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Dogs in Books: An Illustrated History

From Medieval manuscripts to the Brothers Grimm to Lassie, or what Victorian limericks have to do with Ancient Greece.

If you, like me, are a lover of dogs and a lover of books, then you’ll be head over heels with Dogs In Books: A Celebration of Dog Illustration Through the Ages. From Aesop’s Fables to the Bible to Alice in Wonderland to Oliver Twist and beyond, the slim but mighty volume chronicles the dog’s inextricable presence in our collective history, art, and mythology through contemporary drawings and rare archival illustrations of more than 30 famous dogs culled from the British Library’s collection.

In the introduction, Catherine Britton, Senior Editor at the British Library, reminds us:

The written evidence of the relationship between dogs and humans is almost as old as literature itself. In the eighth century BC Homer wrote in The Odyssey of Odysseus’ return to Ithaca, where only his faithful old dog Argos recognised him. Odysseus had been away, HOmer says, for 7300 days, or twenty years, and Argos was by now old and infirm, but still struggled to greet his master.”

Alongside each image is a short essay that contextualizes the dog and its cultural significance, as well as the history of the illustration itself.

Two shepherd and their sheepdog hear of the birth of Jesus. From a fifteenth century Book of Hours, France.
A huntsman keeps his two greyhounds firmly restrained with a leash. From the Luttrell Psalter, circa 1320-40
A donkey, dog, cat and cockerel make their own form of music in order to frighten away robbers from their house. From The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated by Mrs. Edgar Lucas, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Constable & Co., 1909
The soldier is taken aback by the sight of the supernatural dog standing on the chest of money. From Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Harry Clarke. G G Harrap & Col, 1916
Bizarre dogs (and their equally odd owners) from the limericks of Edward Lear. From The Book of Nonsense written and illustrated by Edward Lear. Frederick Warne & Col, 1885
Toto looks on with some interest as Dorothy talks to the Cowardly Lion. From The New Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum illustrated by W W Denslow. Bobbs-Merrill Co, 1903
The curse of the Baskervilles. From The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, illustrated by Sidney Paget. Strand magazine, serialized 1901-19102
The cover of The Call of the Wild, illustrated by Philip R Goodwin and Charles Livingston Bull. William Heinemann, 1903
Dinah the Aberdeen terrier barks at ‘a palpitating vacuum cleaner.’ From Collected Dog Stories by Rudyard Kipling, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. Macmillan & Co., 1934
The unmistakable features of Lassie. From Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight, illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse. J C Winston Co., 1940
Having eaten ‘a whole dish of mayonnaise fish,’ there are unsurprisingly ‘curious pains in my underneath.’ From A Dog Day or The Angel in the House by Walter Emanuel, illustrated by Cecil Aldin. William Heinemann, 1902
Mr and Mrs Dearly, surrounded by their dalmatians. From One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame-Johnstone. William Heinemann, 1956
‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’
Original silkscreen. George Rodrigue, 2009

Equal parts charming and illuminating, Dogs In Books is an absolute treat for those who love literature’s furriest heroes.

Images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

BP

Schematics: A Love Story in Geometric Diagrams

The mathematical poetics of time, or what matrices reveal about the matters of the heart.

Somewhere between the psychology of love and the intricacies of romance lies a vast and unmapped territory of abstract and subjective existential paradoxes. That’s precisely what New-York-based British photographer Julian Hibbard sets out to map in Schematics: A Love Story — a truly unique, in the most uncontrived sense of the word, project exploring love, memory, and time through 43 schematic diagrams drawn from old books and paired with poetic text that gleans new meaning from the geometric forms. From them emerges a layered and paradoxical narrative that is at once very personal and very universal, a kind of forlorn optimism about what it means to be human and to follow the heart’s sometimes purposeful, sometimes erratic, usually unpredictable will in pursuing the deepest of human connections.

I learnt to tie my shoes
I learnt to ride my bike
I learnt to smoke
I learnt the vulnerability of fully exposing an idea
I learnt to tie my shoes
I learnt to adapt my behavior in the light of others’ actions.
I learnt the difficulty of sustaining the hopes of youth.
I remember a French girl with an English name.
‘Leave me now, return tonight,’ she told me every morning, and I did.
I remember an English girl with an French name.
We were the circle that no one could break, or so I thought.

The book, whose own unusual, geometric, highly tactile physicality reflects its substance, begins with a beautiful T. S. Eliot quote:

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Yesterday I was there.
Today I am here.
The two are light years apart.
I dance with a friend,
holding her hand realize,
how disconnected I have become,
from the simple beauty of touch.
I return and sense,
that things are not the same as before,
but feel had I stayed,
everything would likely seem the same.

David LaRocca writes in the afterword-by-placement-introduction-by-purpose:

Schematics operates simultaneously on two distinctive registers: the deeply personal (a love story between the narrator and the objects of his affection, desire, and confusion) and the profoundly anonymous (a love story within matter — subject to gravity, magnetism, genetics, mechanics, electricity, and the space-time continuum.”

Your words touch me.
Your thoughts excite me.
I want to try all that.
Explore everything with you.
Alone.
All one.
If and but and maybe and whatever.
I hate those words.
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.
To idealize is also a form of suffering.

LaRocca concludes:

Schematics is a love story because love involves (tragically, incorrigibly, but also beautifully) a desire for something that continuously transforms. Love is painful because we want the object of love to change and to stay the same; love is a desire and a fiction that animates our greatest pleasures and our most profound sufferings. Love holds us to this life, keeps us faithful to it. Yet nothing can save us from our ultimate reentry into oblivion — the point at which no amount of consciousness or desire can preserve identity or the energies that we once called our own. Hibbard’s poetic concept-curating presents schematics that invite us to consider — alone and as ‘all one’ — the existential graphs that underwrite life, and take us out of it.”

Page images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

BP

The 11 Best Art and Design Books of 2011

From the Periodic Table to Craigslist, or what the greatest graphic designer of all time has to do with Moby-Dick.

After last week’s look at the 11 best illustrated books for (eternal) kids of 2011, this year’s best-of series continues with a look at the finest art, design, and creativity books of 2011 — tomes that capture your imagination and encapsulate the richest spectrum of what it means to be a thoughtful, eloquent visual creator.

RADIOACTIVE

Marie Curie is one of the most extraordinary figures in the history of science. A pioneer in researching radioactivity, a field the very name for which she coined, she was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize but also the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and in two different sciences at that, chemistry and physics. In Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout, artist Lauren Redniss tells the story of Curie through the two invisible but immensely powerful forces that guided her life: Radioactivity and love. It’s a turbulent story — a passionate romance with Pierre Curie (honeymoon on bicycles!), the epic discovery of radium and polonium, Pierre’s sudden death in a freak accident in 1906, Marie’s affair with physicist Paul Langevin, her coveted second Noble Prize — under which lie poignant reflections on the implications of Curie’s work more than a century later as we face ethically polarized issues like nuclear energy, radiation therapy in medicine, nuclear weapons and more.

It’s also a remarkable feat of thoughtful design and creative vision. To honor Curie’s spirit and legacy, Redniss rendered her poetic artwork in cyanotype, an early-20th-century image printing process critical to the discovery of both X-rays and radioactivity itself — a cameraless photographic technique in which paper is coated with light-sensitive chemicals. Once exposed to the sun’s UV rays, this chemically-treated paper turns a deep shade of blue. The text in the book is a unique typeface Redniss designed using the title pages of 18th- and 19th-century manuscripts from the New York Public Library archive. She named it Eusapia LR, for the croquet-playing, sexually ravenous Italian Spiritualist medium whose séances the Curies used to attend. The book’s cover is printed in glow-in-the-dark ink.

Full review, with more images and Redniss’s TEDxEast talk, here.

SAUL BASS

Saul Bass (1920-1996) is one of the most iconic and influential visual communicators of the 20th century — possibly the most famous graphic designer of all time — having broken out of the conformity of the 1950s to shape the aesthetic of generations of designers and animators with his bold and lively film title sequences and graphic design. (His insights on creativity and advice on doing quality work are also a timeless treat for any creator.) Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design is the first and highly anticipated definitive monograph on the creative visionary. Designed by Bass’s daughter, Jennifer, and written by renowned design historian Pat Kirkham, the formidable 428-page volume features more than 1,400 of Bass’s illustrations, many never before published, that offer an unprecedented look at his legacy and the creative process behind his most celebrated posters, title sequences, and logo designs.

I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” ~ Saul Bass

Publisher Laurence King put together this epic video of the making of the book, to give you a sense of the scale and ambition of the project:

From his iconic title sequences…

… to his unforgettable posters…

…to his legendary logos for mega-brands like AT&T, Quaker Oats, and United Airlines, the monograph contextualizes his most significant works and analyzes each film project individually to dissect its graphic elements and motifs.

Had Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design been released before the publication of this selection of the 100 best graphic design books of the past 100 years, it would most certainly have been included, and quite possibly would have topped the list — it is, truly, one of the most beautiful, inspirational, important design books you’ll ever lay eyes and hands on.

Full review here.

MISSED CONNECTIONS

You might recall Sophie Blackall, known for her distinctive children’s book illustration, as one of the brains and brushes behind these brilliant design makeovers of the mundane. Since 2009, she has been capturing Craigslist missed connections in her delightful illustrations and unmistakable style of Chinese ink and watercolor, brimming with charm, romanticism and soft whimsy. Now, Blackall joins our running list of blogs so good they became books: Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found collects the best of these poetic visual what-if love stories, each told in a shorthand “missed connection” ranging from the lyrical (I Gave You My Umbrella but the Wrong Directions) to the warm-and-fuzzy (We Shared a Bear Suit) to the shared love of the tragicomic (Ice Skating in Central Park We Collided).

Every day hundreds of strangers reach out to other strangers on the strength of a glance, a smile or a blue hat. Their messages have the lifespan of a butterfly. I’m trying to pin a few of them down.” – Sophie Blackall

Both playful and profound, Blackall’s delicate drawings — many of which are available on Etsy as prints — immortalize the ephemeral with a wink and a wand, breathing into these mundane encounters a kind of magic that transforms them into open-ended modern-day fairy tales.

In the book’s fascinating introduction, Blackall explores the history of missed connections, both her personal fascination with them and our larger collective memory across time:

For centuries the lovelorn have carved messages in tree trunks and rolled letters into bottles and cast them out to sea. On the 19th of January, 1862, the following appeared in The New York Times:

‘If the young lady wearing the pink dress, spotted fur cape and muff, had light hair, light complexion and blue eyes, who was in company with a lady dressed in black, that I passed about 5 o’clock on Friday evening in South Seventh Street, between First and Second, Williamsburg, L.I., will address a line to Waldo, Williamsburg Post Office, she will make the acquaintance of a fine young man.’

Some of the illustrated messages were written by their smitten authors moments after the encounter took place, and others decades later. Some are written to an impossible love interest, a person famous or dead or forbidden for one reason or another, and some lament the loss of a familiar lover. Hopeful, pensive, lonely, drunken, optimistic — they span the entire spectrum of human emotion.

Original review, with more images, here.

CULTURAL CONNECTIVES

These days, news of the Middle East is a frequent staple of our daily media diet, but these media portrayals tend to be limited, one-dimensional, and reductionist. We know precious little about Arab culture, with all its rich and layered multiplicity, and even less about its language. Cultural Connectives, a fine addition to my favorite books about language from my friends at Mark Batty, aims to bridge this gap though a cultural cross-pollinator in the form of a typeface family designed by author Rana Abou Rjeily that brings the Arabic and Latin alphabets together and, in the process, fosters a new understanding of Arab culture.

Both minimalist and illuminating, the book’s stunning pages map the rules of Arabic writing, grammar and pronunciation to English, using this typographic harmony as the vehicle for better understanding this ancient culture from a Western standpoint.

The book jacket unfolds into a beautiful poster of a timeless quote by Gibran Khalil Gibran, rendered in Arabic:

We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.” ~ Gibran Khalil Gibran

Full review, with more images, here.

344 QUESTIONS

344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment was the most popular book amongst Brain Pickings readers this year — a delightful pocket-sized compendium of flowcharts and lists to help you figure out life’s big answers by ever-inventive designer Stefan G. Bucher, he of You Deserve a Medal and Daily Monster fame.

Besides Bucher’s own questions, the tiny but potent handbook features contributions from 36 beloved creators across various disciplines, including Brain Pickings favorites Christoph Niemann, Stefan Sagmeister, Marian Bantjes, Doyald Young, and Jakob Trollbäck.

Let’s be clear: I want this book to be useful to you. There are many great how-to books and biographies out there, and even more gorgeous collections of current and classic work to awe and inspire. But looking at catalogs of artistic success won’t make you a better artist any more than looking at photos of healthy people will cure your cold. You’ve got to take action!” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

(Sure, this may be somewhat remiss in overlooking the basic mechanism of combinatorial creativity, but it’s it’s hard to argue with the need to make ideas happen rather than just contemplating them.)

This gem is also one of my favorite creativity-catalyzing activity books for grown-ups.

Page images copyright © 2012. Pearson Education, Inc. and New Riders

Though Bucher designed the book as a sequence, it also works choose-you-own-adventure-style and, as Bucher is quick to encourage, asks for hands-on interaction — dog-earing, marginalia, doodles. “If you keep this book in mint condition, I’ve failed,” he says.

We are all different people, but we face a lot of the same questions. The point of this book is to give you lots of questions you can use to look at your life — in a new way, with a different perspective, or maybe just in more detail than you have before — so you can find out how you work, what you want to do, and how you can get it done in a way that works for you. Specifically.” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

Originally featured here.

VISUAL COMPLEXITY

Data visualization is a running theme of visual literacy here, and Manuel Lima has been one of its biggest champions since 2005 when, shortly after graduating from the Parson School of Design, he launched VisualComplexity — an ambitious portal for the visualization of complex networks across a multitude of disciplines, from biology to history to the social web. This year, Lima released the highly anticipated Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information — a rigorously researched, beautifully designed, thoughtfully curated anthology of the world’s most compelling work at the intersection of these two relatively nascent yet increasingly powerful techno-cultural phenomena, network science and information visualization. It’s a winsome addition to these essential books on data visualization and a powerful tool in your visual literacy arsenal for navigating the Information Age.

Philipp Steinweber and Andreas Koller
Similar Diversity, 2007
A visualization of the similarities and difference between the holy books of five world religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism.
Marco Quaggiotto
Knowledge Cartography, 2008
Screenshots taken from ATLAS, an application developed to explore the possibilities of applying cartographic techniques to mapping knowledge. ATLAS allows users to list their biobibliographic references and to map them according to four main rendering modes: semantic, socio-relational, geographic, and temporal.

From the sacred meaning of trees and their age-old use as classification systems to the science behind network thinking to the stunning and visually expressive products of cutting-edge digital visualization, Lima — author, designer, and deep thinker — not only explores the multiplicitous allure of networks, but also crafts an important analog artifact to contain these rapidly vanishing digital ephemera. (You know, in case you were wondering why computational creativity should belong in a book.)

As the book gained shape, it quickly became clear that it was not just about making the pool of knowledge more accessible, but also saving it for posterity. As I reviewed projects to feature in the book, I was astounded by how many dead links and error messages I encountered. Some of these projects became completely untraceable, possibly gone forever. This disappearance is certainly not unique to network visualization — it is a widespread quandary of modern technology. Commonly referred to as the Digital Dark Age, the possibility of many present-day digital artifacts vanishing within a few decades is a considerably worrying prospect.” ~ Manuel Lima

From the Bible to Wikipedia edits to the human genome, the gorgeous and thought-provoking visualizations in the book will make you look at the world in a whole new way, and the insightful essays accompanying them will vastly expand your understanding of the trends and technologies shaping our ever-evolving relationship with information.

Brain and Body
Alesha Sivartha, The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man, 1912
Density Design: Mario Porpora
The Poverty Red Thread, 2008
A map of the poverty line in Italy organized according to family typologies (number of family members), and further categorized by location (the north, center, or south of Italy).
Stefanie Posavec
Writing Without Words, 2008
A chart of the structure of part one of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957). Each splitting of the branch into progressively smaller sections parallels the organization of the content from chapters to paragraphs, sentences, and words. Each color relates to one of eleven thematic categories created by Posavec for the book (e.g., travel, work and survival, sketches of regional life).

(More on Posavec’s brilliant project here.)

Christoper Paul Baker
Email Map, 2007
A rendering of the relationships between Baker and individuals in his address book generated by examining the to, from, and cc fields of every email in his in-box archive.
Chris Harrison
Visualizing the Bible, 2007
A map of the 63,779 cross-references found in the Bible. The bar graph on the bottom represents all of the books in the Bible, alternating between white and light gray for easy differentiation. The length of each bar, representative of a book’s chapter and dropping below the datum, corresponds to the number of verses in that chapter. Each arc represents a textual cross-reference (e.g., place, person), and the color denotes the distance between the two chapters where the reference appears — ultimately creating a rainbowlike effect.

Reviewed in full, with more images, here.

MAPS

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
NYT 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

Images courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press

Artful and opinionated, 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.

Originally featured, alongside Scher’s fantastic 2008 Serious Play talk, here.

VISUAL STORYTELLING

“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.”

These words of wisdom come from legendary inventor and futurist George Dyson, who in a recent interview contemplated the growing disconnect between information and meaning in the age of data overload. Over the past several years, our quest to extract meaning from information has taken us more and more towards the realm of visual storytelling — we’ve used data visualization to reveal hidden patterns about the world, employed animation in engaging kids with important issues, and let infographics distill human emotion. In fact, our very brains are wired for the visual over the textual by way of the pictorial superiority effect.

It would be ridiculous to try to express by curved lines moral ideals, the prosperity of peoples, or the decadence of their literature. But anything that has to do with extent or quantity can be presented geometrically. Statistical projections which speak to the senses without fatiguing the mind, possess the advantage of fixing the attention on a great number of important facts.” ~ Alexander von Humboldt, Political Essay on the Kingdom of Spain, 1811

Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language, from the fine folks at Gestalten, gathers the most compelling work by a new generation of designers, illustrators, graphic editors, and data journalists tackling the grand sensemaking challenge of our time by pushing forward the evolving visual vocabulary of storytelling.

Vahram Muratyan: Paris vs. New York: L’obsession
Peter Ørntoft: Information Graphics in Context, a project illustrating a ranked list of social concerns in Denmark
Gregory Ferembach: The Movies Flowcharts
Carl Kleiner’s ‘Homemade Is Best’ IKEA cookbook
Road Map of the Eye, part of Katja Günther’s Cartographic project visualizing information by mapping relevant elements

From hand-drawn diagrams to sophisticated data visualization, by way of graphic design, illustration, photography, and information architecture, this magnificent volume of contemporary and experimental visual storytelling explores what it means to convey information with equal parts clarity and creativity, speaking with remarkable aesthetic eloquence about the things that matter in the world today.

Every field has some central tension it is trying to resolve. Visualization deals with the inhuman scale of the information and the need to present it at the very human scale of what the eye can see.” ~ Martin Wattenberg in The Economist, 2010

Wataro Yoshida: Composition of Mammals, a fictional exhibition using fictional places to study the anatomy of mammals with displays of taxidermy and skulls and accompanying informational posters about the complex structure of each mammal’s body
Lucas Van Vuuren: Lunch, a thorough decision tree
David Garcia Studio: MAP 001 Antarctica, part of MAP (Manual of architectural Possibilities), a publication that aims to merge science and research with architectural design

Originally featured, with plenty more images and excerpts, here.

THE MAD FOLD-IN COLLECTION

Al Jaffee’s magnificent anti-authoritarian fold-ins, gracing the inside covers of every MAD magazine since 1964, have been a longtime favorite around here. For the past half-century, Jaffeee, just as brilliant today at 90, has been poking fun at the established political order with his clever satirical cartoons that made no topic, ideology, regime, politician or pop star safe from skewering as the reader simply folds the page to align arrow A with arrow B and reveal the hidden gag image. Now, from Chronicle Books comes The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010 — the definitive treasure trove of Jaffee’s genius, a formidable four-volume set featuring 410 fold-ins reproduced at original size, each thoughtfully accompanied by a digital representation of the folded image so you wouldn’t have to actually fold your lavish book.

Sudoku (July 2007)
Second place (October 1969)
The first Super Bowl was in 1967, and it gave football a new visibility, threatening baseball’s pre-eminence.
Covering up Whitewater (September 1994)
The Whitewater scandal haunted the Clinton White House for years.
On the campaign trail! (December 1968)
A nasty campaign, with Hubert Humphrey against Richard Nixon, in the midst of a nasty war.
The smell of dead meat (July 1995)
Another election looming another bunch of hopefuls.
Stop Art – Empty frame is big improvement (September 1965)
The art world was full of new ideas in the mid-1960s, not all of them resonating with everyone.

Essays by Pixar animator Pete Docter, New York Times cultural critic Neil Genzlinger and Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist and author Jules Feiffer contextualize Jaffee’s work and the tremendous influence it has had on generations of artists, comedians and ordinary people.

Here’s Jaffee on how his iconic fold-ins began — and confirmation that creativity is combinatorial:

In 1953, TIME magazine referred to MAD as a ‘short-lived fad.’ And now, fifty-umpteenth years later, MAD is still around, and I don’t think TIME magazine is doing too well.” ~ Al Jaffeee

Explore some of Jaffee’s gems in this excellent New York Times interactive feature from 2008 — a fine teaser for the full glory you’ll find in The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010.

Originally featured here.

MOBY-DICK IN PICTURES

Since 2009, former high school English teacher and self-taught artist Matt Kish has been drawing every page of the 552-page Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s iconic Moby-Dick, methodically producing one gorgeous, obsessive drawing per day for 552 days using pages from discarded books and a variety of drawing tools, from ballpoint pen to crayon to ink and watercolor. Kish’s ingenious project joins our running list of blogs so good they became books with Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, collecting his magnificent lo-fi drawings in a 600-page visual masterpiece of bold, breathtaking full-page illustrations that captivate eye, heart, and mind, inviting you to rediscover the Melville classic in entirely new ways.

I’ve read the book eight or nine times […] Each and every reading has revealed more and more to me and hinted tantalizingly at even greater truths and revelations that I have yet to reach. Friends often question my obsession with the novel, especially since I am not a scholar or even an educator any longer, and the best explanation I have been able to come up with is that, to me, Moby-Dick is a book about everything. God. Love. Hate. Identity. Race. Sex. Humor. Obsession. History. Work. Capitalism […] I see every aspect of life reflected in the bizarre mosaic of this book.” ~ Matt Kish

‘…Jonah feels the heralding presentiment of that stifling hour, when the whale shall hold him in the smallest of his bowel’s wards.’
Ballpoint pen on paper, September 17, 2009
‘But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive.’
Colored pencil and ink on found paper, August 6, 2009
‘Hearing the tremendous rush of the sea-crashing boat, the whale wheeled round to present his blank forehead at bay; but in that evolution, catching sight of the nearing black hull of the ship; seemingly seeing in it the source of all his persecutions; bethinking it – it may be – a larger and nobler foe; of a sudden, he bore down upon its advancing prow, smiting his jaws amid fiery showers of foam’
Ink on watercolor paper, January 22, 2011
‘…and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the chains…’
Acrylic paint, colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, September 30, 2009
‘Thus goes the legend. In olden times an eagle swooped down upon the New England coast, and carried off an infant Indian in his talons. With loud lament the parents saw their child borne out of sight over the wide waters.’
Ink and marker on found paper, October 5, 2009
‘…hell is an idea first born on an undigested apple-dumpling…’
Crayon, ink and marker on found paper, November 24, 2009
”I will have no man in my boat,’ said Starbuck, ‘who is not afraid of a whale.”
Colored pencil, ink and marker on found paper, December 19, 2009
‘Moby Dick bodily burst into view! For not by any calm and indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic fountain in his head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far more wondrous phenomenon of breaching. Rising with his utmost velocity from the furthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pure element of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place to the distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enraged waves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his act of defiance.’
Ink on watercolor paper, January 11, 2011

Originally featured, with many more images, here.

FLOATING WORLDS

It’s hard not to love Edward Gorey, mid-century illustrator of the macabre, whose work influenced generations of creators, from Nine Inch Nails to Tim Burton. Between September 1968 and October 1969, Gorey set out to collaborate on three children’s books with author and editor Peter F. Neumeyer and, over the course of this 13-month period, the two exchanged a series of letters on topics that soon expanded well beyond the three books and into everything from metaphysics to pancake recipes.

This year, Neumeyer opened up the treasure trove of this fascinating, never-before-published correspondence in Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer — a magnificent collection of 75 typewriter-transcribed letters, 38 stunningly illustrated envelopes, and more than 60 postcards and illustrations exchanged between the two collaborators-turned-close-friends, featuring Gorey’s witty, wise meditations on such eclectic topics as insect life, the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, and Japanese art.

In light of his body of work, and because of the interest that his private person has aroused, I feel strongly that these letters should not be lost to posterity. I still read in them Ted’s wisdom, charm, and affection and a profound personal integrity that deserves to be in the record. As for my own letters to Ted, I had no idea that he had kept them until one day a couple of years ago when a co-trustee of his estate, Andras Brown, sent me a package of photocopies of my half of the correspondence. I am very grateful for that.” ~ Peter F. Neumeyer

Equally fascinating is the unlikely story of how Gorey and Neumeyer met in the first place — a story involving a hospital waiting room, a watercolor of a housefly, and a one-and-a-half-inch scrap of paper with a dot — and the affectionate friendship into which it unfolded.

There’s a remarkable hue to Gorey’s writing, a kind of thinking-big-thoughts-without-taking-oneself-too-seriously quality. In September of 1968, in what he jokingly termed “E. Gorey’s Great Simple Theory About Art,” Gorey wrote these Yodaesque words:

This is the theory… that anything that is art… is presumably about some certain thing, but is really always about something else, and it’s no good having one without the other, because if you just have the something it is boring and if you just have the something else it’s irritating.”

Illustrations © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.

From the intellectual banter to the magnificent illustrations, Floating Worlds, is quite possibly the most heart-warming art-and-so-much-more book this year, and certainly among the all-time favorites of my personal library.

Originally reviewed here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

* * *

A big part of what makes great art and design books great is how timeless they are — why not catch up on last year’s finest?

BP

Catalyzing Creativity: 7 Playful Activity Books for Grown-Ups

Greenlighting mess-making, 101 ways to astonish yourself, and how to flowchart your way to happiness.

The intersection of childhood and adulthood is a frequent area of curiosity around here, from beloved children’s books with timeless philosophy for adults to quirky coloring books for the eternal kid. Today, we turn to seven wonderful activity books for grown-ups that inject a little more whimsy and playfulness into your daily grind.

CHEERFUL IN 3 ½ MONTHS

“The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results,” Einstein famously proclaimed. In Cheerful In 3 ½ Months, spotted last week at the NY Art Book Fair, author Gerard Jansen invites you to do precisely the opposite, finding your sanity by doing things a bit differently than you’re used to. The utterly delightful pocket-sized volume, with gorgeous illustrations by Dutch designer Sue Doeksen, offers one offbeat daily task each day to put some cheer in your life.

Here’s a sneak peek at the Dutch version, subsequently translated in English:

Images via bloesem living

THE OPEN DAY BOOK

You might recall The Open Daybook by LA-based writer and artist David P. Earle and our friends at Mark Batty — a wonderful interactive perpetual calendar with artwork by 365 of today’s most exciting visual artists, one for each day of the year. Each dated page allows you to fill in your schedule or jot down a creative response to the artwork, turning it into a weird and wonderful hybrid of datebook, sketchbook and daily art journal. Featured in the book are favorite artists like Chuck Jones, Miranda July, Dallas Clayton (), Stefanie Posavec ( ), and Christoph Niemann ( ).

Christoph Niemann
Dallas Clayton
Miranda July
Chuck Jones
Stefanie Posavec

Catch our full review, with more images, here.

Images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

EVERYTHING THAT CAN HAPPEN IN A DAY

Also from our friends at Mark Batty comes Everything That Can Happen in a Day — a playful activity activity journal by artist David Horvitz, who every day over the course of 2009 posted a different exercise on his blog, encouraging readers to follow along and insert some art into daily life. From poetry readings in ATM kiosks to tagging along with the mailman on his route, this compendium collects Horvitz’s favorite ideas for injecting art and humor into the ordinary, with plenty of negative space for you to doodle and take notes on your own experience.

Images courtesy of Mark Batty Publisher

WRECK THIS BOX

Author, illustrator and guerrilla artist Keri Smith is a masterful and prolific creator of the interactive journals. Wreck This Box is a wonderful box set of her three masterpieces: Wreck This Journal, a lovely illustrated journal inviting you to conjure your best mistake-making skills and indulge your destructivist demons as part of the creative process, This Is Not a Book, which rethinks the purpose and function of a book and invites you along for the journey, and Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, a potent antidote for your lifelong conditioning for overthinking and fear of being wrong. Even the box set itself comes with instructions for how to wreck it and ample encouragement to “make a mess with the box.”

Images by Kimberly Ripley

Originally featured here.

WALLS NOTEBOOK

If you’re ever fostered fantasies of tagging a downtown facade but never gotten past ogling the spray cans at Home Depot, then you’re in luck. Enter Walls Notebook, which you might recall from earlier this year. The brainchild of NYC-based photographer and designer Sherwood Forlee, this charming activity book invites you, armed with a Sharpie, to unleash your inner graffiti artist on irresistibly inviting blank-slate urban walls from around New York City.

Images via the.

ASTONISH YOURSELF

Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life by French philosopher and Le Monde columnist Roger-Pol Droit is based on the premise that “the starting point for astonishment gives rise to philosophy.” Each of the simple exercises peels away at a corner of existence, at once a comforting reassurance of our aliveness and a magical gateway to discovering the invisible whimsy in the mundane. From inhabiting the planet of small gestures to saying your name out loud in a quiet room to looking for a blue blood, these micro-meditations on the practice of being human will infuse your everyday with a little more serendipity and charm, and help you understand your fellow human beings a little more in the process.

To sum up, the purpose of this entertainment could be contained in this brief exchange:

— Where are you headed? — Wherever you get to!

344 QUESTIONS

In there mere three weeks since we first featured the delightful 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment by ever-inventive designer Stefan G. Bucher (of You Deserve a Medal and Daily Monster fame), it has quickly become the most popular book in Brain Pickings’ entire five-year history. The lovely pocket-sized gem, illustrated in Bucher’s unmistakable style, helps you flowchart your way to personal and professional happiness and figure out life’s big answers.

Besides Bucher’s own questions, the tiny but potent handbook features contributions from 36 beloved cross-disciplinary creators, including Brain Pickings favorites Christoph Niemann, Stefan Sagmeister, Marian Bantjes, Doyald Young, and Jakob Trollbäck.

Let’s be clear: I want this book to be useful to you. There are many great how-to books and biographies out there, and even more gorgeous collections of current and classic work to awe and inspire. But looking at catalogs of artistic success won’t make you a better artist any more than looking at photos of healthy people will cure your cold. You’ve got to take action!” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

Images copyright © 2012. Pearson Education, Inc. and New Riders

We are all different people, but we face a lot of the same questions. The point of this book is to give you lots of questions you can use to look at your life — in a new way, with a different perspective, or maybe just in more detail than you have before — so you can find out how you work, what you want to do, and how you can get it done in a way that works for you. Specifically.” ~ Stefan G. Bucher

See more images here.

BP

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