Once again, the postbox was a veritable cornucopia overflowing with creative goodies this month, and we can’t thank you enough. It is always a delight to see what bold, brilliant and occasionally absurd pieces of work come through our door to brighten up our morning. But this does always makes it impossible to narrow it down to our 10 favourite pieces, so hard in fact this month we lost the ability to count and ended up settling on 11!
It was a particularly strong month for illustration, with graphic novels, sketchbooks, zines and beautiful risograph prints in abundance. There was quite the plethora of magazines too, in all shapes and sizes, alongside a couple of creative ethnographies, and even some new vinyl for our collection. We can’t tell you how much we also appreciate the work which didn’t quite make the cut too, it all gets a lot of love around the studio. Keep up the great work, and keep it coming!
Peony Gent: Drift and Leather and Oak, illustrated postcards and Lead Bone Tired
Peony Gent, a fourth year illustration student at Edinburgh College of Art sent us a real trove of illustrated treasures. Two simple yet evocative hand-drawn saddle-stitch bound booklets make up the bulk of the package telling two thematically linked poetic narratives of beginnings and endings: one concerned with returning home after four years, the other with death and dying.
Her selection of subversive postcards, illustrated with cheeky doodles across photographs were a welcome addition to our ever growing collection.
While a deep blue risograph print of her meticulously dark illustration Lead Bone Tired, rounds out the trove. Explaining its content Peony says: “the imagery was meant to all work together with the words to not necessarily tell a specific ‘story’ narrative, but more to instead evoke a kind of specific emotional narrative.” This print, part of a series based on a book of poems she completed as part of her degree work (one of which she’s incorporated into the image), “I was trying to convey a specific feeling of emotional heaviness…being overcome by a negative kind of sluggishness that feels inescapable and overwhelming at the time.”
Plethora Magazine is something of a behemoth. Measuring in at a whopping 70×50cm, this biannual publication based in Copenhagen is far from ungainly: it is frankly stunning to behold.
Occasional splashes of colour, vibrantly muted, pop out among the soft, pervasive, industrial blacks and greys at intervals. Elsewhere, black and white are inverted with white text and illustrations on gloriously obsidian double page spreads.
Impressively designed, it manages to accommodate a whole range of content. This fourth issue, concerning itself thematically with waves and ripples, features editorials and poster sized imagery from the likes of Olafur Eliasson, Bridget Riley, Berenice Abbott, El Lissitzky, Nicolai Howalt, and R. & S. ParkeHarrison.
Presented and bound in a handmade archival folder, it comes with a sense of luxury. What’s more, the whole magazine is printed sheet-by-sheet by hand by monks in a Hindu temple: but of course it is. There has never been a more apt tagline than: “Culture in Vivid Excess.”
Jan McCullough: Home Instruction Manual
Part photography project, part self-help odyssey, part anthropological nosiness, Jan McCullough’s Home Instruction Manual is a curious project. Cleverly conceived and presented, the book is the result of two months of living by the homemaking guidelines of internet advice, instructions retrieved from online chat forums.
The advice is dutifully reproduced in the forum style throughout, complete with timestamps and user handles: choice phrases are highlighted in blue mimicking the actions of a curious web surfer. Photography is interspersed documenting the results, presented complete with shopping list and ASCII floorpan.
Style aside, most effective is how much it reveals about people, as a creative and humorous ethnography, turning up such gems as: how one person’s clutter is another person’s curated mise-en-scène, Fitzgeraldian admissions of unread books on display for show, voyeuristic curiosities, and home truths that speak to the inner Monica Gellar in all of us: “A room which is just used as a dumping ground? I ended up throwing a lot of stuff into our spare room (which I refer to as the black hole). Everything that went in there, never came out.”
Michael Parkin: Blab!
Ever irreverent illustrator Michael Parkin recently completed a mini-mag filled cover to cover with his distinct brand of humour, wit and naive illustration. The front cover alone is littered with non-sequiturs and farcical appropriations of magazine culture. The entirety of its content is illustrative or graphically designed, lampooning the stereotypes and clichés of magazine culture ranging from the cutting to the hilarious and the downright surreal: a thumbs up hand for a viagra ad, nudists on the canal boat for a full-page holiday ad. It even comes complete with two-page illustrated editorial about a man who left his wife for a wasp.
Aaron Schuman: Folk
Folk is a creative ethnography born out of curiosity. It documents not only the city of Kraków and its immediate surroundings from where the Aaron Schuman’s great-grandfather hails, but also revels in the intrigue of seeing anthropologists curiously at work on their own ethnographies. The pictures are insightful and unfettered by exacting descriptions, context is only derived from epistolary correspondence is included at the end of the book, adding a personal touch.
This collection of work, originally presented at a major exhibition in Kraków, is more than a catalogue. Mixing material culture in with these shots of science at work, it becomes a study not only of the place in question, but of the process of documentation and what the artist calls, “the bizarre methods they used to take pictures of objects across Poland, pictures of them taking pictures, and as such, photography’s relationship with ethnography.”
Reclaiming a comical yet derogatory term from the 90s for an effeminate man, Cakeboy lives up to its namesake and more. Ridiculous in the best way, its keenly self-deprecating and features genuinely readable interviews with a selection of lesser known queer icons, photography, fiction, art, man butts, even a recipe for Belgian dog fish in green herb sauce.
Considered design toes the line between magazine territory, clean and crisp, before disregarding it all and rushing headlong into zine territory, playing with alignment, arrangement and throwing in a centrefold for good measure. It’s a magazine unashamedly doing what it wants and doing it with wild abandon.
Johanna Basford: Lost Ocean Postcards
Newly awarded recipient of an OBE Johanna Bamford sent us in this gift box of illustrated postcards, featuring 50 unique designs waiting to be coloured in, written on and sent to all our friends. The ink-drawn illustrations, patterns and designs featured across the postcards are taken from her bestselling book of the same from last year, which famously brought a trend for grown-up colouring books into popular conversation.
The tenth issue of So Young, the do-it-yourself younger sibling NME wishes it could be. Part zine, part magazine it treads the line between coherent and simple design, and edgy visuals. Fully illustrated with original works accompanying conversational editorials with the likes of Savages, Eagles, Twin Peaks and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the magazine continues to prove itself a must read for music lovers. And because of the low budget, high reward nature of the magazine, it takes time introduce bright new acts like Shame, Meatraffle and Happy Meal Ltd, before anyone else.
Rahel Süskind for Max Graef & Glenn Astro: The Yard Work Simulator vinyl
Siberia-born, Berlin-based illustrator Rahel Süskind has completed the artwork and design for Max Graef & Glenn Astro’s debut album, released on vinyl and CD. Commissioned by record label Ninja Tune, the cover is adorned by a hand drawn isometric cityscape made up of lines, patterns and colourful neon billboards. The nighttime streets are invaded by oversized tokusatsu-esque beasties. The wide-eyed, wide-mouthed motifs are reused emblematically and in repeated patterns on the front and reverse of the labels for each disc.
Wren McDonald: Sp4rx
New York-based illustrator and storyteller Wren McDonald’s first full-length graphic novel tells the story of a young hacker in a cyberpunk future pervaded by rigid social strata. Told through 120 pages of comic panels busily and expressive illustrated in black, grey and purple the project builds on his style established throughout his work of Nobrow Press. Dynamic, stylish and laced with comedy.
Kerby Rosanes: Sketchy Stories
Filipino illustrator Kerby Rosanes has released a new collection of ink doodles, sketches and illustrations taken from his personal sketchbooks, bound in this attractive little leatherbound book. With a strong use of black and white negative space throughout, the preface and occasional annotations written by the artist add some extra personality and context to this collection.
- Patrick Savile’s dreamy designs draw from 70s airbrush art, Roger Dean and Turing patterns
- Illustrator Nathan Cowdry depicts an unusual dialogue between two strangers in his new comic, Shiner
- Our round-up of this year’s UK grad show identities and show designs
- Nathalie du Pasquier opens first solo show in UK for almost 25 years
- Photographer Ian Kenneth Bird shares his top photobooks
- Bureau Borsche talks us through its album artwork for Laurel Halo
- Alex Norris’ hilarious three-panelled webcomics are universally appealing
- Pigalle, Ill-Studio and Nike have redesigned the Paris Duperré basketball court
- Leipzig graphic design studio Lamm & Kirch on their shared ethos
- Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger on how to stand out
- From Lemon Twigs to Laura Marling: Hollie Fernando’s painterly photography folio
- Why materials matter: Seetal Solanki on the Grenfell Tower tragedy