Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

27 MAY, 2011

Radioactive: The Incredible Story of Marie Curie Told in Cyanotype

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What the periodic table has to do with obscure photographic techniques and Italian erotic séances.

Marie Curie is one of the most extraordinary figures in the history of science. A pioneer in researching radioactivity, a field the very name for which she coined, she was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize but also the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and in two different sciences at that, chemistry and physics. In Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, artist Lauren Redniss tells the story of Curie through the two invisible but immensely powerful forces that guided her life: Radioactivity and love. It’s a turbulent story — a passionate romance with Pierre Curie (honeymoon on bicycles!), the epic discovery of radium and polonium, Pierre’s sudden death in a freak accident in 1906, Marie’s affair with physicist Paul Langevin, her coveted second Noble Prize — under which lie poignant reflections on the implications of Curie’s work more than a century later as we face ethically polarized issues like nuclear energy, radiation therapy in medicine, nuclear weapons and more.

Most remarkable of all, however, is the thoughtfulness with which Redniss tailored her medium to her message, turning the book into a work of art in and of itself, every detail meticulously moulded to fit the essence of the narrative.

To stay true to Curie’s spirit and legacy, Redniss rendered her poetic artwork in an early-20th-century image printing process called cyanotype, critical to the discovery of both X-rays and radioactivity itself — a cameraless photographic technique in which paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals. Once exposed to the sun’s UV rays, this chemically-treated paper turns a deep blue color. The text in the book is a unique typeface Redniss designed using the title pages of 18th- and 19th-century manuscripts from the New York Public Library archive. She named it Eusapia LR, for the croquet-playing, sexually ravenous Italian Spiritualist medium whose séances the Curies used to attend. The book’s cover is printed in glow-in-the-dark ink.

Watch an endearingly nervous Redniss tell the story of her book and her creative process in this talk from the recent TEDxEast:

Stunningly beautiful in both concept and execution, Radioactive is a rare cross-pollination of art and science, the kind of storytelling that makes us care about stories.

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20 MAY, 2011

Live Now: Existential Affirmation by Design

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Publishing’s most positive tear sheets, or how a placemat can change your whole outlook on the day.

We were first moved by the contagious positivity behind the Live Now project more than a year ago, when it was a lovely website and growing community of designers and illustrators with a shared commitment to spreading messages of strength and hope. Today we’re thrilled that the movement has taken the form of a book, a kind of collector’s object of optimism.

Live Now gathers 85 of the project’s participants in print form, with a different page for each heartening design. Like the recently featured Everything Is Going To Be OK, Live Now‘s messages exhort the viewer to find the positive in the present moment – something much more attainable when you’re looking at such a beautiful reminder.

'Live Humbly' by Mikey Burton

'Harmony' by Eric Smith

'Friendship' by Emil Kozak

Eric Smith first founded Live Now following a diagnosis of cancer, and what started as a personal project of resilience grew organically into a “movement of happiness.” Today, Smith practices art direction, design, and illustration via his studio, IDRAWALLDAY, and continues to collaborate with a host of creative partners.

The basis of our message is that happiness is here for everyone—that there is a bigger picture for your life, and a will for each one of us. Do the people in your life “feel” your love? Do we inspire happiness in everyone around us? That’s our plan. ~ Eric Smith

'You're Going Places' by Ed Nacional

'Overflowing Optimism' by Chad Kouri

'Break Your Routine' by Mikey Burton

Rip out a life-affirming lesson from Live Now and share it with someone you love. Like the sentiments that inspired them, we guarantee that what you just gave away, you’ll more than gain in spirit.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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19 MAY, 2011

LE GUN 1,2,3: Bleeding-Edge Illustration from Around the Globe

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What flying to Paris has to do with creative entrepreneurship and global provocations.

In 2004, a small group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art founded art collective LE GUN and quietly started publishing one of the most compelling art and design magazines to come by in decades. Dedicated to celebrating the work of illustrators from around the globe, LE GUN instantly charmed audiences and critics, but its small scale and indie roots made access to it limited and coveted. Now, my friends from Mark Batty Publisher have gathered the first three issues of the magazine in LE GUN 1,2,3 — an impressive, handsome tome that captures LE GUN‘s rich spectrum of creativity and provocative, relentlessly original artwork.

In the book’s introduction, RCA professor Andrzej Klimowski, who advised the founding team, tells the project’s inspired story — a tale of imagination, transformation and creative entrepreneurship.

Many middle-aged people turn to their medicine cabinets for vitamin pills or, more drastically, turn to the knife for cosmetic surgery or the botox injection in a desperate attempt to hold onto their youth. I need only brush shoulders with the artists of LE GUN to be imbued with the elixir of life, which is so vital that it makes my hair stand on end.” ~ Andrzej Klimowski

With 400 pages and weighing in at over 6 pounds, the tome is, without any exaggeration, enormous.

Esoteric and beautiful, LE GUN 1,2,3 is an absolute treat of imagination, artistry and visual eloquence from cover to heavy cover.

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