A young woman stands admiring herself in a mirror. She is wearing a hideous outfit like something Abba would wear. It’s the 1970s. She is in a department store. We can see her face reflected in the mirror. It is contorted into an unflattering rictus of nervous glee. A face no professional model would pull; it says look at me, I’m in a photoshoot… I am going to be in a book... a Ladybird book… But we are not looking at a photograph. This is a small gouache painting, about A4. Painted by the slick, no nonsense hand of a craftsman, an illustrator. Not a trendy pissing-about on a Mac illustrator like we have these days (like me.) A real, sitting-at-an-art-board, smoking-a-pipe illustrator. Winter sunlight is streaming in through a patio door from a large surrey garden. Jimmy Young is on the radio. He can knock out two of these Ladybird illustrations a day, regular as clockwork, and they are all perfect. Just keep sending the cheques and the source photos.
And what of the source photographs? Well I have never seen one but they are not very good are they? Bad compositions, with harsh flash, glaring in people's faces. And what kinds of faces? Like the girl in the department store, these images are full of silly, nervous people; either awkward and fidgety; or rigid and stony-faced, stuck too hard in some over-stiff pose. Trying to look natural. Failing. Friends of the photographer no doubt, or hapless bystanders. Or perhaps they are the real deal? That milkman there, perhaps he is a real milkman, one of the best. It's just that doing his round at lunchtime instead of 4am so the man from Ladybird can take his picture, has sent him into a kerfuffle. He's done his tie up too tight and can't stop fidgeting with it, can't stop looking at the camera.