Andrew Dodds

Prolific illustrator for books, newspapers and 'Radio Times'
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The Independent Online

Andrew Wilson Dodds, artist and teacher: born Gullane, East Lothian 5 May 1927; married 1952 Wendy Foster (two sons, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1972); died Ipswich 27 December 2004.

When, in 1951, the Radio Times wanted an artist to draw characters for the new broadcast serial The Archers, they made a shrewd choice in Andrew Dodds. He had been brought up on a farm and had illustrated for Farmers Weekly. Dodds created faces that would become inseparable from Dan and Doris Archer and their family. His models were close at hand: Dan was based on a neighbouring farmer near his home in Essex, Doris on Dodds's redoubtable mother Margaret, also a farmer.

Through to 1970, Dodds produced over 300 drawings for Radio Times. He was included in R.D. Usherwood's book Drawing for Radio Times (1961) and BBC Publications' The Art of Radio Times (1981) and was chosen by Martin Baker for the exhibition "Artists of Radio Times" at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 2002.

Work for Radio Times represented just a fraction of this distinctive artist's lifetime output. That included almost 50 years of teaching, thousands of drawings, commissions from major book publishers, magazines, industrial and other clients and a string of mixed and solo exhibitions. Ronald Blythe has written, "Andrew Dodds belongs to a great tradition in which text and pictures are an indivisible whole."

Dodds was born in Gullane, East Lothian, in 1927. He was the youngest son and one of eight children of Archie and Margaret Dodds. Archie ran a dairy in Gullane assisted by Margaret, the first woman to earn a degree in dairy management. During the Depression, when Andrew was only 18 months old, the Doddses moved south to be tenant farmers in Essex. All the family delivered bottles of milk around the district. When Archie died young, Margaret ran a farm while bringing up the family. This determined woman eventually owned a farm at Weeley, and bought another for one of her sons.

It was expected that Andrew would also farm, but in 1942 he won a scholarship to Colchester Art School. He had already developed a love of painting and drawing, although he had never been to an art gallery, met a professional artist or seen notable pictures, apart from the exciting posters on Shell tankers that delivered oil to the farm.

"These were reproduced from designs by Graham Sutherland, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Paul and John Nash and E. McKnight Kauffer," he said:

I just stared at those posters until the lorry unloaded and departed. And dreamed that perhaps, one day, I could produce something equal.

While at art school he sold a drawing and, thrilled, returned to tell his mother. "Oh, yes, I had to buy it," she said. "I couldn't have anyone else buying that rubbish."

Andrew Dodds did not enjoy National Service in the Navy, being sick at sea and ending up at a shore base in Malta. More enjoyable were his three years at the Central School of Art, in London, 1947-50, where he was taught by Roderic Barrett, who became a lifelong friend, and the taciturn William Roberts. In the life room, Roberts would beckon a student out of his seat, start drawing an eighth of an inch from the top of the paper and finish the figure an eighth of an inch from the bottom, rising without saying a word. Dodds could have had no finer model as a draughtsman.

After the Central School, Dodds hawked his portfolio around London. He gained employment from the Hulton Press in 1950, in 1951 being elected a member of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers. Work for Farmers Weekly and Radio Times followed.

Dodds worked on some 40 illustrated books for publishers including Dent, Longmans, Nelson and Michael Joseph. He was versatile in the subjects he tackled, books including Charles Edwin Benham's Essex Ballads (1960), Miss Read's Country Bunch (1963) and Hob and the Horse Bat (1965), Charles Loewenthal's London: biography of a city (1969) and Marjorie Ward's The Blessed Trade (1971), through to A Return to Flanders by the poet Martin Newell, published for the 2004 Poppy Day commemorations.

There were also illustrations for magazines such as Lilliput, Family Circle, Motor, Reader's Digest and Homes and Gardens, as well as for the Central Office of Information, ICI, the GPO and Essex University. In addition, there was advertising work, including "believe it or not, drawings for a full-page, farming advertisement for Shell".

In 1957, the London editor of the Eastern Daily Press asked Dodds to produce three drawings a week for his daily column. He did this job for 27 years, making over 4,500 drawings, 530 of which appeared in his 1994 book London Then. Throughout this period Dodds retained a home and studio in East Anglia. When a new editor decided that it was time to end his contribution, there were so many protests that he was reinstated to produce drawings of Suffolk and Norfolk. Latterly, the introduction of colour facilitated a weekly topographical watercolour. He drew for the paper for 47 years.

Dodds was also active as a teacher. He was a visiting illustration tutor two days a week at St Martin's School of Art in London from 1953 until 1972, then joined Suffolk College in Ipswich, until 1989. In 1983, he was elected a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers.

Although Dodds might add a figure, a bird or two or an incident back in his studio, he liked working on location, "the freshness of direct drawing carefully maintained to preserve wonderful moments of visual excitement". For several decades his companion on these trips was the Essex artist Charles Debenham. Their first expedition was to Yorkshire, living in a tent that Debenham had bought for his children. "When it rained, Andrew had to sleep curled up, otherwise his feet stuck out at the end."

There were more jaunts to such locations as Derbyshire and Cornwall, "painting solidly all day and boozing at night". Otherwise, they would tour East Anglia every week. "I very much doubt there is a village in Norfolk that Andrew did not draw," says Debenham. Using a fountain pen, Indian ink and occasionally watercolour, "he was an exceptional draughtsman, quick, accurate and with such an assurance of line".

London Then was produced by the Jardine Press, established by Andrew's artist son James. Before it, in 1987, Jardine, using an old treadle platen press, had produced Andrew's East Anglia Drawn. This was followed by East Anglian Sketchbook (1999), in the year of his solo show at Chappel Galleries, near Colchester, and one colour title, Here & There (2003), which included pictures done on holiday in Greece and Australia.

David Buckman