Friday, June 22, 2012

Looking Closely At An Old Tradition

Today’s post is going to be a little strange and kind of pointless, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while and although it isn’t really the best example of what I’d hoped to do, it is a start, and someday I’ll come back to this topic.

First of all, this topic or idea started when I read a book, Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz.

That book was put together by a graphic designer named Chip Kidd and it is a kind of biography of Charles Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown. But the book really is a biography of the Charlie Brown comic strip itself and there is page after page of beautiful reproductions of Charles Schulz’s artwork and much of it is reproduced at larger-than-life size. But because Kidd and his photographer took great care in getting good images, the artwork looks beautiful.

So the comic strips themselves are entertaining and fun. And the larger-than-life reproductions capture a kind of graphic beauty that is something else entirely, a kind of standalone art captured from within other art.

Ever since I saw that book I’ve been intrigued by that business of enlarging artwork and looking carefully at the graphic artifacts of the art itself.

I’m going to do a little of that today.

Now I certainly don’t compare myself, of course, to Charles Schulz in any way, and I don’t even begin to have the graphic sensibilities of a designer like Chip Kidd. But, nonetheless, there’s no law that says you have to be professional to do something on a blog, thank heavens. So here is a kind of experiment of my own with graphics of my own.

Okay, first of all, take a look at this bit of text and graphics. Maybe I would call this “Old Tradition” because you can see those words at the top:

Even though I made that myself, it looks kind of cool to me. Maybe it looks cool to me, in part, because I didn’t actually make it directly. That is an enlarged section of this page from my notebook:

That is the first draft of yesterday’s post “People Born Illuminated”.

I wrote out the text of yesterday’s post using a black pen. But I used a page in my notebook where I had been testing some new colored markers I’d bought the day before.

So the graphics have nothing to do with the content of the writing. But it was fun writing on a page that had some color to it. And where I ran out of white space I just wrote words over the color tests.

It’s kind of an interesting image, that first one, kind of an eye-pleasing graphic, even though it is something like found art—it was just selected, not composed in any way.

I don’t really know what to think about something like this, but it is fun doing it and it is fun trying to figure out what and how to think about it.

This little experiment has been kind of fun. I wouldn’t call something like that first image art. But I enjoy looking at it, I enjoy the combination of the words “old tradition” above the abstract color squares.

I enjoy thinking about stuff like this, stuff that’s in some kind of middle ground between meaning something and not meaning anything at all.

So for better and for worse that’s my first attempt at enlarging something and looking closely at something that was never meant to be looked at closely. For better and for worse, I enjoyed doing this enough that I know at some point in the future I’ll try it again.

I’ll try to get better—although in the case of purposefully random ‘found art’ I’m not exactly sure what ‘better’ even means—but everything starts with a first effort.

This was one of mine.

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Scraps For Alison With Love And Squalor

This Is Not “Fashion Bulletin I’m Yours”

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A Saturday Note:

In the book that started me thinking about things like this, Chip Kidd and his photographer were very diligent about getting carefully lighted and carefully rendered close-up images of the artwork they enlarged. However, here, in that first graphic that I called “Old Tradition,” I used a carefully dubious image—that’s a digital zoom into a pointedly casual photograph taken at a skewed perspective with lots of bias added to the brightness and color space. Here is a similar image with ‘normal’ corrections applied to a more straight-forward macro photograph:

I looked at both of these images yesterday and picked the first for the post because it looked more interesting to me, more visually engaging. It still does. Even though it is less precise and could be called ‘harder on the eyes’ it seems more interesting visually. This reminds me a lot of a post I did a while back “The Night Outside My Window” where an almost totally abstract image looked more interesting than the straightforward photograph the image was derived from.

This makes me think there may be two issues at work here.

When you take ‘real’ artwork—for instance the artwork from Charles Schulz that Chip Kidd enlarged—the beauty is deeply within the straightforward content of the original material. It looks best when you convey that simply and clearly.

More random stuff—like this page from my notebook—seems to be more interesting when it is abstracted in one way or another.

Again, I’m not sure what to think about this. But to me it’s really fun trying to figure out what to think.

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