Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

24 NOVEMBER, 2010

Mad Men: The Illustrated World


Tips for the modern metrosexual from the 1960s, or what martinis have to do with Twitter.

Yes, we love Mad Men goodies, who doesn’t? Nearly two years ago, we featured NYC-based illustrator, designer and comedian Dyna Moe‘s absolutely wonderful Mad Men illustrations. The series eventually charmed AMC into launching the popular Mad Men Yourself app, which has since populated countless Twitter streams with Mad-Menified avatars.

This fall, Dyna Moe released her dynamite work in Mad Men: The Illustrated World — a truly, truly fantastic book that captures not only everything we love about Mad Men, but also the broader cultural landscape of the era, from fashion and style to office culture to lifehacks like hangover workarounds and secretary etiquette.

Mad Men Illustrated

Mad Men Illustrated

Mad Men Illustrated

With stunning, vibrant illustrations inspired by the aesthetic and artistic style of vintage ads from the 1960s, the book is a priceless and colorful timecapsule of an era few of us lived in but most of us romanticize.

Mad Men Illustrated

And, of course, effort to capture the spirit of the era would be complete without the spirits of the era.

Mad Men Illustrated

Conceptually playful and artistically ambitious, Mad Men: The Illustrated World is the perfect gift for the vintage revivalist, illustration aficionado or Mad-Men-holic in your life, and a fine addition to your own collection of paper-based design gems.

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22 NOVEMBER, 2010

Just a Few Cards: 9 Artists Reimagine the Holiday Card


What exploding Christmases have to do with data visualization and mid-century nautica.

We’re longtime fans of artist Paul Octavious. This season, he’s back with another fantastic project, and he brought a few friends. Just a Few Cards is a collaborative project by Octavious and 8 top designers and illustrators, including Brain Pickings favorite Jacob Livengood and the one and only Nick Felton, who reenvisioned the holiday greeting in a beautiful series of 9 cards, one by each artist.

It started with a conversation between Paul Octavious and Shawn Kelley about the state of Christmas cards and the resurgence of a desire for giving and receiving physical, handwritten notes. That conversation quickly turned into a ‘What if…’ brainstorming session, followed by quick emails to make sure we weren’t completely crazy and ultimately what you see here.”

For just $18, you can get a choice of 9 cards by a sampler set with one from each artist — Julian Callos, Nick Felton, Julia Sonmi Heglung, Kyle Steed, Jay Schaul, Joe Van Wetering, Jacob Livengood, Mark Weaver, and Paul Octavious himself — plus 9 envelopes and one lovely pen.

Seasons Graphings by Nick Felton

Christmas Cookie Crisis by Jacob Livengood

Snowflake by Paul Octavious

Wishing You a Happy Holiday by Julia Sonmi Heglund

peace love and joy by Kyle Steed

Exploded Christmas Tree by Joe Van Wetering

Warm It Up! by Julian Callos

Midcentury Holidays by Mark Weaver

Merry Christmas by Jay Schaul

And here’s our treat just for you: Paul has generously offered to give away a deluxe set Brain Pickings readers — 9 cards, a pack of 3 pens, and 10 US First Class postage stamps. To enter, simply sign up for our newsletter (if you haven’t already) and leave a comment below telling us what your fondest holiday image is — childhood doodle, famous photograph, Dr. Seuss illustration, fine art painting, whatever — and what makes it special for you, then sit tight until Friday, when Paul will hand-pick his favorite answer.

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19 NOVEMBER, 2010

Paula Scher on Combinatorial Creativity


Paula Scher is one of our favorite designers and arguably the most daring typographer in design history, whose work never ceases to surprise, delight and provoke, thriving on reinvention yet oozing Scher’s unmistakable style. In this excellent microdocumentary, part of Hillman Curtis’ artist series, Scher recounts her creative process on some of her best-known projects, including her famous Citi identity work the iconic New York Public Theater campaign, which evolved into a whole new style that eventually permeated the New York design aesthetic across multiple facets.

The reason we find this interview particularly compelling is that, when talking about how she created the iconic Citi logo on a napkin in a matter of seconds, Scher echoes our founding beliefs in combinatorial creativity — the concept that ideas are born out of the myriad pieces of stuff populating our memories, our knowledge base, our mental pool of inspiration and resources, and creativity is simply the capacity to put those together in incredible new ways.

How can it be that you talk to someone and it’s done in a second? But it IS done in a second — it’s done in a second and 34 years. It’s done in a second and every experience, and every movie, and every thing in my life that’s in my head.

For more on and of Scher, you won’t go wrong with Make It Bigger, her fantastic 2005 book (and one of our five favorite book designs by famous designers), nor would her compelling TED talk on serious versus solemn design disappoint.

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19 NOVEMBER, 2010

Gadget Sculptures: The Afterlife of Devices


What bionic mosquitoes have to do with vintage cinema and sustainability.

Given the passionate love affair most of us have with our gadgets, we give surprisingly little thought to their afterlife. And when we do, it’s for purely utilitarian concerns of reselling and recycling. But for old gizmos can actually provide a fascinating and unusual canvas and raw material for art. Here are three artists who create fantastic and fantastical sculptures from old gadgets, breathing a new kind of animated whimsy into what was once a mere conduit of communication.


Artist Jeremy Mayer is part MacGuyver, part Michelangelo. He disassembles old typewriters and reassembles them into fantastic full-scale, anatomically correct sculptures that emanate a kind of techno-dystopian romanticism.

He uses no glue, soldering or welding, just pure physics and patience.

I do not introduce any part in the assemblage that did not come from a typewriter.” ~ Jeremy Mayer

Mayer’s sculptures embody the haunting retro-futurism of Fritz Lang’s aesthetic — something particularly timely given this month’s highly anticipated DVD release of the complete restored Metropolis.


Mike Rivamonte creates delightfully playful robots from vintage cameras, radios, microphones and other antique ephemera, some more than a century old. Each of the robots has its own personality, infused with the kind of charm that Rivamonte’s whimsical touch brings out of the cold metal parts.



Cuban-born artist Steven Rodrig creates sculptures that hit the spot for art lovers, geeks and environmentalists alike. Made of recycled circuit boards and other computer parts, his remarkable creations range from insects to flowers to intricate cityscapes, rescuing PCBs from the landfills they would otherwise haunt for a few thousand years.

My goal is to manipulate each PCB into becoming an organic life form “~ Steven Rodrig

And on an important PSA aside, recycling your electronics is no small matter. Even if you can’t masterfully reassemble them into artistic creations, it doesn’t mean you can’t dispose of them responsibly — just consult this handy EPA guide to e-cycling.

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 an example. Like? Sign up.