2007

Mary Horton's Cute Kids

Mary Horton's work appears in many of the 1964 volumes of the Childcraft encyclopedia/textbook series.

At first glance, because it is such understated work, one might dismiss it as being that sort of bland textbook art not worth a second look. But take a moment to linger over the details - or lack of them - and you quickly realize that Horton completely understood how to reduce the elements in her work to the bare essentials and still retain a wonderful authenticity. The important information is all there. "Reduction" is the toughest skill for an illustrator to master. Too often we become bogged down in superfluous surface detail that actually detracts from the beautiful simplicity of the core of our work.

Ten years earlier, when Horton did the advertising piece below, she was not quite there. You can see the beginnings of the style she will mature into a decade later... but the cute factor is lacking, isn't it? Horton had not yet fully grasped the nature of the formula we've been looking at all week: how to draw a cute kid.

Bingo! Who couldn't fall in love with this poor little waif?

And when you see a piece as well composed and visually interesting as the one below, you know you're looking at the work of an inspiring illustrator.

Take a closer look at the full size versions of these illustrations in my Mary Horton Flickr set.


  1. Great Pictures! Why can't text books still look like that?

  2. Has anyone on the planet ever REALLY wrapped a rag around their child's entire head when they get a toothache or come down with the mumps?? That was the kind of thing one would typically see on The Flintstones. :) :)

    As usual, fantastic art!

  3. Don't be silly Les - of course, with modern medical treatments, the rag around the head is no longer used. But back in the day when men and dinosaurs worked together to dig gravel out of pits and stone houses had long, long livingrooms of sofa's and windows, sofas and windows, sofas and windows - the rag around the head was VERY commonly used. ;-)