A couple of months ago, I discovered the lovely Twitter feed of UK-based book publisher, Laurence King Publishing, and I instantly fell in love! I’m honest when I say that their Twitter content is extremely inspiring to me as an illustrator. The light-heartedness of the tweets is an instant grab. And let’s not forget about the quality and range of their creative books, showcased on their visually-appealing website and content-rich blog.
— Laurence King (@LaurenceKingPub) 9 August 2017
Seeing how Laurence King Publishing is one of the world’s leading publishers of books on the creative and visual arts, I engaged more than my usual self with this particular Twitter account. I even participated in a #BookLoversDay tweet giveaway around a month or so ago. And, to my surprise and delight, I won!
“This is…” Book Series: Art History for Right-Brained Creatives
A couple of days ago, I received the package (in the pic above) containing three giveaway books from Laurence King’s “This is…” art history book series. According to UK’s bi-monthly visual culture resource, Creative Review, this series presents “an accessible visual guide to the work of iconic creatives” including Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, and Paul Gauguin.
As someone who has had a constant struggle with traditional – and often “dry” – art history, colour theory, and art theory books, I was pleasantly surprised at how eager I was to read these uniquely illustrated and thought-out books. For a right-brained creative like myself who delights in visuals more than words, there are so many visual cues and brilliant illustrations in there, that make me want to book several upcoming afternoons to enjoy a good read and revel in the visual inspiration.
The writing itself is also similar to long-form human interest journalism, with story-telling being at the heart of this wonderful series. Here’s an example. The opening paragraph from “This is Pollock” book, starts with an attention-grabbing paragraph that says:
“Jackson Pollock looks like, as his friend Willem de Kooning put it: ‘some guy who works at the service station pumping gas.’”
Don’t tell me you don’t want to make yourself a cup of tea, cuddle up in a comfy chair, and continue reading after this! True to their marketing and PR messaging, the Laurence King’s blog professes, “This is…” series is “aimed to show you art history as you’ve never seen it before.”
In case you’re wondering, here are the titles I received from Laurence King Publishing via mail a couple of days ago:
- This is Kandinsky |Written by Annabel Howard, illustrated by London-based illustrator Adam Simpson
- This is Magritte |Written by Patricia Allmer, illustrations by Italian painter, engraver and illustrator Iker Spozio
- This is Pollock |Written by Catherine Ingram, Illustrated by illustrator and visual-journalist Peter Arkle, based in Manhattan in the US
Illustration Technique and Storytelling
These are more than just three art history books walking us through the childhoods, art styles, and impact of Pollock, Kandinsky, and Magritte on modern art movements! These books are also illustrated by accomplished contemporary illustrators, who used pen-and-ink and line drawing (also my illustration medium) to communicate stories and segments from the lives of historically-acclaimed iconic artists.
This juxtaposition of artistic styles and storytelling motifs is very intriguing, to say the least! To be able to see the works of such iconic artists, like Kandinsky, in the same book with a commissioned illustrator (in this case, Adam Simpson), is ground breaking.
I think illustrators everywhere will find it both educational and inspiring to look at how these contemporary illustrators interpreted the life stories of the historic figures they were commissioned to create illustrations about.
I’m also in love with the illustration technique itself, and how unique the use of pen-and-ink stippling and cross-hatching techniques are to each one of the illustrators. From what I’ve seen so far, the illustrators used a mixture of analogue and traditional mediums, as well as digital brushes (including digital cross-hatching brushes) and vector illustrations, to illustrate these books.
Young readers who love comic illustrations, will also be attracted to these books. Some of the illustrations in here are reminiscent of comic storytelling and graphic narratives. In one book, i.e “This is Pollock”, speech bubbles are part of busy one-page or two-page spreads, featuring illustrations that have more than one story going on. This, to an extent, reminds me of MAD magazine’s comic pages that feature a mishmash of side conversations happening at the same time on a single splash page.
The Story Behind the Launch of “This is…” book series
The Laurence King Publishing blog tells us:
“When Laurence King (the man himself) got together with art historian, Catherine Ingram, to discuss a new art book project they ripped up the art history rule book and came up with a unique, colourful series combining archive photography, text and images of artists’ work including, most importantly, specially commissioned illustrations.”
To me, the making-of this book series is as intriguing as the series itself. Therefore, I did some more digging and found an article on UK’s Creative Review website, quoting Ingram’s thoughts about the relationship between the writing and the illustrations. This is what she had to say:
“’What’s exciting is seeing where the illustrators take the story and tailor their styles. For example, Andrew [Rae]’s [Salvador] Dali illustrations have an opulence, but his [Andy] Warhol illustrations are relatively bleak.’”
She also told Creative Review that:
“Illustrators were chosen for their ability to complement the featured artist’s work – ‘there was a rich pop vein in Andrew’s work, which was ideal for Warhol and Dali. The freewheeling documentary style of Peter [Arkle]’s illustrations was a natural fit for the bohemian Pollock.’”
As an illustrator, I’m so inspired by the creative-direction and thinking behind this book series. Just by reading about it, I learnt so much about a genre I am truly interested in and one that I want to steer my illustration career towards.
I am truly thrilled to feature the three books in this giveaway as the first official post in my Illustration Inspiration blog series. Before I go, I would like to also thank the team at Laurence King Publishing for this one-of-a-kind giveaway and for making the time to send me the neat parcel that arrived in my mailbox a few days ago, thank you!
Photos by illustrator and artist Yaansoon