Top 10 Oz Illustrations, Part 2: The Marvelous Land of Oz, Illustrated by John R. Neill

As promised, here is part two of my series of top 10 illustrations from each Oz book. I haven't blogged at all this week, mostly because I've been working on launching a new YouTube series, and a few other things besides that. (By the way, you can see my first video in the series here.)

But now I'm back, and I'm ready to begin going over my top 10 Oz illustrations from The Marvelous Land of Oz.

Let's get started!

10.) Portrait of Glinda the Good, three-quarter view, (from Chapter 20, The Scarecrow Appeals to Glinda the Good): One of the things that differentiates this book from the rest of the series is that, for the sake of consistency, John R. Neill deliberately attempted to model his style after Denslow. He wasn't very successful in duplicating it, and I think that's a good thing. Here is one example where he clearly missed the mark when emulating Denslow, but conversely hit the nail right on the head in allowing his own style to shine through. Bob Ross was right when he said "There are no mistakes, just happy accidents."

9.) Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Sawhorse on the Yellow Brick Road (from Chapter 6, Jack Pumpkinhead's Ride to the Emerald City): Another thing I like about this book is that Neill clearly outdid himself on ornamentation, as did Denslow in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is one of many examples of his use of ornamentation, which he implemented in pretty much every Oz book he illustrated. (It's a kids' book, for crying out loud! Don't just leave a part blank where there's no text. Decorate it! The sky's the limit...) Also, as we'll see in a few others, one thing he often did was put a border around the background, but allow the foreground elements to go outside the border to give it a three-dimensional feel.

8.) Glinda Searches the Records (color plate from Chapter 20, The Scarecrow Appeals to Glinda the Good): One thing you'll notice in this book is that the color plates are consistent with the colors described in the text, particularly when the book mentions the countries in Oz where everything is one color. (For context, in the Munchkin Country, everything is blue; in the Winkie Country, everything is yellow; in the Gillikin Country, everything is purple; and in the Quadling Country, everything is red.) Glinda rules over the Quadlings, so that's why this illustration uses a mostly red color palette. It's still very effective in that it isn't completely monotonous, as there are a few other colors that break it up a bit.

7.) Heading from Chapter 16, The Scarecrow Takes Time to Think: As I mentioned earlier, Neill made heavy use of ornamentation throughout the Oz books he illustrated, and his chapter headings are among the most fitting examples of this. As an added bonus, these chapter headings also make effective use of hand-lettering. Neill has done lots of it in his Oz books, and here we get to see his flair for hand-lettering for the first time. The reason I chose this one in particular is for the ink-spatter effect he used for the backdrop, as it gives the image a feeling of texture and character. It also casts the main subject in relief, which makes the image pop.

6.) Tailpiece (from Chapter 16, The Scarecrow Takes Time to Think): This one is very much unlike his other ornaments, in that he got really creative with the angle at which he viewed his subject matter. Who else but Neill would just draw the feet and nothing else? Probably someone with real creative chops!

5.) Mombi Pointed Her Long, Bony Finger at the Boy (from Chapter 23, Princess Ozma of Oz): Here you can see more of the ink-spatter effect I mentioned in number 7 above. But what's really impressive here is that he layers it on more thickly in the darker areas and more lightly in the lighter areas, thus giving it the illusion of depth. Add to this the fact that it throws the characters themselves in stark relief (simply because there's no spatter effect on them), and you've got one superb Oz illustration!

4.) The Tin Woodman Plucks the Rose (color plate from Chapter 21, The Tin Woodman Plucks a Rose): You can see here how, once again, Neill was true to the text in choosing the colors for the different countries in Oz. (In this case, obviously, it's the Emerald City, because everything is green.) But his breaking up of the monotony is way more dramatic here because he painted the rose a bright red. Add to this the fact that the other characters are wearing the colors of their respective kingdoms outside the Emerald City, and you have an image that pops, rather than staying flat and boring.

3.) The Boy Stretched Himself Upon the Grass (color plate from Chapter 5, The Awakening of the Saw-Horse): The dominant color in this image is purple (since we are in the Gillikin Country now,) but the reclining figures on the grass, and the brightly colored sun above, give it just the right amount of contrast, as with number 4 above. (But I still can't figure out why Tip's outfit doesn't match the colors of the Gillikin Country... Artistic license, I guess...)

2.) The Gump Soared Swiftly and Majestically Away (color plate from Chapter 18, In the Jackdaws' Nest): I briefly mentioned in number 9 above that Neill often made his foreground elements go outside the borders of the image, and this is a more dramatic example of that. If you take a good look at it, it almost looks as if the background border is a window through which the Gump is flying straight towards the viewer. No need for 3D glasses here!

1.) "It's Too Easy, Altogether" (from Chapter 15, The Prisoners of the Queen): This effect is a little unusual for Neill, but he does it fairly often in this book. The cross-hatching looks a lot less fluid and more deliberate, almost giving it the appearance of a woodcut, and yet he has masterfully created a sense of depth in the image by shading the characters sparingly (so as to cast them in relief) and also by drawing the hatch lines closer together the further back he goes. You can especially see this on the ground, which gets darker as it recedes into the background.

Do you agree with this list? Which illustrations from The Marvelous Land of Oz do you like the best? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Till next time...

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