Very Pretty Pages

When legendary musician David Bowie passed away last month, much was written about his trendsetting sense of style. It was only natural that people should ask who Bowie's influences were. The answer to this question, interestingly, may lie in his extensive collection of books. Literature captures the imagination in a way no other medium can. Although the rise of tablets has made it possible to carry 100 books in your pocket, tablets just don't match the feel of actual paper. Physical, printed books are special. And they're becoming the stuff of art.

No Words Needed

Literature translates thoughts and images into words. What would happen if a renowned literary work were presented without its words? The result might not count as literature, but it could certainly make for a striking visual.

spiral of punctuation from Moby Dick
Image via Wired.

Punctuation is one of the most important details of the printed word. In an attempt to shine a spotlight on this importance, Chicago-based designer and artist Nicholas Rougeux decided to literally reduce some of the greatest novels of all time down to their punctuation. The project, which Rougeux calls "Between the Words," turns all the punctuation marks of a single book into a spiral, with a single identifying image in the center. Rougeux has made spirals out of such classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Wonderful Wizard of OZ.

Crystal Clear

Although the point of owning a book is to read it, there's something heartbreaking about finding a discarded, damaged book. It can be considered a sign of disrespect to the author. One San Francisco artist sees it as a statement on the evolution of the printed medium.

open book sprinkled with crystals
Image via designboom.

Alexis Arnold was disturbed by the number of discarded books she often found around her neighborhood. As many of her favorite bookstores closed, she suddenly became aware of why so many headlines were declaring print to be "dead". It was this realization that led her to create her crystal book project. The project takes old books and glues living crystals on them. This makes the books impossible to read, but stunning to look at. Arnold's project proves that's there's still life to be found in those old pages.

Page by Page

Although downloading to a tablet is as simple as pushing a button, the process of creating a printed book is remarkably complex.

weaving of a book cover
Image via Gizmodo.

In the latest episode of his online series How to Make Everything from Scratch, Andy George, the creator of the series, shows the intricacies of creating a printed book. George's mini-documentary examines the differences in the choice of paper. It's a short but insightful look at the craftsmanship behind a format that has existed for hundreds of years.

Turn the Page

No matter what advances are made in the medium of print, printing itself has endured for centuries on account of the inherent human need to share stories. We can't be certain how stories will be told in the future, but we know there will be plenty of people ready to devour an exciting new tale.

Inclusive Art and Fashion

24. December 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Technology News  //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

So many things are designed to be all-inclusive, but there will always be those who are unable to partake fully. This is especially true of works of art. Several mitigating factors: language, region, even sensory perception, can keep the little details from getting through. Fortunately, cutting-edge advancements in technology are helping matters considerably. The following two stories are about disabled individuals using modern technology to share in the same experiences as their peers.

The World's Most Famous Face

The Mona Lisa has long been one of the most revered portraits in history. The painting has been studied, copied, and parodied so many times, it's hard to imagine what the world was like before it was created. Nevertheless, its two-dimensional nature makes it almost impossible for visually impaired persons to experience its detail and beauty. Thanks to a group of Finnish artists, that may soon change.

3D art print
Image via Gizmodo.

The Unseen Art project is based out of Helsinki and operates with the goal of making traditionally two-dimensional works of into 3D prints that one can touch. The prints are to be open-sourced, allowing for printing all over the world. Although the project is still trying to raise funds through an IndieGoGo campaign, it has already created a prototype of the Mona Lisa. The ultimate goal is create a full gallery's worth of prints, so that blind art patrons will have a collection of their very own.

Comfort and Function

For those with disabilities, even the mundane task of selecting clothes can be a chore. Whereas most people select clothing based on comfort and design, autistic individuals find themselves struggling with size, shape, and patterns. One mother made simplifying clothing options for her autistic son her personal cause.

young adult clothing models
Image via mental_floss.

Former CNN anchor Lauren Thierry created Independence Day Clothing after years of helping Liam, her autistic son, struggle with clothing. Thierry's clothing line, designed for both adults and children, eliminates the need for buttons, zippers, and tags, and that lowers the risk of injury. The clothes are also designed in a way that eliminates any specific front or back, allowing wearers to put the clothes on however they like.

For the millions who deal with conditions like autism, Thierry's clothing line gives a welcome sense relief and independence. "We really changed the conversation," Thierry says. "They can get up, get dressed, and feel good about themselves."

One Step at a Time

One important thing to remember about people with disabilities is that, just like those without disabilities, they have their learning curves. The ultimate goal of learning, whether we're learning to speak a new language or to walk again after a debilitating accident, is to have what is being learned become second nature. Technology is making that goal more and more attainable.

Office Supply Art

When you spend most of the day surrounded by office supplies, it's easy to overlook them. Pencils and paper clips can easily remain unnoticed until they happen to go missing when you need them most. One of the defining characteristics of a true artist is being able to make the most out of available resources, no matter how limited those resources might be. The artists we look at here took the abundant supplies they saw every day and turned them into stunning works.

Paper Flame

With the advent of digital tools in the workplace, many prominent businesses have taken steps to make their offices as paper-free as possible. This is often done to expedite the exchange of files, as well as promote the company as having "gone green." Still, many companies are unable to afford making the switch to being completely digital. Paper remains an important element in modern business.

man holding flame to painting
Image via Buzzfeed.

Stephen Spazuk began incorporating fire into his art in 2001. To create the initial primer images, he uses carefully controlled flames—usually with methane candles—on acid-free paper. He then completes the images with light brushes or pencils before spraying the final image with varnish to preserve the flame's soot. Says Spazuk, "When I put the flame to paper, I don't know what I'm going to get, and that's the pure joy of working with soot."

Message Received

Post-It notes are one of the most ubiquitous office supplies. They offer a fine way to remind oneself or others of work that needs to be done. With their bright color scheme and adhesiveness, it's easy to see why they're often used by artists as a means of self-expression in an otherwise mundane office setting. That's the sort of inspiration that struck a Japanese architect in 2001.

colorful building made of Post-Its
Image via mental_floss.

Yo Shimada had a point he wanted to make about structural integrity, so he decided to use Post-It notes as paper building blocks for a construction demonstration. With the help of students from the Kyoto University of Art and Design, Shimada spent three days turning more than thirty thousand Post-Its into a carefully constructed "brick" wall. Though the wall has long since come down, images of it continue to be popular among architects and casual viewers alike.

Office Ink

Office buildings frequently vary in shape and structure, but not often in color. Since the materials used—brick, mortar, metal, glass—don't generally lend themselves to eclectic color schemes, one rarely sees the equivalent of a Lisa Frank design on a building's exterior. Nevertheless, one Southern California business has used the illusion of an artistic faux pas on its building as one of the business's defining traits.

mural titled Technicolor Ooze
Image via designboom.

Artist Jen Stark was given carte blanche when she was commissioned to design the exterior artwork for Platform, a business hub in Culver City, CA. Representatives of the building wanted something that would stand out from all the surrounding buildings, and knew that the Los Angeles-based artist would do just that. Stark's mural, dubbed "Technicolor Ooze," is a carefully designed image that gives the illusion of various colors of paint dripping down the side of the Platform building. Although it may appear to be a work gone horribly wrong, the mural has become the calling card for Platform's standing out from the competition.

Memorandum

Just because worker efficiency is coveted in an office environment doesn't mean creativity should be discouraged. The average workday provides plenty of opportunities to express yourself artistically if you know where to look and don't ignore your responsibilities. Let productivity be the goal, and creativity be the reward.

The Future: Foldable and Functional

It’s hard to say which invention came first, the paper airplane or the real thing. Did some poor soul suffering from boredom folded a piece of paper to mimic an actual airplane, or did aerodynamic pioneers create paper models as prototypes? It may be easier to create an artistic rendition of a functioning device, but that doesn’t mean the rendition has to remain unable to function. The following stories prove that one doesn’t need state-of-the-art technology to create a workable piece of machinery.

Paper Pictures

From tourists to traffic stops, it seems every step we take these days is captured on a camera. Cameras are now standard on mobile devices. As the lenses get smaller, and the images more detailed, it's easy to forget the long journey image-capturing technology has taken. One inventive designer took such an interest in that history she decided to write a book about it.

cameras
Image via designboom.

Kelli Anderson’s book, This Book is a Camera, is one of the few literary works whose titles can be taken literally. In addition to explaining the process of pinhole photography—a method that hasn’t been regularly employed since the nineteenth century—the pages of the book itself fold into a working pinhole camera. Although the book isn’t likely to replace any top-of-the-line electronic model, it serves as a contemporary adaptation of a method that paved the way for the devices we use every day.

Cardboard Beats

For nearly 70 years, the Fender brand has served as the worldwide standard for electric guitars and has become a staple of rock music. The guitars can be found everywhere from suburban garages to the stages of sold-out arenas. After decades of refining their design and function, the builders wanted to see if they could actually build a fully functioning model out of packing material. The experiment was a treat for the eyes and ears alike.

cardboard rock guitars 
Image via mental_floss.

The Fender team visited the packing plant for Signal Snowboards, in Los Angeles, in hopes of trying their experiment with high-quality materials. The result was Fender Stratocaster, made entirely from cardboard except for its strings and electrical attachments. The guitar is just one of many cardboard designs from Signal.

Souped-Up at Six Millimeters

Some people can go their entire life without looking under the hood of a car, secure in the belief that the engine is functioning properly. But the intricacies of a six-hundred-pound V8 engine are not lost on those who have popped the hood. The complex design has powered hot rods for nearly a century with barely any decrease in size—until, that is, one creative designer made one no bigger than his thumb.

6-millimeter engine model
Image via Gizmodo.

Craftsman Aliaksei Zholner decided to have some fun with the design of the engine, and built one out of paper and glue. The six-millimeter model of the engine features a side handle that allows the person holding it to turn the small gears inside.

Designing Dreams

The above examples give one a glimpse into the creative process. So many of history’s great inventions started with someone examining something ordinary, making a few adjustments, and tapping into a need.

Child's Play: New Printing and Design Tools

Scientists the world over agree that encouraging the creative tendencies of children is not only helpful to their overall intelligence, but crucial to their mental development. There’s also a lot of fun to be had in playtime activities such as assembling blocks, drawing pictures, and playing on jungle gyms.

While such playtime activities are encouraged during childhood, they're generally expected to be given up by adulthood. But if childhood games can stimulate the brain of a young person, who’s to say they wouldn't work on people who’ve become set in their ways? Several of the world’s most prominent behavioral therapists have asked that very question.

Fine Line

Coloring books have been a staple of children’s playtime for over a century, and their popularity shows no signs of waning. A typical volume consists of vector-like black-and-white images, with color added by the user. Recently, this “childish” past time has seen an increase in popularity among adults as a calming activity for their increasingly stressful lives.

adult coloring book design
Image via The Atlantic.

In a recent piece for The Atlantic, writer Julie Beck argues that, although this appears to fall into the recent trend of adults' recreating childhood activities, coloring is in fact a form of art therapy. “There's something satisfying about seeing your thought and effort create a tangible, pretty thing at a reasonable, predictable pace,” says Beck. “This rarely happens in life.” Beck reports that the technique has proved useful for her in dealing with the pressures of everyday life, and believes it could for many others.

Baby’s First Design Kit

In an increasingly digitized world, it’s easy for both children and parents to look at modern technology as nothing more than an easy distraction for the little ones so that parents can steal a few moments for themselves. But this hasn’t stopped many innovators from using technological tools to teach children practical skills.

can-do children's products
Image via Mental Floss.

Khandu (pronounced “Can Do”) is a forthcoming game created by the Spanish design agency Seven Thinkers. The goal of the card game is to teach children how to think like designers, getting them to come up with and implement ideas. Although the game is currently only available through Seven Thinkers’ Kickstarter campaign, the creators are hoping to have it accepted as part of Pope Francis’s Scholas Occurentas program.

Repeating Patterns

No matter what one’s age, it’s important to have a creative outlet in one's life. The stories above show that age need not decide how one's creativity is expressed. Whether you're an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old, you should feel free to take a little time out of each day to color the world your own way.

Modern Day Mapping

The practical purpose of maps has often overshadowed their artistic value. Maps are meant to be easy-to-read guides that lead you from Point A to Point B. At the same time, their design is the work of skilled illustrators taking great pains to make the maps not only practical, but visually appealing as well.

As technology advances and borders are redrawn, it's tempting to think of old maps as obsolete relics. But they provide a fascinating look at the world as it once existed, and the illustrative methods that were once considered state of the art. The following two stories show us how far we've come and perhaps provide a glimpse of what lies ahead.

Course Plotter

There are few people in the United States who can read an atlas as well as John Hessler can. A cartography expert for the Library of Congress, he's made it his life's work to chart the evolution of the visual guides that humans have used to get around. One of the most important things he's discovered is that the visual design of a map is just as important as the geographical data it represents.

Ptolemy Map
Image via Wired.

"What we're looking at whenever we're looking at a map is an abstraction," Hessler says. "Really what we're doing is like any visual art or design; were taking extreme complexity that takes place in the real world and abstracting it to simple visual images that help us understand complex interactions." Hessler showcases a great deal of his knowledge in the new Phaidon Publishing book Map: Exploring the World. The book collects over three hundred historical maps from all over the world.

Big Apple on the Tree

Although the isle of Manhattan is renowned for being a hub of cultural change, its place as a hub of geographical change can sometimes prove controversial. Both historians and casual New Yorkers have wondered what it would be like to see The Big Apple before the skyscrapers were built. Thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society, you can.

Green Manhattan
Image via Mental Floss.

The Welikia Project is a digital experiment by the WCS which takes satellite images of modern-day Manhattan and replaces them with realistic visualizations of how they would have looked in years past. This allows users to see the city covered entirely with flora and fauna.

It's impossible to predict how maps may be used in the distant future, because it's impossible to know what new areas will be discovered next. But, then, part of the fun of looking at maps is documenting how far you've come.

Tiny Masterpieces

For centuries, scholars and commoners alike have debated what defines the word "art." Is the distinction between what is and isn't art made by financial valuation? Do people need to have training in order for their work to be considered legitimate art? Are artists truly artists if their work is not their sole occupation? These questions and more have kept history's greatest minds awake at night.

Still, if there's one thing humanity has proven throughout its existence, it's that there's no limit to the type of canvas people can use for their art. From etchings on cave walls to galleries of the modern metropolis, our species has shown its boundless creativity by designing with whatever materials are available and on whatever canvas can be found.

By the Spoonful

All parents have told their children at one time or another not to play with their food. Ioana Vanc was told the same thing growing up as a child in Romania, but her artistic sensibilities were hardly reined in. Now an adult and a professional artist, she has taken her messy childhood habit and turned it into a hobby that has brought her worldwide recognition.

zebras on a teaspoon
Image via Ioana.

Using nothing more than the most minimal of food scraps, Vanc creates colorful landscapes and recognizable portraits on the surface of a teaspoon. Her works include zebras in an open plain, as well as likenesses of celebrities Karl Lagerfeld, Iris Apfel, and even Kermit the Frog. Regular updates to Vanc's gallery can be found by following her Instagram page. They make for some of the more interesting food pictures one can find on the site.

Petri Paintings

With art being such a deeply ingrained part of the human experience, it isn't very far-fetched to think that artistic urges might be part of the very building blocks of our existence. Similarly, it isn't too great a stretch to imagine those very building blocks becoming works of art themselves. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) recently launched the first-ever Agar Art competition, inviting challengers to use microorganisms and mold to create art pieces that fit inside of petri dishes.


Petri dish
Image via Hyperallergic.

The above stories show how, more often than not, art adheres more to vision than to tool or format. All it takes is a little imagination to transform something ordinary into something truly inspiring.

High Tech Art and Architecture

23. July 2015 10:26 by Steve Leigh in Arts, Crafts & DIY Projects  //  Tags: , , , ,   //   Comments

It’s been said that no man-made work of art will ever stand up to the wonders of nature. For all of humanity’s masterpieces of paint and brush, they pale in comparison to the average sunset or leaves blowing on the branch of a tree. But even if human beings can never match nature’s splendor, they can still use it to create stunning works of their own.

1 + 1 = Breathtaking

The world’s greatest minds agree that mathematics are the only true universal language and that all things, no matter how complex or diverse, can be broken down into a series of numbers. It should then come as no surprise that a new breed of artist has emerged using only numbers in their palette.

binary-Mona-Lisa-Bill-Cook.gif
(via Wired)

In a recent feature, Wired highlighted five such digital artists who use only mathematical algorithms to create their work. They included Andrea Hawksley, who forms geometric designs into clothing and food; Pat Ashforth, who creates optical illusions in fabrics; and Robert Bosch, whose algorithm recreated the Mona Lisa as a single-line binary maze. Just as the universe is comprised of numbers, it was inevitable that the Internet – a system created entirely from numbers – would eventually produce a new artistic medium.

Super Sand Castles

Although summer is starting to wind down, there’s still time to hit the beach. But if you had any thoughts about entering a sand castle competition, you’d better hope you aren’t going up against Calvin Seibert.

Seibert-sand-castle.png
(via mental_floss)

The son of a former ski champion, Seibert has been creating complex sand architecture all over the United States. The designs can take anywhere from eight to ten hours to build, but have drawn favorable comparisons to ancient Mayan architecture. Even though the pieces never stay up for long, they’ve won Seibert a loyal fanbase of intrigued beachgoers.

Pleasing to the Eye

Chris Downey always wanted to be an architect, and when he grew up he built a fine career in the field. But, in 2008, he was told he had a brain tumor. Although the tumor was successfully removed through surgery, it cost Downey his sight. It was assumed that his architectural career was over, but Downey had no intention of giving up his livelihood.

With the help of an inTACT Sketchpad, Downey was back at work within a month. He has since gone on to create several San Francisco buildings, including the Independent Living Resource Center and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is one of a growing number of blind architects around the world. In Downey’s own words, "I’m always careful to say I’m without sight, not without vision."

Knowing Art when You See It

Although the digital age has made it easier than ever to see the world's greatest art in vivid detail, nothing yet compares to the experience of witnessing it yourself in a museum or gallery. Sure, you can browse books and websites about the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel, but they don't hold a candle to standing in the buildings themselves. From school field trips to couples on first dates, art exhibitions are a unique visual experience.

The only problem is how to appreciate them when you don’t have full visual acuity. Even with the most detailed of audio guides, a blind person will only walk away with a vague impression of a piece of art. Well, one museum in Spain is using 3-D printing to make art available for those who can’t see it – and it requires breaking one of the art world’s well-known rules.

"Do not touch" has been one of the most steadfast rules for visitors to businesses and exhibits the world over. From museums to zoos, guests are told early and often to appreciate the work from a respectable distance. But at the very least, the average guest is able to visually absorb what is around them.

(via NPR)

In order to make some of the world’s most famous art pieces accessible to the blind, the Museo del Prado in Spain has used 3-D printed versions of the art to create the braille equivalent of paintings. The museum has 3-D printed works of Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, and even Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa".

With the versatility of each piece – including the equal attention paid to both visual color and physical texture – the experiment is also popular with both the visually-impaired and the visually proficient. Spanish collegiates have found the experiment a refreshing new take on art appreciation, and the blind have begun to regard it as a missing link in their experiencing popular art in a way others take for granted.

The museum will be running the experiment until June 28 and there are no specific plans for running the experiment again. Nevertheless, 3-D printing has once again proven to be an invaluable tool in making accessible what was previously thought impossible to the human experience.

 

Paper and Ink: Two Innovative Artists Showcase Talents

8. November 2013 03:17 by Steve Leigh in   //  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   //   Comments

Forget elaborate sculptures with pricey materials and traditional painting techniques. Two contemporary artists, Elsa Mora and Fabian Oefner, are showcasing ways of using simple paper and ink to make dazzling, colorful artwork that stands out in a crowded field of new art. Though Elsa blends traditional paper crafts with a sculptural sensibility and Fabian mixes art and science to create inspired photographs, both share a strong visual sensibility and a desire to use traditional materials in unexpected ways. Because of these unique characteristics and shared vision, we wanted to take time to highlight these artists' work. More...

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