Wednesday, September 29, 2010

William H. Bradley-"The Dean of American Designers"

William H. Bradley (1868-1962), nicknamed the "Dean of American Designers", was an American illustrator of the Art Nouveau movement. Though his style is labeled "Art Nouveau", it is clear that Bradley extracted heavily from the aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts design movement. Like many of his European counterparts, Bradley also borrowed stylistic elements from Japanese woodblock prints. The work of Will Bradley is often compared to that of Aubrey Beardsley-an English Illustrator. And even though Bradley had already been established by the time Beardsley grasped the attention of the art world, some of Bradley's critics dismissed him as simply the "American Beardsley". (2) Nevertheless, Will Bradley was a visionary, a forerunner of the Art Nouveau movement, and one of the highest paid American artists of the early 20th century.

"With the growth of the advertising industry, graphic art became an integral part of the way products reached consumers." (1) Many artists, including Will Bradley, became actively involved in design for the commercial advertising world. Bradley's primary medium became poster work, but his skills extended to typography, layout, and illustration. Additionally, Bradley served as an editor, designer, typographer, illustrator, and press manager for the periodical-Bradley: His Book. He also worked brieflyy with children's books and set design. In 1954 Will Bradley won an AIGA award. The same year, he published a memoir of his life, titled Bradley: His Chap Book.

 1) Text- Graphic Design History:A Critical Guide, Drucker & McVarish, pgs 154-155

Monday, September 27, 2010


Blu is the pseudonym created by an Italian street artist who has deliberately chosen to conceal his true identity. Consequently, little is known about the artist's history and technique. He has been active in the street art scene since 1999-beginning in the suburbs of Bologna and gradually spreading on an international scale to countries including, but not limited to, England, Germany, Spain, and locations in Central and South America. At the start of his career, Blu's technique was limited to the use of spray paint. However, by 2001, the artist had developed a characteristic style-now painting with house paint and rollers mounted on telescopic poles. Blu's characters are often huge human figures who "look as is they were borrowed from comics or [an] arcade game world. The recurring themes of his imagery play on the distortion of the human figure." (2) His work has an illustrative and almost surreal quality-often satirical or ironic, and always larger than life. "Blu’s aesthetic search is motivated by a belief in an open source philosophy, persistent in its anarchical revolt against contemporary art conventions and unique in beauty, and is undoubtedly one of the most interesting in our visual culture." (Naomi Klein, 2)

Blu: Hombre Banano, Managua, Nicaragua, 2005

Though his murals are quite popular, Blu is probably best know for his work with animation. His most recent project "Big Bang Big Boom" (July 2010) has received over 1,113,700 views on YouTube. Blu states on his blog (commenting on the scale and effort of the project)- "After months of work and hundreds of buckets of paint the new wall-painted animation is ready!" Below is a link to the animation.

Big Bang Big Boom- "A short unscientific story about evolution and his consequences."


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Modern Illuminated Manuscript

Illuminated art, or "illumination", refers to the adornment of a written or printed, text or design with graphics, colors, gold, or silver; or more simply, lighting up a text with visual information. It is fair to say that most individuals associate illumination with the hand-written manuscripts of medieval Europe. Over time, the concept of illuminating text, has influenced and birthed many new art forms. From comic books and graphic novels, to web page design, illuminated art is still present in our modern world.

The original hand-written illuminated manuscripts flourished in medieval culture between the fifth and sixth centuries. These manuscripts created and preserved a legacy of the visual styles and graphic expressions of the time period. The manuscripts were bound as codex books-ultimately the first book form-originally developed for containing a code of laws. This use of the codex was very quickly adopted by monasteries and churches, as illuminated gospels and bibles helped popularize and spread Christianity throughout England. Illumination was thought of as giving glorification to the word of god. Often so, legibility was sacrificed for ornamentation. See for example, the Lindisfarne gospels. (pictured right) Also, during the middle ages illumination was a very expensive and complex process, as the artists were bound by the materials of their time.

Though some art historians would argue that an illuminated manuscript is not considered "illuminated" unless one or more illuminations contain gold foil/leafing, I find that the basic idea of illumination still exists in many modern art forms today. Most prominent is the theory that the modern comic book strip stemmed from illustrations of the marginalia or body of the manuscript. The graphic novel is also an example of text illuminated with graphics. Here I have compared the Breviary of Charles V. (1052) to Neil Gaiman's graphic novel "Coraline".

Additionally, the internet or World Wide Web provides the potential for modern illuminated manuscripts-web pages which combine images text, images, and animation. Web page designers can learn a great deal by studying the hand-written illuminated manuscripts of the medieval era.

Text- Graphic Design History:A Critical Guide, Drucker & McVarish, pgs 45-58