Monday, January 18, 2010

Yuko's Progression

All images © Yuko Shimizu
These are draft, intermediate and completed illustrations
(posted with permission)

Geisha (sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

'Geisha' appeared in XFUNS magazine (Taiwan)

Genesis (sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Book cover illustration for the Italian edition of 'Genesis'
by Bernard Beckett; Rizzoli/Mucca Design

(sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in DC Comics (cover of the 1st in the 'Sandman' series);
Art Director/Editor: Karen Berger and Pornsak Pichetshote

Tsunami (drawing, sketch and final) - Yuko Shimizu

'Tsunami' appeared in Playboy, Art Director: Rob Wilson

Iwojima (drawing, sketch and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in Entertainment Weekly in relation to the
Clint Eastwood film, 'Letter From Iwo-Jima'; Art Director: Brian Ansty

Update: Yuko tells me that for this block and the illustration set
immediately above, the first two illustrations are in the wrong order:
the colour sketches were submitted for approval and then she did
the b&w drawing which was scanned and finished off on computer

Baku (drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

'Baku' (a mythical Japanese dream-eating beast)
is the book cover for 'Beasts 2', published by Fantagraphics

Bear - sketch, drawing, final (Yuko Shimizu)

Appeared in PLANSPONSOR magazine; Art Director: SooJin Buzelli

Behind (sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in PLANSPONSOR magazine; Art Director: SooJin Buzelli

Diving Helmet (sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in PLANSPONSOR magazine; Art Director: SooJin Buzelli

Everlasting Sorrow (drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in New York Times Book Review with:
'The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai' by Wang Anyi

Life and Death Wear (drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in New York Times Book Review with:
'Life and Death are Wearing me Out' by Mo Yan

Now Hear This (drawing, sketch and final) - Yuko Shimizu

CD cover (series called: 'Now Hear This') for The Word Magazine;
Art Director: Jonathan Sellers

Sandman (sketch, drawing and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in DC Comics (cover of 2nd in the 'Sandman' series);
Art Director/Editor: Karen Berger and Pornsak Pichetshote

Tulips (two drawings and final) - Yuko Shimizu

Appeared in PLANSPONSOR magazine; Art Director: SooJin Buell

{The illustration titles printed above or in the alt tags are sometimes less 'official' and for identification purposes - click through for enlarged versions}

I've had these composite images floating around on my computer for nearly a year and thought it was about time to share them.

I don't remember how I first discovered the Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu but I was impressed by the energy, culture-melding and all-round creativity of her portfolio and sent the link to John who posted it on Drawn! Later, Yuko found the BibliOdyssey book, discovered this blog and sent me an email. We've been friends ever since.

Naturally, I exploited the situation by pestering Yuko for draft drawings which she scans and completes in Photoshop. Her work has appeared in just about every major (and minor) magazine and publication under the sun, whether in advertising, as a featured illustrator or as an accompaniment to an article. She also teaches at the School of Visual Arts in her home town of New York and regularly travels the globe holding workshops and exhibitions. I don't think she sleeps.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Night Life of Trees

Folkart Books from India

Tara Books from Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India) very kindly sent me a few of their books, not for review, but as thanks following their contacting for some advice. After I saw the books, I asked - would have begged - if it was ok to scan some samples. Illustrations from three books appear below.

I'm afraid these images hardly do proper justice to the textural wonder of the handmade paper and crisp, silkscreened illustrations. The scans themselves could only have been improved by breaking the books which wasn't even a consideration: these glorious books are treasured works of art that I'll not be destroying or parting with in this lifetime.

The Night Life of Trees 007

The Tree of Intoxication
"Gonds make liquor from the flowers of the Mahua tree. If you take small amounts, and mix it with good herbs, it is a medicine for many ailments. If you drink a little more, it is pleasant. But if you drink too much, your very form can change, and depending on your character, you may become a mouse or a tiger, a pig or pigeon."

The Night Life of Trees 005

Snakes and Earth
"The earth is held in the coils of the snake goddess. And the roots of trees coil around the earth too, holding it in place. If you want to depict the earth, you can show it in the form of a snake. It is the same thing."

The Night Life of Trees 004

The Silkworm's Home
"There was a time when people used plain cloth and yarn. Then they discovered that the silkworm weaves wonderful thread, and took it from him to make clothes. Before he is found, the silkworm sits in the threads of his own making on the Bamur tree."

The Night Life of Trees 002

The Creation of Trees
"When Shankar Bhagwan, the creator, made the first man, there was no tree, no leaf on earth. The man said, 'Lord, what will I eat? How will I live?' The creator pulled three hairs from his own body, and from them made three great trees. Then the man said, 'But Lord, there are no fruit on these trees. Three will remain three, and the three must die one day.' Then Shankar Bhagwan took the ash coating his matted hair and sprinkled the trees with it, and they began to flower and fruit. So in the days before we knew how to grow grain, it was trees that filled our stomachs with their fruit."

The Night Life of Trees 001

The Departing Visitors
"Everyone knew that holy spirits live in the Sembar tree. As night falls, its daytime visitors depart - bees, a bird, and two chameleons."

'The Night Life of Trees' © Tara Books Pvt. Ltd. 2006
Art: Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai and Ram Singh Urveti.
Design: Gita Wolf and Rathna Ramanathan.

"The Night Life of Trees was conceived when Tara brought Gond artists down to Chennai to work with them; the Gond live in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh, 600 kilometres from the city of Bhopal. 'We noticed there was a tree in every story they told – ask them to draw a person, they draw a person under a tree. Ask them for a river, they draw a river running past a tree. Ask them for a bird, and it's a bird sitting in a tree.' " [source]

Nurturing Walls - Animal Art by Meena Women b

Nurturing Walls - Animal Art by Meena Women a

Nurturing Walls - Animal Art by Meena Women

Meena women make mud wall

painted camel

'Nurturing Walls: Animal Art by Meena Women' © Tara Books Pvt. Ltd. 2008
Photographs and screenprinted illustrations by Madan Meena.
Design: Natasha Chandani.

"Madana [public painting] is practiced by different tribes and communities in parts of Rajashtan, Gujarat and Madyha Pradesh. [..]

Meena women create beautiful Madana designs on walls and floors of the houses especially on the occasion of the Diwali festival.

For these women artists, simple shapes like squares, circles, triangles and the like become the alphabets for an exercise in picture writing.

The themes of Mandana are a variety of birds, animals and plants, as well as exquisite decorative designs which are highlighted with dots and dashes. [..]

In Mandana paintings the women record their past as well as present experiences; so we see images of creatures and things that no longer exist in their present surroundings, but are part of their memory."

The London Jungle Book

When Two Times Meet
"I have combined the rooster, which is the symbol for time in Gond art, and Big Ben, which is the symbol of time for London. I have turned the dial of Big Ben into the eye of the rooster, because it seemed to me that Big Ben is like a big eye, forever watching over London, reminding people of the time. Symbols are the most important thing in Gond art, and every symbol is a story, standing in for something else. So this painting was the easiest for me to do, because it had two perfect symbols coming together."

The London Jungle Book 2

Loyal Friend Number 30
"Although I liked the underground very much, I still preferred to get to to work everyday by bus, because one stopped right outside my door. [..]

I have turned the Number 30 bus into a dog, because like a dog, it was a faithful and loyal friend to me. London buses look very friendly too, and fit in with the good spirit of the faithful dog."

The London Jungle Book 1 (flying elephant)

The Miracle of Flight
"The heaviest animal I have ever seen is an elephant. So that is the creature that came to mind when I painted the plane. A plane taking off is as much of a miracle as an elephant flying. I have put the trees upside down in the sky, and the clouds below, because flying turned my world upside down."

The London Jungle Book by Bhajju Shyam: duuude

"Everyone was a foreigner - all kinds of skin colours and all kinds of hair. I had seen foreigners before - some of them had visited my village to look at our paintings, but now I realized that something strange had happened. My colour was different, my language was taken away from me ... I myself had become a foreigner!"

'The London Jungle Book' © Tara Publishing 2004
(in association with The Museum of London)
Art: Bhajju Shyam
Text: Sirish Rao & Gita Wolf (from Bhajju's oral narration)
Design: Rathna Ramanathan*, Minus9 Design*
"Bhajju is a brilliant artist from the Gond tribe in central India, and this book is a visual travelogue of his impressions in London. With radical innocence and great sophistication, Bhajju brings the signs of the forest to bear on the city, turning London into an exotic jungle." [back cover blurb]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bellicorum Instrumentorum Liber

The First Italian Technology Manuscript

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 08

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - pp 29 + 30

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 40

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 45

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 46

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 66

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 67

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 70

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 72

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 74

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 87

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 88

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 90

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 92

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 95
[prefiguring Khan? - the body as machine(s)]

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 102

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 105

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 123

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 131[wife of Calculon*?]

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 142

Bellicorum instrumentorum liber - p 144

A generation before the extraordinary machine drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, the first technology manuscript of the Italian Renaissance was produced by a Venetian scholar who had familiarised himself with the handful of books on the mechanical arts from the Greek and Arabic traditions.

Giovanni da Fontana (?1395-1455) obtained degrees in arts and medicine in Padua and was appointed physician to the Venetian army in Brescia. He had a wide range of interests and studied historical works on optics, astrology/alchemy (intrinsic medical studies back then), pneumatic and hydraulic mechanics, military machines and the art of memory.

The full title of Fontana's treatise from c. 1420, seen above, is: 'Bellicorum instrumentorum liber, cum figuris et fictitys litoris conscriptus' (~Illustrated and encrypted book of war instruments).

The title is a little misleading or at least fails to take into account the wide range of technologies included in the 70 folio pages (with about 140 illustrations). Fontana's unsophisticated concept drawings show siege engines, fountains and pumps, lifting and transporting machines, defensive towers, dredges, combination locks, battering rams, ?'rocket'-powered craft, the first ever depiction of the magic lantern (last picture above), scaling ladders, alchemical furnaces, clockwork/robotic automata and measuring instruments, among others.

Each picture is accompanied by a few lines to a couple of paragraphs of text. The first sentence is usually in Latin with the remainder written in a substitute cypher system [see here]. There are probably various reasons that account for why the text was (simplistically) encoded, although secrecy is unlikely to have been the main priority. There was something of the showman (and magician) in Fontana, who is thought to have built toy models of a few of the automata, so projecting a veil of esoteric mysticism will have appealed to his desire to amaze readers. Coded writing may also have offered a form of copyright, providing one level of difficulty for any unauthorised copying. As Fontana's only other extant manuscript -('Secretum de thesauro experimentorum ymaginationis hominum' : devoted to mnemonic devices, memory and natural philosophy experiments)- was also drafted in the same code, it is speculated that the author considered the code a symbolic writing system that conferred particular significance on the contents.

And from our point of view the significance of Fontana's book lies in its timing. At ~600 years old, it brought together a range of known technologies -- drawn from Philo of Byzantium* to Al-Jazari*, for eg. -- augmented with Fontana's own, sometimes fanciful, designs and presented them in an accessible format (comparatively speaking) as a kind of prototype of a technical manual.
"To be sure, there are treatises on technical matters from before this date [1400], but if one surveys the earlier writings in a general way, one cannot help but be impressed by the very small number of such works, by the way they are so widely separated in time and space, and by the fact that their authors were seldom practicing craftsmen. [..]

"The appearance of the illustrated treatise and its printed descendant fostered contacts between the technician's work and the world of high culture, since the treatises were apparently read not only by craftsmen, but by aristocrats, lawyers, and intellectuals as well. The presentation of technological matters before such an audience helped heighten the technician's sense of self-consciousness and make him more willing to justify his activities in ways acceptable to Renaissance high culture." [source]

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