100 Years of Fashion Illustration

A visual feast of 400 dazzling images, this is a comprehensive survey of the genre over the last century. The book also offers an overview of the development of fashion, as seen through the eyes of the greatest illustrators of the day. Early in the century fashion illustration reflected new, liberating currents in art and culture, such as the exoticism of the Ballets Russes, while the postwar period saw inspiration from the great Parisian couturiers. After the dominance of the celebrity fashion photographer in the ’60s, a new generation of illustrators emerged, embracing the medium of the computer, while many returned to more traditional techniques.

Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

The power of the image of the nude–the expressivity of the flesh–has inspired artists from the beginning. An understanding of human form is essential for artists to be able to express themselves with the figure. Anatomy makes the figure. Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form is the definitive analytical work on the anatomy of the human figure.
No longer will working artists have to search high and low to find the information they need. In this, the most up-to-date and fully illustrated guide available, Eliot Goldfinger–sculptor, illustrator, scientific model-maker, and lecturer on anatomy–presents a single, all-inclusive reference to human form, capturing everything artists need in one convenient volume. Five years in the making, and featuring hundreds of photos and illustrations, this guide offers more views of each bone and muscle than any other book ever published: every structure that creates or influences surface form is individually illustrated in clear, carefully lit photographs and meticulous drawings. Informed by the detailed study of both live models and cadavers, it includes numerous unique presentations of surface structures–such as fat pads, veins, and genitalia–and of some muscles never before photographed. In addition, numerous cross sections, made with reference to CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and cut cadavers, trace the forms of all body regions and individual muscles. Information on each structure is placed on facing pages for ease of reference, and the attractive two-color format uses red ink to direct readers rapidly to important points and areas. Finally, an invaluable chapter on the artistic development of basic forms shows in a series of sculptures the evolution of the figure, head, and hands from basic axes and volumes to more complex organic shapes. This feature helps place the details of anatomy within the overall context of the figure.
Certain to become the standard reference in the field, Human Anatomy for Artists will be indispensable to artists and art students, as well as art historians. It will also be a useful aid for physical and dance therapists, athletes and their trainers, bodybuilders, and anyone concerned with the external form of the human body. With the renewed interest in figurative art today, this will be an especially welcome volume.

Bread and Circuses 2: Korean BBQ and Mark Haddon

I did not get much response to my previous installation of Bread and Circuses, the series of articles where I match my favorite books with my favorite food, but since I started already, well, I can’t chicken out now. You can read the first part here.

Ok, so let’s say it’s 22 century, agents of the corpocracy captured me, and are about to send me to the Litehouse. Michael-47, they say, what kind of a last meal and book would you like?  I’d choose a David Mitchell novel and some pho, but they tell me that they are fresh out. What would my second choice be?

Korean BBQ and a novel by Mark Haddon, of course.

Korean food is spicy and strong smelling. It’s not subtle. It’s not refined. But it is the ultimate comfort food. It’s a bit like a little room in a Soviet communal apartment – dingy, smelly, but oh so homey. Also, I’m not sure I’m making myself clear, it’s very, very tasty. To me, the ultimate family meal is Korean BBQ (aka galbi).

Whenever I feel extra bad and I need a cheer-me-up meal, I drag my wife to K-Town.  A typical meal involves frying bits of high and low grade meat over a special fire pit in the table, wrapping them in lettuce leafs and eating them. My favorite part is the little side dishes called banchan containing high quality kimchi (not the stuff you can find in a jar in a supermarket), various pickles, pancakes, salads, and many steamed, crunchy, slippery, tentacly things I don’t know the name of.  In better places they replenish the little dishes as you consume them. A galbi meal rarely fails to lift my spirits.

Mark Haddon rose to prominence  for his book  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel written from the point of view of an autistic boy.  As most programmers I am slightly touched by the engineer’s affliction, so I can understand it very well. Haddon knows a lot about working class British engineers, dysfunctional families and  psychological trouble. His second novel, A Spot of Bother  is about a retired engineer who is losing his mind, yet keeps a stiff upper lip about it.  Haddon’s plots are very interesting, characters likable, and sense of humor outstanding.  These two novels really put of my mind from waiting for David Mitchell’s next novel.

Once I finished Haddon’s bestsellers I learned that he actually started his career as a children’s writer.  He wrote and illustrated a number of children’s books,  culminating in the so-called Agent Z series. Oh, Agent Z. How I wish there were a few more of these left for me to read. Unfortunately the last one was written in 2001 and it does not look like Haddon is planning to write any more.

The Agent Z series is somewhat similar to the popular American tv show Malcolm in the Middle. In fact, I suspect that “Malcom” was inspired by “Agent Z”.

Agent Z is the pseudonym assumed by three British school kids who specialize in elaborate pranks. They are: Ben Simpson, the ‘handsome’ one of the crew, too smart and creative for his own good daydreamer from a lower middle class family; Barney Hall, a fat practical kid from an upper middle class family, who understands the adult psychology and is usually the brains of the outfit; and Jenks Jenkinson, a super skinny, wound up and ratty kid from a working class family who nevertheless has great fighting spirit.

  They take their revenge on bullies, boring teachers, nasty neighbors and relatives. Being kids, they don’t always stay anonymous under the cover of Agent Z organization, but usually get away with enough dignity to triumph over their tormentors.

These books are infused with British culture, and I learned many interesting things.  For instance, it turns out that the Brits call ballpoint pens “biros” – honoring its Hungarian inventor (I guess that theory about Hungarian Martians is not that far from the truth).

I also learned about chip butty (one of Ben’s favorite foods). Believe it or not, a chip butty is a sandwitch made out of two white (!) buttered (!!) pieces of bread, french fries (!!!) and ketchup (!!!!).

Why am I so hung up on the Agent Z? Well, in my youth I had two friends, a good looking one and a crazy one, and together we formed the XYZ secret society. We did pull off a few pranks. MIT is home to a very powerful and very secret society that specializes in pranks, I followed their fine work for years. Hacks and pranks are ingrained  in the souls of all engineers.

One of my favorite parts of the books is the illustrations that the author drew himself. Haddon is a very talented illustrator.

Agent Z Goes Wild is hard to find for some reason. I got my copy at abebooks.com.

Blast From the Past

Boing Boing, with it’s love of red and anti-red comics made me remember Herluf Bidstrup. You see, for some reason in the Soviet Union multiframe format comics were seen as a western influence, despite their usefulness as a propaganda tool. Single and two-frame caricatures were common though. One glaring exception to the rule were comics of a Danish illustrator Herluf Bidstrup, who worked for a Danish communist newspaper. His work was published in a 5-volume set of coffee table books.

The fifth volume was all political, and thus particularly interesting to the Soviet reader. But the other 4 were full of amazingly drawn multi-frame comics that showcased Bidstrup’s eye for little things in life and his crisp, flowing line. I spent hours upon hours looking at his cartoons. Unfortunately we left the books behind, but I will absolutely replace them (I’ve seen them for sale in a Russian bookstore, but balked at the price).

Here you can find some political editorial cartoons and everyday sketches, probably from the last volume at pretty good resolution. These include sketches from his visit to the Soviet Union.

This site, on the other hand has a lot of the good stuff from the first four volumes, alas at a terrible resolution that absolutely destroys Bidstrup’s elegant line. Here’s a similar site.

Bidstrup was pretty much anti-US. Here’s Denmark scared by the Soviet menace joins the Nato. These are just few frames out of a longer sequence.

I absolutely love Bidstrup’s take on the generational conflict and his other cartoons about families. This is another favorite of mine.

Sometimes he just could not help himself and drew pinup girls, and the editors of his books were forced to add politically motivated copy: this cartoon’s title said something about how “this Bulgarian Eve is safe in the Garden of Socialism” or some such nonsense. I think it’s just that Bidstrup liked exotic women in bikinis (forgetting to thank Uncle Sam for the bikini, of course).

I bet that if he were born in the US Bidstrup would have become one of the finest pulp illustrators. I wonder if he illustrated any sci-fi at all…

Oh, and another thing. To this day I prefer cigars that taper on ends because they were prominently featured in Bidstrup’s cartoons. These are collectively called “figurados” and are rather uncommon in the American market. The type that tapers on both ends is called “perfecto” and the one that tapers on one end is called “torpedo”. These are hard to roll, so usually only experienced rollers venture to make them.

Polishing the Jewels

When you run a classy joint, like Tiffany & Co, you can’t just board up your windows and start renovating. No, you board up your windows and hire an illustrator to draw a mural on it. Tiffany & Co execs seem to have a pretty good sense of humor though. The mural looks like an illustration from Cosmo or some other chick young woman oriented rag publication. On the side a legend says: “Welcome to Tiffany. Please use our 57th Street entrance while our crown jewel gets a polish.”

Here’s a detail from the front: bow tie boldie has this annoying expression on his face: “he heh, I am surely getting my crown jewels polished tonight.”

This, by the way would have been an interesting photography project – camping out with a long lens across from Tiffany’s and discretely (otherwise Trump and Tiffany security personnel will probably drag you away for this) taking pictures of men walking out with those robin’s egg blue shopping bags. I would not want to do something like that though, as on occasion I walked out of that store carrying the shopping bag and the expression. I am a fan of the 1837TM line.

I Dream of Trigla

I am using a two-pronged depression fighting approach : drinking coffee and thinking about fishing.

I thought about fishing in the Black Sea. I remembered how I really wanted to catch three rare fish about which I’ve read in books: a fluke (Paralichthys dentatus), a sargan(Belone belone euxini) and a trigla (aka sea rooster) (Trigla lucerna).

I caught my first big fluke in the US, I think. I never caught a sargan, but this eel more than makes up for it. The trigla is a special story. I’ve only read about it in books. I’ve never even heard about somebody catching one. The books described it as an ultra rare, very tasty and beautiful fish. The pictures that I’ve seen in the books portrayed a brightly colored fish with huge iridescent fins. Trigla has an almost mythical status in the Black Sea area. It’s said that it brings bad luck if a fisherman doesn’t release it. Stuff of legends, really.

In the books I’ve read it was described as a fish that makes loud sounds under water. And I know one fish like that. Yes, the favorite prey of underwater hunting of , the sea robin. But the pictures from those books did not look anything like any sea robin that I know. Well, I did a bit of research today, and it turns out that the mythical trigla is in fact a specie of sea robins. The Black Sea trigla has slightly more colorful fins, but looks and behaves almost the same as the kind that I catch here. The dumbass book illustrator did not have a photograph of a trigla and worked from the description.

I find it kind of unsettling that the mythical fish I wanted to catch all of my life in Odessa turned out to be a lowly throwback fish here in the US. This must be symbolic of something or other, but I don’t know what.