When it comes to making people laugh, Mabel Lucie Attwell’s colourful illustrations of cute children with a cheeky message always met the brief. But how did the ideas tumble from her mind onto the page? Did she use a formula to ensure success whether postcard, book or comic strip? How would you approach the creative process – words or pictures first?
An article in the Strand Magazine in 1936 settles the question:
‘I can’t start on a drawing until I’ve finally decided upon the title. In fact I never put pencil to paper until I have found a title that satisfies me. Sometimes I’ll have discarded twenty or thirty titles before I light upon the one that perfectly hits off the little notion I’m aiming at.’
Ever the perfectionist, we can picture Mabel at her desk crossing through caption after caption on her notepad until the right one took shape to inspire an illustration. We delved into the archive to share a few designs that made it all the way to production.
From left to right, the all important captions read:
Who ever 'lowed muvver to order twins?
Don't know wot I wants – but I wants it so bad!
Although I'm working for a while, I finks of you and have a smile.
I takes a pretty good view of you!
Why do we change our clocks?
The idea of moving clocks forwards and backwards came to Britain from America. Benjamin Franklin, an American politician and inventor, first suggested it in 1784. He thought that if people got up earlier, when it was lighter, then it would save on candles.
Back in Britain, a leaflet called The Waste of Daylight was published, encouraging people to get out of bed earlier. In 1908, the government discussed making it law to change the clocks but this wasn’t popular. The change did happen in Mabel’s lifetime, finally coming into being in 1916, during World War I.
Now, clocks around Britain always go back by one hour on the last Sunday in October and forward by one hour on the last Sunday in March.
It’s great to see these beautiful illustrations, full of fun, wit, and joy come out of the archives to ‘make people laugh’ – the thing Mabel loved to do most. We know from the many letters Mabel received during her lifetime, that her art meant so much to so many people. From inspiring everyone to calm down and carry on in the face of two World Wars or to take ‘the steam out of the family battleground’, Mabel’s work brought comfort and laughter to homes across the world and across generations.
World Smile Day began in 1999 when Harvey Ball, the artist behind the smiley face, declared that everyone should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts. Ever since, people across the world celebrate with smiles and good deeds on the first Friday in October. We’d love to hear about yours @mabel_lucie
In an exciting new venture, we are launching a new initiative, Mabel to uncover, rediscover and share her huge variety and diversity of illustrations: from beautiful pencil drawings for children’s classics from Peter Pan to Alice in Wonderland to World War One postcards, the cheeky Boo Boo fairies and many, many more. From postcards for the Royal Family to illustrations for national magazines and advertising for London Underground, Mabel Lucie Attwell's work was hugely popular during her lifetime and is still much loved around the world today.
Keep in touch to be the first to see what we find – as we grow our cards and gifts range alongside a regular blog of memories and stories about Mabel Lucie Attwell’s life and art.