Recently I bought the children’s book ‘The Frog Prince’ by the Swedish highly acclaimed writer Ulf Stark with the gorgeous illustrations of the German talented artist Silke Leffler. And I am absolutely enchanted and highly recommend this gem.
The tale is that kind of story I like. Funny and humorous, but at the end it teaches the children valuable life lessons.
The illustrations however, were the magnet that captured my attention. The work of Silke Leffler is amazing. I have scanned only the odd pages, but there are a lot of other illustrations on the even ones.
The author and the illustrator have collaborated for one another book from the same series, called ‘The Prince and the Happiness’, and no doubt it will be soon in my collection too.
Paris-based illustrator Vincent Mahé was tasked by the French weekly Télérama to create a short illustrated story of the life of the great architect Le Corbusier as a part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of his death, and he has done a remarkable work. In four double pages spread, he has succeeded to capture the prolific career of one of the pioneers of the modern architecture spanning six decades (from his first professional start in 1904 until his death in 1965).
The artist obviously is fascinated by the architecture and it shows from his next work called ‘750 years in Paris’, which was just published in a book. As he describes this project, it is “a literary graphic novel unlike anything else on the racks, 750 Years tells the story of our time, focusing on one single building in France as it sees its way through the upheavals of history. Beginning in the 13th century and making its way towards today… Generations have lived here before us, they’ve walked on this very same pavement, they’ve been under that same sky… If you could stand still for 750 years, what could you learn about the world?” The book is currently available to purchase through Nobrow Press
We all have asked ourselves this question more than once and probably were searching for the answer in the ‘big’ things like home, job, money and so on.
However if you honestly ask yourself that very same moment what makes you happy, you will be surprised with the sudden answer. Because it will be something very ‘insignificant’, something so obvious that often we do not even bother to think about it as ‘real happiness’. And yet all those ‘small’ happy moments in our life paint the black and white reality with the rich colours of the rainbow. They assure that necessary balance to be able to continue going on through this journey called life and say at the end ‘it was amazing’.
This is not a philosophical article trying to inspire you to see the light into the darkness. This is the observation of an artwork which probably should be also taken into account by the relevant scientists (after all it is like a free research).
The artistic duo Last Lemon came with the idea to start illustrating the conception of the people around the world what is happiness. The project started in 2013 and currently they have illustrated 7.000 submissions collected in a few books and more are on the way. So, you are welcome to join and send your list via Facebook or directly on their site.
Before to do that, take a look first at the thoughts somebody like you have already shared… Happiness is in the simple everyday things, isn’t it? An unexpected bouquet, watching the sea, fixing something, a good high five, seeing your mother smile, finding money in an old pair of jeans, a baby holding your finger with his whole hand, dancing like idiots, looking down on your hometown from a plane, being the first one up… Of course, we all want to have the ‘big’ stuff, but will they make us really happy or they are just a goal to be reached and after we achieve it, start chasing for the next one?
The theme might be a cliché but it will always be one of the most relevant since the existence of mankind.
Curious to explore universal subjects, the Chinese born, Berlin-based graphic designer Yang Liu after the success of her previous book East Meets West has now depicted in the same minimalist style her new project ‘Man meets Woman’. Again keeping to the minimum the visual impact so the essence of the context could stand out, she uses two vibrant colours for the background – green for men and magenta for women, and black or white silhouettes. That’s it; simple and straightforward approach for such a complex issue
Like it or not, but there are differences between sexes we can’t ignore. Some are so difficult to comprehend that have led to a lot of misunderstandings and confusions. You know like those “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. Two so close and yet totally diverse planets. These differences however are set by nature. We can’t go against them. We can only try having them in mind while getting nervous when the opposite sex reacts ‘strange’ or ‘unusual’. And Yang Liu presents them in quite a funny way – ‘best weapon’, ‘man/woman flu’, ‘he needs & buys/she needs & buys’, ‘single focus/multitasking’, ‘luggage’ …
She hasn’t omitted to illustrate also the other set of differences. Those that reveal the sad truth – the outdated traditional perceptions and prejudice about gender models that continue to influence many aspects of our modern life. We still live in an unequal world where our behavior is constrained by unofficial rules of the social and professional structures. Although funny at first sight, these problematic gender stereotypes show that there is still a long way to go to the mutual understanding and forbearance.
The book of Yang Liu is exactly how she imagined it – “I would like it to be the sort of book where you can laugh at yourself and be entertained, but also take it on board and exercise a little more tolerance when interacting with others”
‘I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail’ is an anonymous 17th century English folk ‘trick verse’ poem. This means that at first read it seems nonsensical, but when the sentences are broken up in the middle of each line, it begins to make perfect sense. The collaboration between the Indian Gond artist Ram Singh Urveti and the Brazilian designer Jonathan Yamakami (at that time working for Tara Books) lasted 2 years, but what an amazing book they created. One of the best books published in 2011. Astonishing work!
I saw a peacock / with a fiery tail, I saw a blazing comet / drop down hail,
I saw a cloud / with ivy circled around, I saw a sturdy oak / creep on the ground,
I saw a ant / swallow up a whale, I saw a raging Sea / brim full of Ale,
I saw a Venice Glass / sixteen foot deep, I saw a well / full of men’s tears that weep,
I saw their eyes / all in a flame of fire, I saw a house / as big as the Moon and higher,
I saw the Sun / even in the midst of night, I saw the man / that saw this wondrous sight.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a children novel written by Margery Williams. It chronicles the story of a stuffed rabbit toy and his quest to become real through the love of his owner.
The book was first published in 1922 and was illustrated by William Nicholson but since then it has been republished many times with fabulous new illustrations made by talented artists all over the world. The above images are creations of Japanese illustrator Komako Sakai whose distinctive sensitive ‘velveteen style’ is just a perfect expression for this tale.
And this is a beautifully animated video of the story read by unique Meryl Streep.
A great idea for a wonderful weekend morning for grown-ups or their children…
“Wild”. Liked the title and that happy cheerful girl on the cover with big curious eyes, bright smile, and that huge wild hair with intertwined forest flowers. This is an illustration of ourselves many years ago, before we grow up, become boring and adapted to the rules of the society. And this is an illustration of our children before we gradually build them a frame in the name of their well-being.
The young Emily Hughes (like Ella Frances Sanders, she is also in the beginning of her twentieth), has already realized that to be really happy in life, you have to stay true to yourself.
Her debut both as an author and illustrator tells a story about a girl, who grew up in the woods, surrounded by the love of nature. Animals, trees, flowers – they all are friends taking care of her. She is free, without complexes, and absolutely happy. One fine day however some concerned adults all of a sudden appeared in her life and turned it upside down. Worrying about her future, they decided to take her with them in the big city to raise her properly. What a lucky girl! Now in the civilization world she will learn to read, to eat with manners, to talk in an established way and most importantly, to comb her hair! The issue is not in knowledge. It is actually praiseworthy and highly appreciated. The problem is in the way we are enforced to acquire it. The expansion of our horizons is always connected with inner changes. And when it is against our will but in accordance to the others’ will, we lose our own road and start walking their paths. Instead to flourish in a wild colouful blossom, the grain of our originality wilts.
I do love books that contain message both for children and for adults. The lovely illustrated book of Emily with few precise words is exactly that type. Like that one of Oliver Jeffers. They are mainly addressed to children to convey them valuable life lessons but I think that such stories are always welcomed to adults too. To clean a little the dust from the wardrobe where we collect our experiences gathered through the years and recall some basic truths about life.
Don’t follow the rules of others. They may look more progressive, but this doesn’t mean they are more suitable for you. Be yourself, be wild!
Blame it on the spring, but I’ll stay tuned on the same floral theme.
And this post is about a book proclaimed as “the greatest botanical work that has ever appeared” – the magnificent “Flora Graeca”.
Ferdinand Bauer – Flora Graeca
It actually is not just a single book but a monumental compilation of 10 volumes of floral specimens previously unknown to science. They were collected by the English botanist John Sibthorp (1758 – 1796) from the flora of Greece during his two trips in 1786-87 and in 1794-95. With respect and admiration to his enormous work, but what catch the eye are the beautiful drawings of the Austrian illustrator Ferdinand Βauer (1760 – 1826). Bauer’s work is now regarded as one of the finest examples of botanical illustration and is highly appreciated by all plant lovers, not only by the specialists.
In reality, Bauer accompanied Sibthorp only on his first journey. Unable to carry with him on a field the range of colours needed, he made accurate preliminary sketches with a pencil filling them with a lot of numbers. These figures were his mysterious code to re-create afterwards the exact tones, colours and shades of the specimens. Upon returning in England he stayed a few years in Oxford producing 966 superbly water-coloured illustrations, all of them included subsequently in “Flora Graeca”.
Sibthorp died at a young age of 37 and accordingly to his will, he bequeathed his whole property to the Oxford University on condition that the income which would come from the exploitation of his fortune would be allocated to the publication of ‘Flora Graeca’ in 10 volumes.
The publishing of the first two volumes of this labour-intensive work started in 1806 and it took 34 years to complete it. Until 1828 gradually followed another four, the 7th appeared in 1830 and finally in 1840 this unique collection was finished with the last three.
Bauer created illustrations superior to anything of their kind in existence then, and his work was to become one of the most valuable treasures of the University of Oxford. The originals are now safely kept in the Bodleian Libraries in the Department of Plant Sciences.
For a closer look, see this short video from the series Treasures of the Bodleian, Flora Graeca.
Oliver Jeffers is one of those artists you can’t resist buying all his books. It is that combination of his talent to tell stories with the paint brush and just a few words as final strokes, that you can’t have enough of reading them. Though his illustrations are so expressive that even alone can narrate the stories, the unique sparkle of his tales is due to their fine coherence with a handful ingenious words.
His first illustrated book is called “How to Catch a Star” and was published in 2004. It was created as a project for his final year course work. He explained that it took him about a year, but obviously it was worth the effort, as he got a positive reply from the publishers Philomel Booksright away as he had sent it.
Oliver Jeffers – How to catch a star
And what it is about? It is a story of a boy who desires to have his own star. He tireless chases his dream figuring plans one after the other how to catch it. Climbing to the top of the tallest tree? Not tall enough. Use his rocket ship? It had run out of petrol last Tuesday when he flew to the moon. And so on, but unfortunately all of them with no success. Whenfinally, just when the boy is ready to give up, he learns that sometimes things aren’t where, or what, we expect them to be. He finds a starfish instead, floating in the waters, and became friends with it.
Though in general, Oliver Jeffers is ‘considered’ a children’s author/illustrator, I definitely recommend his works to the adults too. Exploring subjects like friendship, loneliness, independence, imagination and creativity, they bring back to mind some simple truths about life, we have left behind in the childhood.