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Product Focus: Dahlov Ipcar

Long, long ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, one wonderful egg sat all alone in a blue-green mossy nest at the base of a giant fern tree. But whose egg was it? And where did it come from?

Dahlov Ipcar is the author and illustrator of I Like Animals and The Wonderful Egg. Her paintings are mostly of beautiful abstract animals, in opulent bright patterns.

Between 1945 and the 70s Ipcar illustrated 33 children’s books, starting with The Little Fisherman (1945) and including The Cat at NightOne Horse Farm, and My Wonderful Christmas Tree.

Despite winning many American awards, influencing a generation before she went out of fashion - fans never forgot her. And despite dwindling sales, Ipcar has now been rediscovered in the 21st century. Her immense backlist has been relatively quiet in the UK, that is until recently when Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro, founders of Nobrow – a publishing company with the emphasis on high quality illustration, launched an imprint: Flying Eye Books, which includes artists and inspirations from many generations back.

Arthur and Spiro harboured her backlist over years, and their dream turned into a reality when they managed to track down Ipcar’s previous publisher Islandport Press, and even Ipcar herself, who is a self-confessed recluse. Their goal was to republish the books exactly as they originally looked. This was a challenge with Ipcar being a master of a technique that has now disappeared: four-colour separation, each colour printed separately, with layers building up.

The original ‘plates’ were lost, so they had work backwards from the finished books and separate out the colours. With the previous technique extinct, the colours and the paper had to be matched as closely as possible from contemporary sources. And with the textures that couldn’t be picked up digitally, these were recreated using traditional drawing skills.

The Wonderful Egg (1958) is about dinosaurs, depicted simply in blacks, beiges and oranges. All of them are identified, and scale drawings are included at the back, as well as a pronunciation list.

Spiro and Arthur of Nobrow are currently creating an Ipcar collection that is intended to fit “aesthetically and conceptually around her passion for animals".

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