Thursday, January 5, 2012

Brenda E. Spender

I have a couple of books illustrated by Brenda E. Spender, the following images are from "Important People" from 1930.
Her work has a special charm. She observes situations beautifully and her draughtsmanship is tops . Very inspiring!
The sketches look old fashioned , but in the best sense of the word. There is an honesty here, which of course is timeless. She would have made a great animator, her poses are full of character, like good animation key drawings.
I really don't know anything about her life, other than that she most likely was English, because this first edition was published in London.
Maybe some one knows about Brenda E. Spender and can educate us.

I remember Frank and Ollie using her work in one of their lectures as an example
of what to strive for when creating strong animation poses.


  1. It's strange how the old looks new again. AS old as the drawings are they have a freshness about them as if they were drawn yesterday.

  2. Wow these are great. I love that pose of the kid with the shovel.

  3. THAT'S where those came from! The drawings from image seven, with the cats, were in the sample portfolio Disney would send out in the 90s. I remember studying those for hours. Your blog is always a bright spot Andreas. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for this.
    I was lucky enough to be able to take classes from the great (and sadly now late) Barbara Bradley at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in the 90s and she used these to help demonstrate her points about understanding form - especially under clothes.
    She was another fabulous illustrator from the same period. Thanks for reminding me of those wonderful classes, that were, at the time, totally terrifying, but which now seem like a golden time.

  5. Thank you! These are amazing! Just today I was wondering how to draw young girls (my sister :D) because their postures and poses seem so specific. Her sketches are PERFECT examples. And the cat, camel, and monkeys just made me smile :D

  6. Hello Andres,
    Those are some amazing sketches. I am an avid follower of your blog, its amazing study material.
    I did an internet search for more information on Brenda Spender but I am only getting the information that she was an Author, and worked with an artist named H .J Dowd.

    Was Brenda an artist as well?

  7. shreyas,
    Dowd was the writer, Spender was the artist.

  8. Forgive me, Andreas, but I am afraid 'shreyas51283' was correct: the artist was J H Dowd.

    A contemporary of E H Shepard (with whom he shared a talent for child observation) he contributed regularly to such magazines as 'Punch' and 'Country Life' and was, in fact, the first artist to depict A A Milne's famous teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, when the opening chapter was previewed in London's 'The Evening News' on Christmas Eve, 1925. When the book was published in the following October, the job went to Shepard (who had already illustrated Milne's 'When We Were Very Young'.

    Here's a (partial) list of Dowd books

  9. When I said Dowd was the first artist to depict Winnie-the-Pooh, I ought to have added that his drawing for 'The Evening News' also featured Christopher Robin – and looking, it has to be said, a tad more macho than Shepard's somewhat 'girly' depiction!

    If you ever come across my book Three Cheers for Pooh you'll find (page 53) Dowd's original Pooh picture as reproduced on an American storybook years later in 1944.

    Here's a little slide show of some more of Dowd's 'Important People'.

  10. Hi Brian,
    thank you for clearing all this up.
    The title page in my copy of "Important People" reads :
    by J.H.Dowd with pen pictures by Brenda E. Spender.
    A little confusing.
    Thanks for sending Dowd's partial book list, I'll try and get them all. And I just ordered your "Three cheers for Pooh".

    1. I think 'pen pictures' is an arch way of describing the accompanying text. It was a rather affected publishing phenomena of the 1920s and '30s. A A Milne wrote 'A Gallery of Children' in 1925 that was actually a book of stories written around a series of existing paintings by child artist, Henriette Willebeek Le Mair; and, a couple of years later, Eva Erleigh and E H Shepard collaborated on a baby record book, 'The Little One's Log'.

    2. This all makes sense to me now. Thank you Brian.
      I will show more J. H. Dowd art in a future post.

  11. Your blog always brings me a lot of joy and inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to share so much wonderful work. I enjoy looking back on the history of the industry, it seems with each generation reflection on past triumphs arent being acknowledged and are becoming lost. Thanks for making drawings like these more accessible to new generations of artists. I cannot thank you enough!

  12. This is so cool, thanks!

  13. I echo what Kendra says. Your blog inspires me. This is a an awesome post, and the comments have been educational as well. Thanks again!

  14. I found the book for sale here:
    I can't wait for it to arrive. Thanks, Andreas!

  15. Its been (almost) a year since this post...but I still find myself coming back here...these are amazing amazing sketches