Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

14 AUGUST, 2013

Homer for Young Readers: The Provensens’ Vibrant Vintage Illustrations for the Iliad & Odyssey

By:

Ancient Greek mythology meets mid-century art.

Few artists have done more to enchant generations of children with storytelling than wife-and-husband duo Alice and Martin Provensen, whose vibrant mid-century illustrations span everything from classic fairy tales to an homage to William Blake. (Their 1944 gem The Animal Fair was featured in my recent collaboration with The New York Public Library as one of 10 favorite books about animals.) Born on August 14, 1917, Alice plowed through the era’s tragic bias against female artists; she survived Martin, who died in 1987, by more than two decades and continues to draw well into her nineties.

In 1956, New York’s Golden Press — makers of the fantastic Little Golden Books series — commissioned the Provensens to illustrate an adaptation of Homer for young readers, and The Iliad and the Odyssey: A Giant Golden Book (public library) was born — a stunning large-format volume, sadly relegated to the tragic out-of-print corner of culture, but still obtainable used. Enjoy some of the Provensens’ timelessly wonderful drawings:

The Iliad and the Odyssey is delightful in its entirety and could have easily inspired The Ancient Book of Myth and War, that lovely side project by four Pixar animators.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

13 AUGUST, 2013

The Making of a 21st-Century Illuminated Manuscript: Inside Debbie Millman’s Creative Process

By:

How an illustrated poem comes to life.

“Start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy lovesickness, and run with it,” wrote friend-of-Brain Pickings Debbie Millman in her superb illustrated-essay-turned-commencement-address on courage and the creative life, based on her 2009 book Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design. That piece, in fact, went on to become one of the most-read, most-shared articles in the entire history of Brain Pickings, as well as the source of some of the most moving and personal reader letters I’ve ever received, and other excerpts from Look Both Ways emerge as the most-played Literary Jukebox pairings of all time. So it’s with enormous joy and excitement I share the news that the sequel to this gem, Self-Portrait as Your Traitor: Visual Essays by Debbie Millman — a spectacular collection of illustrated essays and poems on everything from love to (self-)forgiveness to the Super Bowl, blending the deeply personal mesmerism of a memoir with the profound, universal resonance of philosophy on our shared human triumphs and tribulations — is coming this fall and has just been released for pre-order.

Debbie’s enchanting hand-lettered type — sometimes tender, sometimes gritty, always breathtaking in its visceral candor — makes for a moving masterpiece of a singular art form that speaks to our deepest longings for beauty, honesty, and the ineffable magic of what it means to live.

In the introduction, legendary graphic designer Paula Scher captures the book’s singular spell:

Debbie Millman has demonstrated her ability to combine thoughts about design and everyday life with her own obsessive hand-drawn typography, creating a new form of visual poetry. She has invented a 21st century illuminated manuscript.

To celebrate the pre-release, here is an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek at Debbie’s creative process for “Pebbles,” the book’s final and most personal poem, which began as a submission to the New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest:

And here is a sneak peek at a portion of the contact sheet containing the remaining illustrated essays and poems from the book:

Start getting excited about Self-Portrait as Your Traitor, and revisit this taste of the magnificent Look Both Ways.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

12 AUGUST, 2013

Salvador Dalí Illustrates Montaigne: Sublime Surrealism from a Rare 1947 Limited Edition, Signed by Dalí

By:

Two of history’s most formidable talents, at the intersection of literature at art.

In 1946, more than twenty years before his little-known and lovely illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was commissioned by the creatively ambitious Doubleday publishing house (who also released a number of books with stunning cover art by Edward Gorey and enlisted young Andy Warhol as a freelance artist) to illustrate The Essays of Michel De Montaigne (public library) in a special limited edition of 1,000 copies. Dalí, forty-two at the time and already an avid admirer of Montaigne’s mind, leapt at the opportunity. What resulted, published in 1947, was nothing short of a masterpiece — an intersection of literature and art, of two formidable talents, unlike almost anything else except perhaps Ulysses illustrated by Matisse and Sendak’s illustrations of Tolstoy.

I was fortunate enough to track down one of the last surviving signed copies, #101 no less, but unsigned ones — which are also respectably rare — can still be found online for gobsmackingly little — as little, in fact, as $6.99 at the time of this writing.

For our shared delight, here are Dalí’s color folios and black-and-white etchings — sensual, otherworldly, appropriately surrealist, just the right amount of bizarre — from my copy of the book, captioned after the original Montaigne essay they illustrate. (The essays themselves — timeless wisdom on life, morality, and the human condition — are in the public domain, thus available as a free download, and are very much worth a read.)

Portrait of Michel de Montaigne by Salvador Dalí

'The Force of Imagination'

'Of Physiognomy'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'Upon Some Verses of Virgil'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That To Study Philosophy Is To Learn To Die'

'That We Taste Nothing Pure'

'That We Taste Nothing Pure'

'Resemblance of Children to Fathers'

'Resemblance of Children to Fathers'

'Of Repentance'

'Of Coaches'

'Of Vanity'

'Of Vanity'

'Of Experience'

'Of Custom, and That We Should Not Easily Change a Law Received'

'Of the Education of Children'

'That Fortune Is Oftentimes Observed to Act by the Rules of Reason'

'That Fortune Is Oftentimes Observed to Act by the Rules of Reason'

'Of Cannibals'

'Of Democritus and Heraclitus'

'Of Age'

'Of Age'

'Of Drunkenness'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Presumption'

'Of Glory'

'Of Thumbs'

Try your luck at grabbing a surviving copy, and be sure to revisit Dalí’s drawings for Alice in Wonderland.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.