Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

17 MAY, 2012

20 of Today’s Most Exciting Artists and Illustrators Reimagine the Paper Plane

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What the quintessential childhood staple teaches us about the bounds of the imagination.

The paper airplane is among the most beloved of childhood toys — and for good reason: It seems to embody just the right balance of function and fantasy, of hands-on practicality and make-believability. In Little Paper Planes, 20 of today’s most exciting artists and illustrators — including Brain Pickings favorites Julia Rothman ( ), Lisa Congdon ( ), and Gemma Correll () — reimagine the childhood staple. From the literal yet expressive to the wildly abstract yet playable with, the designs range from a meticulously engineered plane mobile to a paper doll to a crumbled up piece of paper to a handful of shreds, and just about every imaginative in-between shape.

Kelly Lynn Jones, founder of pioneering artist community Little Paper Planes, writes in the introduction:

While working on this book, it became clear that the concept of the paper plane represented more than just a flying object, but brought up moments of nostalgia for childhood, varying perceptions on the act of making and creativity, and notions around authorship and the collaboration between artist and reader.”

Each paper plane design is prefaced by a short introduction to and single-question interview with the artist, contextualizing his or her work, background, and approach to art.

Julia Rothman

Gemma Correll

Lisa Congdon

Michael C. Hsiung

A refreshing treat for that timeless inner child, or the creatively-minded real child, Little Paper Planes reminds you that the limits of even the most seemingly formulaic and constrained of concepts are set only by the bounds and boundaries of the imagination.

Open Culture

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15 MAY, 2012

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

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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.

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10 MAY, 2012

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

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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

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