Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

20 DECEMBER, 2011

I Want My Hat Back: Charming Children’s Illustration by Jon Klassen

By:

“My hat is gone. Nobody has seen it.”

Somehow, I missed Jon Klassen’s lovely I Want My Hat Back in the omnibus of the year’s best children’s books.

But it’s here, and it’s wonderful — part Charlie Harper, part Oliver Jeffers, part Edward Gorey, part something charmingly, entirely its own — a delightful dark story, whose understated narrative and deadpan heroes read, somehow, incredibly expressive.

HT vintage kids’ books my kid loves; images courtesy of Jon Klassen

Donating = Loving

In 2011, bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings took more than 5,000 hours. If you found any joy and stimulation here this year, please consider a modest donation.





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

15 DECEMBER, 2011

Maira Kalman + Daniel Handler Illustrate a Breakup Through Significant Objects

By:

What sugar and a pinhole camera have to do with the ephemeral ephemera of impossible love.

Few things can steer me towards fiction these days, but a collaboration between Daniel Handler (better-known to the world as Lemony Snicket) and the great Maira Kalman is positively among them. Such is the case of Why We Broke Up, which tells the poignant, bittersweet story of a teenage romance gone awry through objects of special significance, which make cameos in a letter Min is writing to break up with her boyfriend, Ed. These emotional ephemera, each imbued with a specific memory of their ephemeral but monumental love, are captured in Kalman’s signature childlike artwork, and bespeak a kind of truth at once more fluid and more infallible than fact.

And if you’ve ever found yourself in love, in impossible love, you’ll relate to the heroine’s objectified lament.

I stand entwined in fire on the inextinguishable bonfire of inconceivable love.”

The book’s companion Tumblr lets you voyeuristically read other people’s break-up stories and share your own. Stories are divided into amusingly titled categories, ranging from the petty (“I can’t believe how disgusting you were”) to the outraged (“I just can’t believe it”) to the vulnerable (“I’d take you back in a minute”).

The story, of course, exudes Handler’s unmistakable wit and intelligent humor, underpinned by a kind of self-consciously self-conscious humanity.

Why We Broke Up comes a little over a year after Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman’s first collaboration, the lovely children’s book 13 Words.

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.

02 DECEMBER, 2011

The Astonishing Visual Lists of Autistic Savant Gregory Blackstock

By:

From owls to lighthouses, or what a sixty-something retired pot washer can teach us about art and love.

He has been called an “anthropologist of the everyday,” a beacon of Outsider Art. His work is part Lists, part Drawing Autism, part Pictorial Webster’s, part something entirely its own and entirely remarkable. Seattle-based artist Gregory Blackstock is an autistic savant who, after retiring from a lifetime as a pot washer at the age of 58, captivated the art world with the obsessive, meticulous drawings he’d been making over 18 years of after-hours. Blackstock’s Collections, the brainchild of Karen Light-Piña of Garde Rail Gallery, who discovered Blackstock in 2003, catalogs his astounding visual lists of everything from hats to owl varieties, made with a pencil, a black marker, some crayons, and superhuman attention to detail.

Each of the lists, which feature such diverse and offbeat entries as Monsters of the Deep, The Great Cabbage Family, Classical Clowns, Our State Lighthouses, and The Irish Joys — is lovingly captioned in Blackstock’s wonderfully neat yet almost child-like handwriting.

In the introduction, Light-Piña recounts the following anecdote, which captures both the sharp precision of Backstock’s mind and the degree to which it is like water to a fish for the artist:

His remarkable memory serves Blackstock well as he renders images on paper with paper, markers, and crayons. I commented on how many tiny differences there were in the teeth from one saw blade to the next in his piece The Saws. He replied, in a somewhat frustrated tone, that it took him two visits to Home Depot to memorize them all. He uses no straightedge (‘No need,’ he says) yet his layout is impeccable. And if asked, he can reproduce the same images exactly, time and again — a skill to cartooning or illustration, professions in which Blackstock might have excelled under different circumstances.”

The book is also a thoughtful meditation on the mystique of Savant Syndrome and how it has wedged itself in popular culture as the source of such astonishing art. In the foreword, physician Darold A. Treffert reflects:

Savant Syndrome, then, is a three-legged stool. It combines idiosyncratic circuits and genetic memory, intense motivation and practice, and a supportive and loving family and/or caretakers who value the savant not just for what he or she does but for who he or she is… Savants are geniuses who live among us; they hint at geniuses that might lie within us.”

A glimpse of a striking mind that falls somewhere between Daniel Tammet’s and Stephen Wiltshire’s, Blackstock’s Collections is nothing short of extraordinary.

Thanks, Carol in Seattle

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.