We were saddened when we learned (just last week) that the Chilean-born illustrator Fernando Krahn passed away in Barcelona on February 18, 2010.
Krahn illustrated quite a few children’s books and cartoons during his career, but we remember him best for just two of those projects—a pair of quasi-steampunk adventure books for young readers written by Jan Wahl: The Furious Flycycle (1968) and SOS Bobomobile!: Or the Further Adventures of Melvin Spitznagle and Professor Mickimecki (1973).
What is so special about The Furious Flycycle illustrations? Krahn sometimes employed a distinctive “wood-like” style of drawing. This was most pronounced in the Flycycle book, where the pen marks are predominantly vertical and the pictures almost seem to have been drawn upon the side of a barn (or a narrow-slatted fence). One can not help but notice an abundance of grain-like marks in these images. And most of the illustrations are framed within playfully rounded or oval borders that, although quite simple, add greatly to the book’s overall design.
The Flycycle drawings are thoughtful and meticulous without being obsessive. And they are fun. There are plenty of subtle mechanical details present for particularly curious eyes to explore … but we are all immediately drawn to the cast of pudgy-headed children and long-faced (and rather jowly) adults, whose old-fashioned apparel and technologically retro lives are, in a word, charming.
Krahn simplified his illustration style for the Bobomobile sequel; most of the “wood grain” and fancy borders disappeared. But the presence of familiar characters and the offer of a fresh adventure—complete with a new selection of invented gizmos—still makes this second volume a rather good read. •
Please Note: The image of Fernando Krahn that appears above is from a PBase.com photo gallery of cartoonists that was compiled by Christopher Wheeler.