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    Brecht Vandenbroucke: Bookshelf

Bookshelf: "I found it very hard." Brecht Vandenbroucke selects his five favourite books

Posted by Liv Siddall,

Hats off to Brecht Vandenbroucke, not merely for providing us with fantastic illustration that cranks up the “how good is life?” meter by about three notches, but for taking time out to tell us in quite astonishing detail all about his very enviable bookshelf. We featured Brecht’s much-adored work on the site last week and coulnd’t resist asking him which books inspire him to make such eye-popping, other-worldy pictures.

Atak: SpielZeuge

I just had to include Atak among the people who not only opened my eyes on bookmaking, but also on art, illustration and painting. I chose for this book of him, although it was a very close call between his Kub and Ada (recently beautiful published and translated by Nobrow). It’s a fully silkscreen printed book, and it’s perfectly done. The book is based on his toy-box exhibition concept where he shows the original toys next to disown paper-cut interpretations.

These illustrations are accompanied by a poetic text in German as well as in English that continues over the entire book. Some pages are two colours, others three, yet he uses this to his advantage, so somehow every image feels lush, full of colour and life. There is even some gold printing in it, which makes it feel very luxurious. I also love the cardboard of the cover and the round corners of the pages. This is one of those books that feels perfect to me. I love drawing toys myself, there is always this tension between reality 
and the fantasy, real and artificial that fascinates me, and this books plays that out in a brilliant way. Cherish your toys, you never know what secrets they may hide.
ATAK

Gerald Ames & Rose Wyler: De Wonderen Van Het Leven

This was a book i grew up with, it belonged to my mother so by now it’s pretty damaged. I think she had to use it at school. I remember holding this book when I was about five and flipping trough the pages, looking at it, mostly ending at a spread where two tyrannosaurs were caught up in a bloody, yet elegant fight. It’s a book to learn from (only about biology and science) and it explains everything with colourful illustrations. I don’t really come from a cultural background so we didn’t have much books that were so overly aesthetic as this one, and it made the inner and outside world look appealing and geometric, as if i’ve never looked at it before: this is mainly because of the drawings of the late Charley Harper. Even though not a big influence on my work, I still see this book as my first realisation of the aesthetics in drawings and I occasionally look at it just for the nostalgia…An entire book about science and biology with only handmade illustrations! I cant imagine that happening again any time soon!

X. Robel & H. Reumann: Elvis road

I like this book. It’s not a story but just a drawing in black and white that goes on and on and on. It’s an accordion book, printed only on one side, and you can see the thing in it’s entirety if you lay it open (it’s long!) The drawings are eclectic yet there is a certain system at work, it’s never really a total chaos, everything is very well thought through and therefore punches you twice as hard in the face. You see swarms of characters walking, dancing, melting, or interacting in various scenes ranging from the highway, the apocalypse, a gay parade crossing, a fascist parade and even a porn village. Among the buildings and billboards in the drawing there is also wonderful sense and detail in the hand drawn typography.

Helge Reumann and x Robel (also known as Elvis studio) worked together on this continuing drawing. How they did it I don’t know but they are both absolutely insanely talented. I have had this book for about 6 years already, yet each times I go back I discover new things in it that I haven’t seen before.
Elvis Road

Claudine Galea & Goele Dewanckel: Sans Toi

I love this book, it’s my personal favourite by Illustrator Goele Dewanckel. The story/poem is in french and at a first quick glance, flipping trough the book I thought it was about child abuse or dying, but actually it’s about things going missing. The drawings (all painted) are spare and suggestive, we see a few close ups and almost abstract-looking images: a girl on a chair, a knee is bleeding, an exhausted woman, a black horizon,etc. The tempo is just right and it has a great separation of text and image. She sometimes starts off with one sentence and it takes another 40 pages before the second sentence even appears, showing only images in between. She tells a story which slowly reveals itself in between the text and the images, using every tool available as a designer and illustrator.

Even though it’s a children’s book, it’s quite dark and never childish or overly dramatic. As a whole, an intense experience.

Claudine Gales: Sans toi

Mark Beyer: Death Stories

I remember seeing Mark Beyer’s work for the first time: I hadn’t seen a comic so strange, that made so much sense, and with such an incredible aesthetic feel. Death Stories was the first book of Mark Beyer that I bought. It stars his well known figures Amy & Jordan and has a story that continues over the entire book, inside covers included. Overall the atmosphere is dark and depressing, and the story also follows its own kind of logic (at one point Amy and Jordan run over a mother-house with her baby daughter-house crossing the streets) and is often hilarious (“Hey Amy, i really can’t go to school now. An identical row of snowmen are blocking the sidewalk!”).Although Mark Beyer’s work is quite known (he got published a lot in Raw amongst others), I still think he deserves more credit. I love his stories; they are depressing and to the point.

It’s a bit of a downer that the book has bad binding. My version is a bit hard to open, when you open it at the centre it almost automatically closes…Still, it’s amongst my personal favourites and his work and vision blow my mind to this day.
Mark Beyer: Dead Stories

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    Brecht Vandenbroucke: Bookshelf

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    Brecht Vandenbroucke: Bookshelf

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She also runs our London listings site This At There, and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.