Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

12 SEPTEMBER, 2013

Well-Read Women: Gorgeous Watercolor Portraits of Literature’s Most Beloved Heroines

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Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Clarissa Dalloway, Holly Golightly, Daisy Buchanan, Lolita, and more.

When my friend Lisa Congdon and I started our Reconstructionists project — a yearlong illustrated celebration of women who changed the course of history and our understanding of the world — we knew that nearly half of them would end up being women of letters. Now, New-York-based painter and fashion illustrator Samantha Hahn is giving us the literary fiction counterpart to The Reconstructionists in Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines (public library) — a collection of expressive watercolor depictions of such literary icons as Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Holly Golightly, and Clarissa Dalloway, paired with a memorable quote by each character.

Though some of the typographic renderings could use a bit more love and the quote selections tend to reach for the popular over the profound, the portraits themselves, to which the screen does absolutely no justice here, are breathtaking — sometimes tender, sometimes intense, always thoughtfully evocative of each heroine’s persona and sensibility.

JANE EYRE

'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Brontë

NANCY

'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens

CLARISSA DALLOWAY

'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf

EMMA BOVARY

'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert

LARA GUISHAR

'Dr. Zhivago' by Boris Pasternak

ESTHER GREENWOOD

'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath

HOLLY GOLIGHTLY

'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote

Pair Well-Read Women with Lolita reimagined by modern graphic designers and The Graphic Canon — literary classics distilled by contemporary cartoonists and graphic artists.

Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

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10 SEPTEMBER, 2013

Nurse Lugton’s Curtain: Virginia Woolf’s Little-Known Children’s Story, in Gorgeous Watercolors

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A lovely allegory about the whimsical wonderland we enter as we slip into sleep.

In 1923, with her literary fame still ahead of her, beloved author and reconstructionist Virginia Woolf collaborated with her two teenage nephews, one of whom went on to become an intellectual tour de force in his own right, on a witty and wonderful family bulletin. It was there that Woolf’s first little-known children’s story, The Widow and the Parrot, made its debut. A year later, in 1924, Woolf penned another children’s tale but, like Gertrude Stein’s alphabet book, it only entered the world posthumously, in 1965. Nearly three decades later still, Nurse Lugton’s Curtain (public library) — the story of a whimsical world that lurks inside the pattern of the drawing-room curtain Nurse Lugton is quietly sewing, then comes alive as she falls asleep — was published in 1991 with expressive and enchanting watercolors illustrations by Julie Vivas.

This long-lost gem, alas out-of-print but still findable used, comes as a fine addition to other little-known children’s books by famous authors of literature for grown-ups, including previously uncovered treasures by Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Anne Sexton, T. S. Eliot, John Updike, and Jane Goodall.

Complement Nurse Lugton’s Curtain with Woolf’s first children’s story, then revisit the beloved author’s meditation on how to read a book and the only surviving recording of her voice.

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03 SEPTEMBER, 2013

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild: A Charming Modern-Day Fable about Authenticity and Acceptance

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Exorcising our repressed selves’ longing for freedom through lovely vintage-inspired illustrations.

Lovers of exceptional picture-books will be instantly enamored with Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (public library) by Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown — a charming modern-day fable about authenticity, daring to be different, and the often challenging quest for acceptance. Witty, wise, and full of Brown’s vibrant, vintage-inspired illustrations reminiscent of Charley Harper and The Provensens, it tells the story of a very proper Mr. Tiger who finds himself suffocated by social mores and, one fine day, decides to go wild. To craft the book’s distinctive, expressive sensibility, which bears a certain kinship to D. B. Johnson’s recently admired children’s adaptation of Thoreau’s philosophy, Brown blends watercolor, ink, pencil, and digital with a masterful sensitivity to color and texture.

On his Facebook page, Brown shares this lovely page of his sketchbook — a fine addition to the private sketchbooks of celebrated artists and designers — showing the very first Mr. Tiger drawing he made when he first began working on the book, followed by some character development sketches:

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is just as delightful as it appears to be. It comes on the heels of Brown’s 2012 collaboration with author Aaron Reynolds, Creepy Carrots.

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