Category Archives: Illustration

Delightful Grotesque: Katie McCann’s collages

Italy-iconKatie McCann‘s collages portray gracefully odd creatures that could easily fit in a forgotten Victorian fairy tale. They evoke Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Jules Verne‘s sci-fi adventures and Frankenstein all at once.

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The main inspiration behind Katie McCann‘s collages is summarized by a quote from Charles Altamont Doyle (who was the less known father of Arthur Conan Doyle): ‘I have known such a creature…’ In fact McCann‘s art originates from her imaginative – but no less real – response to the natural world. The artist has managed to keep alive her childhood ability to see the extraordinary in apparently ordinary objects and natural elements like butterlies’ and insects’ wings, shells, bones and leaves. As a result, her collages are populated by hybrid figures reminiscent of the fantastical creatures animating children’s literature in the Victorian era. 04a050602
Katie McCann assembles her bizarre characters with fragments cut out from vintage photos and illustrations that she finds in medical, scientific and natural history old books. She meticulously cuts tiny wings from insects, leaves and petals from plants, bones and other anatomical parts from animals and humans, so that her collection of collages resembles a personal and subjective cabinet of curiosities, as if it was a record of her imaginative entomological and anatomical discoveries. 07a09a

McCann‘s fantastical Frankenstein-like animals become specimens collected in a scientific catalogue while her elegant paper dolls stand on bird legs and have lobster claws. The artist often incorporates lace, beads and fabric into her collages. The intricately delicate effect has a tactile three-dimensional quality that makes her figures more ‘grotesque beauties’ than ‘monstrous freaks’. 0809101107
In our contemporary times ‘to be contemporary’ sounds too often like a constraining creative imperative. Luckily, Katie McCann is not afraid of defining herself as old fashioned and of reinterpreting the sense of the grotesque so typical in Victorian art. A ideally contemporary heir of those times, she mixes heterogeneous visual sources, such as nature and fashion, triggering that feeling of sudden surprise arising when the boundaries between strange and beautiful cease to exist. 1213Similarly to Tim Burton‘s films and Edward Carey‘s novels, Katie McCann‘s art retains a timeless poetic quality that comes out of its being dark and hunting and for that same mysterious reason delicate and tender. 1516To discover more of her collages, visit Katie McCann‘s website Beetle Blossom and check her portfolio on Flickr.

Thanks to Katie McCann for the use of the images.

via e MORFES

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In the Land of Punctuation – Tara Books (2)

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For aspiring writers the land of punctuation is often a metaphorical minefield. Recently Indian publishing house Tara Books has released an amazing visual translation of Christian Morgenstern‘s poem In the Land of Punctuation, turning it into a visually compelling tale that restitutes more than the literal meaning. Punctuation_1Beautifully designed by Rathna Ramanathan, the images through which the verses develop are all ‘assembled’ typographically, using only punctuation marks as both independent characters and visual signs forming the elements of the landscape. landofpunctuation_02Written in 1905 by German poet Christian Morgenstern, apparently In the Land of Punctuation is a cute non-sensical nursery rhyme that plays with punctuation marks. They become the living characters engaging in a violent fight against each other and for supremacy. trrops

Defined by its author as a linguistic caprice, the poem is actually a dark satire on the absurdity of intolerance and the pointless but unavoidable violence that comes out of it. Since its beginnings committed with a strong socio-political vision, Tara Books could not miss the occasion for rediscovering this literary gem, translating it into a book to be read both textually and visually. dashesThe making of In the Land of Punctuation has involved a double translation. First Sirish Rao came up with a brand new translation from German to English. Then, designer and illustrator Rathna Ramanathan provided the translation from written language to visual typography. Each page is masterfully animated by the aggressively dynamic actions of the characters. corpsesThe spiral of violence, which is the central thread running through the poem, starts when stops and commas form a belligerent alliance against the semi-colons, seen as parasite owning their existence to them. All the semi-colons are left dead on a bloody battlefield. But violence only results in more violence and the aggressor easily become the aggressed. So, when the blade-like dashes join this civil war in the land of punctuation they direct their hatred against the commas, beheading them. The once commas are reduced to semi-colons corpses adding up to the death field. killerdashesThe design of the book perfectly restitutes the war atmosphere. With its red and black rendition and the dynamism of lines and marks, it is clearly reminiscent of the visual language used by Russian avant-garde in the 1920’s that had in Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky its most famous propaganda work of art. But the original reinterpretation of art does not stop here. There is also a homage to Alexander Calder‘s mobiles in the image presenting the main characters of the story, with the lightly suspended semi-colons still unaware of the lurking tragedy embodied by stops and commas. calder

Tara Books has produced yet another gem to its catalogue, confirming the passion and commitment that has made it a favourite of mine (see my previous post here).

To check more gems from Tara Books please visit their website here.

Thanks to Tara Books for the images.

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Rafael Mantesso and Jimmy Choo – An inspiring friendship

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Dogs are incredibly inspiring creatures. Brazilian illustrator and designer Rafael Mantesso knows it well. Left in an unfurnished house after a divorce, Mantesso had only his dog Jimmy Choo (a bull terrier named by his ex after the fashion designer) to keep him company and bring up his morale. With clever and witty humour, Mantesso has started to use the white walls as the background for Jimmy Choo’s quirky performances. He draws various backdrops with a black marker on white cardboard. The scene is completed by the hilarious presence of Jimmy Choo who poses in disguise with funnily tender result. Mantesso swears that Jimmy Choo enjoyed all of it. And we enjoy it all as well…

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I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail – Tara Books (1)

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The illustrated book I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail is an illustrated gem published in 2010 by the amazing Tara Books. To have it on my bookshelves is a powerful reminder of the incredible richness that experiencing a book can offer.

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Solar art by Jon Marro

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Artist Jon Marro has coined the definition ‘Solar Art for his practice. Marro believes that art can be illuminating for our soul just like the sun provides light to our material existence.

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Carlos Meira’s paper bas-reliefs

In the hands of Brazilian Carlos Meira, paper is not confined to the role of support for artistic expression. With ever-surpring results, Meira‘s mastery assigns to paper the main role in his artistic practice:

Designer and art director in the advertising industry, Meira also developed his creative energies through learning paper sculpture with amazing results. Paper is an amazing medium, incredibly versatile and extremely fragile at the same time. Meira‘s art turns the basic flatness of a paper sheet into lively colourful  bas-reliefs. It takes extreme patience to craft paper in this way. The process consists in drawing, colouring the paper, marking it, cutting it and shaping it before the final assemblage. Loving, patient and gentle gestures are the vital ingredients that Meira masters with slow and precise movements of his hands and fingers. Surprisingly for such excellent results, Meira is essentially self-taught in the art of paper sculpture, an art to which he has started devoting more and more time after returning from Portugal to Brazil in the 1990s. And his visual universe is animated with the imagery and ravishing colours of his homeland, from the Carnival costumes to the luxuriant flora and fauna populating his art. You can find more of Carlos Meira‘s paper sculptures on his website, Behance page and blog.

Images courtesy of Carlos Meira.

(via Living Design)

Autumn, time of Leaves

Last year, roughly at this time, I collected some of the beautiful leaves that literally cover my path back home. Surely, I had in mind to create something with them, which I never did at the end. Luckily, and certainly with a million time better results that I could have gained, some artists don’t give up and create inspiring pieces out of this beautiful medium…

(suggested soundtrack: November by Azure Ray, here)

WALTER MASON

A land artist, Walter Mason has created a series of works and installations inspired by the seasons. Here some from his Fall intervention in and with nature:mmason
For more of Walter Mason exciting pieces of land art visit his Flickr page here. (via My Modern Metropolis)

RACHEL SOKAL

Rachel Sokal practices an alternative form of photography. The works are chlorophyll prints, with no photoshop involved. Sokal places a photo printed onto clear acetate on top of a leaf. The acetate image creates a protective filter while time and sunlight make the rest: 

Rachel Sokal works with many forms of photography. Check her website here.

MEHDI MOEENI

Illustrator Mehdi Moeeni has created lovely images of animals, shaped with leaves. They are so simple and yet so unique: 

(via Design Swan)