Vaughan Oliver -- graphic designer for 4AD, Cocteau Twins, Pixies -- RIP

Vaughan Oliver, the graphic designer whose work defined the 4AD record label, has died. He was 62. His ethereal, surreal, magnificent album art for The Pixies, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and Clan of Xymox brought together design and music in a way that forever changed and elevated the design of music packaging. From The Guardian:

Oliver, born in 1957, grew up in County Durham and studied graphic design at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic. “I was a working class lad from a dull town,” he said in 2014. “There was no real culture, my parents were not really interested in anything unusual – everything I was getting was through record sleeves. It was a democratic way of discovering art.”

He moved to London and in 1982 became the first employee for the record label 4AD. As their in-house designer, he created artwork that helped define them as purveyors of dark and complex alt-rock music; with their clashing fonts and boldly allusive but mysterious symbolism, his sleeves became some of the most revered in modern pop. “I like to elevate the banal through surrealism,” he said in 2014. “Mystery and ambiguity are important weapons in a designer’s arsenal.”

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Coop's Randotti skulls: now available as tights!

Artist Coop's revival of the outstanding skulls of the Randotti Corporation (as seen at Disneyland and Walt Disney World!) continues with a line of tights featuring Haunted Skull, Voodoo Skull and Pirate Skull. Read the rest

Coop's tribute to Randotti Skulls, from the golden age of Haunted Mansion merchandise

From the 1950s until the 1980s, Randy and Dotti Smith supplied a line of fantastic cast sculptures sold in Disney theme-park gift shops, especially a line of skulls sold in shops associated with the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean rides; these Randotti skulls haven't been sold in decades, you can still find used ones (at high prices) online, as Boing Boing pal and fabulous illustrator Coop discovered when he sourced an impressive collection of Randotti sculpts.

Illustrator Mark Crilley's tutorial on adding shading to faces

My kids and I like to draw. We sometimes go to the weekly figure drawings sessions at the Art Directors Guild in LA, or we just sit at the dining room table and draw. As an amateur sketcher, I'm in awe of illustrator Mark Crilley's skill with a pencil, and with his instructional books and videos.  His videos are enjoyable and useful -- he explains what he is doing with a calm, soothing voice, and the tips he offers are often just what I need to gain new understanding about drawing. In his latest video, Mark shows how to add shading to faces.

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Lynda Barry's "Making Comics" is one of the best, most practical books ever written about creativity

I've been a fan of cartoonist, novelist and memoirist Lynda Barry for decades, long before she was declared a certified genius; Barry's latest book, Making Comics is an intensely practical, incredibly inspiring curriculum for finding, honing and realizing your creativity through drawing and writing.

Interview with Kai Lan Egg, a Hong Kong protest artist who specializes in anime pro-democracy memes

Matteo writes, "Kai Lan Egg is an anonymous artist from Hong Kong. He started drawing illustrations of the Hong Kong protest primarily using a Japanese anime style to encourage the people around him to stand against the progressive erosion of the Hong Kong independence." Read the rest

From 1929, a splendid experimental animation that imagines life's origins

Tusalava (1929) is a splended experimental animation by New Zealand avant-garde filmmaker and kinetic artist Len Lye. The original film featured a piano score by Jack Ellitt that has unfortunately been lost. (The video above has contemporary music by Andrew Pask who uploaded the film to YouTube.) From the Len Lye Foundation:

The film imagines the beginnings of life on earth. Single-cell creatures evolve into more complex forms of life. Evolution leads to conflict, and two species fight for supremacy. The title is a Samoan word which suggests that things go full circle. In this film Lye based his style of animation partly on the ancient Aboriginal art of Australia. Tusalava is unique as a film example of what art critics describe as “modernist primitivism”. In contrast to the Cubist painters (who were influenced by African art), Lye drew upon traditions of indigenous art from his own region of the world (New Zealand, Australia and Samoa).

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Download hi-rez scans of all 435 illustrations from John James Audubon's Birds of America

The Audubon Society's tribute to John James Audubon's Birds of America (originally published between 1827 and 1838) features all 435 of Audubon's vibrant, beautiful portraits of the birds he studied, along with his notes on their behaviors and other characteristics (the site also includes audio samples of each bird's call). Read the rest

How Susan Kare applied embroidery skills to create the iconic Macintosh icons

In the early 1980s, Susan Kare joined Apple Computer to design fonts and user interface graphics. A legend of pixel art, Kare created the look of the original Macintosh, from the Chicago typeface to the Trash Can to the Happy Mac icon. She's currently creative director at Pinterest. David Kindy profiles Kare in Smithsonian:

Pioneering designer Susan Kare was taught by her mother how to do counted-thread embroidery, which gave her the basic knowledge she needed to create the first icons for the Apple Macintosh 35 years ago.

“It just so happened that I had small black and white grids to work with,” she says. “The process reminded me of working needlepoint, knitting patterns or mosaics. I was lucky to have had a mother who enjoyed crafts..."

Designing the icons proved to be more of a challenge (than the typefaces). Reproducing artwork on those primitive CRT surfaces, which used a bit-mapped matrix system with points of light, or pixels, to display data, was a designer’s nightmare.

However, the friend who recommended Kare for the job—-Andy Hertzfeld, then lead software architect for Macintosh-—had an idea. Since the matrix was essentially a grid, he suggested Kare get the smallest graph paper she could find. She then blocked out a 32-by-32 square and began coloring in squares to create the graphics...

After leaving Apple in 1986, Kare became creative director for Apple cofounder Steve Jobs at the short-lived NeXT, Inc., an influential computer startup that was eventually acquired by Apple. She founded her own eponymous design firm in 1989, which created graphic designs for hundreds of clients, including Autodesk, Facebook, Fossil, General Magic, IBM, Microsoft and PayPal.

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Fixing a car-door dent with fantasy cartography

Did you get dinged in a parking lot? Or did you back into a phone-poll? A little bondo, a little black pinstriping, and voila, you've turned your car's unsightly, damaged door panel into a map of fantastic, Tolkien-adjacent realms. Read the rest

Revealing the cover of "Poesy the Monster Slayer," my first-ever picture book!

Firstsecond (publishers of In Real Life, the bestselling middle-grades graphic novel Jen Wang and I made) have just revealed the cover for Poesy the Monster Slayer, my first-ever picture book, illustrated by Matt Rockefeller and scheduled for publication in July 2020. Read the rest

Fan-made "rideable" Haunted Mansion poster

Cartoonist Vince "Untold Tales of Bigfoot" Dorse (previously) continues to make astoundingly cool Haunted Mansion fan media: his latest is a "ride through" illustration of the Mansion and its many set-pieces, which imagines a coherent geometry for the ride. Read the rest

Tim Biskup: new interview and book from the great pop surrealist

We've posted on Boing Boing about Tim Biskup's pop surrealist artwork for decades and he's still busier than ever. Most recently, he's opened a new gallery and studio space in Los Angeles called Face Guts, created album art for Lee "Scratch" Perry, and is finally publishing his first monograph, titled Tree of Life. In the new issue of Juxtapoz, Patricia Arquette talks with Tim about his life and work. From Juxtapoz:

You were a punk rocker, right? Do you think that gave you better tools for survival?

Yes. Being able to say, "Fuck it, I don't care," is a very healthy thing. I've often said that the most valuable art supply that you have is right here.

That's your middle finger.

Yes. There's so much of punk rock that is based on loose energy. It's not necessarily about doing everything right. It's about capturing the energy of that moment. There's so much punk rock music that is perfect and there's so much of it that just sounds like trash. I think punk rock taught me how easy it is to make shitty music and how easy it is to make great music. The element that makes the difference is a willingness to work hard on the things that you need to work on and to ignore the things that don't matter. That lesson has followed me through everything in my life. There are a lot of times where I'm like, "Oh, shoot. I'm not doing this part right," but it doesn't matter.

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"Superflat" artist Takashi Murakami writes about himself

Over at CNN, fantastically creative and influential Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is CNN Style's latest "guest editor." Along with commissioning a series of articles "exploring the theme of identity," he wrote his own insightful and inspiring essay about his life as an artist. From CNN:

As a child, looking at paintings was absolutely boring. One standout memory was when, around the age of 8, I had to wait in line for three hours with my family, just to see the Spanish artist Francisco Goya's painting at a museum in Tokyo. The work depicted Titan Cronus (or Saturn) eating his own children. The image was haunting and kept me up for many nights after. I think this profound experience, or trauma, formed the basis for my act of painting to this day. It taught me that if my work doesn't move people and induce a "wow!" then it's all for nothing.

Once I started grade school however, reading manga and watching TV anime became more important to me. No longer forced by my parents to go look at paintings, I became obsessed with "Ultraman," robot anime and sport-themed manga about boxing and baseball. I believe these experiences have a lot to do with how I now make films and animations, alongside paintings and sculptures....

In seventh grade, I fell into a hole in the ground and broke my skull and some bones in my right hand. I couldn't go to school for a month and subsequently failed to catch up academically.

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Goreytelling: Animations to go with Edward Gorey's narration of his life

In the 1990s, student filmmaker Christopher Seufert talked his way into Edward Gorey's life and convinced him to record a series of memoirs and tales from his life; the project blossomed into a documentary, only to be derailed when Gorey died. Read the rest

Design competition to create graphics to illustrate cybersecurity stories

Illustrating abstract articles is a pain in the ass, and in the age of social media, a post without an illustration is likely to disappear without attaining any kind of readership, which leaves those of us who cover the field endlessly remixing HAL9000 eyes using walls of code, Matrix text-waterfalls, or variations on hacker-in-a-hoodie. Read the rest

An illustrated guide to San Francisco's most unusual statues

Peter Glanting's illustrated guide to San Francisco's most unusual statues is an annotated delight, even if, despite its length, JWZ wrote, "They skipped a few of my favorites." Read the rest

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