Ernest Aris was born in Islington, London, on 22 April 1882, the son of a lithographic artist. During his childhood, his family moved to Bradford, and he first studied at the local Technical College and School of Art, gaining his diploma (1900) under the tutorship of Charles Stephenson. Later, he studied under Gerald Moira, among others, at the Royal College of Art.
Aris began his career as a portrait artist (in charcoal, wash and watercolour), and exhibited work at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours. However, he turned to publishing in the hope of establishing himself more quickly. During this period, he also worked as an art master at the International Correspondence School (1909-12).
Initially contributing to periodicals, Aris illustrated his first books in 1909, and soon developed into a prolific illustrator – and writer – for children.
His simple tales focussed on anthropomorphic woodland animals, the images being grounded in scientific preparatory studies, especially those made while living at Windermere. Beatrix Potter was a neighbour across the lake and, in 1916, Aris was asked to prepare illustrations for her story, ‘The Oakmen’, though this was never published.
Within a decade, Aris became so productive that he presented numerous stories under various pseudonyms, including Robin A Hood and Dan Crow. He also produced advertisements, cigarette cards, cartoons, games, jigsaw puzzles and postcards (the last using the signature EARIS).
In 1934, Aris was commissioned by Cadburys to design a range of animal characters that would be made by Britains and given away free with a new line of cocoa. The cast of animals also appeared in Aris’s illustrations to a comic, The Cococub News.
In 1943, Aris was elected to the membership of the Society of Graphic Artists. His last book as a writer appears to have been a drawing manual, The Art of the Pen (1948). However, he continued to illustrate books, including Dorothy Richards’ Ladybird series of ‘Tasseltip Tales’ (1947-53). Aris died in Hornsey, North London on 14 April 1963.