Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Met: Part I

Early this year I visited NY for the first time. I saw lots of amazing things, but my favourite place was The Metropolitan Museum. I spent the entire day there and it still wasn't enough time (I strongly recommend packing lots of snacks when you go). I took alot of pictures of interesting things that inspired me, I plan on posting one or two every week. Here's the first!

Below are some of the beautiful things I came across in the Greek and Roman section.

(fragment of a gold wreath, Greek ca 320-300 BC) I don't know if some ancient greek woman wore this in her curly black hair but that's what I would like to think, and frankly if she didn't she was missing out.

Grave stele of a little girl, ca. 450–440 B.C. I've had a picture of this pasted into a sketchbook for years so it was a very nice surprise to come across it in the Met. The doves she's holding were likely her pets who she's saying goodbye to (sniffle) it really is a beautiful sculpture, I especially like the stylized doves.

Shameless Plug: My Dad's Blog

Sometimes you just gotta do something for your dear old dad. And seeing as how I introduced him to blogging I think it's only right that I promote his new blog . Not only does it have good hones advice on real estate, but charming photos (come on, you gotta love that cow) of the Fraser Valley and local insight on good day trips in the area.

Book Review: Rex Ray Art & Design

Title:Rex Ray Art & Design
Author:Rex Ray, Douglas Coupland (Foreword), Steven Skov Holt (contributor), Michael Paglia (contributor)
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Published: October 2007
Price:$40.00 CDN

This is a beautiful book. Rex Ray is an amazing painter/collage artist whose unique colour sense and whimsical compositions are just plain fun. Which is something you don't see much of in contemporary art. Ray himself says of his early collages "they began as simple, personal exercise, a way of forgetting everything I know and getting lost". I think there is a quality of that in all of his work, where you can see he's lost himself in crazy colours and twisting shapes seeing how far he can go.

The book has a foreword by Douglas Coupland and a short essay by Michael Paglia, I much prefer Coupland's intro. Paglia's is too formal for my taste, while Coupland's is relaxed and conversational. However, the best glimpse into Ray's art and his method is an interview with him by Steven Skov Holt at the back of the book. In it Ray is very revealing about his process. I love his description of choosing colours, he talks about purposely working under at night under bad light because it would result in unusual colour combinations he wouldn't have dared use under good light, but ultimately were so wrong they were right. He goes on to describe how he will force himself to start with colours he hates and then work with them. It's fascinating to me his very deliberate process since I had assumed his vivid palette was a result of an innate colour sense, rather it seems to be something he works hard for.

One thing I don't understand is the inclusion of Ray's graphic design work in this book. It isn't as strong as his painting and collages and doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the work. That said the book is very nicely designed, I especially love the faux wood grain spine that continues into the books inside cover, referencing the vintage feel of Ray's work as well as his use of wood panel.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Andy Warhol Giant Size

Title: Andy Warhol: Giant Size
Author: Editors of Phaidon Press
Publisher: Phaidon
Published: February 21, 2006
Pages: 624
Price: $ 125.00 (US)

Andy Warhol once said, "don't pay any attention to what they write about you just measure it in inches", for that reason alone he would have been thrilled with this book since it's 2 1/2 inches thick. Chronicling Warhol's career from his years as a commercial illustrator to his later work with the artist Basquiat the book is a testament to the sheer volume of his work. It's strangely fitting that the man whose work explored notions of commercialism and mass production should have left behind such a large inventory.
This is the only book on Warhol I have seen that gives equal attention to his entire career from movies, magazines and paintings as well as biographical information. The book includes information on his life and analysis of his art but far more revealing are the many personal photos, letters and reference material that fill the pages. Espically interesting are reference photos of some of his silkscreens, for example a contact sheet that shows the various compositions he considered for his hammer and sickle series. His many fabulous quotes are also spread throughout the book such as, "...because when you do something exactly wrong, you always end up with something right" all of which make it clear Warhol was a master of the soundbite. This is defintly a book to own, just make sure your book shelf is reenforced.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NY graffiti

I have a couple of really great book reviews coming soon, but right now it's too hot to type so I thought I'd post some pictures I took of graffiti when I was in NY this January.

All of this was from either the meat packing district or Brooklyn mostly around Williamsburg. I loved the layers of graffiti and wheat pasting you see on the walls.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: 365 AIGA Year in Design 29

Title: 365: AIGA Year in Design 29
Author: editors of Wallpaper magazine
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Published: April 15, 2009
Pages: 367
Price: $ 40.00 (US)

365: AIGA Year in Design 29 is a really nice design annual. The layout is clean so as not to take the focus from the work but there are still enough quirky design elements to give it personality, like the cover which I love. One of the constant criticisms of design contests is that too many of the award winning projects are one off's that the public will never see. In the introduction, Sean Adams defends this annual, stating that while there are unique small run projects there is more work produced for mass audiences than he has seen in a long time. I think he's right there is a good balance of "designy" work for non profits and boutiques and good solutions for huge corporations.

One of the nicest things about this annual, besides the content, is how large the pictures are. Tiny pictures are one of my pet peeves about magazine design annuals where often the work is so small you can't see the details enough to fully appreciate the work. The cross section of work is also nice, categories include everything from typographic design, and experience design to entertainment and experimental design. Ultimately it's the work that makes a good annual and AIGA is full of exciting and inspirational design solutions, I'm sure I'll flip through it often in the years to come.

One Perfect Day cover, Penguin Group, art director Darren Haggar, Jacket designer Evan Gaffney,
This is one of my favourite jackets of the year.

Les Allusifs cover series, Paprika Montreal, creative director Louis Gagnon, art director Francois Leclerc, Jacket designer Francois Leclerc, illustrator Alain Pilon

I love seeing the design solutions to creating book jackets for a series. These covers by Paprika are fabulous, the circle around the title is so strong and despite the many formulas that have come before they created something new, fresh and beautiful.

Everthing is OK, a public design experiment, Mine San Francisco, designers tim belonax and christopher Simmons, creative director Christopher Simmons.
Simple and genius. Put a smile on my face.

posters for the 2009 Honens International Piano Competition, Wax Calgary, designer Monique Gamache, illustrator Tara Hardy, writer Tent Burton I love the bad photocopy texture on the faces and the way the bright colours of the other collage elements interact with it

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review: Wallpaper City Guide Vancouver

Title: Wallpaper City Guide Vancouver
Author: editors of Wallpaper magazine
Publisher: Phaidon
Pages: 240
Price: $19.95 (CDN)

Wallpaper Magazine has been publishing city guides since 2006, with over 60 guides already available and now it's Vancouver's turn. I saw a rack display of these pocket sized guides (6.2 x 4.1 x 0.5 inches) in Chapters and I have to admit they looked pretty darned good all lined up with their minimalist colour coded covers. The Vancouver guide is probably the most attractive miniature travel guide I've ever seen, and it should be since it's designed for the type of person who would rather die than be caught holding a glossy Fodor's guidebook. The slick design is also very functional and well thought out. There are foldout maps on both front and back covers, tabs for easy navigation, and a handy colour coding system that lets you know what neighborhood each location is in. The photography is also top notch, with a much more modern aesthetic than the typical over saturated photos found in travel books.

While this is a great looking book the content is definilty not meant for the average tourist. The bulk of the information concerns luxery hotels, restaurants and stores most of which I personally have never set foot in. There is a nice summary of the architectural highlights of the city (not that we have many) but the book doesn't include any information on "tacky" tourist spots like The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Aquarium, or the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Essentially the guide is aimed towards a very select target market whose needs it meets very well, but whose lifestyle is not shared by the average person. Also, in a testament to the importance of good editing, the trendy neighborhood Yaletown is misspelled as Valetown several times.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Book Review: Crave Vancouver

Title: Crave Vancouver
Author: crave party
Publisher: crave party
Published: 2008
Pages: 240
Price: $19.95 (CDN)

Crave Vancouver features "over 100 spots and women you need to know in town", with spotlights on everything from boutiques and spas to cafes and publicists. Published by CRAVEcompany a network of businesses that strive to connect entrepreneurs in new ways.
It's exciting to see so many unique Vancouver businesses and the women who own them featured in one book. Many of the stores are familiar to me but some definitely deserve furthur exploration, like the Marimekko store!

This book is full of great content, but the design makes it hard to find and exhausting to look through. The book isn't organized into relevant sections like spas, restaurants etc., instead it's in alphabetical order and there isn't even a table of contents. The page layouts are quite busy and the type is too big and too crammed in.

Okay, I got that out of my system. I don't want to knock this book too much because I do think the content is great and it's inspiring to see how many creative successful business women there are in Vancouver.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Discover Dewey The 398.2's Fairy Tale Books

In this episode of "Discover Dewey" your friend and guide in all your library adventures, we'll discuss the elusive fairy-tale books, which are not always where you would expect (cue mysterious music)....

The 398.2's is the folklore section of the non-fiction collection, it includes nursery rhymes, folktales, fairy tales etc. They're not with the rest of the picture books because they depict a culture's customs, values and beliefs (in other words they think they're better than Clifford and Babar). Personally I've always found this slightly confusing since there are also some Cinderella's and Snow Whites lurking in the regular kids picture books, but then I'm not a "librarian" so I guess I shouldn't quibble. Anywho, something about the rich stories, fancy dresses and those adorable talking frogs makes for lots of great illustration which is found in many of these books. Below are two beautifully illustrated books that I found

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" illustrated by Chihiro Iwasaki, translated and adapted by Anthea Bell, 1984, Picture Book Studio USA.

Chihiro is a Japanese illustrator, I love her squiggly pencil line and blotchy watercolour. Her compositions and use of white areas against bolts of colour is also very effective, for example, throughout the book Snow White wears a white dress.

"The Little Mermaid" illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger, translated and adapted by Anthea Bell, 2004,Penguin Young Readers.

I adore Lisbeth Zwerger, she's illustrated quite a few other fairy tales and children's classics like Alice in Wonderland, and her whimsical, innocent illustrations are beautiful. Her use of colour is superb and I love the tiny spot illustrations that appear sporadically throughout the text.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Design Book Review: Business Cards 3

Title: Business Card 3 : Designs on Saying Hello
Author: Michael Dorrian
Publisher: Laurence King
Published: 2009
Pages: 272
Price: $38.95 (CDN)

I remember the cold wave of fear that came over me when my instructor announced we were going to have to design our own business cards. The realization that I had to communicate my entire being and purpose in life (okay maybe I exagerate a tad) using only a tiny piece of paper was horrifying. It's extremely difficult to come up with an original business card, although the examples in this book show there's still some room for exploration. Although, flipping through the book I wondered how far was too far, for exmaple, the book features one designer who simply scrawls her contact information on any object that's handy at the time ,whether it's a lighter or an old shoe. Personally I think that's not a business card but a piece of garbage with someone's name on it. If I came across such an object I would think "oh, Jill Williams forgot her lighter, I should return it to her" and that's not clever, it's just annoying.

This business card by Australian designer Quan Payne only reveals the designers name when the card is twirled.

I love the cleverness of this card for the Chocolate Casting Agency in London

Secret: I love cardboard. Hence I love this card by Stephen Owen of the UK. I also love these Hatch business cards which are genius and which I have seen in every single design magazine, website or book. They never get old, thank goodness.

Business Cards 3 features many cards I haven't seen, surprising since I've looked at alot of those "100 unique business card posts" online and they get repetitive after awhile. It features designs from around the world and for creatives working as interior designers, illustrators, photographers etc. One criticism of the book is that the format of the photos is always different which makes it look a tad un-cohesive, also the inclusion of flat art instead of having the cards photographed makes it difficult to judge the scale of the cards.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Art Book Review: Jenny Saville

Title: Jenny Saville
Author: Gagosian Gallery
Publisher: Rizzoli
Published: 2005
Pages: 160
Price: $31.50
Jenny Saville

I actually had Jenny’s cover painting in one of my inspiration books (goodness knows where I found it) but I wasen’t familiar with most of her work. This book is a beautifully designed and photographed exploration of her paintings. She paints skin so boldly and gesturally (which suits the dark nature of her subject matter, which includes corpses and pre-op plastic surgery patients) but still manages to give it a life like quality. I find the contrast between her cool coloured portraits (greys and blues) vs. her very warm red ones interesting. Gorgeous photography of her studio and source materials give a glimpse of her process and inspiration, and nicely round out the presentation of her work.

My favourite element of the book though, is the detail shots of her brush strokes, I always find myself peering with my nose to the paper in art books trying to see the texture of the painting. In the case of Saville’s paintings the closeup’s are really necessary to capture the motion and gesture of her work.

Book Review: Simply Packaging

Title: Simply Packaging
Publisher: victionary
Published: 2008
Pages: 240
Price: $26.37 (on amazon, I paid about $60.00 at Oscars)
Simply Packaging

Oh design books why do you have to be so darned expensive. This was a happy graduation present to myself (any excuse to buy an art book) from Oscars Art Books. While it’s a packaging book it’s also a good study of brand identity (including examples of signage and store design). I have seen quite a few of these projects online and in other books, but it’s nice to have all of them in one book, and with the other pieces that accompany them, giving a clearer picture of the brand they support.
I really love these tea bags by Maum, and it’s neat to see the various applications of the simple idea, it shows the concept has legs (well arms really-oh I kill myself). Similar is a self initiated project by designer Elisabeth Soes which is so simple and whimsical, this paper boat tea bag support is beyond cute.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Multistorey Design Studio

Multistorey is a design studio out of London. They have a clean, fresh style that I really like. Their work for a store called Unpackaged is especially interesting since it aims to sell products without the use of packaging, so their identity system had to work around that possible handicap.

The Regional Assembly of Text

The Regional Assembly of Text is a stationary store, but so much more than a stationary store, on Main St. in Vancouver. It's pretty embaressing how many times I said "so cute!" in the time I was in the store, but really I couldn't help it. The store has stationary items, buttons, hilarious form letters for the uninspired letter writer, minature art books, and even their very own library of hand-made art books.

The design of the store is genius, from their whimsical logo to the wall of drawers and files cabinets, to the peg board display racks everything is cohesive and well thought out. It's a really good example of how good branding is about attention to detail, and doesn't have to cost a fortune, I love how even their information about returns etc. is posted on clipboards.

They have a letter writing club the first Thursday of every month at 7pm (you can find out more on their site)and you can also purchase a membership to their book of the month club (but instead of cheesy Danielle Steele you get adorable minature art books) in store.

The Front Windows

The Front is a really great consignment/vintage clothing store on Main St. in Vancouver. They have tons of super cute summer dresses, great deals on gently used shoes and bags and awesome window displays. You can see pics of past displays on their website.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Urban Source on Main Street

Pink submarine hanging in , a eco-crafty persons dream store. They sell industrial remnants like wine corks, old film canisters, petri dishes, badges, tiles you never know what they'll have in stock. Their windows and ceiling are covered in interesting creations they've made from the materials they sell, such as this lovely submarine.

Cool Cat on Main Street

Loved this improvised mannequin that was on Main St. last weekend

Art Book Review: The Art of Vogue Covers 1909-1940

Title: The Art of Vogue Covers 1909-1940
Author: William Packer, introduction by Lady Diana Cooper
Publisher: Peerage Books
Published: 1987
Pages: 255
Price: $20.00 (used)
The Art of Vogue Covers 1909-1940

I bought this eight years ago in a unremarkable used book store in Hope, which goes to show that you never know what you'll find (I could have said don't judge a book by it's cover but that would have been too much). It's since become one of my favorite art books, before I photographed it I had to remove the sticky notes that I seemed to have put on every single page! It contains cover art by Vogue artists like Helen Dryden, Lepape and Benito. The fabulous exaggerated silhouettes and art deco influences are really inspiring. I also love the colours (especially Helen Dryden's use of colour)

and bold, geometric silhouettes, like this winter cover with the women bundled up in her luxurious white fur coat, the flat white circular shapes contrast so well with the dappled snowy background.

The introduction gives a nice summary of Vogue's illustration history and throughout the book which is arranged chronologically, there is a brief paragraph about the important events of each year and short but interesting points accompany each cover. I'll probably post more pictures at a later date because I have too many favorites to include here.