Ms-300

Assistant Editor Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast. She also oversees our London listings guide This At There.

ms@itsnicethat.com@maisieskidmore

713 articles
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    If you’re finding that your Monday is lacking in mystery (don’t they always?) allow me to introduce you to Nicholas Stevenson, an illustrator who practically daubs it onto his pages as he draws. Preferred subjects include long-armed humans, giant beasts, secret trapdoors and food fights, all of which are endowed with an equal measure of fantasy the likes of which doesn’t often exist beyond the pages of children’s books and the odd Wicca community.

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    If she’d been drawing back when I was consuming children’s books so fast that my parents ran out of printed matter and had to give me an Argos catalogue instead, one of Mari Kanstad Johnsen’s numerous children’s books would undoubtedly have been in my top ten. In fact, she might still be on that esteemed list given that my chosen career path allows me to spend an inordinate amount of time flicking through books intended for kids. It doesn’t even matter that I don’t speak Swedish.

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    I’m loth to comment on summer’s swift disappearance or the vague possibility that it might get warm again in the coming weeks, but how can I miss the opportunity which this series by Anaïs Boileau has so generously handed me? This brilliant photo-series examines the women who live for a tan, happily sunning themselves with foil trays pressed to their chins and eye-protectors plastered to their sockets. There’s something gently teasing and kind of funny but also really well-constructed about her images – the props make for a natural frame so you’re confronted with a very immediate manifestation of our society’s obsession with bronzed skin, which seems more ridiculous the longer you think about it.

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    Latvia is one of the gems in the European crown when it comes to design communities, as Zigmunds Lapsa explained when he popped in last week. Though the community there is tiny (in accordance with the equally small population) small publishing houses there are often happy to let book designers have free rein, which tends to result in some really nice publications.

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    Family life can be strange, unsettling and oppressive as well as happy, funny and ridiculous, and it’s this sometimes-sinister underside of the domestic sphere photographer Joanna Piotrowska seeks to elevate with her series FROWST. Her black and white images capture ambivalence and double meaning in the family home; brothers and sisters lie awkwardly across one another and pull at each other’s bodies in strangely stagnant compositions, while oddly familiar environments are imbued with a quiet strangeness that’s not entirely new.

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    To say the last year or so has been tricky for Matilda Tristram would be a bit of an understatement; the comics artist, animator and illustrator was pregnant with her first baby when she was diagnosed with cancer, and what followed was terrifying, strange and at times funny too. Matilda recorded the nine months from gruelling start to the relief-inducing finish (at the risk of ruining the ending, she’s well! She has a lovely baby! He’s well too!) and now the whole shebang has been made into a beautiful book called Probably Nothing, published by Penguin.

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    Danielle Pender is the brain at the helm of Riposte magazine, one of the most exciting new publications created to champion the women doing exciting work in the creative industries today, as well as working at KK Outlet, the London outpost of communications agency KesselsKramer, so can you blame us for wanting to have a poke about her bookshelf? Her selection gives a generous insight into the process behind putting together a magazine, from the issue of National Geographic which led her and Riposte’s creative director Shaz Madani to consider a text-based front cover for the magazine (“I’m really happy we had the balls to go with it”) and the all-time hero she dreams of interviewing, with a few other gems thrown in for good measure. She technically stretched her five books to seven, but we let her off because they’re all so damn interesting.

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    Co-founders of Dastoli Digital Robert and James were huge fans of Star Wars in the late 1990s, recreating hundreds of images from comics, books and game graphics on Microsoft Paintbrush using the Windows 3.1 operating system. In the run-up to the release of Star Wars Episode VII which will come out on 18 December 2015 they’re releasing an image a day from this seemingly bottomless archive, giving fellow fans a glimpse of their fantastic attention to detail and brilliantly retro colour palette.

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    This week it’s the turn of enormously gifted freelance animator and illustrator Andy Baker to show us his favourite music video, and with a bulging portfolio of experience in 2D animation and character design (see here, here and here if you don’t believe us) we were expecting great things. Andy did not disappoint; here’s his tribute to a suitably smooth lo-fi animation for Slick Rick’s 1994 hit Behind Bars which is now happily soundtracking our Monday morning.

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    If you’re reading this then you too survived last weekend’s bank holiday carnage and you’re here, raring and ready for another go! Without further ado then, welcome to our weekly endowment of fun and tomfoolery, soundtracked by this. Enjoy!

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    It’s a sad fact of modern life that all this time spent staring at screens in order to communicate has the adverse effect of stopping us from actually communicating at all. Fortunately Miranda July has found a solution; an app which allows other people to deliver your messages face-to-face on your behalf. Sponsored by Miu Miu the app allows you to choose the deliverer of your message and to suggest the manner in which they should do so, for example, “confidently,” “longingly,” or with air quotes. Even better the actor, writer and artist also created a short film to illustrate just how effectively the app can work, and true to form it’s chic, hilarious and actually very touching. The whole process has a hint of that 1990s board game Dream Phone about it too, which is a vibe I’m always delighted to channel.

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    Anna Valdez is the kind of artist who makes me want to swathe myself and everything around me in layers of tropical prints and geometric patterns and embrace a new sartorial existence as a wannabe art teacher. Her mastery of textiles is so thorough that some of her pieces almost feel like studies, an effect which makes sense considering her academic interests. With a background in anthropology she paints domestic interiors as though they were portraits, with every detail contributing to the overall effect, whether it be house plants, intricately reproduced book covers, woolly jumpers or oriental rugs.

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    Every time a new music video by Us (AKA Chris Barrett and Luke Taylor) is sent round the studio I find myself stubbornly insisting that they can’t possibly have topped their previous efforts, and every single time the London-based directing duo seem to prove me wrong. Their latest creation for British singer-songwriter and producer Labrinth is potentially the finest yet in fact, combining what is becoming their trademark one-shot effect with a brilliantly simple storyline. The video follows Labrinth through the ups and downs of making a record, from TV interviews and squabbling record label execs to shooting videos in flash cars and performing onstage, exposing a side that usually remains concealed. It’s a natural fit for Us’ pared-back aesthetic, where cameras, ladders and extras are all included in the shot. Have they upped the stakes again? We reckon so.

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    “Can I email you back on Monday? I’m actually in the desert this weekend,” was the reply we got from Tom Gould when we got in touch to see what he was up to a couple of weeks back. It might sound like the filmmaker’s equivalent of the dog eating your homework, but in Tom’s case it’s a wholly credible excuse, and even more so now that we can see the fruits of his labour.

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    Kristina Tzekova is an excellent testament to the belief that there’s no limit to what you can do with a packet of coloured pencils and a sheet of white paper. The illustrator recreates scenes from music videos and cult films in comic strip form, from Kanye West’s Bound 2 to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train, and the results are the perfect cross between lo-fi doodles in the margin of a maths exercise book and Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographic studies of motion. Simple though they may seem, her drawings are incredibly intricate, taking into account the continuity between each image just as scrupulously as they do the the details which easily have been missed, from the cheeky glint in an eye to the quirk of a top lip. Here’s hoping somebody picks up on Kristina’s work and makes them into a book sharpish!

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    Their website is a combination of fluorescent colours, textures, media and effects so hectic that you can’t help but surrender yourself to it, but it’d be foolish to assume The Royal Studio’s design work is as chaotic as it appears. Behind the madness is a method which elevates their vibrant, contemporary design beyond the realms of trendy and into something actually very interesting, whether it’s an Honest Manifesto which claims that “everyone loves titles and captions” but they “don’t give a fuck about content” (repeated to fill) or a very well-executed poster advertising the studio’s 15-day tour around cities including Zagreb, Ljubljana, Dijon and Porto. The fact remains that Portugal-based Royal Studio are taking conventional graphic design and turning it on its head to see what happens, and we’re really enjoying admiring the results.

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    Adam Ferriss is one of those technologically-minded creatives who is able to put his ever-growing knowledge of code and processing to use building aesthetically wondrous digital art for the rest of us to enjoy. His images make me feel like I’ve just taken some psychedelics and stepped into one of those crazy houses you get in funfairs, where there are giant optical illusions on every wall and the floor keeps moving under your feet, except these are made using algorithms and coding frameworks and, for the moment at least, they don’t exist beyond the screen.

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    Three cheers to Portuguese illustrator Marta Monteiro for executing what I would have believed to be an entirely impossible feat; creating a series about tiny, lilliputian women living in a giant world without it being even the slightest bit cutesy. Her miniature characters are practically heroines; tying up villains with cotton from a giant reel, transporting a slice of pizza on their shoulders and playing tug of war with spaghetti, and all in the style which has won Marta commissions from some of the great champions of illustration out there, including the New York Times and NoBrow. This series has even been awarded a gold medal by the Society of Illustrators in the category of commissioned work, so if you don’t take our word for how brilliant it is, take theirs! here’s hoping for dreams of Borrowers for nights to come.

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    If, while walking down the street, flicking through a magazine or sitting on a bus recently you’ve found yourself looking at a movie poster, you’re probably in some way come into contact with the influence of Hans Hillmann. When the German graphic artist began producing film posters in 1953 at the height of the Modernist era, few realised he’d have such a profound effect on the industry, but his bold, Minimalist-inspired creations set a new standard for .

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    Photographer Viviane Sassen has crafted an aesthetic which operates way beyond the traditional confines of her medium. She’s previously made work which would be considered fashion photography, for example, but in which the clothes featured never seem to be the driving force behind the image. Similarly, her latest series Axiom toys with notions of light, colour and illusion in a way which seems to lean towards graphic art, but each image meshes the three elements together so effortlessly that you scarcely have time to ponder the idea behind it.

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    They don’t come much sharper than Sara Andreasson, the Swedish illustrator who was on the site back in March but who has posted so much new work on her website that we see fit to feature her again already. The Swede has been hard at work, creating commissions for The Debrief, New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone, toying with witty observations and reassuring block colour to demonstrate that she’s just as nimble whipping up images to suit a brief as she is with personal work. Her experiments with rasterisation and contrasting patterns are especially intriguing, hinting at a whole new technique which is ripe for exploration (and more of which can be seen of on her Tumblr.)

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    London-based photographer Catherine Losing is exactly our cup of tea; working with the crème de la crème of collaborators from set designers to food stylists, she takes photographs which are colourful, dynamic, bold and immediately recognisable. Unsurprisingly then, her bookshelf is among the very best-stocked of them all, complete with Martin Creed, Barbara Hepworth and Toilet Paper magazine, and most importantly they’re all seriously well-thumbed and chockablock with Post-its.

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    Julianna Brion is an editorial illustrator whose diverse portfolio houses projects for a bunch of fortunate clients. Like most creatives who make commissioned work though, when she’s not drawing to a brief she’s filling sketchbook after sketchbook with scrapbook-like doodles which are as beautiful, if not more so, than her finished images. Reclining figures, pastel dogs, picture-perfect houses and foliage all feature, rendered in a rainbow of acrylic paints and sketchy pencil. For me, looking at the sketchbook of a successful illustrator is kind of like peeping into the messy bedroom of an impossibly well-coiffed, super dapper gent. And who doesn’t like to be nosy?

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    Collage is definitely up there amongst the plasticines and the papier machés on my list of top ten media, and this short animation by Amy Lockhart and Marc Bell only makes me like it even more. It was made a grand total of five years ago which is basically a lifetime in the online world, and though Amy is still busily animating, painting and drawing like nobody’s business this is still the film in her portfolio that I love the most.

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    Trust Helsinki-based illustration agency Agent Pekka to sign up some of the best illustration we’ve seen in a long while without so much as a cough to show it off! They’ve just added French illustrator Jean-Michel Tixier to their books, and he looks set to be an amazing addition.

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    When it comes to brightly-coloured multimedia creations Mike Perry is king, and as far as we’re concerned there’s little chance of anybody threatening to knock him off his throne any time soon. As if to strengthen his case, he’s just made My Mother Caught Me Doodling, a 160 page hardback celebration of the female form, which sees Mike create tribute after tribute to ladies. Naked ladies.

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    Regardless of how much we love an epic view I imagine the majority of us will never climb Mount Everest, the 8,848 metre high mountain in the Himalayas which is home to one of the most incredible viewing points in the world. Fortunately for us there are web developers out there who can create simulations which are basically as good as the real thing. Almost.

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    I’m not sure what it is about the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague that means it spews out so much creative talent at such an alarming rate, but it certainly doesn’t show any sign of stopping soon. Here’s an example; Marinus Schepen hasn’t even graduated from his Graphic Design studies there just yet, but the work he’s creating is of such a calibre that we can’t help but share it any how.

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    There can be no question that ballet is one of the most enrapturing art forms out there, but I sometimes wonder if the archetypal representation of the dance as graceful, pristine and effortless quite does justice to the physicality of it. How refreshing is it to watch a short film about a ballerina, that doesn’t airbrush over the fingerprints on the mirror, the beads of sweat on the shoulder blades, the tremble of a lip as a dancer exhales?

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    You know those CDs of whale music you can buy at the tills in garden centres? If, rather than listening to those, everybody in need of a couple of minutes of downtime halfway through the afternoon could just take the time to watch The Ridge, the world would be much, much better place. It’s kind of a spectacular bit of filmmaking; filmed for Camp4 Collective in Denali National Park, Alaska, the camera sweeps across mountains buried in fluffy snow, rocky ridges brandishing over barren expanses of white and mountain faces that look curiously like old men’s faces (watch out for the moustachioed bloke at 1.40).

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    This identity that design studio Bleed have created for a new office building called Monier in Oslo, Norway, is heavily founded on the principles of the building itself, as well as the history of the site it has been built on. The idea for the logo is derived from the building’s three different window shapes, the studio explains, which are a key aspect of the building’s cubistic architecture.

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    There are several times in your life when you look quite ridiculous and have no choice but to embrace it; at the dentist, with a mouthful of rubber glove and some green gunge, for example, or when you’re playing Twister and you have to stretch from one end of the mat to the other with a single left foot. When you come out the end of a water slide is a pretty solid one too, as Krista Long points out; you’re too busy trying to retrieve your bikini bottoms from where they’ve disappeared to without swallowing vast amounts of pool water to even think twice about what you’re doing with your face. (Hint, you look hilarious.)

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    Thank God for Laura Callaghan! In an illustrated world saturated with images of pretty girls sweetly baking cupcakes, making daisy crowns and chasing after boys, she injects a much-needed dose of the sinister femme fatale. Her characters have undercuts and piercings instead of being clad head to toe in lace, they read lesbian magazines instead of Vogue and they wear vials of their lovers’ blood round their necks. What more could you want from a role model?

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    I always find it quite beguiling to look at contemporary artwork which looks like it belongs to another time, and Emma Hartvig’s oddly captivating images are a prime example of this kind of displacement. Born in Sweden but based in London, Emma photographs nudes, somehow succeeding in imbuing the human form with all of the surreal static energy of a Vermeer painting. Her photographs are shot through with shimmering satin and velvet which serves to frame her subjects as though they were pieces of half-decayed fruit carefully laid out ready to paint. What’s more, she does all of this through photography, pushing her camera to function as though it were a set of oils. The result is impressive and quietly beautiful.

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    There’s been a disproportionate amount of really fantastic portraiture flying round the It’s Nice That studios of late. I don’t know what’s prompted the sudden burst, but the number of photographers fine-tuning their ability to capture subtle nuances of a person’s character in accordance with their posture, their setting, the kind and colour of the clothes they wear and the distinct way they gaze into the lens, is astounding.

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    Let’s all give a big round of applause to the people behind Instagram who, in creating a convenient photo-based social media outlet, also paved the way for Instagram artists. If Instagram is the Impressionist salon of our time, then right at the forefront of this digital gallery is Kalen Hollomon, whose own brand of photo-collage is a tongue-in-cheek giggle at both the fashion industry and at commuters in general, and is hugely popular with it.

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    It’s fair to say that Interview magazine, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, had some serious sway over popular culture throughout the 1970s and 80s. With its pop art-driven aesthetic and its constant pursuit of features with the superstars of the day it has grown to occupy seminal status. And this is due in no small part to Richard Bernstein, the artist behind the publication’s iconic cover imagery.

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    Imagine going to a party with a bunch of your favourite creatives and each picking up a paintbrush, a pot of ink, and creating the drawing equivalent of a huge, diverse orgy on a very long piece of paper. I’m sure for some people that kind of malarkey is the norm, but for most of us, we need the help of an organising body in making experimental ideas and collaborative practice come to life. Enter Sumi Ink Club, the participatory drawing project we first wrote about three years ago which was founded in 2005 by LA-based artists Sarah Rara (I know, right) and Luke Fishbeck. For 13 years now they’ve been the source behind a string of public meeting planned by anybody, anytime, which seek to mirror open social interactions with the act of putting paintbrush to paper.

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    I’d venture to say that there are few things better than when a fresh new graduate who you’d imagined was bumbling around in the wasteland that usually follows the end of a degree at art school, suddenly presents an incredible piece of work. You’d assumed they were slugging back Bacardi Breezers and sleeping on their mum’s sofa, when the whole time they were actually grafting away on a project to make your eyes widen and your mouth drool.

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    Design and animation are maybe a bit overlooked when it comes to selecting people whose bookshelves we’d like to share with you. With that in mind this week’s collection comes from the very lovely folks at interactive design and animation studio Animade. They recently incorporated Hover Studio into their midst too, making them collectively one of our favourite groups of creative brains in a five mile radius. Their bookshelf has a serious digital and animation lean, so budding animators and interactive designers, gather round to find out the tomes that’ll yield the secrets of your trade.