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kottke.org posts about illustration

Proposed Post-Pandemic New Yorker Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 26, 2021

Tomer Hanuka asked his third-year illustration students at SVA to “come up with a post-pandemic New Yorker magazine cover” and posted some of their wonderful & thoughtful work to Twitter. Here are a few that caught my eye:

New Yorker Post Pandemic

New Yorker Post Pandemic

New Yorker Post Pandemic

New Yorker Post Pandemic

The second cover down, by Katrina Catacutan, is probably my favorite (the body language of the woman answering the door is just perfect) but the last image by Amy Young hit me like a ton of bricks. The New Yorker should run all of these covers for an issue of the magazine in a few weeks — collect them all!

You Don’t Know What’s Going On In People’s Lives

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2021

You Don't Know What's Going On In People's Lives

You Don't Know What's Going On In People's Lives

Illustrator Hazel Mead created a pair of pieces called You Don’t Know What’s Going On In People’s Lives: the original version and one featuring children. The images above are snippets from the larger images, both of which are available as prints in Mead’s shop. (via cup of jo)

Update: Several people sent me a link to this video from Cleveland Clinic that is very similar to Mead’s illustrations.

Delayed: R. Kikuo Johnson’s New Yorker Cover

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2021

Delayed Cover

That’s the cover for the April 5, 2021 issue of the New Yorker illustrated by R. Kikuo Johnson.

I began preparing for this project by revisiting news coverage of anti-Asian hate crimes committed during the pandemic. As I absorbed one account after another, they became increasingly difficult to read. So many mothers and grandmothers have been targeted. I imagined my own mom in that situation. I thought about my grandma and my aunt, who have been among my greatest sources of support. The mother in the drawing is made up of all these women.

So simple, so powerful. The way the shoes, eyes, and faces are positioned and angled. On Twitter, Jiayang Fan commented:

I can’t stop staring at this cover. I can’t stop wondering who would come to this mother-daughter pair’s aid if someone attacked them. I can’t stop thinking I was once the daughter and how helpless I still feel to protect my mother.

Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2021

Matt Kish Moby Dick

Matt Kish Moby Dick

Matt Kish Moby Dick

Matt Kish Moby Dick

Over a period of a year and a half, Matt Kish created one illustration for each of the 552 pages in the Signet Classic paperback edition of Herman Melville’s novel, Moby-Dick. He then turned those illustrations into a book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page.

In retrospect, Kish says he feels as foolhardy as Ishmael, the novel’s narrator, and as obsessed as Captain Ahab in his quest for the great white whale. “I see now that the project was an attempt to fully understand this magnificent novel, to walk through every sun-drenched word, to lift up all the hatches and open all the barrels, to smell, taste, hear, and see every seabird, every shark, every sailor, every harpooner, and every whale,” he says. “It was a hard thing, a very painful thing, but the novel now lives inside me in a away it never could have before.”

All of the drawings are still available on Kish’s old Blogspot blog (first entry here) but the best way to see them is to get the book.

A Lego-Illustrated Guide to Covid-19 Variants

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

This guide to Covid-19 variants (SARS-CoV-2 viruses that have evolved changes to meaningfully alter their behavior) by Michaeleen Doucleff and Meredith Rizzo at NPR cleverly visualizes how mutations of the virus’s spike proteins help bind it more easily to ACE2 receptors on human cells. The key to the visualization is Meredith Miotke’s illustrations of the viruses using Lego pieces to represent the virus spikes and cell receptors. The usual SARS-CoV-2 has 1x1 Lego pieces that can bind with 1x2 pieces, like so:

Covid-19 variants illustrated through Lego

But, as everyone who has ever worked with a Lego set knows, a 1x1 piece stuck to a 1x2 piece is not super stable. So when a version of the virus with a 1x2 piece shows up, it’s able to form a better connection to the 1x2 receptor:

Covid-19 variants illustrated through Lego

The analogy breaks down if you look too hard at it1 but for many people, it can be a quick way to get the gist of the mechanism at work here. (via @EricTopol)

  1. This is a huge pet peeve of mine when people try to poke holes in analogies: by definition, all analogies break down if you examine them too deeply. An analogy is a comparison of two different things that are similar in significant respects. If they were the same in every respect, it’s not an analogy…you’d just be describing one thing.

Amanda Gorman: The Hill We Climb

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2021

The rhetorical highlight of the Biden/Harris inauguration was Amanda Gorman reciting her poem, The Hill We Climb — I thought it was fantastic. It begins:

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We’ve braved the belly of the beast
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one

Here’s a transcript courtesy of CNN. You can read about how Gorman composed the poem in the NY Times:

“I had this huge thing, probably one of the most important things I’ll ever do in my career,” she said in an interview. “It was like, if I try to climb this mountain all at once, I’m just going to pass out.”

Gorman managed to write a few lines a day and was about halfway through the poem on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed into the halls of Congress, some bearing weapons and Confederate flags. She stayed awake late into the night and finished the poem, adding verses about the apocalyptic scene that unfolded at the Capitol that day.

The Times also has a lesson for students about Gorman and her poem. And from NPR:

Gorman is no stranger to having to change her work midstream. Like Biden, who has spoken openly about having stuttered as a child, Gorman grew up with a childhood speech impediment of her own. She had difficulty saying certain letters of the alphabet — the letter R was especially tough — which caused her to have to constantly “self-edit and self-police.”

Her delivery was amazing — powerful and lyrical. Brava!

Update: I included a link to a transcript of the poem above. I also wanted to include this illustration by Samantha Dion Baker because art inspires art.

Amanda Gorman

Update: A book version of Gorman’s inaugural poem will be out in April and is available for preorder.

Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants by Elizabeth Twining (1868)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 06, 2021

plant illustration by Elizabeth Twining

plant illustration by Elizabeth Twining

plant illustration by Elizabeth Twining

Nicholas Rougeux has beautifully reproduced & remastered botanical illustrator Elizabeth Twining’s catalog of plants and flowers from 1868, Illustrations of the Natural Orders of Plants. Each of the 160 illustrations is accompanied by explanatory text from the original book and an interactive version of the image (click on the highlighted plant for more info).

Posters based on the illustrations are available and, get this, so are puzzles!

250 Days of Daily Pandemic Drawings

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 24, 2020

Author and illustrator Edward Carey has been making a drawing a day since the beginning of the pandemic. He recently completed his 250th drawing, with “no end in sight, alas”. He’s posting each day’s drawing to Instagram; here are a few of my recent favorites:

Edward Carey

And the whole lot laid out on the floor:

Edward Carey

That’s so many days. (via austin kleon)

Lovely Illustrations of Plants and Wildlife in the English Countryside

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2020

Jo Brown's illustrations from a Devon wood

Jo Brown's illustrations from a Devon wood

Jo Brown's illustrations from a Devon wood

Just enjoying Jo Brown’s illustrations today. Using a Moleskine notebook, she sketches plants and wildlife near her home in Devon, England. A replica of that nature journal called Secrets of a Devon Wood has been recently published in the UK (US edition is out soon — Amazon is the only place I could find it). You can check out more of her artwork on Instagram. (via colossal)

Study of the Creative Specimens

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2020

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study Creative Specimens

Study of the Creative Specimens is a collection of fantastical hybrid creatures created for Adobe’s 99U conference by Mark Brooks and illustration studio alademosca. Prints are available from Paper Chase Press. (via colossal)

Eric Godal’s Anti-Fascist Illustrations Updated for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

Piascik Anti Fascist

Piascik Anti Fascist

In the 1930s and 40s, artist Eric Godal drew some anti-fascist political cartoons that urged people not to listen to right-wing authoritarians who want to destroy and pillage society for their own ends. Godal, a German Jew, had escaped the clutches of Nazi Germany in the 30s and labored to warn America and the world about the fate of the Jews in Europe.1

Illustrator Chris Piascik has updated Godal’s drawings for 2020 to feature our own corrupt crackpot wannabe dictator. Calling Donald Trump a fascist is hardly controversial these days — he clearly is. What his supporters need to reckon with is: are they?

  1. Godal’s mother was able to get out of Germany on a boat but was denied entry to the United States as a refugee by the Roosevelt administration. She was sent back and eventually murdered in a Nazi death camp.

Lovely Interactive Display of Early 19th-Century Hand-Drawn Illustrations of Minerals

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

Mineralogy Zoom

Mineralogy Zoom

I love this zoomable interactive display of British & Exotic Mineralogy. To create it, Nicholas Rougeux collected 718 hand-drawn mineral illustrations by James Sowerby sourced from a pair of multi-volume books called British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy, published between 1802 and 1817. Then he arranged them according to hue and brightness in a collage worthy of Knoll.

British Mineralogy and Exotic Mineralogy comprise 718 illustrations by James Sowerby in an effort to illustrate the topographical mineralogy of Great Britain and minerals not then known to it. Sowerby’s plates are some of the finest examples of hand-drawn mineral illustrations ever created. The detail and care with which these illustrations were created is incredible and worthy of close examination. See the samples below.

And, oh boy, he’s selling posters of it too.

Chris Ware’s NYC Still Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Chris Ware's Still Life of NYC

For the cover of this week’s New Yorker, Chris Ware drew several vignettes of NYC arranged in his trademark grid as a companion to this incredible piece about a single day of the Covid-19 crisis in the city. About the cover, Ware wrote:

Teeming with unpredictable people and unimaginable places and unforeseeable moments, life there is measured not in hours but in densely packed minutes that can fill up a day with a year’s worth of life. Lately, however, closed up in our homes against a worldwide terror, time everywhere has seemed to slur, to become almost Groundhog Day-ish, forced into a sort of present-perfect tense — or, as my fellow New Yorker contributor Masha Gessen more precisely put it, ‘loopy, dotted, and sometimes perpendicular to itself.’ But disaster can also have a recalibrating quality. It reminds us that the real things of life (breakfast, grass, spouse) can, in normal times, become clotted over by anxieties and nonsense. We’re at low tide, but, as my wife, a biology teacher, said to me this morning, “For a while, we get to just step back and look.” And really, when you do, it is pretty marvellous.

Chris Ware’s Moving Pandemic-Themed Cover for the New Yorker

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2020

Chris Ware Covid-19

This is Chris Ware’s illustration for the cover of this week’s New Yorker, the magazine’s annual Health Issue. The pandemic had to be the topic for the cover, and Ware’s daughter suggested that the specific theme focus on the families of the healthcare workers on the front lines of the crisis.

“As a procrastination tactic, I sometimes ask my fifteen-year-old daughter what the comic strip or drawing I’m working on should be about — not only because it gets me away from my drawing table but because, like most kids of her generation, she pays attention to the world. So, while sketching the cover of this Health Issue, I asked her.

“‘Make sure it’s about how most doctors have children and families of their own,’ she said.

“Good idea. And a personal one: one of her friend’s parents are both doctors; that friend, now distilled into a rectangular puddle of light on my daughter’s nightstand, reported that her mom had temporarily stopped going to work, pending the results of a COVID-19 test.

Our Subpar National Parks

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2020

Amber Share of Subpar Parks is producing illustrations of real one-star reviews of America’s National Parks from apparently dissatisfied park visitors. Zion National Park is a bit standoffish:

Subpar Parks

Newsflash: Sequoia National Park is outdoors and has insects:

Subpar Parks

From a bored Joshua Tree guest:

Subpar Parks

Follow along with the rest of these on Instagram — Share is doing one drawing for each National Park and she’s got many more still to go. Prints, postcards, stickers, and tshirts are available from her shop (or will be soon).

Update: See also beautiful photos paired with one-star reviews of the places in question and Snowbird’s creative ad campaign based on one-star reviews. (via @ebellm & @mattgist)

The Cephalopoda, a Hand-Drawn Atlas of Octopus and Squid (1910)

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

Cephalopoda

Cephalopoda

Cephalopoda

The Valdivia Expedition, led by German marine biologist Carl Chun in 1898-1899, was the first time humans had explored the ocean depths below 500 fathoms. What they found changed our conception of the oceans. The results, in the form of 24 volumes of text and illustrations, took decades to be published. Among the volumes was The Cephalopoda, published in 1910 and filled with colorful hand-illustrated drawings of octopuses and squid, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

I found this on Brain Pickings, which identifies the illustrator as Friedrich Wilhelm Winter, a credit I couldn’t find in the actual book itself. They’re also selling some of the illustrations as prints, like this one of the octopus featured above.

Linguistic Constellations

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Linguistic Constellations

Linguistic Constellations

Illustrator Jerry M. Wilson has drawn a series of constellations that explore the etymology of the constellations’ names and related words in several languages. So for example, “Taurus” is Latin for “bull”, which is “toro” in Spanish & Italian and “tyr” in Danish. And then you also have associated words like “toreador” (“bullfighter” in Spanish) and “teurastamo” (Finnish for “slaughterhouse”)…a constellation of words related to “Taurus”.

Database of old book illustrations

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 07, 2020

Matterhorn from near the Submit of Theodul Pass

Here’s an enormous library of thousands of old book illustrations, with searchable name, artist, source, date, which book it was in, etc. There are also a number of collections to browse through, and each are tagged with multiple keywords so you can also get lost in there in that manner.

Though the team behind the site doesn’t specifically list the whole site as public domain, chances are a lot of the illustrations you’ll find are way out of copyright in most jurisdictions.

Setting up the watches

South-Australian cobbler

Flore pittoresque--Plate 8

Archbishops' Palace, Narbonne

Renderings of Our Dystopian Pop Culture Future

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2019

For more than 11 years for a series he calls Everydays, Mike Winkelmann (aka Beeple) has been making a daily picture. As you might expect from the breakneck pace, some of them aren’t that interesting (there’s a lot of juvenile stuff here tbh), but my favorite ones are the Black Mirror-ish with decayed or repurposed pop cultural references.

Beeple

Beeple

Beeple

Beeple

You can view more of Winkelmann’s work on Behance, Tumblr, and his website. (via dense discovery)

Narrative Illustrator Owen Pomery

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2019

Owen Pomery

Owen Pomery

Owen Pomery

I really like Owen Pomery’s illustrative style — his drawings are spare yet detailed, precise but a bit messy. You can see his work on his website, on Twitter, or on Instagram. He sells prints and books in his shop, including this field guide to modernist kiosk designs in a fictional country.

Owen Pomery

(via @dunstan)

John James Audubon’s Birds of America

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 17, 2019

Birds Of America

Birds Of America

Birds Of America

Birds Of America

One of the (several dozen) posts I started writing ages ago but never finished was a collection of the hundreds of bird illustrations pictured in John James Audubon’s seminal Birds of America. The images have been floating around on the web forever, in various sizes and collections, and I wanted to group (or at least link to) all of them in one place. But now I don’t have to because the Audubon Society has put them up on their website.

John James Audubon’s Birds of America is a portal into the natural world. Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration.

Thumbnails of all 435 illustrations are presented on a single page (sortable alphabetically or chronologically by their creation date) and then each illustration is given its own page with Audubon’s notes on the bird pictured, a link to the bird in Audubon’s Bird Guide (where you can see photos and hear bird calls, etc.), and a link to download a high resolution image (if you sign up for their mailing list). The barred owl image is 111-megapixels. What a resource!

You can also see online copies of Birds of America at the University of Pittsburgh and Meisei University.

And if you’ve never had a chance to see some of these illustrations in real life, you should keep your eyes peeled for the opportunity. They really are something. (via open culture, which has been particularly great lately)

Mateusz Urbanowicz’s Tokyo storefronts

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Jul 29, 2019

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

Gorgeous work by a Polish illustrator working in Japan. Originally found him through this page about his Tokyo storefronts book, which features a number of super detailed watercolor illustrations. You can see even more on the series page and the Tokyo by night ones are also worth a long look. He also links to this very detailed review of the storefronts book, with a page by page description (sounds boring but the work is so beautiful, it goes by fast).

Urbanowicz also has a Youtube channel with lots of making-of videos, including a series about the book above.

Mateusz Urbanowicz's Tokyo Storefronts

(Via Darran Anderson)

Character Routing Maps of Famous Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Illustrator Andrew DeGraff makes what he calls Cinemaps, maps of movies and their plots in the style of the dotted-line wanderings of The Family Circus comic strip or Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. He’s done maps for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Princess Bride.

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

My favorite DeGraff drawing is probably Back to the Future, with Hill Valley represented twice on the same page: 1955 in pink underneath 1985 in blue.

Cinemaps

DeGraff collected these maps (and several more) into a book called Cinemaps. (via fairly interesting)

Favorite NYC Spots Lovingly Illustrated

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 12, 2019

Downtown Collective

Downtown Collective

The Downtown Collective is a project by illustrator Kelli Ercolano in which she is drawing & painting all of the NYC cafes, restaurants, and bars she’s fallen in love with. You can check out more of her work and process on Instagram.

A Journey Along the Mekong

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2019

Niemann Cambodia

National Geographic sent illustrator Christoph Niemann to Cambodia and Vietnam and he returned with this series of drawings and observations. He talked about the trip in this behind-the-scenes video.

In a region with so much natural beauty, ancient architecture, and vibrant culture, travelers can easily get stuck behind their viewfinders — consumed with capturing the most vivid moments for their photo albums and Instagram feeds. But over the years, Niemann has developed a different method of documenting his trips.

“I always drew when I traveled … I draw just to calm down essentially, so I’m not constantly checking my phone,” he says.

Niemann believes that painting and drawing his experiences creates a dialogue between his mind and a place — this process ultimately allows him to turn the lens on himself. “Essentially the drawing is like a visual filter,” he explains. “You take the world — and you take it through the abstraction of your drawing — and you start seeing differently.”

Some my favorite posts I’ve written over the past few years have been about my travel: my western roadtrip, Berlin, Istanbul, the solar eclipse. Aside from the eclipse post (which gives me goosebumps every time I reread it), I hadn’t intended to start writing about travel. Ostensibly these trips are supposed to be vacations, my time off from constantly sifting through culture for observations. But Niemann is right…there’s something about applying the creative process to unfamiliar places that that makes the experience more worthwhile. For me, photographing and taking notes for a later post gives me a much better sense of a place, forces me to pay more attention & be more open, causes me to learn about myself, and produces a written document of my trip that I can go back to and experience again.

“Closeness Lines”: Lovely Visualizations of Relationships Over Time

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2019

I *love* these simple visualizations of how different kinds of relationships change over time by writer and cartoonist Olivia de Recat.

Closeness Lines Over Time

My pal Jesse James Garrett called them “Feynman diagrams of the heart” that depict “the vast entanglement of humanity”.

The illustration is available as a print but currently sold out. :( Hopefully it’ll be back in stock soon? In the meantime, you can take a look at some of her other cartoons (mostly for the New Yorker), peruse her shop, or follow her stuff on Insta.

The Wes Anderson Alphabet

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2018

Abbie Paulhus is selling copies of this great illustrated poster she made featuring a Wes Anderson alphabet on her Etsy shop.

Wes Anderson Alphabet

It features people, places, and objects from many of Anderson’s films (I didn’t see any Bottle Rocket references): B is for Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, N is for Ned Plimpton, and T is for Margot and Richie Tenenbaum.

Trippy Geometric Illustrations by Andy Gilmore

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 11, 2018

The NY Times article about the Event Horizon Telescope that I wrote about here introduced me to Andy Gilmore’s geometric illustrations.

Andy Gilmore

Andy Gilmore

Andy Gilmore

Andy Gilmore

Andy Gilmore

Really lovely stuff. More on his Instagram.

Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 16, 2018

I really like these drawings of NYC with a historical bent by illustrator and “amateur historian” Julia Wertz.

Julia Wertz 01

Julia Wertz 02

They’re from a book Wertz wrote & illustrated called Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City. Gothamist recently interviewed Wertz about the book and her work.

Q: Bob Dylan (and my boss, Jake Dobkin) both like to exclaim that “nostalgia is death.” Which probably says more about them, and their own particularly complex relationships with nostalgia, than anything else. But do you think of yourself as a nostalgic person? How does nostalgia play into your appreciation of the urban landscape?

A: I understand what people mean by that expression, but it categorizes nostalgia in too simple a way. Nostalgia is like an intoxicant — in moderation it can be a rewarding experience, but if abused/overused, it becomes toxic. To indulge in nostalgia is to romanticize the past and stop living in the present. This could be totally fine for short periods of time, just a nice way to remember a pleasant time you experienced, but if it becomes a way of thinking, it ruins the present because there’s no way the present moment can compare to a fabricated, romanticized version past. Nostalgia has a way of erasing the shitty parts of reality. Like when people are nostalgic for, say, NYC in the 1800’s — the horse and buggies, the handmade shop signs, the elaborate suits and dresses — they’re forgetting (or perhaps never knew) that the city then was a filthy cesspool of trash and sewage, disease was rampant, and the clothing was insufferably hot and restrictive, and sometimes even deadly for women cooking with open flame.

Maira Kalman’s books for kids featuring Max the dog

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2018

Max In Love

The New York Review is reissuing five of legendary illustrator Maira Kalman’s books for children that were originally published in the 90s. The books feature the adventures of Max the dog: Hey Willy, See the Pyramids, Swami on Rye: Max in India, Max Makes a Million, Max in Hollywood, Baby, and Ooh-la-la (Max in Love).

Kalman is a wonderful illustrator, one of my favorites. You can check out more of her work on her website.

Update: The Cut ran a long profile of Kalman by Rumaan Alam last month.