Brain Pickings

In The Wilds: Illustrating the Charm of the Countryside

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An antidote to urbanity by way of bails of hay, or what Irish quasi-postmen have to do with art.

For all its blessings, one of the great tragedies of urban life is that we’ve lost the granularity of nature, the calm of the countryside, the quiet details of the soil after rain or a tree’s cracked bark or the soft glimmer of a summer field. That’s exactly what you’ll find in illustrator Nigel Peake‘s new book, In The Wilds — a lovely collection of hand-drawn illustrations that capture the near-forgotten charm of rural life. With his penchant for obsessive detail and neatness, Peake portrays the wild in a captivatingly structured, patterned way, blending whimsy and order in stunning pen sketches, ink drawings and soft, muted watercolors.

The country is peaceful. It is a place to draw and work and be surrounded by things that we could never make.” ~ Nigel Peake

And Peake should know — he lives in an Irish village with just one road, where he gets a rare outsider’s view of the inside of farm life and is frequently mistaken for the postman.

'Bails of hay collected (end of summer).'

Image courtesy of Nigel Peake via The Morning News

'Pallets stacked in yard'

Image courtesy of Nigel Peake via The Morning News

'The barn structure stands alone, surrounded by discarded and ordered fragments.'

Image courtesy of Nigel Peake via The Morning News

'The fallen scarecrow.'

Image courtesy of Nigel Peake via The Morning News

'Bails wrapped in plastic (for winter).'

Image courtesy of Nigel Peake via The Morning News

Images courtesy of the artist via The Morning News

This book is a record of a quiet place that nearly everyone has visited at some point, and the farmland is part of this—a place where the lanes of farms run along the lake that is beside the hill of trees that is neighbor to open spaces.” ~ Nigel Peake

In The Wilds comes from Princeton Architectural Press, who have a knack for thoughtful visual delights, as you might recall from The Map as Art and FORM+CODE.

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The Music of Philip Glass, Visualized in Fractals

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What fractals have to do with classical music and the secret of Einstein’s genius.

I’m obsessed with synesthesia and the visual language of music, and love the work of Philip Glass, often considered the greatest living composer. Naturally, I’m head over heels with these spellbinding fractal visualizations by Russian artist Tatiana Plakhova, abstracting Glass’s music graphically.

Plakhova got a Master’s in social psychology before finding her calling in visual language — a living testament to my wholehearted belief in the creative potency of cross-disciplinary eloquence. (Einstein, for instance, famously attributed his greatest breakthroughs in physics to his violin breaks — he believed they helped parts of his brain connect in new ways.)

See the rest of Plakhova’s stunning work on her aptly titled site, Complexity Graphics.

via @kirstinbutler

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Cultural Connectives: Understanding Arab Culture Through Typography

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What typography has to do with cross-cultural understanding and linguistic minimalism.

I’m obsessed with language, such a crucial key to both how we understand the world and how the world understands us. In today’s political and media climate, we frequently encounter the Middle East in the course of our daily media diets, but these portrayals tend to be limited, one-note and reductionist. We know precious little about Arab culture, with all its rich and layered multiplicity, and even less about its language. On the heels of last month’s excellent Arabic Graffiti comes Cultural Connectives — a cross-cultural bridge by way of a typeface family designed by author Rana Abou Rjeily that brings the Arabic and Latin alphabets together and, in the process, fosters a new understanding of Arab culture.

Both minimalist and illuminating, the book’s stunning pages map the rules of Arabic writing, grammar and pronunciation to English, using this typographic harmony as the vehicle for better understanding this ancient culture from a Western standpoint.

The book jacket unfolds into a beautiful poster of a timeless quote by Gibran Khalil Gibran, rendered in Arabic:

We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.” ~ Gibran Khalil Gibran

Beautifully designed and conceptually thoughtful, Cultural Connectives is another gem from my friends at Mark Batty Publisher, firmly planting them as one of the most ambitious, creative and culturally relevant independent publishers of our time.

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