Tag Archives: Illustration

Imaginary Universe: Richard Kolker’s Computer Generated Images

London-based artist Richard Kolker has been working exclusively with computer generated imagery (CGI) for the last six years. But the fact that he comes from a traditional photographic background, having previously worked as a commercial photographer for Getty Images, would surprise no one: Kolker’s imagined pictures of still lifes, interiors and landscapes are rendered with such precision and clarity that they appear like true, documentary shots.

Inspired by the online virtual world Second Life and games such as World of Warcraft, which both rely heavily on GCI, Kolker sought to create images that were the antithesis of the aesthetic found in these programs. “I wanted to create images that reflected a more mundane nature, as opposed to the more fascinating environments people were experiencing through the anonymity of an avatar,” he says.

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Richard Kolker’s computer generated image featured in the Oct. 29, 2012 issue of TIME.

That quieter mood is seen in the image created for Kolker in this week’s education-themed issue of TIME. For a story that examines the potential of free online courses to upend traditional higher education, Kolker created a dark image of an empty classroom. “A lot of my photos have this dark shadowy entity to it,” he explains. “I wanted to convey the emptiness with this classroom image—like all the life has been taken out.”

Kolker’s images typically take a couple days to create. And while the method may be seen as unconventional, he says the process itself feels similar to actual shooting. “I build a model like I would with plastic or cardboard, and I light it as I would in real life—but just with digital tools,” Kolker says. “And then I photograph it with a computer tool [Maxon Cinema 4D] that has a shutter speed and aperture—so in many ways, it’s fairly conventional.”

For the most part, Kolker relies on his self-described “vivid imagination” to conceptualize pictures, although he’ll use an actual photograph as a starting point from time to time. In one series, “Reference, Referents,” Kolker looked to famous works by artists whose pieces recalled photographic elements, including David Hockney, and tried to recreate the perfect picture that might have inspired said work.

He still carries cameras around when he travels, but says he never takes pictures anymore, preferring to continue his CGI work. “The whole world is shifting from analog to digital, and I love thinking about this digital code that you can use to create images of places around the world without ever having to go there,” Kolker says. “I love the total freedom of it—the ability to create whatever it is in your imagination or fantasy.”

Richard Kolker is an artist based in the U.K. See more of his work here

 

Critique: Kiki in graphic detail.Catel’s quick-fire sketches illustrate the life of a Surrealist icon

I had some reservations about Kiki de Montparnasse, a new graphic biography of the artists’ model and muse, painter, singer of bawdy songs and celebrity, who came to fame in Paris in the 1920s, writes Rick Poynor in Eye 79. The woman herself is fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed her autobiography, Kiki’s Memoirs (1929), banned in the US and finally made available in English in 1996. But the graphic style of Kiki de Montparnasse (SelfMadeHero) drawn by Catel Muller and written by José-Louis Bocquet, is not one I would normally go for – I prefer a sharp line and a tightly constructed page – and graphic mood is crucial in a narrative that runs to 370 pages.

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Long before I was halfway through, Catel’s delicately skating pen had me completely charmed and convinced she was the perfect artist to handle this story. The immediacy of her graphic style captures Kiki’s personality to a tee: lively, amusing, generous, irrepressible, quick to stick up for herself, a natural entertainer who never failed to grab the opportunity to have a good time.

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This is an extract from ‘Kiki in graphic detail’, Rick Poynor’s Critique in Eye 79.

More details on the publisher’s website.

See also: Rick Poynor’s two-part essay on Surrealism. Part one (article from Eye 63) and part two (article from Eye 65).

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. The latest issue is Eye 79, a type special.

Mapping it up. Embrace the inner cartographer of artists and graphic designers

I’ve yet to meet a designer who doesn’t harbour a fondness for maps, writes Alexander Ecob. Perhaps it’s the vaguely retentive appeal of putting everything in its rightful place, or the pedigree of one of the oldest forms of data visualisation. Whatever the reason, many artists and designers have something of the cartographer about them, and a handful of these put it to good use.

Top: Alan Kitching – Clerkenwell map. See Video Thrills – the letterpress star, Fine words for Kitching / Stothard on the Eye blog and The show must go on in Eye 74.

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Above: Diorama Map by Sohei Nishino.

Shown recently at London’s Michael Hoppen Contemporary gallery, Sohei Nishino’s Diorama Maps are painstakingly created photomontages, made up of thousands of images taken and developed by the artist, then cut and spliced together to construct maps that are at once familiar and disorientating.

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Above: London’s Kerning by NB: Studio

To really appreciate its scale and detail, the typographic obsession that is NB: Studio’s London’s Kerning needs to be seen up close. It is available for purchase on Blanka. See Calling Cards on the Eye blog for more from NB:

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Above: Phrenological San Francisco (Sarah Stern, Ben Pease and Paz de la Calzada) from Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit.

Four years in the making, the work of a cooperative of artists, writers, historians, researchers and cartographers from the Bay Area, Infinite City takes the form of 22 inventive maps of San Francisco and its environs, each with an accompanying essay. The whimsical approach and surrealism of its correlations put this book more in the realm of Italo Calvino than the Collins World Atlas, and it is all the better for it.

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Above: The Island by Stephen Walter.

London-born artist Stephen Walter’s The Island satirises the London-centric view of the English capital and its commuter towns as independent from the rest of the country. With maps of each of the city’s boroughs pencil-drawn in meticulous detail showing a wealth of local information, The Island was shown in the British Library’s ‘Magnificent Maps’ exhibition in 2010 (see review in Eye 76).

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Above: spread from Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky.

Schalansky’s award-winning Atlas – conceived, written and designed by the German designer – is a triumph of charm and single-minded vision. Her delicate illustrations are juxtaposed with effusive vignettes that detail the islands’ known histories, bountiful and brutal alike. See review of Atlas of Remote Islands in Eye 78.

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Above: Map of Florida by Paula Scher.

In the early 1990s, renowned graphic designer Paula Scher began painting small, opinionated maps – colorful depictions of continents and regions, covered from top to bottom by a scrawl of words. ‘They’re all wrong,’ Scher says. ‘I mean, nothing’s in the right spot. I put in what I feel like. It’s my comment on information in general. We receive a lot of information all the time and mostly it’s lies or slight mistruths.’

See Bigger is Better on the Eye blog and the Reputations interview with Scher in Eye 77.

See also: next week’s ‘Hand-drawn London’ exhibition at the Museum of London, 21 Apr–11 Sep 2011.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. The latest issue is Eye 79, a type special.

Out of space. Charting the pervasive visual language of science fiction

A forthcoming exhibition about science fiction at the British Library will be full of amazing images as well as stories. We spoke to Katya Rogatchevskaia, co-curator of the British Library’s exhibition, opening on 20 May 2011 and titled: ‘Out of This World: Science Fiction but not as you know it.’

Top: Frank R Paul, April 1928 ‘Eye’ cover for Amazing Stories, the world’s first science fiction magazine.

Below: Polish samizdat edition of Evgeny Zamyatin’s My (We), published in Warsaw, 1985.

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EYE The exhibition looks at what distinguishes science fiction from related genres like fantasy and horror. Is there anything distinct about the visual language?

KR Science fiction is about imagination, speculations and vision. It’s a genre that both invites and defies accurate interpretation through illustration. The exhibition will explore the full spectrum of visualised science fiction, from science fiction that is theoretically possible and based on ‘real science’, designed to instruct as well as entertain – such as the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne – to the more imaginative and speculative science fiction of virtual worlds, where dreams can play as big a role as digital realities.

The visual language of science fiction is something that we readily understand and return to constantly. If you asked a selection of people to draw an extraterrestrial life form, it is highly likely that you would be presented with at least a few domed-headed, boggle-eyed beings. This representation of aliens is not based on any real science, but it has entered our visual culture and become iconic.

The same motifs appear again and again in science fiction, often straying into mainstream fiction. Obviously there is some cross-over with fantasy and horror, and looking at science fiction in a vacuum would not be helpful, but we aim to show that science fiction has been incredibly inspirational in its own right – to popular culture, literature and art.

Below: Francis Godwin’s Domingo Gonsales trained a flock of ganzas to transport him in The Man in the Moone. From the first edition, 1638.

The Man in the Moone. From the first edition, 1638

Raymond Taylor’s composition, A Signal from Mars, 1901

Above: Raymond Taylor’s composition, A Signal from Mars, 1901.

EYE Can you comment upon the relationship between science fiction literature and illustration?

KR From the end of the nineteenth century, popular fiction became more and more linked to illustration, and illustrators and graphic artists started exploiting science fiction as a source of inspiration. Science fiction from this period plays an important role in the history of book cover design, with the automation of book production making illustrated covers a marketing tool – and we have some fantastic early examples of this phenomenon in the exhibition. We also have a number of artists’ books, which are some of my favourite items – for example, William Morris, Barlowe’s, guide to extraterrestrials, Barry Moser’s visualisation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1983), and especially – Lem Mróz.

Below: Bovril advertisement, ca.1890.

Bovril advertisement, c1890

Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland, 1980

Visitors will be able to see a 30ft long concertina book version of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, published in 1980 by the Arion Press (above). Flatland is a satire on Victorian society, representing the class system through the metaphor of geometry, and this edition goes one step further, reimagining the book itself as a geometrical form. We are also showing the artist Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus (1981), an encyclopedia of an imaginary world, written in an imaginary language; as well as Paul Scheerbart’s portfolio of illustrations, Gallery of the Beyond from 1907, which is a visualisation of aliens from ‘beyond the Orbit of Neptune’.

Cover of Gaspar’s Novelas (1887)

Above: Cover of Gaspar’s Novelas (1887) for ‘El Anacronópete’ depicting the earliest known portrayal of a time machine.

Below: The Martians from H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds; as depicted by Alvim-Correa in the Belgian edition, La Guerre des mondes (Brussels, 1906).

The Martians from H G Wells’s The War of the Worlds

The exhibition will also show various other approaches to illustrating. H. G. Wells’ famous The War of the Worlds is shown in three editions. Tripod aliens are exhibited side by side as visualised by three prominent book illustrators: Warwick Goble, Jacobus Speenhoff and Alvim Corrêa – in this way we can see how the same work was interpreted entirely differently, whilst still having a powerful impact.

EYE In what ways will visitors be able to engage with the visual language of science fiction during this exhibition?

KR Visitors will be able to see the whole spectrum of the visual language of science fiction. They will have a chance to compare different techniques, styles and forms of illustrations and enjoy the visual side of imaginary worlds. They can see original artwork by contemporary artists (David Hardy, Bryan Talbot, Les Edwards, James Richardson-Brown). They will be able to take part in our interactive exhibits, by designing their own alien to be part of the exhibition, and sending a postcard from a science fiction landscape. I hope also that the exhibition will inspire artists and designers to create new work, and perhaps make people think again about the ways in which science fiction speaks to our imaginations.

20 May > 25 Sep 2011
Out of this World: Science Fiction but not as you know it
PACCAR Gallery
British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB UK
www.bl.uk

Below: Lucian of Samosata, True History, Dutch edition, 1647.

Lucian of Samosata, True History

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. For an extensive (if so far incomplete), text-only archive of articles (going back to Eye no. 1 in 1990) visit eyemagazine.com. For a visual sample of the latest issue, see Eye before you buy on Issuu.

Power of the ruling pen. David Gentleman’s graphic poster campaign for Stop the War

Placards have always been a powerful visual medium for demonstration and protest. A team from Goldsmiths, University of London, asked anti-cuts demonstrators at the recent London march to donate theirs for preservation in the Museum of London’s collections (see the group’s Facebook page for images and more information)

For Eye 78’s Reputations article, editor John L. Walters interviewed designer-illustrator David Gentleman. His graphic work for the ‘Stop the War’ campaign is possibly his most widely known work from recent years – and, as Gentleman told Eye in conversation, ‘it was also a surprise for people who associated me with rather staid spheres!’

Top: Placards and posters from various marches. The lower one was flyposted to announce the first march in Feb 2003. ‘It would have been the final placard,’ says Gentleman, ‘but for technical reasons the printer would have had to leave a white border round it, so it was changed to black type on white and made in upright format in case it rained – the horizontal one would have flopped about.’

Below: The ‘Bliar’ anagram was Gentleman’s idea. ‘It took me a while to dare to use it,’ he says, ‘because Blair was still prime minister at the time, and I thought: “is this really a good career move?”’

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The job came about through his book A Special Relationship, made around 25 years ago. His wife Sue Gentleman remembers the controversy that work caused: ‘The Evening Standard or someone published a headline “No longer a gentleman”!’ As Gentleman explains, the Iraq war reawakened his political drive:

‘I’d inherited my Dad’s automatic leftiness but I’ve never committed like the people I’ve met in Stop the War, whose lives seem wholly dedicated to the cause. At the back of A Special Relationship there are people carrying “NO” placards. When it began to look as if the war in Iraq was imminent, I made a simple “NO” and stuck it over press photos of people on a march, so that it looked very legible.’

‘I sent it to CND a week before the march saying would you like to use this? Not surprisingly, I never heard anything back! After another march, six months later, I saw Tony Benn and asked him who should I send such an idea to, and he told me about the Stop the War Coalition. They got the designs printed fantastically quickly. They used East End Offset, which had been Private Eye’s printer. Phil Whaite, an excellent freelance typographer / designer, helped me with the computer side.’

Below: Posters and banners for Stop the War Coalition, 2003-present. ‘The blood splat was made with red watercolour dripped from a ruling pen held at shoulder height on to good, hand-made watercolour paper,’ says Gentleman.

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See full text of Reputations interview with David Gentleman in Eye 78.

See also ‘Fixed compass’, about Gentleman’s identity for British Steel on the Eye blog.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop. For a taste of no. 78, see Eye before you buy on Issuu. Eye 79, Spring 2011, is out now.

Surface to space. Maths, computers and the internet bring new life to the art of origami

Most of us are familiar with the art of paper folding, perhaps as an amusing pastime with brightly coloured paper, writes Marian Bantjes, a kind of parlour trick or children’s game. To those a bit more aware, origami has intersected with graphic design mostly as a form of three-dimensional illustration – which is one of the ways that paper folders are able to make a living. But a little investigation into the process of construction, and the developments that have occurred over the past quarter-century promise something more intriguing than a delightful puzzle. As with graphic design there is beauty in simplicity, as well as surprising complexity below the surface.

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What most properly defines origami is the linear fold – a complex mental exercise in compaction and extrusion.

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The most whimsical forms reveal gridwork similar to architecture or engineering design, restraints that give origami its allure.

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This is an extract from Marian Bantjes’ ‘Surface to Space’ in Eye 67 (Spring 2008). Read the full text of the article here.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu.

Cover story. New trade version of monograph celebrating the inventor of LP design

The first illustrated album cover – for ‘albums’ of 78rpm records – was designed in 1940 by Alex Steinweiss, art director at Columbia Records.

The 94-year-old Steinweiss rarely receives the recognition given to Paul Rand or Lester Beall, widely considered to be among the form-givers of American Modernism, but he was just as much a pioneer of corporate branding insofar as he gave a major recording company a distinctive identity.

You can now read the full text of Steven Heller’s Reputations interview with Steinweiss in Eye 76, the music design special issue.

In 2009, Taschen published the literally massive Alex Steinweiss: The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover (top) an exhaustive survey of his music work and other graphic design. At 422 pages, measuring 34cm by 28.3cm, it is possibly the largest design monograph ever published. Taschen has now made the previously limited-editionbook available in a more affordable trade version.

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It was Steinweiss who, in the early 1950s, after designing hundreds of packages, posters and catalogues for Columbia, created the paperboard LP cover to protect and market the latest revolution in music delivery. In the process, he defined the visual identity of recorded music for decades to come.

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Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover
Hardcover, 420pp. £44.99 (Taschen).

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues (including Eye 76 and single copies of the latest issue. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu. Eye 79 is out any moment.

Bravo, Charlie. Playing with phonetic typography at the Kemistry gallery

Hot on the heels of their intriguing exhibition of Saul Bass posters, the Kemistry gallery (a fitting venue for phonetics) plays host to the ICAO Phonetic Spelling Alphabet as interpreted by Eat Sleep Work / Play, Inventory Studio (one of the practices behind ‘The Art of Conversation’) & Julia, writes Alexander Ecob.

The ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] alphabet, originally developed in the 1930s to aid communication under poor signal conditions, is here represented with playful typographical forms larking about on A2 posters.

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First shown as part of Tokyo’s UK?OK!!, the project plays on the international theme of the alphabet’s intent – though all of the studios featured are London based.

A wider range of participating designers might have made the work richer, but as they stand, the pieces give off a great sense of fun. Also on display will be a specially commissioned installation featuring a short story that makes use of every single letter from this alphabet. Sets and individual prints will be available to purchase.

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Roger That!
24 March > 16 April
Kemistry Gallery
43 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch
London EC2A 3PD

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. For an extensive (if so far incomplete), text-only archive of articles (going back to Eye no. 1 in 1990) visit eyemagazine.com. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu.