Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘typography’

01 AUGUST, 2013

Stunning Handcrafted Felt-on-Felt Typographic Homage to Melville’s Moby-Dick

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“Almost forgetting for the moment all thoughts of Moby Dick, we now gazed at the most wondrous phenomenon which the secret seas have hitherto revealed to mankind.”

Herman Melville (August 1, 1819–September 28, 1891) was the first writer to have his life’s work published by the Library of America. His 1851 masterpiece Moby-Dick (free download; public library) is considered one of the greatest books of all time and has since spawned countless creative homages, from Matt Kish’s irresistible daily drawings of the novel’s pages, which were among the best art books of 2011, to these lovely typographic prints supporting global literacy. To mark Melville’s birthday, here comes a gorgeous felt-on-felt typographic Moby-Dick cover concept by modern sage, author, artist, and interviewer extraordinaire Debbie Millman:

Debbie has previously illustrated Anaïs Nin on love, Edith Windsor’s historic call with President Obama, and astronaut Sally Ride’s legacy. See more of her work on her site and revisit her exceptional commencement address on courage and the creative life.

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24 MAY, 2013

Id-Grids and Ego-Graphs: A Typographic Confabulation with Finnegans Wake

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“First we feel. Then we fall.”

Long before the Tumblr era of visual quotes, long before the ubiquity of typographic treatments of famous words, long before the age of art and design projects inspired by literary classics, in 1978, to be precise, Brooklyn-born artist and poet Jacob Drachler (1909-1998) released Id-Grids and Ego-Graphs: A Confabulation With Finnegans Wake (public library) – a visually gripping suite of 44 graphics that captures in a beautifully abstract, ethereal yet tangibly coherent way the essence of the dense Joyce classic.

Drachler writes in the foreword:

I have mined the immense “Unterwealth” of Finnegans Wake, not with the aim of illustrating Joyce’s mythic narrative, but rather to tap into the energies of his truly protean language, and thus to bring about new contexts of word and image. Having been for many years a spellbound delver in the Wake, I began, for this project, a systematic culling out of hundreds of brief texts that spoke to me with particular resonance. I would then comb back and forth through these texts somewhat the way a water-douser follows his forked branch. Texts would call forth forms and forms would find their texts. The new contexts which were thus given shape are, to be sure, merely one man’s response to Joycean insights — a confabulation with a fabled work.

Thanks to Austin’s wonderful South Congress Books, where I found Joyce’s little-known poems, I got my hands on one of the few surviving copies — here is a glimpse of the deliciousness inside:

Though this gem is sadly long out of print, used copies can still be found. Happily, my limited-edition find includes this gorgeous original screenprint, signed by Drachler:

Take the abstraction level down a significant notch, but not the visual delight, with some illustrations from Joyce’s posthumously discovered children’s book.

Thanks to my friends at the School of Visual Arts for letting me use their large scanner.

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04 JANUARY, 2013

The Lives They Lived: Artists Remember Cultural Heroes We Lost

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“Because she declared, ‘We’ve come a long way,’ and she led our way to get here.”

Last month, I had the pleasure — as much as writing about a dead personal hero can be called a “pleasure” — of contributing to The New York Times’ annual The Lives They Lived series, commemorating cultural icons whom we lost in the past year. (It’s of little surprise I chose Ray Bradbury.) Among the other entries were a number of visual remembrances — including Christoph Niemann’s soul-stirring Sendak tribute — of such luminaries as Nora Ephron, Neil Armstrong, and Sally Ride. Gathered here are some favorites.

Debbie Millman honors Sally Ride in a handmade visual essay of felt typography soft-sculpted onto felt fabric.

Conceptual artist Rachel Perry Welty recreates Meg Ryan’s soliloquy from Nora Ephron's 'When Harry Met Sally' in a collage using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary in The New York Times.

Berlin-based illustrator and graphic designer Katrin Rodegast celebrates the jazz composer Dave Brubeck by layering black and white paper.

Artist Winnie Truong recalls some of his most famous looks from the manual 'Cutting Hair the Vidal Sassoon Way,' the blueprint to the coiffure aesthetic that defined the 1950s and 1960s.

A rendering of Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 suit by artist Tom Sachs, based on the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

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