Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Where the Wild Things Really Are: Maurice Sendak Illustrates the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm [feedly]

Where the Wild Things Really Are: Maurice Sendak Illustrates the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
// Brain Pickings

A dialogue in darkness and light across two centuries of magic and genius.

It is always an immeasurable delight when a beloved artist reimagines a beloved children's book — take, for instance, the various illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit from the past century — but I have a special soft spot for reimaginings of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, which remain among humanity's most exquisite and enduring storytelling. The roster of notable interpretations is lengthy and impressive — including Lorenzo Mattotti for a retelling by Neil Gaiman, Andrea Dezsö for the little-known original edition of the tales, Edward Gorey for three of the best-known ones, David Hockney for an unusual vintage edition, and Wanda Gág's seminal early-twentieth-century illustrations. But the most bewitching Grimm interpreter of all is Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928–May 8, 2012).

To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the tales in 1973, exactly a decade after Where the Wild Things Are transformed Sendak from an insecure young artist into a household name, FSG invited the 45-year-old artist to illustrate a translation of the Grimm classics by Pulitzer-winning novelist Lore Segal. Sendak had first envisioned the project in 1962, just as he was completing Where the Wild Things Are, but it had taken him a decade to begin drawing. He collaborated with Segal on choosing 27 of the 210 tales for this special edition, which was originally released as a glorious two-volume boxed set and was reprinted thirty years later in the single volume The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm (public library).

The Poor Miller's Boy and the Little Cat

The Goblins


The Goblins

To equip his imagination with maximally appropriate raw material, Sendak even sailed to Europe before commencing work on the project, hoping to drink in the native landscapes and architecture amid which the Brothers Grimm situated their stories. Aware of the artist's chronic poor health, legendary children's book patron saint Ursula Nordstrom — Sendak's editor and his greatest champion — beseeched him in a lovingly scolding letter right before he departed: "For heaven's sake take care of yourself on this trip."

The Twelve Huntsmen

Hans My Hedgehog

The Golden Bird

Fitcher's Feathered Bird

The Frog King, or Iron Henry



That Sendak should gravitate to such a project is rather unsurprising. His strong opinions on allowing children to experience the darker elements of life through storytelling were rooted in an early admiration for the Brothers Grimm, who remained an influence throughout his career. He was also not only a lifelong reader, writer, and dedicated lover of books, but also a public champion of literature through his magnificent series of posters celebrating libraries and reading.

The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs

Snow-White and the Seven Drawfs

Ferdinand Faithful and Ferdinand Unfaithful

Brother and Sister

The Fisherman and His Wife

The Master Thief

Brother Gaily

The Goblins

The Story of One Who Set Out to Study Fear

Complement The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm with Sendak's equally bewitching visual interpretations of three other classics — Tolstoy's Nikolenka's Childhood in 1961, E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker in 1984, and Melville's Pierre in 2005 — then revisit his own darkest, most controversial, yet most hopeful children's book.

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Why People Give Up by Anna Vital [feedly]

Why People Give Up by Anna Vital
// Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

This graphic entitled "Why People Give Up" has been making the rounds on the internet, so you've probably seen it before. It's from "Funders and Founders" and was designed by Anna Vital. The site is mostly intended for entrepreneurs, but it has a wide array of interesting graphics that are definitely worth checking out, and much of the advice they offer for people interested in creating a startup can be applied to other areas of life and career.

I'm sure not everyone can relate to all of these reasons, but for me, many of these concepts felt familiar. I've had most (if not all) of these feelings myself, or seen them in other people who give up on their dream. I certainly struggled with all of these things when I was trying to get into animation, and I saw many other people wrestle with these concepts as well.

I've been in the animation field for a while now, so I don't exactly struggle with the stress and fear that I won't be able to break into the business like I used to. But I can definitely relate to it on a more personal level. I've been working on my own project outside of work for quite some time now, and I've made a lot of progress on it. In fact, I've been working on it for five years, and although I've accomplished a lot, it's a massive undertaking and there's still a ton to do. But when I look back on the past five years, I've managed to work on my project almost every day (although most days it's only for a little bit of time).

I can't help but think of all the people I know who've decided to make a personal project and then abandoned it after a while. It's a real shame, because there are so many talented people in animation, and I know the world would love seeing their work. But pursuing a personal project is, in many ways, much harder than showing up to work every day and getting paid to be an artist and contribute to a film that has the backing and support of a large company. After all, very few of us could survive without a paycheck, so it's not like we have that much of a choice!

One of the reasons that I'm still plugging away on my own project after five years is that I choose to do something that I really enjoy doing. It gives me a chance to do things I've never done before (like try and understand how layout works for comic books, and the chance to work with color). The project involves a lot of research, but I choose the subject matter so that I only have to research things I'm already interested in. So that helps make it enjoyable and not a chore. I think sometimes people choose to pursue a project that they think people will like in order to guarantee the success of their project. But the artist has no real passion for the project, and it fizzles out as the first hard roadblocks inevitably appear in the road. I think it's a better approach to create something that you would actually like to see exist in the world, instead of trying to hedge your bets and create something "safe" that you think other people will like.

On a related note, as an artist creates something, I think it's only human for that artist to daydream about how big and successful their project will become. The problem is that, after that initial rush of passion for the project and daydream of how awesome and successful it's going to be, the hard reality sets in about how much work it's going to be as well as the sobering realization that it may not, in the end, be successful. In fact, it may fail miserably. So why bother putting a lot of work into it? In the end, it could all be wasted effort.

So one of my best pieces of advice is to create without focusing on the final outcome. You can't control how your project will be received, you can only control how it turns out and how much you enjoy the process of creating. So focus on that and not the daydream about how colossal your success will be and you'll find it much, much easier to create.

The last piece of advice that I think is helpful is to remember that the time will pass either way. You can spend the time watching TV, or watching movies, or playing video games (all of which are fine ways to spend time), but remember that you could also spend some of that time working on creating your own project. And at the end of the day, the time passes. And when the time is gone, it can be a great feeling to have something to show for the time that has passed. And although every project has its own unique obstacles that can seem impossible to conquer, there's no greater feeling than overcoming one of them and realizing that you have the power to defeat any challenge that might get in your way.

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A Short History of America, According to the Irreverent Comic Satirist Robert Crumb

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

5 Simple Ways to Get Better at ANYTHING Fast! [feedly]

5 Simple Ways to Get Better at ANYTHING Fast!
// Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement


I want it and I want it now!  We say this to ourselves every single time we demand instant gratification, quick results, or fast progress at something- even though we may sound like children.  There are some ways to actually speed up the way we learn and improve at something however.  Ironically, many of the ways to get better at something fast involve not focusing so much on results, but instead focusing on the process of getting better. 
  1. Practice. A lot.
This one might be common sense, but the number one way to get better at something is to practice.  Even if its hard, even if its boring, even if its not fun, if you want to get better at something you need practice.  Through the dedication to practicing and learning, you will develop skill and experience that will make you better at what you are doing.  Whether it's math, saving money, speed reading, or playing tennis, practicing will help make you better.
  1. Read books or articles from experts.
Experts exist in practically every field imaginable.  Many experts get big book contracts to write: articles, blogs, books, and they even do interviews directly passing on the skills and knowledge they learned while mastering an area of expertise;  people are willing to pay big money to learn these lessons straight from an expert who has already been through it.  Books, articles, videos, and speeches from others who are already amazing at what you are trying to learn will make your life easier, motivate you along the way, and help you make your practice more valuable.
  1. Practice smarter, not harder (focus on process over production)
As you learn more about the ways that other successful people practice and get better at something, you can try to apply the same techniques to your own practice.  For example: if you are working on developing your public speaking skills and a famous speaker recommends- in an article- to join toastmasters or give speeches each month at a get together, you can implement this practice and increase the speed at which you learn.  Its not always just about working harder, but sometimes we have to learn to work smarter as well. An easy trap to fall into when trying to get better at something is to focus only on results.  As we focus more on our results over actual improvement, we begin to build pressure on ourselves.  Each time we fall short or fail to meet our expectations, we are hard on ourselves and we can stifle our motivation and drive.  By choosing to focus on the practice and on doing the things we need to do to get better instead of focusing on results, we can lift some of the weight off of our shoulders and really enjoy what we are doing.  By focusing on the process over the product, we can learn to love the journey of getting better. 
  1. Set goals.
By setting measurable and precise goals we can better motivate ourselves and measure ourselves against our own goals rather than against other people.  When we compare ourselves against others, we can often be left feeling inadequate or unsatisfied, but when we look at how we're doing today versus 1 year ago, it becomes much clearer how far we have come along the way.  Additionally, goals help us stay motivated and focused on the things we need to do each day in order to get better. If we set a goal to write an article every day, eventually we are going to write a lot of articles and get much better. 
  1. Evaluate and take notes.
Whenever you are practicing, reading, or setting goals, take notes of the process along the way as you learn important new details; you can make notes each time you learn something new, that you can review at a later time.  As you learn new things, you will inevitably begin to focus on new details and you will start to forget older revelations.  By regularly evaluating your progress, results, and the ways in which you are actively seeking to improve, you can make adjustments as needed and cement the things that are working well. By using these 5 simple tips you can increase your productivity, learn faster, and incorporate new information better.  It may feel counterintuitive to set goals when you could be practicing instead, but you must learn to focus on how to get better more than you focus on just getting better. -------- Shane Sorensen is a life coach, nurse, blogger, and the owner of  If you would like to learn more you can visit his website, or email him at

The post 5 Simple Ways to Get Better at ANYTHING Fast! appeared first on Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement.


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Geof Darrow Resurrects Bourbon Thret, Reflects on Shaolin Cowboy, Moebius and Just About Everything Else :: Comics :: Features :: Paste [feedly]

Geof Darrow Resurrects Bourbon Thret, Reflects on Shaolin Cowboy, Moebius and Just About Everything Else :: Comics :: Features :: Paste
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Preliminary Sketches for TYRANNOSAURS [feedly]

Preliminary Sketches for TYRANNOSAURS
// Gurney Journey

First off: WOW! Thanks so much for your generous response to my new video "TYRANNOSAURS: Behind the Art," which documents the illustrations I just did for the May 2015 article in Scientific American Magazine.  Here's the trailer on YouTube if you missed it.

In this post, I would like to cover your desktop with preliminary sketches.

The article by scientist Stephen Brusatte mentions a number of early tyrannosaur relatives: Kileskus, Guanlong (both with impressive head ornaments); Yutyrannus and Dilong; and the dwarf arctic Nanugsaurus. Any of these are candidates for the title spread.

I use gouache, a good medium for rapid visualizing in color. I indicate headline and text blocks with a pen to try to imagine the final effect of the page. Everyone likes the idea of the multiple-predator interaction, shown in the sketch at the lower right. 

Freelance Art Director Juan Velasco and SciAm's Design Director Michael Mrak suggest expanding the art to fill the entire spread, with allowance for the headline to reverse out of the art. I do these black watercolor pencil sketches to explore various points of view, almost as if I was a movie director planning a shot. 

I paint this small comprehensive sketch (5 x 7.5 in) in casein to give the art director something more complete that he can use for the layout. We decide to stage the scene inside a forest rather than in the open plains. The art director wants to make sure the little Dilongs don't get too close to that gutter, and also that the back of Yutyrannus isn't tangent to the top of the frame.

Mindful of the risk of getting carried away with too much detail and middle tones, I remind myself to keep it simple. These black and white thumbnail sketches, sketched with a pigmented brush marker, force me to interpret the image to its tonal essentials.

Meanwhile, for the cover, we want to feature Qianzhousaurus, aka "Pinocchio Rex," a strange long-snouted tyrannosaur that happens to be one of the author's most celebrated finds. As fun as any of these would be to paint, none of them are really striking or simple enough in their design.

Design director Michael Mrak proposes that I show the face up close with a simple background, maybe coming into frame from above. I paint these two sketches in casein. The one on the left gets the magazine's approval, with the suggestion of flopping it left to right. 

Dr. Brusatte sends me more photos and drawings of the skull and asks me to reduce the convexity of the ventral end of the maxilla and to reduce the proportional depth of the skull. 

I do the pencil drawing directly on the heavyweight illustration board, using a fairly soft pencil. Note the light indication of the "S" of "SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN" to be sure I've got room for the graphics. The rest of the pencil work is darker than I might usually use, because I want it to show through the thin passages of paint. I seal the drawing with workable fixatif and acrylic matte medium before heading into the final paint. 

And here are the finished illustrations in context. You can watch all the steps up close and in action in the 40-minute full-length video workshop available now from Gumroad (credit cards) or Sellfy (Paypal).
Yesterday's post with stills from "Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art"
Be sure to pick up a copy of the May issue of Scientific American"Rise of the Tyrannosaurs"


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Saturday, April 11, 2015

How to Art [feedly]

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The Brooklyn Museum's never-before-seen insight into Basquiat’s sketchbooks [feedly]

The Brooklyn Museum's never-before-seen insight into Basquiat's sketchbooks
// It's Nice That


There are few artists who have had the impact in their entire careers that Jean-Michel Basquiat achieved in his 28 years. The self-taught Brooklyn-born artist was inspired by everything he came into contact with, creating work influenced by hip-hop, politics, advertising and children's drawings to perfectly encapsulate the culture he inhabited. As such his notebooks – filled with sketches, fragments of poetry and personal observations about race, class and culture – have been elevated to the status of sacred relics. Luckily for us, these relics are currently on show at The Brooklyn Museum, offering a never-before-seen glimpse into his inner life.

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Harold Speed, Chapter 2, "Drawing" [feedly]

Harold Speed, Chapter 2, "Drawing"
// Gurney Journey

John Elliott Burns by Harold Speed, 1907

Today we continue with the GJ Book Club. Together, we're studying Harold Speed's classic The Practice and Science of Drawing.

The following numbered paragraphs cite key points in italics, followed by a brief remark of my own. Your thoughts are most welcome in the comment section of this blog. If you would like to respond to a specific point, please precede your comment by the corresponding number.

1. The expression of form upon a plane surface.

Speed's definition of drawing emphasizes form. That is consistent with most academic training. For the purposes of this chapter at least, he is not focusing on other qualities of drawing, such as the ability to capture texture or atmosphere.

2. Apelles

Apelles was a renowned artist of ancient Greece. His actual original paintings and drawings are lost to history (except for supposed copies), but he is known from his reputation in written sources. More on Wikipedia.

3. Drawing, although the first, is also the last thing the painter usually studies.

Many great artists such as Rembrandt kept drawing central to their practice throughout their lives. Some, such as Adolph Menzel, pursued drawing relentlessly into their old age. For composers like Beethoven and Bach, keyboard or chamber music occupied a similar place. 

4. Colour would seem to depend much more on a natural sense and to be less amenable to teaching. 

As an author of a book about color, I have to disagree with him here. There's a lot to teach about color, especially given what we've learned since Speed's time about visual perception and optics. Even though color can be approached subjectively and personally, the aesthetic aspects of color can be taught. In fact, Speed himself must have changed his mind on this topic, because he includes two excellent chapters on color in his subsequent book on oil painting (Oil Painting Techniques and Materials), which we'll study after we get through this one.

5. To express form one must first be moved by it. There is in the appearance of all objects, animate and inanimate, what has been called an emotional significance, a hidden rhythm that is not caught by the accurate, painstaking, but cold artist. 

Speed's definition of rhythm recognizes how emotion drives artistic choices. Rhythm therefore is not merely a design principle.

Charles F. A. Voysey 
by Harold Speed, chalk, 1896

6. Selection of the significant and suppression of the non-essential.

These choices, so central to a successful work, usually happen unconsciously, driven by the emotion the artist feels at the outset. The challenge is hanging onto that guiding feeling in the labor of making the picture.

7. Fine things seem only to be seen in flashes.

In my experience, I find this to be true not only of the process of drawing, but in my creative life more generally. In the fields of character development, scriptwriting, and world-building, the deeper inspirations come unexpectedly in torrents, separated by periods of steady craftsmanship.

8. Art thus enables us to experience life at second hand.

Through great art, we see the world in a more meaningful or enhanced way. After a visit to the picture galleries, our senses are heightened. This effect is even stronger to a student who makes a faithful copy of a master painting or drawing.

9. One is always profoundly impressed by the expression of a sense of bulk, vastness, or mass in form. 

Later he talks about lightness. It's always good to think about gravity when drawing. Muscles are always pulling against gravity. Wings struggle to lift a bird through the air against the pull of the earth. Drawing someone off-balance generates interest, but balance and imbalance are factors of gravity.

10. In these school studies feeling need not be considered, but only a cold accuracy....These academic drawings, too, should be as highly finished as hard application can make them, so that the habit of minute visual expression may be acquired.

In the French schools at least, there were different aesthetic criteria applied to studies from the model. Student studies were expected to be as accurate and finished as possible, and more interpretive works, which allowed for much more distortion and interpretation. A lot of schools in recent decades, needing to cover a lot of ground, tend to skip over the exacting practice of these coldly accurate school studies. It is like playing scales for the musician, or knowing the rules of grammar for the writer, as Carol Berning mentioned in the comments last time.

11. Drawing, then, to be worthy of the name, must be more than what is called accurate.
Harold Speed (Dover ed.)
This point was illustrated by Sargent's portrait of Carolus-Duran in a recent blog post. Speed concludes that "Artistic accuracy demands that things be observed by a sentient individual recording the sensations produced in him by the phenomena of life." Art, then, becomes life filtered through a consciousness. This is a very idealistic view of drawing, and it sets up for next week's Chapter 3: "Vision"


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Exquisite Illustrations Created by Drawing with Thread [feedly]

Exquisite Illustrations Created by Drawing with Thread
// Brown Paper Bag

Annalisa Bollini

This past weekend, while watching the latest episode of Mad Men, I started a new embroidery. It's my first one in many months! It feels good, ya'll. Just like the work of Annalisa Bollini. The Italian illustrator creates these mixed media scenes that are a combination of embroidery, appliqué , and paper bits. She has exquisite line work that's made with tiny stitches, and I love how it's a substitute for a pen or pencil.

Annalisa has prints of her work for sale in her Etsy shop. You'll find brooches there, too.

And… one last that's apt, especially since it's Friday. Annalisa gives this sage advice on her website: If you don't know what to do, eat some chocolate!

AnnalisaBollini-4 AnnalisaBollini-12 AnnalisaBollini-2 AnnalisaBollini-1 AnnalisaBollini-10 AnnalisaBollini-8 AnnalisaBollini-6 AnnalisaBollini-11 AnnalisaBollini-7 AnnalisaBollini-9 AnnalisaBollini-5

The post Exquisite Illustrations Created by Drawing with Thread appeared first on Brown Paper Bag.


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