(Art?)book of the Day: Counting with Wayne Thiebaud

Okay, this isn’t a traditional artbook, per se. I mean, most art books cost upwards of $60, have 100+ pages, and tend to come in at above a 1st grade reading level. This book meets none of those criteria, but, yknow, Wayne Thiebaud. ‘Nuff said.

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It’s exactly as the title suggests

This book is just too adorable to pass up. So, even though I have managed to reach the age of 23 with the ability to count to 10 (still working up to 20- I’ll get there,) I still love this simple little book.

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It’s kind of funny how well Thiebaud’s work fits in with such a childish concept. I call him a “painter’s painter” all the time, as the subtleties in his approach to everyday objects tend to be more readily appreciated by fellow painters. But obviously, his bright color palette, along with his playful subject matter totally fits with a children’s book concept.

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*spoiler alert*

Thinking back, I realize that what I probably most remember from my favorite books as a kid is the artwork (I’ve talked before about my love for Leo Lionni’s charmingly simple  illustrations in particular.) What better way to introduce children to amazing artists than through a counting lesson? I don’t need to count to ten to know that Wayne Thiebaud is number one in my book. (Sorry, that was terrible.)

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Artbook of the Day: Vision and Revision

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Since I love playing with monotypes, and since I am so enamored with everything by Wayne Thiebaud, I immediately fell in love with this book while browsing amazon. Not many people know that Thiebaud actually has made a sizable body of work in printmaking.

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Wayne Thiebaud, Sardines, watercolor over hard-ground etching, 1990

It’s interesting to see his trademark subject matter and aesthetic translated into this medium-  a medium that is in many ways similar to painting. Interestingly, part of the “revision” of these works becomes apparent as Thiebaud works into the prints with other mediums, like pastel and watercolor:

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Wayne Theibaud, Six Candied Apples, watercolor over hard-ground and drypoint etching, 1990

The forward, written by Thiebaud, starts:

“I think the most compelling part of drawing and painting is the continuing thrill of learning how they can be made. Working on prints is an extension of this constant search.”

It’s this clear enthusiasm for the formal, raw process of painting that makes Thiebaud so easy for me to admire. A true painter’s painter… Who also makes amazing prints.

Artbook of the Day: The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service

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Ah, Kiki’s Delivery Service. Along with My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki is certainly my favorite childhood movie. I remember seeing a commercial for it either on TV or on a VHS (remember those?) and immediately demanding that we go out and rent it from the video store (remember those?!) My parents would let my sister and I take turns choosing a movie, and every time (to my sister’s annoyance) I chose Kiki– until, of course, my parents just bought me the VHS for my birthday since they’d already paid the cost of the movie many times over in rental fees by then.

So, naturally I own the Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service book from Viz. It’s filled with beautiful concept work, sketches, and commentary from director Hayao Miyazaki and others on the development of the film.

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I totally recognized the above painting from its fully realized use in the film:

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There are also some interesting early explorations of Kiki’s appearance:

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This drawing was one of my faves:

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Looking back, I can see why Kiki intrigued me so much. The fully realized female characters (including the protagonist,) the story of being on one’s own for the first time and finding one’s independence, and the fact that the whole “teen witch” thing is really just a metaphor for being an artist. Kiki has a seemingly innate talent for flying on her broomstick, but gets into a funk and loses her ability. She confides in her artist friend Ursula, and realizes that she needs to find “her own inspiration” to fly. Of course, she eventually finds this inspiration and gets her “powers” back in the end through self-discovery and an act of bravery. I think it’s great that a “kids” movie explored something so complex. And it’s no surprise, being an artist myself now, that I was drawn to such a story!

Artbook of the Day: The Art of Princess Mononoke

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I’ve cultivated an impressive, and to my knowledge, complete, collection of all of the fabulously hefty Viz artbooks on Hayao Miyazaki’s films. However, the artbook for my favorite Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke, long eluded me because it was never released to the US. That gaping hole in my life was finally filled when my wonderful sister brought me home a copy after travelling to Japan, purchased from the Ghibli museum no less!

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I of course love all of Miyazaki’s films, but I consider Mononoke to be his masterpiece. It just tackles so much from environmentalism, war and pacifism, human brutality, and just… life. Being alive. Heavy stuff, but it’s all told in such a masterful and natural way that I can’t help but choose it as my favorite.

The book obviously has gorgeous images of the hand-painted backgrounds featured in the film…

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… While also, of course, featuring things like character sketches and other preliminary images:

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The only downside to me is that it’s all in Japanese, and my 3 years of studying the language in high school has pretty much dissipated by now. But it’s fine, the images are the real meat of it anyways.

In making Mononoke, Miyazaki has said that he had “started to think about what a villain really was… It was hard to make a villain that really deserved to be defeated; at least, I couldn’t do it.” And it’s true. There is no pure “good” and “evil” in his world- only people with differing motivations. It is this sophisticated and nuanced view of humanity that makes Mononoke a timeless classic.

 

***All Images are my own crappy ones taken of the book

Art Book of the Day: Wayne Thiebaud, A Retrospective

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I finally got my hands on this somewhat rare art book from Acquavella showcasing some beautiful new and previously unpublished works by Wayne Thiebaud. As you all know, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of his work. This is also my first nice, hardcover art book of Thiebaud paintings! It’s one thing to see the works online, but there’s something about holding a book of high quality reproductions in your hands that brings the whole experience just a little closer to seeing them in person.

I’m a huge fan of Thiebaud’s recent work, which includes gorgeously lush, vibrant (and kind of perspectively ambiguous!) landscapes:

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Wayne Thiebaud- Layered Ridge , 2010, Oil on Canvas.

As I said, the book features previously unpublished work both from Thiebaud’s own collection and that of his wife, Betty Jean!

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This is a cigar box that he painted for her as a gift! D’awww.

And that’s just about the only thing about Thiebaud that’s shocking- he’s so normal. Besides his extraordinary status as a masterful painter, he seems like a normal guy, with a middle class upbringing and now a comfortable, married life. No dancing on tables at the Chelsea Hotel, not dropping acid at studio 54- just a normal, well-adjusted guy. He speaks delightfully candidly about his own work as well. The book includes some snippets from interviews, and in one Thiebaud remarks how he isn’t interested in the commercial status of his subjects (like the pop painters) but simply saw a slice of pie as “a triangle on a round plate.” Maybe it’s this normalcy and candid nature of his that has largely kept him out of the limelight, in the sense that he has never achieved say, Richter-level status of celebrity.

And he’s still going! A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that yes, he’s still alive and, yes, he’s still painting away and showing regularly. John Wilmerding, in the forward to the book, aptly states “In a contentious, cynical, and chaotic age his art brings to the table optimism, humor, and order.”

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Wayne Thiebaud, reservoir and orchard, 2001.

Artbook of the Day: The Cream of Tank Girl

I have  to admit, I’m not cool enough to have discovered Tank Girl, the zany British comic by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett about a foul-mouthed, rebellious young woman’s adventures through a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland in, what else, a tricked-out tank, through the original comics when they circulated in Deadline (mostly because I wasn’t exactly born yet.) Instead I discovered her through the kind of lovably campy, but mostly just awesomely bad Tank Girl movie starring Lori Petty and, inexplicably, Naomi Watts:

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And yes, that is ICE-T behind them playing a Kangaroo mutant.

Despite the movie’s general suckiness, I fell in love with the character and knew I had to check out the source material. Tank Girl is a colorful, wacky, anarchistic celebration of everything to love about comic books. It’s funny, gratuitous in it’s violence and humor, and colorful. The often ridiculous story-lines, pulpy style, and post-apocalyptic setting make for an addictively zany reading experience. Of course, the appeal is carried heavily on the shoulders of the titular heroine, now an icon in her own right. She basically embodies all the nihilist, childlike fun we secretly imagine we’d have in fantasizing about a post-apocalypse.

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The art book includes the original covers/special illustrations, all that really make you appreciate Hewlett’s artistry, allowing you to see how his incredibly recognizable illustration style has developed over the years to what we see today with Gorillaz:

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The book also includes some little gems like sketches and concept work:

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and pre-published cover illustrations:

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I like these kinds of things that take you “behind the scenes” to see just how much planning, skill, and time creating these illustrations requires. We even get to see some storyboards that Hewlett himself made for the film which, unfortunately, never saw the light of day:

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So, if you have any interest in seeing the gorgeous illustrations of one of the great talents in comics, or if you just have an interest in illustration in general, I’d recommend you to indulge in the oddly empowering zaniness that is Tank Girl.

Artbook of the Day: Nausicaa Watercolor Impressions

It’s no secret that I love fancy (and sometimes not so fancy) art books, nor is it a secret that I love Hayao Miyazaki films. So, it’s no surprise that I own nearly all of the art books in the Viz series about his films. They’re all weighty hardcovers with gorgeous illustrations, concept sketches, and other unseen gems from the making of each film. I love looking through these books every once in a while- I find comfort in visiting his fantastical worlds, given that I grew up with his films.

One such book that sort of stands out from the rest is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions. This book more emphasizes concept work than the others, given that Nausicaa was originally a manga penned and illustrated solely by Miyazaki in gorgeous watercolor.

One of Miyazaki’s favorite illustrations of princess Nausicaa

Nausicaa is such an amazing film (unfortunately I haven’t read the manga yet,) about a post apocalyptic (pre-apocalyptic?) and environmentally damaged planet. As a result, the planet tries to heal itself- by eliminating all humans. It’s up to the spunky, empathetic princess Nausicaa to save the day, which culminates in a heartbreaking climax where she begs the planet to forgive the human race-a theme that Miyazaki revisits in his proceeding work. It’s such a beautiful story, and even after all these years, relevant. I was always struck by how powerful Miyazaki’s female heroines were- not necessarily in physical power, but there was just an energy behind them. They seemed like real people, with real emotions and conflicts behind their expressions. They make the highly idealized, wide-eyed faces of the Disney princesses seem vacant by comparison (I guess they look kinda vacant without doing a comparison…)

Of course, you come to a Miyazaki film for the great characters, but you stay for the incredible world-building (or is it the other way around?) He almost always features incredible flying machines-

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-and incredible creatures of fancy, and sometimes destruction:

It was also interesting to see some early concept art Miyazaki made pre-Nausicaa. I especially loved this gem:

I love these books. It’s so amazing to be able to take a trip into a sketchbook see the thought process of one of the greatest artists of our time through his own personal sketches and paintings.