Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

20 OCTOBER, 2011

Spike Jonze’s Handmade Stop-Motion Love Story for Bibliophiles


How to punch a whale, or what Dracula has to do with Faulkner and Macbeth.

When beloved director Spike Jonze, he of Being John Malkovic and Where The Wild Things Are fame, met handbag designer Olympia Le-Tan, he fell in love with her intricate embroidery and asked for an embroidered cover of Catcher in the Rye to put on his wall. Le-Tan agreed, but asked for a film in return. The result was Mourir Auprès de Toi (To Die By Your Side) — an absolutely beautiful stop-motion animation for book-lovers that’s part This Is Where We Live, part Going West, part creative magic only Spike Jonze can bring.

Set inside iconic Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, the film tells the story of the skeleton from the cover of Macbeth, voiced by Jonze himself, who falls in love with Mina Harker on the cover of Dracula. He sets out to meet her, but loses his head to a French version of The Big Clock on the way, trips and falls into Faulkner’s Sartoris, and is then swallowed by Moby-Dick. Harker, voiced by French singer Soko, springs to his rescue, punching the legendary whale in the face with a mischievous smirk. The happily-ever-after ending comes only after an appropriately dark and grim twist.

(We also seem to have a running theme of whales this month, first with the stunning Moby-Dick in Pictures, then the poetic animation about the afterlife of a whale, and now this embroidered stop-motion goodness.)

You just start with what the feeling is. For this one the feeling definitely started with the handmade aesthetic and charm of Olympia’s work. Instantly I had the idea of doing it in a bookstore after-hours, imagining the lights coming down and these guys off their books. Me and Olympia both wanted to make a love story, and it was fun to do it with these characters. It evolved naturally and it all just started with the feeling. From there you entertain yourself with ideas that excite you.” ~ Spike Jonze

Here’s Jonze on the inspired making of the film:

via Slate

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19 OCTOBER, 2011

A Sky Full of Kindness: Rob Ryan’s Remarkable Cut-Paper Illustrations


Lessons on love from two illustrated birds, or why we never really grow up.

I have a soft spot for intricate paper art, and hardly does it get more intricate and beautiful than in the work of British artist Rob Ryan, whose papercuts and screen prints are imbued with a kind of whimsy to which the screen does little justice. His new book, A Sky Full of Kindness, captures this delicate analog magic through a narrative crafted entirely out of exquisite cut-paper illustrations that whisper to you pithy, poetic words to make your heart smile. It tells the story of a few adventurous birds, but it’s really a story about love, overcoming fear, and being human. A follow-up to Ryan’s equally delightful 2009 gem, This Is For You, the slim but infinitely delightful tome is as much a work of a work of art as it is an homage to the beauty and poetry of paper books.

Ryan’s work is also on Etsy and the fine folks there have put together this lovely short film about him, part of their excellent Handmade Portraits series:

We’re all the same people we were when we were children, we’re just bigger, and pretend that we’re not.”

One of the most poetic artworks from the book is also available as a screenprint on Etsy:

Simon Lewin over in the UK has a wonderful Instagram sneak peek of the book itself:

Part Live Now in spirit, part The Night Life of Trees in analog whimsy, and entirely original at its heart, A Sky Full of Kindness is a rare piece of visual philosophy bound to make you glow on the inside.

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19 OCTOBER, 2011

Depression-Era Woodcuts by Lynd Ward, Father of the Graphic Novel


What vintage woodcut engravings have to do with #OccupyWallStreet.

Some time ago, we marveled at the work of graphic novel pioneer Lynd Ward (1905-1985), whose stunning wordless woodcuts sparked a new dawn of visual storytelling. The genre has since expanded across everything from Hollywood to serious nonfiction — cue in these 10 masterpieces of graphic nonfiction or the recent Richard Feynman graphic biography. From the Library of America comes a fantastic celebration of Ward’s legacy: Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts collects the artist’s most seminal work in a treasure trove of woodcut goodness created between 1929 and 1937, incredibly costly and near-impossible to find prior to the publication of this volume.

More than mere eye candy — which the stark, bold, intensely detailed wood engravings certainly are — Ward’s work is also a thoughtful meditation on both the nature of art and the nature of society before and during the Great Depression, exploring a number of social and labor issues that have found a Renaissance in today’s #OccupyWallStreet movement and the general socioeconomic tensions of our time.

An introduction from the one and only Art Spiegelman adds an appropriate dose of entertaining snark and perceptive cultural commentary.

[Ward] is one of only a handful of artists anywhere who ever made a ‘graphic novel’ until the day before yesterday.” ~ Art Spiegelman

The Library of America has an excellent interview with Spiegelman (PDF):

All novels require some mental adjustment in order to understand a writer’s meaning. But yes, in Ward’s books you have something that has its own operating system. This requires slowing down to understand it. Come at it from one angle and you’re looking at a bunch of incoherent, unconnected pictures. From another angle you see a very tightly woven narrative that rewards contemplation and a revisiting of how it’s told as well as what’s being told. Each of his books teaches itself.”

At the end of each wordless story you’ll find the artist’s comments about his creative process and inspiration for the story, which adds another layer of fascination as you compare and contrast those with your own visceral interpretation of the narrative.

In keeping with this revived interest in Ward’s work, independent filmmakers 217 Films are currently working on a documentary about the artist, titled O Brother Man: The Art and Life of Lynd Ward and scheduled to release in December.

Wordless yet speaking volumes about art and social justice, Lynd Ward: Six Novels in Woodcuts is a beautiful and layered piece of cultural history, the kind of work you return to again and again only to find new dimensions each time.

Images courtesy of the Library of America

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