Archive for the ‘illustration’ category
The art of cartography is about as extinct as the art of the written letter.
What need is there for a hand-drawn community renderings in the age of instant information, when most people have GPS maps on their cellphones? No need at all.
But Los Angeles based writer Eric Brightwell doesn’t care.
Hence this blog post.
Taking his inspiration from the colorful, sometimes whimsical, often not exactly to scale maps that were popular in the early 20th century, Brightwell has created a cartographic journey though Southern California hearkening back to a much simpler, but no less keenly inquisitive, time in our history.
Being a California native, I’m terribly fond of this style of cartography– the mistmatched typography and rather askew geography which was often the result of the rushed booming years of California tourism.
The 1650 Gallery in Echo Park recently hosted a show of Brightwell’s high-spirited homage to the lost art of cartography (under the moniker Pendersleigh and Sons) and the experience was so delightful that I simply had to post just one or two of the many highlights here:
Anyone who knows the Pictorial knows exactly how much we gush over the splashy color of a vintage movie magazine. Give us an Earl Christy Photoplay cover and we’re set. (Throw in a dry martini to go with it and we’re set for LIFE.)
This being the case, and this being Baby’s week, what better time to revisit some delightful cover art from Hollywood movie magazines of the 1930s:
The Guardian’s artist of the week is a Scot named Donald Urquhart whose particular area of expertise are pen and ink drawings of Hollywood legends that are not the usual glamorous soft focus fantasies. His movie stars are human and startling: they have mascara that runs, moth-eaten minks, some are ten years past their prime and are quite ready to take their frustration out on anyone in their way. (His Joan Crawford Alphabet is particularly telling: “A is for Axe, E is for Eyebrows, S is for Straight Jacket, W is for Wire Hangers…”) His work captures the bitter reality of being an aging movie star and, if you happen to living in the greater London area, it will be on display at the Maureen Paley and Herald Street galleries until late May.
We at the Pictorial love Earl Christy. And Rolf Armstrong. And McClelland Barclay. And R Wilson Hammell. And Charles Edward Chambers. And all of the other American artists from the early 20th century that made up advertising’s great, golden age of Illustration. Not only because of what they did for women’s journals and literary magazines but, of course, for the exquisite works of art created for American movie magazines. Photoplay, Modern Screen, Picturegoer, Screenland et al. Working largely from celebrity photographs, and in mediums such as oil and pastel, their work was firstly functional and not always … shall we say … artistic (hey, they had a hell of a workload, OK?) But when they were able to push the creative envelope, oh mama! The results were downright breathtaking.
According to the superlative website Grapefruit Moon, “The printing industry with its technological advancements and the American Industrial Revolution made for a multicolor offset printing process that was fast, affordable, and flat-out glorious in print. Cover artists were much in demand, earned lavish salaries and often became household names and stars in their own right.” Of course the likes of Norman Rockwell are venerated these days for their work, but today, for no reason at all, the Pictorial felt obliged to tip its hat to the illustrators of the great American movie magazines of yesteryear.
Below is a culled retrospective of some of our favorite eye-popping, sensational, drool-worthy illustrations of that explosively creative era.
* * *
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the US release of John Ford’s immortal western Stagecoach and is one of the many landmark films of 1939 that Project 39 is proud to celebrate. I was probably round ten years old when I saw Stagecoach for the first time, so pardon me, if you will, while I gush. Even on our family’s teensy television set, the scope of John Ford’s creation was simply boggling to me. The film hits on all six cylinders from start to finish. Character, story and execution are in many ways textbook perfect and John Ford’s inspired, sprawling visions in Stagecoach influenced each and every Western film to follow.
It has been called a ‘watershed’ film, often mentioned in the same breath as the likes of The Godfather and Citizen Kane—and rightly so. Just as those films were envelope pushers that reinvented their genres, it can be concluded that John Ford’s Stagecoach truly did reinvent the modern Western (notwithstanding Cimarron from earlier in the decade). It was the first film that Ford made using Utah’s dramatic Monument Valley as his canvas, brought John Wayne’s imposing large-than-life form and gruff vulnerability into our social consciousness and proved that Westerns could be intelligent character studies rather than bang-bang shoot-em-ups—a lesser director would have made just another popcorn matinee flick out of the admittedly tired plot. He wove gutsy, realistic action, drama and a fair share of comedy together to create a winning formula that Directors have been faithfully following ever since.
Although the characters of the film are rudimentary in themselves, Ford turned them into multi-dimensional human beings which is why we still love John Wayne’s Ringo Kid, love-to-hate John Carradine’s Hartfield and root tirelessly for Claire Trevor’s bad girl Dallas. Paul Brenner of FlimCritic.com summed it up marvelously when he said: “Ford takes these characters, puts them together in the enclosed space of a stagecoach and watches the cardboard characters pop and explode, exploring how their stereotypical veneers are melted away to reveal desires, needs, and regrets that were never explored in westerns before this one.”
In a year jam-packed with film firsts, legendary performances and technological innovations, Stagecoach is not only stands out as one of 1939’s best—but as one of cinema’s best. Period.