Tag Archives: design

New York Is... The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York Is…

Through it’s 180 images by painters, photographers, architects and fashion designers – all from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York Is... hopes to paint an evocative picture of New York, shown through the various perspectives of some the worlds greatest creative figures.

As an unashamed fan of Manhattan, this book need not try very hard to win me over, but the mini 17 x 14cm format does steal most of their impact, and it’s simplistic text places this book firmly in a gift category. Certainly style over substance, and given the wealth of bigger and better books available on this amazing city it’s a tough one to recommend. But maybe while you’re waiting in airport limbo before visiting the real thing, this might just be the hand-luggage friendly taster you’re looking for.

New York Is… The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Abrams
Paperback 384 pages
14 x 17cm

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Magic 1400s - 1950s

Magic 1400s – 1950s

Of the many pleasures in running a design studio and writing these book reviews are the wonderful treats that often come through our doors. The best of these offer visual delights and fuel for our imaginations. A highlight of 2014 so far comes in the shape of Magic 1400s – 1950s from TASCHEN – an eye-popping book of massive scope, beautifully presented and full of stunning vintage poster art.

It’s countless images and fascinating text weave a spell of its own, telling a concise history of contemporary magic and the visuals that enchanted both artists and the general public. How easy it must have been in the art’s earliest days to suspend disbelief when promised with ghostly visitations, or even a way to cheat death – Death and the Devil an ever-present visual language that speaks to a morbid curiosity with the afterlife. Further vintage press photographs and shots of the performers in action are equally fascinating, not least for their effectiveness in brilliantly simple trickery.

Houdini’s own efforts to de-mystify the so-called spiritualists and mediums  - who themselves traded in a bizarre line of ectoplasm photos – is something I would love to read more about, and is just one example of the many stories to be found within. A better book on the subject of magic and it’s marketing is hard to imagine, and i’m sure i’ll return to it again and again when I feel the urge to delve into the world of the strange. Essential reference material.

Magic: 1400s – 1950s by Noel Daniel, Mike Caveney, Ricky Jay and Jim Steinmeyer
TASCHEN
Hardback 544 pages with Slipcase
40 x 26.7 x 5.7 cm

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Captain Rugged Keziah Jones and Native Maqari 01

Captain Rugged

Concept Albums or book/album combo projects conjure fond memories of Jeff Wayne’s ambitious War of the Worlds, or even those great Book and Record Sets from the 70s, with their excellent short stories accompanied by soundtracks and effects that bathed you in sonic atmosphere. Such were my hopes for Captain Rugged, the new graphic novel by Native Maqari with music by Keziah Jones, that begins the story of a modern-day super hero set against the urban sprawl of an abandoned African city.

Released amongst Marvel’s current tirade of adolescent, quasi-mythical nonsense Captain Rugged is a welcome departure from the norm, but still suffers from the over familiar tropes of typical super hero origin stories. I enjoyed Maqari’s illustrative style of loose, nightmarish and inky blacks, that brilliantly set an unsettling tone and present a shanty town of Lagos that’s buzzing with activity, corruption and political unrest. It’s certainly a dark and desperate tale, but satisfies only as a prologue for now, setting the scene for hopefully more to come.

The music provided by Keziah Jones on the other hand feels much more upbeat with its combination of jazz funk and African rhythms mixed with a touch of Motown, that makes for a lively, accessible and highly accomplished set of tracks. Whilst the book and album can claim their own success they do feel disconnected, and where the storytelling might leave you a little cold, the music delivers on its own terms and is deserving of repeated listens. An interesting if not completely satisfying start to the story with the music stealing the show.

Captain Rugged by Keziah Jones and Native Maqari
DAMIANI
Hardback 210 pages
24.4 x 17.3 x 1.5 cm

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True Crime Detective Magazines 01

True Crime Detective Magazines

The Artists Who Made Crime Pay

The general public’s appetite for low-brow sleaze has long been a safe bet for publishers, and while tales of crime and grizzly murders might now feel more at home in a sophisticated prime-time TV series, it was once the mass market crime magazines that ruled the darker recesses of our imaginations.

Spanning 1924-1969, True Crime Detective Magazines by Eric Godtland and Dian Hanson successfully captures the essence of this golden-age in pulp magazines when their pages were gloriously illustrated by artists such as Al Brule and Robert McGinnis, and boasted the exploits of criminal royalty such as John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde.

The majority of it’s 450 covers (mainly made up of scans from the original covers) betray the genres preference for either femme fatales or femmes in peril, and are a joy for fans of this particular strand of vintage commercial illustration. Like the pin-up magazines of my previous book review, they too seem to lose all charm towards the end of their heyday when photography takes hold, becoming more like the sensationalist and throwaway celebrity magazines we’re all too used to today.

That the publishers have collected so many fine examples of cover art (not to mention plenty of interior spreads too) for posterity is a commendable achievement and Godtland and Hanson’s commentary sets the tone and tells their story perfectly. The aptly titled chapter ‘The Artists Who Made Crime Pay’ conveniently lists of the artists involved in their production along with a short bio for those eager to learn more about these outstanding figures of magazine illustration. Recommended.

True Crime Detective Magazines 1924-1969 by Eric Godtland and Dian Hanson
TASCHEN
Paperback 336 pages
 27 x 23.3 x 3.1 cm

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History of Pin-Up Magazines 01

History of Pin-Up Magazines

Although essentially a re-formatting of previously released books, those unfamiliar with Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines are well served by this new edition that collects all three volumes and presents them with a flair we now come to expect from publishers TASCHEN. My initial interest in this series were the countless examples of classic pin-up art from well-known illustrators such as Enoch Bolles, but there’s also plenty here for fans of lowbrow, pulp publishing. The narrative is always entertaining and offers insight into the birth of pin-ups, the predictable conservative outrage and the bizarre if not comical health advice from so-called authority figures designed to curb man’s desires – advice to the effect that too much masturbation robs a man of his vital ‘essence’ (which comes in limited supply from birth) and will result in castrating and feminising effects! Be warned!

Any poking fun at such figures and their rather sweaty obsession with our private lives is fine by me, and Dian puts each eager censor in their proper context as new magazines push the boundaries a little further and figure out ways by bypass the censorship laws – such as with the ‘art’ or ‘artist study’ brand of nude magazines. Looking over the 3 volumes it becomes clear the genre peaked with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, which offered a sophisticated take on mens magazines designed to cater for a more liberal, liberated and forward thinking reader. Hard-hitting articles, impressive illustration and contemporary fiction from writers such as Ray Bradbury all blended to give us that deserved but clichéd ‘I read it for the articles dear’ phrase, and spawned its own wave of imitators such as Penthouse and Men Only.

These books offer a fascinating time capsule of the trends, politics and consumer appetites before the internet made pretty much anything you can imagine freely available. The ever-desperate and attention seeking online antics of today’s would-be celebrities make these vintage magazines appear tame in comparison, and suggest that maybe now as the mass-consumer has literally seen everything, publishers should be seeking intellectual goals as per Hefner’s original intentions with Playboy, rather than a crass exhibitionism that’s become oh so boring.

Besides the obvious eye-candy, this is a series of books that provided a thought-provoking look back at the history of pin-up magazines, with plenty of appeal for classic illustration fans and pop culture aficionados alike. Recommended.

Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines
TASCHEN
Hardback 816 pages over 3 Volumes
15.2 x 20.3 x 22.9 cm

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The Wing's Art Top 10 Books of 2013

Top 10 Books of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close and we all look forward to a well-earned break (and time spent with a good book) i’ve taken a look back at this year’s book reviews and compiled the Wing’s Art Top 10 Books of 2013 - a list made up of classic animation, vintage travel labels, comic book art, pin-ups and more – and all earning my highest recommendation. Click on the images for the full reviews.

The Making of Peanuts Animation

The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation

The book itself is a fascinating read and packs it pages with original drawings and shop talk that has re-kindled a long forgotten affection for these classic cartoons, and developed a new admiration for the artists and writers involved in their making. It comes highly recommended. Read the full review

The Rocketeer Artist's Edition

Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer Artist’s Edition

Of all the Artist’s Editions this stands out as something special, showcasing a true masterpiece of comics and singular vision from one of the industry’s finest artists. For Dave Stevens fans, this is a book that you simply have to own. Nothing else i’ve seen gives such an insight into his unique talent or the experience of looking at the genuine article. It’s a joy to sit beside the ghost of Dave Stevens and enjoy reading his every brush stroke. I for one plan to spend as long as I can studying it for all it’s worth and hope that some of his talent rubs off. Read the full review

The Golden Age of DC Comics

The Golden Age of DC Comics

This book does an excellent job of collecting a huge amount of source material and presenting it in an attractive and accessible way, making for an enjoyable and definitive reference title on an important period in comic book history. It might be thin on any serious insights into the inner workings of the DC studio, letting the work do the talking, but it’s an exhaustive collection that offers an introduction and opportunity for discovering more about these early masters of comic books, and well worth checking out. Read the full review

World Tour

World Tour: Vintage Hotel Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton

Immediately this book tells of a labour of love; from the superb hardback presentation to the immense task of scanning in some 1000 labels, postcard reproductions, letters and scene-setting photographs. It takes you on a journey around the globe, stopping off at each hotel along the way, revealing the changes design aesthetics and approach to promotion through the years. As design reference its an essential buy, and as pure indulgence into these classical hotels with all their elegance and sophistication it’s irresistible and comes highly recommended. Read the full review

lifestyle illustration of the 50s

Lifestyle Illustration of the 50s

The reproductions throughout are of a high quality, mainly scanned from their original magazine appearances and digitally restored, and although there are many pieces that feature un-credited, it remains an essential introduction to the art and artists of this glowing period in illustration history and comes with my highest recommendation. Read the full review

Mitch O'Connell

Mitch O’Connell – The World’s Best Artist

A curious mix of religious ephemera, Dirty Harry posters, plush toys and porn mags, brought together by an over-arching kitsch-logic that’s visible in all of his work. A refined style that manages to find that perfect balance of art and mainstream sensibilities, and contain the many ingredients that go into making Mitch O’Connell one of the today’s best artists. It’s one of my favourite books of the year and highly recommended. Read the full review

Crab Monsters Teenage Cavemen - Roger Corman

Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses – Roger Corman: King of the B-Movie

The rebellious bikers of Corman’s high concept, low-budget films now wear Armani suits in the latest billion dollar super-mega-blockbusters, and reading this book you might ask where all the fun has gone, but it’s a fascinating read for cinema lovers with the added bonus of some cracking poster artwork from the likes of Reynold Brown for us illustration fans. I’m sure a more enjoyable look into the world of film-making will be hard to find, but if this leaves you hungry for more I heartily recommend the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. Read the full review

The Art of David Wright

Sirens: The Pin-Up Art of David Wright

The reproductions are varied, taking their source from vintage book covers, prints and original paintings, but remain of a high quality throughout and are clearly handled with care. Wright’s son, Patrick, offers historical background and context to the work in his introduction, leading onto a huge portfolio that will please any pin-up fan, ending with only a couple of samples pages of comic book illustrations that tempt the reader to search out Wright’s long running seriesCarol Day – currently only available to download as an e-book. It certainly would have been nice to see more of this included, but maybe it doesn’t fall under this volume’s remit and can be saved for a lavish print edition in the future. In all, another fine book with masses of appeal for vintage illustration enthusiasts and an overdue celebration for an otherwise unknown and underappreciated artist. Read the full review

The Maurice Noble Approach

The Noble Approach – Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design

Compiled from various interviews, discussions, and Noble’s own unfinished step-by-step guide, The Noble Approach – Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design offers readers a unique look at the design process that gave the world so many timeless classics such as, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Duck Dogers in the 24 1/2th Century and What’s Opera Doc. Through an in-depth look at his own artistic influences, methods of breaking down details, colour theory and compositional design, you gain a real sense of Noble’s skill as a designer and film maker, with genuine lessons to be learned. Read the full review

The Art Deco Poster

The Art Deco Poster

 Through this beautifully presented book devotees can revel in over 300 examples of poster design, each looking as good as new with selections broken down into chapters such as Automobiles and Motorcycles, Fashion and Entertainment, Ocean Liners, and Railways. Crouse provides commentary throughout, giving credit to the original artists and placing the work into its proper historical context. I’ve seen no other book that offers such a comprehensive look at the printed and commercial art and design work within the art deco period, and as such I can’t recommend this highly enough to those equally seduced by its progressive design, and classic style and elegance. Read the full review