Illustration for educational books has become ever more inventive in recent years, diversifying a medium that has vast creative potential, and Wide Eyed Edition’s recent release Illumanatomy is symbolic of this shift. The large format book is filled cover to cover with full bleed, intricate, three-colour illustrations by Milan-based duo Carnovsky depicting the human body in three layers. Using a set of lenses that come with the book, you can see the skeleton (through the red lens), the muscles (through the green lens) and the organs (through blue) and learn facts about the details of each image. It uses a technique made famous by Carnovsky in 2010 for its RGB wallpaper that revealed different images under different lights.
“We wanted the illustrations to be immersive,” explains the book’s designer Nicola Price. “We filled the pages to the edges, and the book has a large trim so a small child can lay the book out and really dive into the artworks. We aimed to keep the Victorian etching aesthetic that Carnovsky always uses, but make sure the book was factually accurate – which was tricky as we now know that Victorian etchings aren’t accurate. We also wanted a lot of depth, so you feel like you’re stripping away the layers as you use the lens, finding something new each time.”
Carnovsky adds: “We’ve always been fascinated by ancient anatomical prints. Aesthetically the idea was to have images that are correct, anatomically, but at the same time evocative, and not too scary because in the end we’re creating a children’s book. For us the problem when facing this subject is the risk that the educational aspect overcomes the aesthetic one – that’s why we’ve played with dramatic cuts and angles, inspired by films or comic book framing techniques.” The duo also used enlarged details, sometimes larger than life scale, placed figures on the page “as if they were characters interacting with each other in a sort of narrative”.
The book follows Illuminature, also illustrated by the Italian studio, featuring collage scenes of natural habitats around the world. “We loved how decorative and vibrant the pages were, and couldn’t see why we shouldn’t be able to bring that artistic approach to a more educational subject.” Introductory spreads follow a similar format, displaying collages of microscopic elements overlaid with medical diagrams. Then closer cropped, “X-rays” focus on different parts of the human body. “The effect is really striking, abstract artwork,” says author Kate Davies. “We kept the structure, content and text simple and educational, because we wanted this to be a really useful non-fiction book as well as a beautiful art book.”