Sunday, January 24, 2010

Contemporary Victoriana

Raquel Aparicio, personal work

I notice the Victorian era seems to be a common inspiration in illustration of late. High collars and Daguerreotypes abound. You see in with the bright colours and ubiquitous, geometric, crystalline shapes or anthropomorphism or other trope which gives a new, contemporary and perhaps surreal spin.

Shary Boyle
2005. Porcelain, china paint. 20cm tall. Collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

Check out the portofolio of French illustrator Nancy Peña:

Nancy Peña Deux illustrations à l'encre de chine (two illustrations in china ink)

Nancy Peña 'Le Sofa' illustration à l'encre de chine

Nancy Peña 'Le motif dans le tapis' Illustration autour de l'album Tea party, à partir d'un motif de Verneuil

Historic figures are ubiquitous, and often blue-faced in the work of self-trained California artist Mike Maxwell.

Mike Maxwell Ellis Island Blues, 2007

Mike Maxwell Pressures of a Nation, 2008

Mike Maxwell Oh, These Chance Encounters, 2009

Blogosphere favorite Lisa Congdon is another self-trained California artist. You should check out the other sections of her portfolio too. It's filled with wildlife, text and multimedia.

Lisa Congdon Rose

Lisa Congdon Randolph

Lisa Congdon Levi

Interesting figures appear in the illustration work of the previously featured German artist Olaf Hajek.

Olaf Hajek Folklore Old Flowers

Olaf Hajek Editorial for Osterraets

Olaf Hajek Chopin

My motivation for depicting Victorians is the history of science, and the golden age of exploration.

pasteur 031
minouette, Louis Pasteur, lino block print on kozo, 2008

Ada, Countess Lovelace
minouette, Ada, Contess Lovelace, lino block print on kozo paper, 2009

Darwin on Galapagos
minouette, Darwin on Galapagos, lino block print on gampi paper, 2009

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Check our German artist/designer Iris Schieferstein's portfolio. The hoof shoes and Gun Hoofs are only the beginning. {via design-milk.}

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

suspended spiderwebs and feathers

Compare and contrast:

Dream Catch Me
acrylic, gouache and vinyl on canvas
198 x 198 cm

Dream Catch Me 2
acrylic and pen on canvas
170 x 150 cm

By Kirra Jamison. Check out her owls, foxes, and other good things. {She's been bouncing around the web recently - no pun intended - but I think I first saw her in the Lady Lavona's Cabinet of Curiosities}

Meanwhile, Victoria over at sfgirlbybay had a guest post by Kelly of Halcyon Days (and y. a. studios) which features the above lamp (and its vintage showgirl inspiration). If we follow the link to Halcyon Days, we find some more webs-with-feather light fixtures, by Dutch artist Jennifer Tee {via all the mountains}:

Falling Feathers
Complex Interiors, Trance-lucent Concrete

She's also got suspended crystals and birds in South of the Border (an allusion to Haruki Murakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun.

Of these, only Kirra Jamison explicitly cites the Ojibwe dreamcatcher, but that is what these say to me. Interestingly, that leads back to the God's Eye. These things seem to be wandering the collective unconscious.

These illustrations:

are by Yasmine Surovec of a print a day.

There are even dreamcatcher dresses in Ann-Sophie Back's autumn-winter '09 collection, 'Ann-Sofie Back burns in hell' (inspired by American stereotypes and horror flicks).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

mapping life: intersection of art & science

Simon Evans paints and weaves and creates maps, whether that be of a scientific illustration of human anatomy, a town wherein all is whited out, a subway map with names replaced with bizzare connotations, the entirety of his possessions, or an imaginary version of the world. This reminds me of the delightful (illustrated and annotated) novel The Collected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larson (which you should go read immediately, if not sooner). T.S. (Tecumseh Sparrow) is 12, and lives in Divide, MT, and maps everything in his life experience (from the distribution of trash in Chicago, to means of not appearing lonely, to the frequency of arm movements during his father's drinking a glass of whiskey, to the mating dance of beetles). Simon Evans does the same, with artistic license, rather than strict empiricism of the modern-day Humboltian cartography protegy Spivet.

Symptoms of Loneliness, 2009
Pen, paper, scotch tape, correction fluid
28 1/2 X 39 3/8 inches

Home Country, 2008-9
Paper weaving
58 5/8 X 42 1/8 inches

Lemuel Gulliver, 2004-5
Mixed media on paper
30.25 x 44 inches

Different Drugs, 2004
Mixed media on paper
19.75 x 26 inches

The World, 2003
Mixed media on paper
60 x 84 inches

Evans' work, though less abstract, reminds me of natural phenomena paintings of Paterson Ewen. (I came across Evans via but does it float). I wrote more about The Collected Works of T.S. Spivet here. Even the website somehow managed to move me. The novel is a thing of beauty not to be missed!

Carly Waito (one half of Coe and Waito, previously featured in magpie & whiskeyjack's post roccocco jellyfish) has been painting minerals. (I found this out both via dear ada and via sara titanic whose blog includes photos of Carly's process and who has written an article about her studio visit for Now magazine). I've been thinking about depicting minerals for a long time (you know, I am an earth scientist after all, and it is mystifying, though self-evident that crystals and gems are present in the zeitgeist, and they are perfect for the conceptual wunderkammer I am secretly gathering)... but while they make an unwiedly subject for a relief print Waito's delicate, precise, luminous portraits with their perfect imperfections are exactly what is called for. Enjoy!

bornite ~ oil on masonite ~ 7" x 6.5" The common name of this mineral (for obvious reasons) is peacock ore.

Hessonite, Asbestos ~ oil on masonite ~ 6" x 6"

Amethyst 2 ~ oil on masonite ~ 5.5" x 7".

If you are in Toronto, you can see these paintings for yourself at the group show Little Crowns, at Narwhal. (If you aren't, note the dimensions - unlike Evans' maps, these portraits are small).

Scientific illustrator Cornelia Hesse-Honegger is a real-life artist-researcher whose artwork is science in and of itself. Her sensitive, beautiful watercolours of morphologically disturbed insects, including, for instance, those she has gathered in the fallout region surrounding Chernobyl both are portraits in the artistic sense and scientific evidence. She has also gathered and illustrated insects from other regions which may have radioactive contamination. There is something delightfully 19th century about gathering and illustrating specimens of insects, but as we persist in changing our environment, the insects themselves will change in turn, and require such careful descriptive art and science.

Drosophila melanogaster, head and abdomen
Head and abdomen are disturbed.
Watercolor, Zürich 1987
(specimen from Chernobyl)

37 different Ladybird Beetles from Switzerland
Watercolor, 1976 - 1981

Ambush bug near Three Mile Island, USA
Ventral: the left side front foot is damaged; the right side one has a dark spot, as well as Watercolor, New Cumberland / Zürich 1991

Where fields intersect ideas clash, but the clash itself can be fruitful; never discount what fresh eyes can see.


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