Map-ography, Skin-ography and...Book-ography!

Here are three examples of innovative and inventive typography I have come
across recently and really stuck in my mind. The first is google maps typography. Created by Australian designer Rhett Dashwood. Incredibly he has used google maps to search for land formations and buildings that resemble each individual letter of the alphabet! And perhaps what's even more incredible is that he has found them all within the state of Victoria, Australia. When I first caught glimpse of this alphabet I at least presumed that it was compiled with aerial snapshots from around the world, not just from one region of one country! A great result from an interesting and unique idea.

The second is this typography created from the skin, officially termed Skinography. I don’t know much about it or where it came from, but I discovered it here. I gave up attempting to guess from which parts of the body theses letters were made. All I could spot was the odd nipple here and odd earlobe there! It’s almost quite grotesque and looks pretty painful. The outcome however is extremely effective, even if it does make you cringe. I couldn’t figure out why they hadn’t done a ‘z’ though…

Last but not least is this book typography, by Amandine Alessandra. She has taken Thomas Fuller’s phrase “A book that is shut is but a block” and built up this series of letters using the spines of different coloured books. In between the coloured books, white books are used to block the letters into their forms. On her website there are more examples of typefaces created from everyday things, such as chairs and hands. It’s interesting to see someone transform such mundane, everyday objects into something of order, and look at I from a different perspective.

A curious film about a curious man

I was quite disappointed when I missed this film in the cinemas after hearing so much about it, so I was quite excited when I finally got around to renting it from Blockbuster the other day. With such an intriguing concept I had an inkling that I would enjoy it, but to honest I didn’t know quite what to expect especially with all the mixed reviews it has received. However 165 minutes later and I discovered that my inkling was infact correct, and I enjoyed it far more than I even expected.

Brilliantly directed by David Fincher - with his great eye for detail - and screenplay by Eric Roth, who also worked on Forrest Gump, this American fantasy drama is loosely based on the 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven’t already seen it, then I won’t give too much of the extraordinary plot away, as I think it really should be experienced first hand. But just a brief outline, this is a tale of a curious man, Benjamin, born as a baby in a crippled, old mans body. His disgusted father abandons him on the steps of a stranger’s house, the warm and caring Queenie, who immediately and unquestionably takes him in to care for. The story follows Benjamins life, as he begins to age, but biologically grows younger. The entire thing is told through the narration of Benjamin’s diary, bestowed into the possession of his love, Daisy. Now, I can see why some people have complained at the length of the film; at over two and a half ours, it’s fairly long, a feature perhaps highlighted by the premise of the film itself being based on time. However I have to say that I didn’t want it to end.

Pervaded with life and death, love and loss, the film deals with these occurrences in an almost matter-of-fact way that somehow doesn’t make it any less emotional. Rich in humour, sorrow, heart-ache, and ultimately life, a film full of ironies that explores the process of aging and how old we are against how old we feel. The great anecdotes and twists in this curious tale are played fantastically by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, who play the lead characters Benjamin and Daisy. Pitt especially brings the shading to Benjamin’s character alive, to accompany the fantastic special effects and CGI to age the characters accordingly. Fincher focuses mainly on the face to express age, with great success. All things considered it is unsurprising that this film was nominated for a total of 13 Oscars. Overall I think I have figured out why this film has had such contrasting reviews; if you are looking for a point to film then you may not find it. However if you’re willing to just experience it, then it’s an epic. Moreover I suppose that for a film based on such a bizarre and unique premise, you might sort of expect a message that is a bit more out of the ordinary. But of course it doesn’t tell us anything more than we already know or have been told before, that we should discover life, love and what is really important to us, and make the most of it while we can in the short time that we are given. However for me this was perfect, in its elegant and imaginative depiction of love, life and the things that we lose. And while I can see how it may not be for everyone, I still absolutely recommend this film to you, and hope that you won’t be disappointed.


Nacho Gil

I really like these illustrations of animals by Nacho Gil - Argentinean artist and designer at MTV with a delicious sounding name!  Illustrations of animals don’t usually grip me, however he takes this fairly (in my opinion) boring concept and turns it into a contemporary one again, with his angular shapes and graphic style.  I like the way he has taken this style of illustration and applied it to create a series, each of which complement and strengthen the others.  When I look at them I feel like I’m looking down a kaleidoscope, in the symmetry and the jagged, 3D ‘diamond’ effect, with sharp points rising up in numerous places.  In that respect, they sort of remind me of childhood.  These are my favourites but you can take a look at the whole series by visiting his website here.

A splash of paint

Stunning photos from London based photographer Iain Crawford.  With his quite extraordinary approach to fashion photography he has produced a fantastic and unique portfolio full of amazing work.  This series where brightly coloured paint is thrown over flawless models, possesses something extra special.  The elegant shapes that Crawford captures in that split second are incredible, as if the paint was meant to wrap itself around the model in that exact way…I can’t imagine how the models manage to pose so professionally with paint being thrown at them, but somehow they accomplish it with total grace!  The result is a range of brilliant pictures full of emotion, energy, and most of all, captivating COLOUR!  The colour is my favourite aspect of Crawford’s work, it’s bright and it’s fantastic!  I haven’t seen colour used like this before, to full effect, with one simple, bold colour at a time.  With work like this it’s not surprising he’s been commissioned by the likes of L’Oreal, Givenchy, Lancome and Vogue, among many many more.  Every time I look at these pictures it strikes me how Crawford has managed to create a feeling of such calm, from such chaos.
Click here for Iain Crawford’s website and to take a peek at the rest of his work.


Lazy Sunday afternoons

Ever dreamt of become a great expressionist master?! Well now you can.  I stumbled across this totally addictive website by Miltos Maneta, www.manetas.com/pollock/, where you can become the great Jackson Pollock himself, and with just a few clicks of the mouse you can create a real-life abstract masterpiece; well maybe not a masterpiece, but it'll look pretty good anyway.  I could stare into space at this thing for hours, it's strangely therapeutic!  

This is my best piece yet...I can tell your impressed, haha!

This is a story about a man and a boot...

I first began to notice Gary Hume’s work when I stumbled across an exhibition of his at the Tate Britain a few years ago. I was immediately struck by the simplicity and bold use of colour in his paintings that really caught and held my attention. I remember finding his work aesthetically appealing with an almost alluring quality to it, perhaps due to his seductive use of glossy colour, or perhaps his use of complex, interweaving lines to represent such simplified forms. They somehow seemed to contain a feeling of melancholy in their fluidity and beauty. Ever since that first exhibition I became a big fan, following his work from time to time.

Months later I found myself at a friends 18th birthday party, tucking into some nibbles and some bubbly, when Gary Hume came up in conversation with a friend of mine who is a bit of an arty type too. Suddenly the birthday boy piped up “Are you talking about Gary Hume? He’s my uncle, and he’s over in the barn having drinks with my parents. You can go and meet him if you like!” Now of course our natural reaction was “yeah yeah, whatever, how would we not already know this if it were true…”, when we found ourselves being dragged over to the barn, up the stairs, through the door…and there he was! I was totally star-struck. I always thought I’d be able to think of some really good question if I ever met someone famous who I really admire, but no, not this time. I vaguely remember babbling like an idiot, although I think the champagne may have had something to do with it! So we chatted for a bit and in the end he very sweetly signed his painting boots which he had brought with him straight from his studio: ‘Gary Hume painted in these’ and gave us one each. I remember thinking how generous it was, although maybe had something to do with his consumption of champagne too! So we joked about how he’d probably wake up in the morning and wonder where they were…and then left, still quite shocked at what had just happened! It was really fantastic to meet such a prominent figure in the art world and realise that as well as such an innovative artist, he was also a really lovely and down-to-earth man. I still sometimes look at the boot and wonder if it would be possible to match up the blobs of paint with the paintings they came from. So far I have had no success!


Predicting the lottery...bah!

If, like me, you were one of the 3m viewers that tuned in to watch Derren Brown predict the lottery numbers live on Wednesday night, then it’s quite likely that you are feeling as stumped as I am.  Channel 4 broadcast a rather nervous looking Brown pacing back and forth next to a TV that was tuned into BBC1 whilst the lottery was taking place.  To his side there was a stand with a line of balls facing away from us, upon which he claimed to have written his predictions for the winning lottery numbers earlier that day.  Once the lottery numbers had been announced on BBC1 Derren Brown jabbered, “That’s a year of my life right there.  I can’t believe it.”  Seeming genuinely flustered and high as a kite he proceeded to turn the balls around reviewing his correct predictions.  These balls had been in shot for the duration of the show and had not been tampered with at all, no one had even come close to them, or so it seemed.  Now wouldn’t it have been much more convincing if we had been able to see his predictions before they results had been broadcast on BBC1, however for legal reasons the BBC had to announce them first.  Convenient this, but how did he do it?!  Could it somehow have been a digital trick, and the balls next to Derren Brown were being updated by some clever technological feat as the results were announced?  It certainly didn’t look that way, but it wouldn't would it, and what is the other explanation?  Brown claimed the trick took a year of his life, so maybe he spent it filming himself unveiling millions of different predictions, any of which could be reclaimed from a pre-recorded archive at the time of the live broadcast.  Is it possible he could have already seen the results and somehow convinced the BBC to broadcast with a delay? Surely to believe for one split second Brown’s claims that the lottery it is not a random event but infact predictable, undermines the entire game.  Moreover how could the lottery continue if there was some crazy method of predicting its results…  

 Brown’s work has always been composed by some clever illusion.  There is no doubt about it that whichever theory of how he pulled off the stunt is correct, it is clever and highly entertaining, even if it is totally frustrating!   It will be interesting to see what he has to say in his show tonight ‘How to win the lottery’, will it live up to the hype that it has created?  I’m sure that whatever he says, in true Derren style, he won’t be giving much away. 

The living wall

Providing a new context to the term ‘green hotel’, is the swanky 5 star Athenaeum Hotel in London’s Piccadilly.  In addition to the green efforts that many hotels incorporate of energy saving and waste reducing, comes the ‘living wall’ presented by botanist turned artist Patrick Blanc.   The wall, or ‘wall garden’ as it is more commonly known, spans the entire side of the building, from the ground floor to the penthouse suite, subsequently rendering it the tallest garden in Britain!  Boasting over 12,000 plants from a range of 260 different species the garden provides a varied sanctuary of flourishing wildlife, in an unusual composition.  Blanc carefully selected the plants, not all indigenous to the UK, in order to suit both the climate as well as the overall aesthetic.  A substantial collection of nettles, the world’s largest in fact, as well as Japanese Iris’s and Chinese begonia’s among many others make up this installation of biodiversity, a treat for the budding botanist.  But it does not just act as a showcase for impressive greenery – it also acts as natural insulation for the building as well as an air purification system...so it really does live up to it’s ‘green’ appearance!

Blanc’s signature gardens can be found spanning buildings all over the world in countries from Paris and Madrid to Tokyo amongst many others.  He has perfected his technique of growing his gardens, not on soil, but on a specially designed synthetic felt material within which the plant roots can anchor and grow.  An automatic fertilization and watering system is also in place, completing the components of an intelligent system and great example of botanical architecture. Personally I think it is quite a fun way of jazzing up the side of a building, almost like a sort of live mural or canvas.  Blanc, pioneer of the wall garden – who knows, you may see a living wall coming to a building near you!

Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle

For those unfamiliar with Dahl’s peculiar terminology, Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle make up the main components of the Big Friendly Giant’s diet.  Snozzcumbers are a particularly foul type of cucumber, covered in warts and sour in taste.  Quite on the contrary, Frobscottle is a delicious and refreshing drink, full of fizzy bubbles and delight.
A fantastic exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood drew to a close last Sunday after 4 months of the capturing the imagination of children and adults alike.  The traveling exhibition titled ‘Snozzcumbers and Frobscottle; the Wonderful World of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake’ was organised by the children’s literature museum, Seven Stories.  It brought together a wide range of exhibits from original illustrations and manuscripts, to sculptures and objects including both stationary as well as interactive displays.  This exhibition celebrated the great creative partnership between Dahl and Blake, a collaboration that began with The Enormous Crocodile and evolved into twenty one well-known and loved classics.

So set for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, I was delighted to discover plenty of gems, including initial illustrations of the BFG, his friend Sophie, and models of snozzcumbers and dreamcatchers in the BFG’s model cave.  Everyone has their favourite Roald Dahl story, many of them read time and time again as a child, until our parents were blue in the face!  Whether it be Matilda, James and the Giant Peach or Esio Trot among many others, the BFG is definitely up there for me so this was a treat!  There were also plenty of other familiar characters to spot, among them the scary witch from The Twits and Charlie Bucket’s grandparents lined up in their big bed.  What was fascinating, and for me added another dimension to the exhibition, was the showing of a film following Quentin Blake carry out his work in his studio.   It’s curious and almost surreal stepping into this world as an adult, coming face-to-face with original work by Blake.  One can’t help but marvel, with the knowledge that these magical illustrations have touched millions of childrens imaginations and continue to all of the time.  His na├»ve style is especially striking, immediately recognisable with its scribbley lines and splashes of watercolour.  He manages to create images that are spontaneous and disorderly, as if he’s drawn them extremely quickly, but at the same time are perfect without a line feeling out of place.  The result is wild, yet enchanting at the same time.  I love Blake’s style, with his carefree illustrations perfectly embodying Dahl’s characters and their expressions, from the totally bizarre to damnright abominable.  

I can imagine that illustrating Dahl’s stories, bristling with neology and make-believe, and creating a visual identity was not always an easy job for Blake, however it certainly feels like it would have been an adventure full of fun.  This is highlighted when he struggled to visualize what the BFG would wear on his feet, so Dahl sent him a package to re-instil some inspiration.  In a quote from the culture 24 website Blake recalls: "I received through the post a rather oddly-shaped and oddly-wrapped brown paper parcel.  Unwrapping it revealed a large sandal of a type unfamiliar to me. I soon discovered that it was Norwegian and one of Roald's own. It is what the BFG wears."  The original Norwegian sandal also featured in the exhibition.  I think that ultimately it is the successful capturing of the essence and humour of Dahl’s writing in the illustrations that makes the duos work so powerful and really allows you to jump head first into their vividly animated, imaginary world.   The illustration of children’s fiction is always a wondrous thing, however this particular partnership between Dahl and Blake is clearly something extra special.  With so much excellent work to chose from the V&A did a great job in whittling it down to a captivating and succinct exhibition. Here are some of the characters featured below:


To think we used to say it in a text...!

Teehee!  I spied these card designs online - 'courtesy cards' from Gramkin Paper Studio, sold on Etsy.  Check out their cute, kitsch range of card designs.  This one’s a bit mean…but it does look pretty though!  They aren’t all of the same tone, in fact there are some other charming card designs with peacock illustrations and the like, but these are definitely my favourites.  I like the way they look so delightful, disguised in pretty and colourful typography and printed on nice card stock…until you read what they actually say!  


"Are you tired of trying to have a good time with your friends and being interrupted by that annoying pick up artist?  Sick of wasting valuable minutes of your life that you can't get back by turning down the overly confident pursuer?  Then try a courtesy card!  These handy little cards are the perfect size to get the job done!  When you don't want to be bothered and can't waste anytime, simply reach for a card and hand it over to the offender...and walk away....just let the card do the rest  What a small price to pay for peace of mind!  And remember when you can't say it to someones face......Say it in a card!"

So if you need to get that little something off your chest, for those of you amongst us who are too shy to say it out loud, Gramkin Paper Studio may just be able to help!


Quirky lionfish lamp

A creative lamp in the shape of a lionfish by Australian design company Alex Earl.  Alex Earl produces a wide range of contemporary lighting and furniture.  The lionfish pendant creates and emits a luminescence in the form of a deep-sea creature.  With the option of being custom made to any size, imagine walking into a room centered around a giant lionfish lamp!  I have witnessed many lights featuring flowers, leaves, swirls and chandelier types, and although no doubt beautiful, they can be rather predictable.  This little critter on the other hand, is a first.  It reminds me of one of those strange and elusive bioluminescent fish that lives in the darkness at the lowest depths of the ocean, and functions as it’s own little lantern. I like the fact that this lamp has a practical function as well as being an art piece. 

Fashion good enough to eat!

On a similar theme to that of the cabbage and brussel sprouts dress by Sarah Illenberger, ‘A Matter of Taste’ is a unique and tantalizing book by Fulvio Bonavia, Italian graphic designer turned photographer, who has worked with the likes of Saab, BMW, Adidas and Heinenken among many others.  Published in 2008, it contains a collection of weird and wonderful photographs of fashion items made from food.  Guaranteed to tease your taste buds, this body of work sees rise to the introduction of fashion good enough to eat…literally.  From rice boots, aubergine pumps and delicious candy shoes to bags made from broccoli and luscious raspberries, there are literally all of the accessories a girl could ever need to create one scrumptious outfit.  I love the bright and colourful photographs and think the concept of fusing cuisine and couture is both imaginative and humorous.  The pics certainly made me giggle.  These delightful images are accompanied with text written by Peta Mathias, an artistic chef, author and broadcaster from New Zealand.  Earlier this year a few of his photographs were exhibited among the exquisitely displayed food at La Grande Epicerire, Paris.  Here are some of my favourites.  To see more of Fulvio’s work visit his homepage here