Going through my library led me to favourite illustrators who exemplified the fun-ness and qualities of draughtsmanship I sought. I was going after a bright 50's storybook look:
One of my favourite illustrators, the elusive and mostly unknown Sunny B. Cook merged a keen observational sense for posing with a strong control of shapes to sell characters who, though very stylized, had tension, weight, elegance and a gentle sense of reality to them. Very pleasant; light, graphic and full.
Miroslav Sasek of the THIS IS... series created fully realized worlds, matching taut, detailed observational drawing with his trademark graphic style.
Mary Blair is full of bold, brave choices that I wrack my brains over and enjoy; colours and shapes that defy convention. She mixes a distorted brooding quality with whimsy. Her work reminds me to not just choose the first solution to a problem--and that I have a lot to learn about colour (from my friend Dani as well).
JP Miller managed stylization, design, composition and colour with clarity, control, and elegance, making his worlds engaging and full of life. I liked that there were smaller stories being told through pantomime, costumes and props; business--bits of storytelling that hadn't been written in the text.
Marc Simont draws with a simple controlled immediacy that I'm extremely envious of, capturing very specific characters doing very specific things; incredible posing, staging and storytelling drawings; charming and real. At his best, he cannot be lauded highly enough.
Al Hirschfeld is of course the man who made caricature a science, distilling personalities in simple elegant shapes. I really admire the energy and seeming spontaneity of his drawings--especially those with figures dancing. He draws the personalities of people, not just their appearances-his graphic symbols a product of heavy observation and careful thought about the specific attitude of a person.
And last but certainly not least, the works of Aurelius Battaglia, Sempe and Quentin Blake. Lots of fun, energetic stuff going on here--everything has a sense of lightness and delicacy while managing strong, spirited storytelling. There's a relaxed, throwaway confidence to them that I like-an assuredness that certainly adds to their appeal. Terrific confluences of subject and handling. Good work fellas!
A book I would definitely recommend is Mr. Blake's from Klutz.