Doodle Alley: Sustain Your Creativity
Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 26, 2013
Illustrator Stephen McCranie has published a wonderfully illustrated treatise on nourishing your creativity. Brick by Brick, appearing on McCranie's blog Doodle Alley, is a cartoon of advice on developing habits and practices to sustain a creative life. The publication was borne of McCranie’s desire to catalog what he had learned during his first couple years as an illustrator. He soon realized that what he was writing “… wasn’t a book about how to create, it was a book about how to be a creator.” Rather than cover the nuts and bolts of being an illustrator – practical advice on getting published, for example – Brick by Brick seeks to give artists the emotional tools they need to thrive in a difficult career.
Some of the advice is heart-warming and postive. In “Be Friends with Failure,” McCranie cautions artists against becoming harsh self critics, and encourages them to embrace failure as part of the learning process. Other advice is extremely wise: in “You Are Not Your Art,” McCranie warns the artist against deciding “…your life is your art,” cautioning that result could be “You treat the master of your craft like gods…but you could care less about people who aren’t as skilled as you.”
McCranie is working on a print edition of the book. His successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $39,000 – $30,000 more than his stated goal. The book will be a 200-page, full color comic about sustainable creativity, and will feature the cartoons on Doodle Alley. The printed publication will include three additional essays that don’t appear online: “Name it to Wield it,” “Divide and Conquer,” and “Work to Work.”
Artwork courtesy of the artist. © Stephen McCranie
Butterick’s Practical Typography
Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 19, 2013
Lawyer and type designer Matthew Butterick has self-published a treatise on typography: Butterick’s Practical Typography. Although the book is targeted to non-designers, it is a clear, easy-to-follow overview of the basics of typography that even designers well-versed in type layout will enjoy revisiting. Butterick builds a solid basis on typography best-rules, starting with “Why Typography Matters,” and proceeding with thorough discussions of type composition, formatting, font choice, and page layout. He concludes with an appendix of valuable features such as a meaty bibliography, a list of bad typewriter habits, and keyboard shortcuts for common accented characters.
Butterick’s Practical Typography is not only a well written treatise on the fundamentals of sound type usage, but also an experiment in web-based book publishing. Butterick created Pollen, the publishing system used for the book, using the programming language Racket. The result is a simple, elegantly designed online publication which is easy to navigate and free. Butterick intends to keep the book ad-free, but requests that users support the expensive project by buying Butterick’s fonts, sending a donation, or buying his previous book, Typography for Lawyers.
Butterick comes by his expertise through a career built on design and typography. After receiving his BA from Harvard in visual and environmental studies, he worked as a type designer and engineer at the Font Bureau, and created Herald Gothic, Wessex, and Hermes. After founding the web design firm Atomic Studio (later bought by Red Hat), he went to UCLA Law School and joined the California Bar.
Road Trip! The Journey Behind the Cover Art for the Handbook’s 14th Edition
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 25, 2013
So what do Mr. Dill, a burnt draft card, a hula doll, and a wooden nickel have to do with pricing guidelines? These are some of the characters making an appearance in José Cruz’s cover art for the 14th edition of The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. Depicting the view from the driver’s seat on a long road journey, his illustration is an exhuberant, I-Spy mélange of detail. Look closely; the cover tells a tale.
Right click onto the cover image to pull up a large version. © Jose Cruz
Cruz had long been familiar with the Guild’s Handbook, having used it when he started his freelance design career in 1977. He was recommended by Michael Doret to create the latest cover art. (Doret is the husband of Laura Lynn Smith, the illustrator of the 13th edition, and is the designer of the Graphic Artists Guild’s logo.) Inspired by two of Cruz’s published works – “Mars vs. Earth” (Workman Publishing), and the serial illustration, “13 Bullets for Sam Spade” -- the Handbook’s art director, Sara Love, suggested a roadtrip as a concept for the cover art. The concept is apropos for the Handbook, implying that the book functions as a road map for planning a successful creative career.
Below: An early sketch for the cover art. © Jose Cruz
The resulting artwork tells the story of a long, adventurous cross country road trip. Clues to the identity of the driver (Joseph Cross, Cruz’s alter ego), time period, and location stud the illustration. A partially burnt draft card, with a registration date of 1964, places him squarely in the 1960s. The arrow-straight highway, with mountains looming in the distance and coyotes lurking at the side of the road, put the car in the southwest. A baseball card for a Yonkers player tells of the driver’s New York City origins, while the Bay State engraving on the car key, tickets from the Indiana State Fair, and trolley tokens from San Francisco hint at the driver’s circuitous route west. The journey is portrayed in the placement of the artwork, with the front cover depicting where the driver is going, and the back cover is the view through the side window, showing where he’s been. The glowing sky appearing over the horizon line hints at the unknown future.
The artwork also depicts the artist’s own creative journey. Homages to Cruz’s creative influences from his early career sprinkle the illustration. The fly perched on the steering wheel is a representation of an image by iconic album artist Charlie White III, one of Cruz’s first inspirations. A subtle reference to Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, and Pushpin Studios (hidden in a Gold Star trading stamp) acknowledges their support of at the start of his career. (Pushpin & Associates represented Cruz in the 1980s and Milton Glaser provided encouragement and exposure.) Even Cruz’s daughter Jo-X Rae and close friends, Daniel Pelavin and Michael Doret, make an appearance on the label of a 45 rpm record.
Cruz also skillfully places the Handbook and the Guild as central to the artist’s creative journey. The title of the book is framed in the steering wheel and dashboard, with the Guild logo functioning as a compass. (There’s also an homage to graphics software programs embedded in the steering wheel; familiar icons for pointers, cropping, and other tools appear to be engraved in the central column.) On the cover back, the description of the Handbook appears as the text on an actual roadmap.
The illustration is a showpiece for Cruz’s skill, and reflects his philosophy of “less is more and more is less, more or less.” His work ranges from the deceptively simple (such as his Simpletons), to the lushly complex. Working digitally permits him to construct layers of simple objects, creating complex, rich images. For the Handbook illustration, Jose researched source materials extensively, so that the details (such as “atomic” paddle ball souvenir) fit with the 1960s timeframe. The artwork also reflects Cruz’s artistic influences: the art deco styling of Joseph Binder and A.M. Cassandre, the geometric artwork of graphic designer George Hardie, the designs of the English artists Bush Hollyhead and Mick Haggerty, the lushness of Charlie White III’s illustration, and the beautiful typography of Michael Doret and Daniel Pelavin.
A nationally recognized illustrator with an impressive list of clients, Jose attributes his success to a lot of hard work – entering illustration annuals, and hauling his portfolio from meeting after meeting with art directors. He received his early art education at the Dallas Skyline High School from Bud “Norton” Hemedinger, a former NASA employee who taught commercial art, and from his TCU teachers graphic designer Margie Adkins, and illustrator Don Ivan Punchatz. Cruz's first job was working for Punchatz at The Sketchpad Studio, a realistic fantasy-art shop. However, upon seeing the geometric artwork of George Hardie and Mick Haggerty, Cruz changed his style.
From that point, he began as a freelance illustrator, building in the 1980s and developing relationships with then prominent art directors such as Judy Garlan from The Atlantic, Fred Woodward from D Magazine and The Rolling Stone, Dan Lloyd Taylor from Money Magazine, Mitch Shostak at BusinessWeek, Milton Glaser, James Noel Smith from both the Dallas Morning News and the Times Herald, and Stan McCray from Houston City and Boston Magazine.
All images © Jose Cruz. www.x-factor-e.com/home.html
3x3 Magazine: End of a (Print) Era
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 20, 2013
We were sad to hear the news that illustration magazine 3x3 Magazine has put its last print issue to bed. The magazine has had a good run – in its 11 years of existence, 22 issues have been printed, featuring the work of over 60 illustrators, with hundreds more appearing in 3x3’s gallery, showcase, and spotlights. Although 3x3 is suspending print publication, there are plans to continue to promote quality illustration through its website, blog, books and annuals, and (as reported on their blog) “soon new offerings.” As publisher Charles Ivey wrote in his announcement, “There are projects lying dormant on my desk. Books I want to write, monographs to edit and design, podcasts to produce, apps to develop and design projects in the idea-stage that deserve to see fruition.” We’re intrigued to see what direction 3x3 takes.
The Interaction of Color: Truly Interactive
Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 17, 2013
Design students (particularly those of a certain age) are familiar with Joseph Albers’ tome, The Interaction of Color, published by Yale University Press. The popular reference is an explanation of Albers’ complex color theories, first published in 1963 and illustrated with 150 rich color plates. The Press recently released The Interaction of Color as an iPad app. The app contains the full text of the original book, including 125 color plates and 60 color studies. It’s enhanced with over 2 hours of video commentary and an interactive feature that permits the user to move and overly color swatches. Users can also create and save designs and color palettes into a format read by vector-based design software, such as Illustrator.
For those who prefer the feel of paper (and want to experience Albers’ work in the medium for which it was intended), the Press is also selling an affordable paperback release of the book, released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the original publication date.Those with deeper pockets can purchase the complete edition as a two-volume set, including lush silk screens of the color plates.
Joseph Albers (1888 – 1976) was a Bauhaus-educated stained glass artist, designer, printmaker, and painter. In 1933, under pressure from the Nazi regime, Albers and his wife Anni emigrated to the United States. Albers became a noted teacher at Black Mountain College in North Caroline; his students included Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Susan Weil. In 1950, he headed the newly-formed Department of Design at Yale University, where he remained as a Fellow after his retirement. Albers is most noted for his work as an abstract painter and color theorist, particularly for his extensive series, “Homage to the Square.” During his diverse career, he created stained glass, designed furniture, printed woodcuts, and produced reliefs in rock and steel.
Below: The app includes interactive color-swapping and video commentary.
Images © Yale University Press.
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