Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen – a Norwegian bestiary

Theodor Kittelsen was a Norwegian painter and book illustrator (1857-1914). He illustrated the Scandinavian bestiary of legend and fairy tales, and his work has scared countless children (myself included). He drew and painted trolls, the black death, sea monsters, nøkken ("water spirit"), and anthropomorphised natural phenomena such as the echo. His work can be rather ...
Saul Bass: Designer of the Seventh Art

Saul Bass: Designer of the Seventh Art

Saul Bass is the genius behind movie legends such as The Shining, The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder. During his 40-year career Bass worked for some of Hollywood's most prominent filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. It was his work for The Man with the Golden Arm that made ...
Kjell Aukrust: rural Norway in a nutshell

Kjell Aukrust: rural Norway in a nutshell

Kjell Aukrust was a legendary artist, humourist and illustrator. He is most famous for his wacky stories from a particular part of rural Norway, full of bizarre and hilarious people, inventions and creatures. They make little sense to people from other countries, the Danes certainly do not get it at all. I grew up with ...
Abstracting the map

Abstracting the map

Tung studio in Toronto decided to reinvent the map. The results are beautiful abstract-ish quilts, showing neighbourhoods as ideas. you could not navigate by these obviously, but they are beautiful, understandably map-ish. My thought is that we do not need paper maps anymore, so we are free to reinvent them as ideas and abstract representation of ...
Biomimicry: generative art of @inconvergent

Biomimicry: generative art of @inconvergent

@inconvergent is a guy who makes magical, beautiful art with algorithms, heavily influenced by nature. In my endless ignorance, I did not think those two things could combine quite like that. I have of course seen wonderful things that nature do, like the amazing life of slime moulds, the murmuration of sterlings, the underground filaments ...
14 Meters of Aztec Codice

14 Meters of Aztec Codice

The Codex Borbonicus (or Codex Cihuacoatl) is a divinatory almanac inscribed in a single 14.2m long sheet of bark paper. A masterpiece of Aztec style, the codice is believed to have been made after the arrival of the Spanish. Its first section is an intricate divinatory calendar, one of the few surviving. Each page represents one of the 20 trecena or 13-day periods, ...
Audubon's birds, up for grabs

Audubon’s birds, up for grabs

Audubon's birds have been released to Public Domain! John James Audubon's book Birds of America is usually listed among the rarest books in existence. The reason for this is that the French ornithologist used the laborious technique of hand-coloured etched and aquatint plates, which means that there only about 200 complete sets done. A set fetched £7.3m at auction ...
Stealing posters

Stealing posters

They say in art the greatest compliment is to be copied, and the greatest compliment for poster design is when your poster gets stolen. It seems that print posters are dying. Now we have digital screens that cycle – for the most part – commercials. Should we care? Are posters merely something arty people and graphic ...
Maria Sibylla Merian: illustrating the natural world

Maria Sibylla Merian: illustrating the natural world

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717) was a remarkable woman in many ways. She was a very talented scientific illustrator and had a passion for insects. According to David Attenborough, she contributed immensely to taxonomy in entomology and the understanding of metamorphosis, and she was the first person who travelled on purely scientific grounds. Though she was ...
The network

The network

The network. The most common question I get when people see my drawings are "how long did that take you?!"  The next question is "what is it?"  Neither question being relevant or interesting. It seems a piece of work is weighted and valued by time and meaning must be figurative. I find this very odd, this need for everything to ...
The New Tangram Book

The New Tangram Book

Puzzles have always fascinated me. Language puzzles, escape rooms, logic problems. When I code, I tend to see the coding problem as a puzzle that I need to solve. Especially CSS feels like that lots of the time. Recently, I dove into my parent's bookcase and fished up this old jewel: This 70s book is ...
My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

My geologic timeline in the magazine Science & Vie!

A long time ago I made a geologic timeline as a (vector) brush in Illustrator, with .ai and .eps files free for anyone to use. The only thing I ask is that if you use it, let me see the result. Making the timeline was incredibly time-consuming and ludicrously fiddly. So, a while ago I got ...
Here be Dragons

Here be Dragons

You have probably heard the expression, and most likely associate it with images of old maps covered in drawings of sea serpents and other mythological creatures. But what are exactly those creatures living on the margins, and how did they get there? Pack your bags and jump on board. But aware, though, for Here be Dragons. Despite its popularity, there ...
Yisela's book – the anatomy of doodles

Yisela’s book – the anatomy of doodles

I write this blog together with Yisela (and Vincent). I have never met either, but Yisela was such a dear that I figured she deserved a gift. So in the tradition of Sofie's book and Adam's book, I made Yisela's book. But you have to be supersupernice to me to get one; well over and ...
Equil smartpen2: phenomenal tool or novelty toy?

Equil smartpen2: phenomenal tool or novelty toy?

I am not into gadgets. The very word implies something useless; perhaps fun for a week, but quickly discarded. A pet hate of mine is the insane amount of electronics made, for stuff that do not need electronics. Waste of resources, batteries, minerals, human costs and filling up insane landfills with rubbish. Enter the Equil ...
A-maze

A-maze

Listening to the QI No such thing as a fish podcast, I was alerted to the story of a Japanese girl, while clearing her caretaker-fathers stuff, found this amazing work. Apparently, he spent seven years doing this. I doff my hat. You can buy a print - more on this story here ...
Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

Medieval menagerie: the battle between knight and snail

In a lot of medieval manuscripts, there are depictions of knights fighting snails. No one seems to know why this is. There are some theories, but so far nothing really conclusive. It might look like some sort of insider thing, maybe among scribes or illuminators. I love that sort of thing: mysteries in plain sight. Delightful ...
Colour guide anno 1692

Colour guide anno 1692

A dutch artist – known only as A. Boogert – created a book of colour in 1692. Describing the use of colour in painting, s/he created an 800-page book with instructions on how to create hues and tones. It blows my mind, actually. The work, the meticulousness, the systematics, and not least: a book like that would ...
Illuminating letter D

Illuminating letter D

As mentioned in a previous post, I have dragged out some old tools and materials and started gilding again. In my previous life as a bookbinder, I bought a very old gilder's cushion that actually sits on top of a drawer. I have not seen this anywhere else; it seems a well spent USD30. Supposedly, ...
Of Jokers, Fools and Margins

Of Jokers, Fools and Margins

“A joker is a little fool who is different from everyone else. He's not a club, diamond, heart, or spade. He's not an eight or a nine, a king or a jack. He is an outsider. He is placed in the same pack as the other cards, but he doesn't belong there. Therefore, he can ...
Laying of leaf gold

Words of gold

This stack-exchange question inspired me to dig out old skills and tools. Untouched for years, I got out my bookbinders gilding cushion and related paraphernalia. Getting back into the fiddlyness of handling gold leaf, I have squandered a few sheets. But it is fun. One thing: you cannot be impatient handling it, breathing is forbidden, ...
Shel Silverstein – anything can be

Shel Silverstein – anything can be

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” I only discovered Shel Silverstein a few years ago... I can only blame it on not having grown up in an ...
Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Ruffen, my childhood sea dragon

Thore Hansen was one of my childhood heroes. His drawings were magic then, and they are still magic now. The best known of his children's books illustrations are the ones accompanying Thor Åge Bringsværd's stories about Ruffen. Ruffen is a "small" sea dragon, and the books tells the story of his adventures. This post was ...
Adam's book – Henrik the speedbump catches a car

Adam’s book – Henrik the speedbump catches a car

Many moons ago, when a friend of mine acquired his first nephew, he wanted to give him a story. We co-wrote the story in google docs, and I was to do the illustrations. I forgot all about it, until the day before I was due to fly to the US (and the deadline for producing ...
J.H. Boot: master of stylisation

J.H. Boot: master of stylisation

I posted about stylisation before, and I'd like to show where I got my inspiration. So without further ado, some of the 'plates' from J.H. Boot's book on how to take some natural object and turn it into something of mathematically precise art. It still amazes me that Boot did not just take the time ...
Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Voynich manuscript – secret knowledge or brilliant hoax?

Since we are on a roll with old books and manuscripts, I give you the  240-page Voynich manuscript. It is an unsolved enigma: a manuscript found in Italy; the paper has been dated to between 1404-1438. It contains text in an unknown script, unknown language, and illustrations of non-existing plants, constellations and humans apparently doing inexplicable ...
Ledger binding

Sofie’s book – bookbinding in the digital world

Back in the mist of time, I did my apprenticeship in hand bookbinding. There are basically two directions; two different apprenticeships: literature binder, or ledger binder. I am a literature binder (also called publishing or library binding). But back then it was considered essential to have a broad understanding. So part of the apprenticeship was ...
Skulls and bones

Skulls and bones

I have a thing about drawing skulls and bones. Not of any morbid fascination (I think), but because they can really be a challenge. The texture and colour of bones are interesting, and the ultimate challenge is to draw a skull first with graphite on white paper, then with white pencil on black paper. This ...
Beatriz Aurora

Beatriz Aurora: The art of the resistance

Beatriz Aurora calls her drawings "painted stories", and her subjects definitely have a lot to tell. The Chilean artist had to exile to Spain during the 70s. She knew she couldn't go back to Chile, but there were other places in Latin America that could use her art, so from Spain she travelled to Nicaragua, then to El Salvador and finally ...
Doodly deck of cards

Doodly deck of cards

Doodly deck of cards: Being a big fan of doodles, I got the idea some time back of making a deck of cards. The idea came when I found a few places that will print your custom deck of cards; and what is cool is that you could use it for business cards and such, ...
watercolour doodles

Watercolours I

I bought a watercolour set to replace my measly pocket one. This one, in contrast, has 45 colours, as opposed to 12. I was never a painter, but playing is good. I have tried some "realistic" stuff that turned out far from just that. Nevermind; doodles are good too. There seems to be no doubt ...
W. B. Gould: artist and convict

W. B. Gould: artist and convict

William Buelow Gould (1801 – 1853) was an English artist convicted for stealing a coat and was sentenced to seven years of labour in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). He constantly got into trouble, also in the penal colonies, and was regularly punished for offences such as drunkenness, petty theft and forgery. His talent, however, got him assigned as a house ...
WPA posters – art in the depression

WPA posters – art in the depression

During an extended period of the depression in USA (between 1935-1942), the US federal government supported artists by commissioning artwork for non-federal places and activities. Early on in the project, posters were painted by hand, each individually created. Later on, they were printed with silk screen. According to the US library of congress, "over two ...
Early utopian imagery, memories of no places

Early utopian imagery, memories of no places

Yisela Utopias. The no-places. I’ve always been attracted by them. The first utopia ever written could have been Plato’s Republic. Or the Genesis. However, the first one I discovered was Thomas More’s Utopia. I still can’t believe it was written 498 years ago, in 1516. Utopia is a strange book. Most scholars agree it’s a satire, a criticism ...
Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

Fritz Kahn: the human as industrial palace

(I was horrified to discover that Wikipedia does not have an entry on Fritz Kahn in English. I was utterly unaware of how deep into obscurity this multitalented man had fallen. Update: my pigheaded ability to pester strangers have resulted in an solid entry on Kahn on Wikipedia. Many thanks to Yngvadottir ). Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) ...
The Life Cycle of Ideas, Accurat for Popular Science

The Life Cycle of Ideas, Accurat for Popular Science

Giorgia Lupi once again comes up with stunning, informative and elegant data visualisation. This time, the life cycle of ideas. You can see another of hers in my post Design is where science and art breaks even ...
Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

Creative mapping: paper towns, trap streets, cartographic treasure-hunts

Q. Why was longitude boiling mad? A. Because it was 360 degrees. Cartographers are/were often seen as pretty dour characters. Not so long ago, maps were hand-drawn, and hanging over a drawing table, the meticulous of drawing contours seems rather nerdy. But, as programmers put easter-eggs in code, cartographers do the same. Map makers sometimes ...
Doodles, creativity, alphabets and cognitive noise

Doodles, creativity, alphabets and cognitive noise

‘…qualities like quiveriness and vulnerability come to mind when I think of creativity… creativity requires a sense of smell, a palate to taste the scents that make brilliance. All life feeds upon the random. Creativity is the haute cuisine.’ -Douglas Hofstadter ...
Human skull

Human skull

You can actually buy some stuff with my drawings on them. Here, some examples of the human skull drawing. Head over to my CafePress home and have a look around (considering posters. Maybe later.) ...
Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel: art and science through the microscope

Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919) was what we call a renaissance man. He was a professor, biologist, philosopher, physician, naturalist and artist. His contribution to biology, evolutionary theory and art is still mind-boggling; we owe a great deal of biological understanding and terminology to him. He was a great promoter of Darwin's theory of evolution, ...
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