Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

15 MAY, 2012

I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail: 17th-Century British “Trick” Poetry Meets Die-Cut Indian Folk Art

By:

Exquisite storytelling as exquisite artifact.

Rarely do I get this excited about the release of a book, but then again rarely does “book” fail to capture the artifactual whimsy and singular storytelling genius of a printed work so completely. From the team at Tara Books, who for the past 17 years have been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on remarkable handmade books, comes I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail — a die-cut masterpiece two years in the making, based on a 17th-century British “trick” poem and illustrated in the signature Indian folk art style of the Gond tribe by Indian artist Ramsingh Urveti, who brought us the magnificent The Night Life of Trees.

Each line of the “trick verse” builds upon the previous one, flowing into a kind of rhythmic redundancy embodied in the physical structure of the book as each repeating line is printed only once, but appears on two pages by peeking through exquisitely die-cut holes that play on the stark black-and-white illustrations. Thus, if read page by page the way one would read a traditional book, the poem sounds spellbindingly surreal — but if read through the die-cuts, a beautiful and crisp story comes together.

Not unlike Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes, a book once dubbed “unmakeable” by bookbinders, this project required a remarkable level of ingenuity to make the conceptual structure of the poem fit the physicality of the book as a storytelling artifact. Over on the Tara Books blog, Japanese-Brazilian RISD designer Jonathan Yamakami, responsible for the book design, recounts the challenges and the Eureka! moment:

From the very beginning the main challenge to me was: how do we create a book that presents both readings without actually printing the poem twice? A lot of different solutions were considered. I think [Tara Books founder] Gita Wolf was the one who hinted at the direction of die-cutting although was still open to other possibilities. Using transparent paper and printing with two colours was another suggestion, but there was an issue of cost and, more importantly, it just seemed too complex for a poem that was in itself so simple. After all, once you crack the puzzle that it holds, you can’t help but wonder how you could have missed it to begin with.

I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail is unlike any book you’ve ever held in your hands and in your heart, and outcharms even the most impressive die-cut books of the past decade.

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.

14 MAY, 2012

René Magritte’s Little-Known Art Deco Sheet Music Covers from the 1920s

By:

From wallpaper to Golconda by way of Art Deco.

Belgian Surrealist artist René Magritte may have carved his place in art history as a master of mind-bending, advertising-influenced imagery at the intersection of aesthetics and philosophy, but he also had a little-known early commercial career like other subsequently famous artists, including Warhol. Young Magritte made rent by working as a draughtsman at a wallpaper factory and designing graphic ephemera, among which were some 40 sheet music covers he produced in the 1920s, nearly two decades before Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover as we know it today.

'Marche des Snobs,' sheet music cover (1924). 13 3/4x10 1/2 inches, 35x26 3/4 cm. J. Buyst, Brussels

'Arlita / Chanson Lumineuse,' sheet music cover (c. 1925). 13 1/4x10 1/2 inches, 33 1/2x26 3/4 cm.

'Mes Rêves,' sheet music cover. 1926. 13 1/2x10 1/2 inches, 34 1/4x26 3/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

'Le Tango des Aveux,' sheet music cover (1926), 13 3/4x10 1/2 inches, 35x26 3/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

Nuits D'Adie/Fox - Trot. Sheet music cover (1925), 13 3/4x10 1/4 inches, 35x26 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

'Un Rien … (Nothing),' sheet music cover (1925). 13 3/4x10 3/4 inches, 35x27 1/4 cm. Éditions Musicales de l'Art Belge, Brussels.

For more on the delightfully obscure nooks of art history, see Secret Lives of Great Artists: What Your Teachers Never Told You About Master Painters and Sculptors.

Hyperallergic

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.

10 MAY, 2012

Her Idea: An Illustrated Allegory about Procrastination and the Creative Process

By:

A charming all-ages picture book about the endless dance between idea and execution.

The question of where good ideas come from and how creativity works has long fascinated artists and scientists alike, but the most believable and useful of answers often seem to spring from experience and intuition. Last week, the 99% Conference explored not just how ideas originate but also what it takes to make them happen through an admirable roster of speakers, including Australian designer and illustrator Rilla Alexander, who presented Her Idea — a story within a story about a girl named Sozi, who loves ideas but can never seem to finish them. Despite the delightful children’s aesthetic, the parable is really an allegory for procrastination and the frustrations of the creative process all too familiar to us alleged adults.

Hmm, maybe later
Not today anyway
It’s such a big task
And she’d much rather play

The book was accompanied by an equally clever and whimsical exhibition.

With its all-ages appeal, Her Idea is a fine addition to these timeless children’s books for grown-ups, and its clever cover joins the rank of these die-cut books to die for.

Images courtesy of Rilla Alexander

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.