Please, Meet Mr. Ethan Aldridge.

h1 December 17th, 2012 by jules

(Click to enlarge and see in more detail)

And, look! He has style, too.Sometimes you’re just minding your own business, trudging along and doin’ your work, when lo and behold, an email from an aspiring illustrator appears in your in-box. And then, after reading the friendly email, you click on the illustrator’s site. And you say to yourself when you see the art work at said site, holy wow. This guy is going places.

And then you think, after seeing this exciting, new artwork: THIS. This is a large part of why I blog. Getting to see, and subsequently share, artwork like this from illustrators of the future [future … future]. (In brackets is the echo, which you yourself can provide, unless you’re reading this at work in a quiet library, in which case you should probably just provide the echo in your head alone, lest you disturb your patrons.) And then you think: If only I were all-powerful and ran the world, dang, I’d get this guy an agent and a book deal already.

Or at least this happens if you’re me and you get an email from art student Ethan Aldridge. Alas and alack, I am not all-powerful (blast it), but I can at least show you his artwork and see if any of you want to ooh! and ahh! along with me, ’cause I sense some serious potential here. Here’s part of what Ethan wrote in his initial email to me:

I am working on becoming a children’s book illustrator. It is a career I have been interested in ever since the age of five (so my mother tells me). Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in my backyard, pouring over Peter Sís’s illustrations in Jack Prelutsky’s The Dragons are Singing Tonight, totally enchanted. Ever since, I have wanted to create such beautiful books (apart from a brief stint where I wanted to become a stage magician). The college I am currently attending, while having a wonderful art department, is fairly small and lacks programs that focus on illustration. As a result, I have had to self-teach myself much of the art of picture books.

I’ll try not to say dang again. Ah, forget it: DANG, you all, he is mostly self-taught!

I don’t know about you, but I really like what I see, and I hope to goodness we see his artwork in picture books or in middle-grade books or on middle-grade covers or YA covers (whew, did I get them all?) one day.

What I’m sharing here today in this post is nothing you can’t see at his site, though there are some more sketches and a couple of illustrations over there I’m not including here. Here’s Ethan, too, to say a bit more about his work, and more illustrations are below. I thank him for visiting 7-Imp — and for emailing me out of the blue in the first place.

Ethan: I’ve always loved stories. I think most everyone does. Stories, especially ones geared toward children, make up an essential part of who we are and how we view the world. As we age, life seems to get more complicated. We have to worry about taxes and paying bills. However, the problems we face throughout our lives seem to stay rooted in base emotions we felt as children and continue to feel today: fear, displacement, uncertainty, and the like. Picture books simplify those problems down to the base emotions, make them playful, easier to swallow.


(Click to enlarge)

When I was little, I was fascinated by the pictures in books and the power they had to spark one’s imagination. (Of course, I didn’t articulate it like that back then. It was more like, “that dragon is awesome!”) As I’ve grown older, those same books have continued to help and inspire me — and provide useful exercise for my imagination.

I try to create images like the ones that inspire me, pictures that encourage a viewer’s imagination, leading them to fill in the gaps and create their own parts of the story. I feel this makes the work more applicable to them. As they give something of themselves to creating the stories, the stories become a part of who they are.

I generally like to work with ink. I find it to be an endlessly versatile medium, and it’s one that I’ve really responded to. There is something powerful in the simplicity of the line. Of course, variety is the spice of life, so I like to play around with most everything I can get my hands on. Except pottery. I’m useless with pottery.

In the end, I want to make pictures and stories that interest people. Hopefully, they will inspire others.

Or at least look pretty on a bookshelf. That’d be allright, too.

Two sketches

* * * * * * *

All illustrations are © 2012 by Ethan Aldridge.

15 comments to “Please, Meet Mr. Ethan Aldridge.”

  1. Nice! I like that, instead of being merely whimsical, most of these pictures seem to be plucked from the middle of a lost narrative. I especially love the giraffe’s expression: “how the heck did I get here!”

  2. I adore the chess set – ADORE. The kid with the mask pushed up, asleep, reminds me of an older Max from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. And, for some reason, the kid with the leaves for hair just strikes my fancy. It fools the eye – are there faces, or just leaves?? The restrained formality, the rigidity of suits and natty ties, contrasts with the faces, the eyes, creating silent narrative.

    So much to love in every pane!

    I think this guy was pretty much born to illustrate.

  3. Very nice work, Ethan. You have a strong sense of story in your work and there’s something instantly classic and refined. My favorite is the boy with the key. My recommendation would be: go to a traditional drawing school where they stress fundamentals; composition, value, form, just for a semester or two. Get out before they start brainwashing you into trendy work, and you’ll have some serious tools to conquer the world with.

  4. Chris: What you said. That’s what I love the most, that I want to know the stories swirling around these pictures. As for the giraffe, my girls like the boxes surrounding him and what they indicate (“lions,” for one).

    Thanks, Tanita and Aaron …. I’m glad you came along to give advice, Aaron. I’m in no place to do that, seeing as how I’m not an illustrator. I’m just the spectator in the gallery, who likes the potential she sees.

  5. So much wonderful, evocative imagery throughout! I’m with Tanita about the chess illustration–adore it. And agree with Christopher that each image suggests an intriguing story. Good advice from Aaron Becker, who’s clearly no slouch at drawing, either. I really love what Ethan says about picture books. Thanks for introducing us to this exciting new artist/writer!

  6. Follow your dream, dude. Your work is awesome.

  7. (And- I have to say, Mr. Aldridge, there’s a whole book you could write and illustrate around that giraffe in a box illustration- it just LOOKS like the page in a great story.) Best of luck!

  8. Yes! I want to know more about all of these stories too. They totally draw you in so you want to know more.
    Love the chess game, and the boy coming from the mouth of the wolf. All of them really.
    Thanks for sharing his work Jules!

  9. Thank you for the kind words, all! They are very much appreciated. I am glad you enjoy the work so much. And thank you for the advice, Aaron. It is certainly something I will look in to.

  10. Agree with Christopher about how the images seem to be “plucked from the middle of a lost narrative.” Your love of story really comes through! My favorites are the chess game and the sketch/portrait of the boy with the flowers. Can’t wait to see more…

  11. I collect story books for the art work. Will look for Ethan’s work in hardback soon? I have “Autumn.” It leads me into a story everytime I look at it. Glad you found your own place.

  12. Keep going! And keep making prints available via your blog and website. Looks great, and thanks for sharing.

  13. […] Please, Meet Mr. Ethan Aldridge. December 17th, 2012 &nbsp&nbsp by jules […]

  14. Good work Ethan! You and Corey are going places with your illustrations and stories to tell through art.

  15. […] Anyone remember Ethan Aldridge, who visited at the tail end of last year? He just signed with agent extraordinaire Stephen […]

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