Sunday, August 26, 2012

Illustrator James McMullan

James McMullan (b. 1934) grew up in China, where his Irish grandparents founded an orphanage, and a lace and embroidery business that supported the orphanage. McMullan's father continued in the family business, but was killed at the end of World War II, while serving in the British Army.

McMullan and his mother lived in Canada and India during World War II, and after his father's death, James immigrated to the United States, where he studied at the Cornish School of Allied Arts in Seattle, and the Pratt Institute in New York.

Communication Arts  |  1986

In 1966, James McMullan joined the ground-breaking Push Pin Studios, where he worked with Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast.

Communication Arts  |  1986

An outgrowth of that association was many illustration assignments for New York Magazine.

McMullan has also illustrated for many national magazines, including Esquire, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

In 1979, McMullan married Kate Hall, a writer of children's books, and they have collaborated on six picture books.

James McMullan has been closely associated with the Lincoln Center, and has produced more than 40 theater posters.

In 1998, Penguin Studio Books published The Theater Posters of James McMullan.

McMullan has taught for years at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and has written two excellent instructive books, Revealing Illustrations and High-Focus Drawing.

Communication Arts  |  1977

All illustrations for this posting that are not otherwise credited have come from James McMullan's own website. When visiting there, be sure to check out "Poster Progress," where you'll see how the artist's ideas and design solutions evolve!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Reason to Collect Spools

Charles Eames  |  House of Cards

My favorite end table started its life in 1881 as a spool cabinet.

Originally, it would have lived without legs on a counter top. At a later date, someone added legs of turned wood, and I think the match is quite appropriate.

Each drawer had rows of prongs for spools, but these were removed to make flat files. I use the cabinet drawers for magazine clippings and miscellaneous paperwork.

The spool prongs of the top drawer were wisely retained, and throughout the years ...

,,, I've collected Coats & Clark's O.N.T. wooden spools with threads of every color to make this display. My spectrum of spools would not have been possible without generous contributions from many women — now of a past generation — who did their own sewing and mending.

Say, what does "O.N.T." mean, anyway?
Find out here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another Milestone

Dear blogging friends, today marks my second year of blogging, and I wish to thank you all for your visits, good conversation and sharing. I'm sending you each a virtual piece of red velvet cake while I work on tomorrow's posting.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greek Keys No. 7

This is a Victorian typographic border. The different elements of the border would have been pieced together from metal forms, just as type was also set by hand.

Smithsonian Magazine
This Greek ceramic head was found in a tomb in Tarquinia, Italy. I've replicated the headband pattern on the bottom.
My blogging friend Terry of Square With Flair suggested adding this ring to the collection. It's from Tiffany & Co.

Decorative Antique Ironwork  |  D'allemagne
 This is an 18th century keyhole plate, made of iron. It was used on an armoire.

These are storefront tiles from Ybor City, in Tampa, Florida.

Pompeian fresco

My entire series of Greek key designs can be found on my side bar — just look for the brown stele.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trompe l'Oeil From Michelangelo
I've been studying a richly illustrated book on the refurbished Sistine Chapel. It's entitled The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration, by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. It not only documents the cleaning of the ceiling, but it also provides loads of information on the whole history of the original project.
Before Michelangelo painted the ceiling, it looked like this, with a flat blue color and an arrangement of stars. You can see clearly in this engraving that the structure of the ceiling is vaulted, which of course means that all the surfaces curve inward.

The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
Michelangelo wanted his images to be read as though they were on a flat surface, so he distorted the perspective of the painted architectural elements. With painted columns and an inner "crown moulding," he reconfigured the ceiling so that it would be viewed thusly:

click to enlarge   |
If you click to enlarge, an interesting thing to note is that Michelangelo worked from the back of the chapel towards the front and altar (or from left to right in this photo) — and as he did so, his figures became much larger. It's believed that Michelangelo did this so that the viewer's first impression would be that all the figures were the same size.

Jonah, before and after restoration  |  The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration
The posture of Jonah (it's a good guess that Michelangelo never saw a whale) masterfully completes the illusion of flatness. By having Jonah lean backwards, Michelangelo denied the curvature of the ceiling and convinces us that the niche is a flat surface.

Another note of interest about the Sistine Chapel ceiling is that, according to some sources, Michelangelo had never before painted a fresco. He delayed the project until artists from Florence arrived in Rome to teach him the method of painting on wet plaster.

We should all have such first efforts!

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Mystery Guest Visits My Yard

Last week a little brown bird with speckles walked very slowly through my yard. He looked like a heron, but I hadn't seen his kind in all the time I've lived in Florida.

Eastern Birds  |  Peterson

I consulted a Peterson Field Guide and discovered that he was an immature Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. When he's fully grown, he'll become black, gray and white, and look very different.

Eastern Birds  |  Peterson

The immature Black-Crowned Night Heron would look very similar, but the speckles would be a bit larger.

My sister-in-law, Alice, allowed me to share a heron crest feather that she collected. It is the essence of aerodynamics.

The Peterson Field Guides are amazing books, and these are just a few of them.

In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996) wrote and illustrated the first major modern field guide, Guide to the Birds, and the first edition sold out in one week. He went on to write or edit a whole nature series, and his work is continued today through the Roger Tory Peterson Institute.

I quote from a short article in Wikipedia:

Paul R. Ehrlich, in The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds (Fireside. 1988), said this about Peterson:
In this century, no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide.
Peterson received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, nominations for the Nobel Prize, and numerous honorary doctorates.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mandala Meditations 4

Here's a mandala that started out as a pencil drawing, and which I reconstructed later on the computer. The Adobe Illustrator program allowed me to achieve interesting effects with the gradient tool.

My mandalas often start out as no more than doodles, a solitary pastime as I wait for restaurant dinners to be served.

I've given a couple of workshops on mandalas and noticed that many people look at a seemingly elaborate design (like today's header) and say, "I don't know where to begin!" That's because they're seeing the whole and finished image, and not the symmetrical, repeating parts.

The making of a mandala is a process, and it's not unlike constructing a snowflake from folded paper. If you make a paper snowflake, you concentrate on a sub-unit that will be repeated, and the final result will reveal itself later (and be a surprise). Mandalas can also reveal themselves, and of course you can edit and refine your design.

One fun approach to making a mandala is to create a simple black and white line mandala and then to use it as a template for a variety of interior designs and colorations. They can all have very different personalities.

I do this often, and as you can see, the template is just a starting point for which there are countless possibilities. It can be very meditative, and it's a lot of fun!