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 ...
Tragedy, Trauma and Paradise: The Incredible Genius of Hieronymus Bosch

Tragedy, Trauma and Paradise: The Incredible Genius of Hieronymus Bosch

A Bosch painting is a marvel to look at, regardless of how familiar someone is with their creator. But once you realize when and perhaps why they were made, they become truly uncanny. Luckily for those new with the language, the town of s'-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands is normally referred to as "Den Bosch" (pronounced "Den ...
Olympic with Returned Soldiers

Dazzle camouflage: sea-going Easter eggs and face recognition

Most warships these days are gray, and for good reasons. They are generally more difficult to make out with the naked eye. Of course, these days technology often makes visual camouflage redundant, but during World War I, a different tack was used: dazzle, or disruptive, camouflage. The idea was not camouflage as in "invisible", but ...
World Fashion: Racinet's Compendium c. 1878

World Fashion: Racinet’s Compendium c. 1878

Auguste Racinet was a French illustrator, famous for his detailed depictions of historical costumes. His polychromatic ornaments are also a thing to marvel, just take a look at these five motives from Persia, Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance and 18th Century style: His masterpiece, however, remains to be Le Costume Historique, an unprecendented attempt to illustrate the entire history ...
Hexagon Project: doodling for two hundred frames

Hexagon Project: doodling for two hundred frames

In the chaos that is self-employed life, it's hard to find the time to do personal projects. Personal work is a great way to explore styles and hone your skills. Especially as a graphic designer, I think personal work is muy importante. But when do I do it? After about a year of not doing ...
Twelve golden wild ducks – fairytale in smoke and mirrors

Twelve golden wild ducks – fairytale in smoke and mirrors

There is a fairy tale here in Norway, called the twelve wild ducks. The story is not really important, it a fairly classic good versus evil, patience, purity and deceit. I think it is a pretty convoluted story, and I always found it dissatisfying that there is no attempt at explaining why the princes are ...
Soldiers' Thoughts in an 1916-1918 Station Visitors' Book

Soldiers’ Thoughts in an 1916-1918 Station Visitors’ Book

Visitors' books, while bursting with creativity potential, often feel like a mere registry of names and locations - with the few occasional sentimentalities. They are condemned to live in the present and, as such, their true value is usually underestimated. Rare is the chance to come across a Visitors' book that has long lost its ...
Acrylic and wood: into the laser

Acrylic and wood: into the laser

I have fallen in love with a machine. The laser cutter at the uni. Well; actually, it is what it can do, that captivates me. I am craftsperson –  I have two educations in crafts. I am a potter and bookbinder. So I have a sense for materials, how they act, what you can and ...
Scientific illustrations by Carim Nahaboo

Scientific illustrations by Carim Nahaboo

Scientific illustrations by Carim Nahaboo Carim Nahaboo is a London based illustrator specialising in accurate depictions of natural history subjects as well as more imaginative, conceptual themes. So says his bio on his webpage, and who am I to argue? I am in awe of his work; this is old-school scientific illustration: art, design and ...
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 ...
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 ...
The Painted Skulls of Hallstatt

The Painted Skulls of Hallstatt

In the town of Hallstatt there is an Ossuary called Beinhaus, or Bone House. Places of second burial were not uncommon in the Eastern Alps, but Hallstatt is special: It contains  the most remarkable collections of painted skulls, anywhere. The Beinhaus is located in the basement of the Church of Saint Michael, which stands high above ...
Weightless graffiti

Weightless graffiti

Graffiti – often seen as a bad thing; vandalism (I for one, am a fan for the most part). Then there is "non-intrusive" graffiti, that has a temporary, transient and digital component. Light painting. An act in space and time, that afterwards only lives digitally. The documentation of the act is the only evidence. So though ...
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 ...
Calamityware: disaster porcelain

Calamityware: disaster porcelain

Here at the visual squirrels, we are not in the habit of promoting stuff, but Calamityware is simply too funny. Taking the classic language of cobalt and porcelain decoration, the artist Don Moyer adds – well – calamity. Volcanoes, robots, tentacles, and all manner of funny creatures hide in the china. The only problem with ...
Human Evolution Infographic

Human Evolution Infographic

I made this infographic to show the (current state of things for) human evolution. Or quite current, because there have been some new discoveries, but they are still being debated. Feel free to download, distribute and change it, but please don't crop my name off it as it took me a long time to make it! Licence ...
Hexagon Project - Serial Doodles

Hexagon Project – Serial Doodles

Doodling is a great habit to generate new ideas through keeping active. Sketches, drawings and experiments without any objective allow the mind to roam free and prompt new ideas. That's how inspiration is born. Sometimes it's hard to make time for doodling in between all the serious work for customers. That's why I created my ...
Doodling maths: Visualising prime numbers

Doodling maths: Visualising prime numbers

Prime numbers are a cryptographer's dream: It's easy to take two very large prime numbers and multiply them, but it's extremely hard to do the opposite. There is no fast algorithm (yet) to factorize an integer into its prime factors, if you try to factor a large prime number you'll have to try every possible number between 2 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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, ...
Doppelgänger—©Wizards of the Coast

In memoriam: Quinton Hoover

I can't talk about inspirational art for very long until I brush the subject of Magic: the Gathering. I've been playing this geekery-heavy card game for almost twenty years now. In that period, a humonguous amount of fantasy art has been produced by a myriad of artists. It was this art that drew me to ...
Machinarium: details make perfection...

Machinarium: details make perfection…

...and perfection is not a detail. I am a great fan of the work of Amanita design and their games, in particular, Machinarium. Because of this enthusiasm, I have been told that my drawings are heavily influenced by Machinarium and Samorost. But here is the thing; I loved that sort of humour, aesthetics, whimsy and craft ...
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 ...
Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Prehistoric Art: The Upper Paleolithic Revolution

Yisela The Upper Paleolithic or Late Stone Age begins and ends with a revolution. The first one is what can be considered the 'official' appearance of art, some 50,000 years ago. The second, the invention of agriculture, 40,000 years later. The earliest sample of Paleolithic art is the shells with holes and chipped edge modifications from Ksar Akil. These flakes show regular teeth distributed ...
Twelve-fold symmetry

Twelve-fold symmetry

Little trick in Illustrator. One group of half-transparent objects, mirrored and rotated for a twelve-fold symmetry effect. Change one object, all eleven others follow suit. Goodness ensues ...
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