Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

21 OCTOBER, 2011

Stunning Subjectivity: Obsessive Typographic Maps by Paula Scher

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An irreverent, artful antidote to GPS appification, or what the NYC subway has to do with tsunamis.

Iconic designer Paula Scher is one of my big creative heroes, her thoughts on combinatorial creativity a perfect articulation of my own beliefs about how we create. Since the early 1990s, Scher has been creating remarkable, obsessive, giant hand-painted typographic maps of the world as she sees it, covering everything from specific countries and continents to cultural phenomena. This month, Princeton Architectural Press is releasing Paula Scher: MAPS — a lavish, formidable large-format volume collecting 39 of her swirling, colorful cartographic points of view, a beeline addition to my favorite books on maps.

I began painting maps to invent my own complicated narrative about the way I see and feel about the world. I wanted to list what I know about the world from memory, from impressions, from media, and from general information overload. These are paintings of distortions.” ~ Paula Scher

(Cue in cartograms.)

A foreword by Simon Winchester contextualizes Scher’s maps as cultural objects, and an introduction by Scher herself offers a peek inside the mind and personal history that sprouted her cartographic creativity.

A Paula Scher map is both detached from reality and yet at the same time becomes an entirely new reality, one that manages to be useless and essential all at once. What follows here is cartography as living art — fun and whimsical, obsessively made, and knowingly offered, lovingly, to be read… Maps such as these are never ever to be replaced by the cold blinking eyes of the GPS. Use them, enjoy them, glory in their madness.” ~ Simon Manchester

Cherry on top: The cover jacket folds out into her legendary colorful map of the world.

The World, 1998

NYC Transit, 2007 (left); Manhattan at Night, 2007 (right)

China, 2006

Africa, 2003

Shock and Awe, 2005

International Air Routes, 2008

The Dark World, 2007

Tsunami, 2006

Sample Scher’s extraordinary mind and creative process with her now-legendary talk from Serious Play 2008:

Artful and opinionated, Paula Scher: MAPS is a beautiful antidote to the sterile objectivity of location-aware apps and devices, reminiscent of Ward Shelley’s analog data visualization and the poetic subjectivity of You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination, but presaging both and shining with Scher’s own distinct, quirky, visionary voice.

Images courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press // Thanks, Russell

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19 OCTOBER, 2011

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

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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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18 OCTOBER, 2011

The Little Red Hen: Andy Warhol’s Pre-Pop 1958 Children’s Illustration

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How to own “a Warhol” for under $5, part deux.

Several weeks ago, we uncovered some little-known children’s illustration by Andy Warhol from the 1959 anthology Best of Children’s Books #27. (A discovery made in the research process of this series on obscure children’s books by famous authors.) But it turns out the gig wasn’t a one-off for Warhol, who in the 1950s was making a living as part of Doubleday’s stable of freelance artists. The previous year, he also illustrated a story titled “The Little Red Hen” for Best of Children’s Books #15, which you can snag as a used copy with some rummaging through Amazon. The vibrant technicolor artwork, an outlier in the warm pastel color schemes of 1950s children’s illustration, offers a fascinating prequel to Warhol’s budding pop art aesthetic — one you can acquire for under $5, not a bad deal for rare, limited-edition work by one of only seven artists in the world to have ever sold a canvas for $100 million.

Catch up on Warhol’s subsequent children’s illustration with the 1959 story “Card Games Are Fun.”

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14 OCTOBER, 2011

A Graphic Novel Biography of Richard Feynman

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Safe-cracking the quantum physics way, or what the Challenger disaster has to do with bongo drums.

Last week, we swooned over a brilliant mashup of words on beauty, honor, and curiosity by legendary iconoclastic physicist Richard Feynman. Today, we turn to Feynman — a charming, affectionate, and inspiring graphic novel biography from librarian by day, comic nonfictionist by night Jim Ottoviani and illustrator Leland Myrick, and a fine addition to our 10 favorite masterpieces of graphic nonfiction.

From Feynman’s childhood in Long Island to his work on the Manhattan Project to the infamous Challenger disaster, by way of quantum electrodynamics and bongo drums, the graphic narrative unfolds with equal parts humor and respect as it tells the story of one of the founding fathers of popular physics.

Colorful, vivid, and obsessive, the pages of Feynman exude the famous personality of the man himself, full of immense brilliance, genuine excitement for science, and a healthy dose of snark.

HT reader @DarSolo

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