2008 Best Graphic Novel Lists

2008 Best Graphic Novel Lists
Ahhh…, it’s that time of year, the scramble through the barrage of “Buy this!” “Buy that!”, mall stuffing, parking lot screaming, credit card swinging, Scotch tape sticking, present buying madness; however tempered it may be this year by the ongoing Collapse of Western Civilization.

So, just as sure as the days shorten, lists appear, guiding us through the maze of what to buy and what was good this year.

In lieu of attempting a list myself, given the sorry state of my “yet to be read” book and comics stack, I give you a short list of lists; in this case lists of the year’s best graphic novels and comics related books as suggested by various sources.

Drawn!: Favourite Comics and Art Books of 2008 Part 1: Matt’s picks

Drawn!: Favourite Comics and Art Books of 2008 Part 2: John’s picks

io9: 10 Graphic Novels That Make Thrilling Gifts

New York Magazine: Top Ten Graphic Novels – The 2008 Culture Awards

Vanguard: Top 10 graphic novels and comics of 2008

NPR: Best Graphic Novels of 2008

NPR: Best Superhero Graphic Novels

Times Online: Christmas Books 2008: Graphic Novels

Booklist Online: Top 10 Graphic Novels: 2008

Comic Book Galaxy: ADD Blog Best of 2008

ALA: 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Amazon.com: Best Books of 2008: Comics & Graphic Novels

Publisher’s Weekly: Best Books of the Year (scroll down for Comics)

ICv2 – Amazon & PW’s 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2008 (above two lists compared)

(Images above: Coraline Graphic Novel, Sky Doll, Fables Covers, All-Star Superman Vol. 1, Tekkon Kinkreet Black & White, Alice in Sunderland)


American Impressionism from the Phillips Collection

Childe Hassam - Washington Arch
Those who have been reading Lines and Colors for a while will know that I have a particular fondness for many of the late 19th, early 20th Century painters referred to as “American Impressionists”. (I put the phrase in quotes because I doubt the painters ever referred to themselves in those terms.)

The Phillips Collection is a museum collection in Washington, D.C. that has strengths in that time period in both modern and Impressionist works from Europe and America.

A selection of American Impressionist paintings from the collection has been arranged into a traveling exhibit, and is currently on view as the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

The Oklahoma City Museum has an online feature that displays some of the paintings in the exhibit, with a voice over narration about the works and the artists.

The Phillips Collection site has a Timeline of American Art, and a list of American Art in the collection that you can view alphabetically with an image of each work.

In many cases, like Childe Hassam’s beautiful painting of Washington Arch, Spring (image above), there is a more extensive feature and a Zoomable version of the image (also see my post on Childe Hassam).

In addition to Hassam, the exhibit includes works by Theodore Robinson, John Henry Twatchman, Julian Alden Weir, Ernest Lawson, William Glackens, Helen Turner and Gifford Beal. I was pleased to see that some of the “Pennsylvania Impressionists” were included, like William Lathrop, John Folinsbee and Robert Spencer. There is also at least one piece by George Inness, though he was not an Impressionist painter.

American Impressionism from the Phillips Collection is on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art until January 18, 2009.

The exhibit will then travel to the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach Florida from March 13 to April 15, 2009; and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe from June 5 to September 13, 2009.

There is a 192 page book accompanying the exhibit, American Impressionists: Painters of Light and the Modern Landscape by Susan Behrends Frank, though it doesn’t seem to be in stock from Amazon; it should be available at the exhibit in all of the locations.

[Via Art Knowledge News]


Anamorphic Art

Anamorphic Art - Andrea Pozzo, Istvan Orosz
An anamorphosis is an image that is distorted in such a way that it only assumes the proportions of recognizable forms when viewed from a certain angle, or by reflection in a curved surface.

The term comes from the Greek anamorphoun, to transform. Anamorphic images have a long history in art. The earliest examples in Western art are found in Leonardo’s notebooks, though anamorphic images may have been developed in Chinese art around the same time.

Anamorphic perspective was employed in the illusionistic painting of church vaults, like those of Andrea Pozzo (image above, top, large version here) and Andrea Mantegna, but it has most often appeared in art as a curiosity or entertainment; or been used for the creation of hidden or secret images, requiring a matching mirrored surface to reveal their true nature.

Anamorphic images can be of as much interest to scientists as they are to artists, as NewScientist reports in their mention of a recent seminar on technical aspects of anamorophic art at the London Knowledge Lab; and an event at the National Gallery in London called Curious Perspective: Anamophosis in Art.

The NewScientist article is accompanied by a slideshow of anamorphic images.

The event at the National Gallery in London centered on the wonderfully enigmatic painting The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger, which is in their permanent collection. I devoted a post to The Ambassadors in 2006.

One of the notable modern applications of artistic anamorphosis that is missing from the NewScientist article (and many other resources) is the use of anamorphic images in sidewalk art, as exemplified by the work of Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner.

You can also add to the list the illusionistic point-of-view dependent paintings of Felice Varini and the modern continuation of traditional anamorphic art by István Orosz (image above, bottom). I’ve gathered some other anamorphic art resources below.

[NewScientist article link via Digg]


Dan Dos Santos’ “Top 10 SF/F Art Websites of 2008”

Dan Dos Santos
As part of the SF Signal year end round up of The Best Genre-Related Books/Films/Shows Consumed in 2008, illustrator Dan Dos Santos has posted his Top 10 SF/F Art Websites of 2008, in which he was kind enough to list Lines and Colors (thanks, Dan).

The list includes some sites I’ve specifically written posts about, including Gorilla Artfare and the amazing Tor.com site (with its SF/F art gallery); as well as many that I’ve linked to in the course of posts about various artists.

It prominently mentions the always fascinating Gurney Journey, which is where I found out about the list. (Gurney’s blog had gone way beyond its original premise and has become a combination of art travelogue, insightful looks at art history and one of the best art instructional sites on the web.)

Of course, Dos Santos’ list also gives me a great excuse to post more of his own terrific artwork (above). When visiting his site, don’t miss the Wallpapers section of his gallery, where you can see a few detail crops from his images in high enough resolution to see his brushwork (image above, bottom).


Shaun Tan on InFrame.tv

Shaun Tan talks about The Lost Thing animated short son InFrame.tv
InFrame.tv, a video podcast out of Melbourne, Australia with a focus on arts, design and culture, has a nicely done segment on multi-talented illustrator and author Shaun Tan, who I wrote about previously here and here.

In it, Tan talks about the adaptation of one of his books, The Lost Thing (images at top) into a CGI animated short feature.

The animated short is being produced by Passion Pictures Australia, and is set for release late next year. There is a page about the project on Tan’s site.

Incidentally, since my last post about Shaun tan, I picked up a copy of another of his books, The Arrival, and it is absolutely wonderful, even more beautiful than the preview images would lead you to believe. This wordless narrative is a story that combines down to earth emotional images with brilliantly imaginative flights of visual fancy. Drawn entirely in pencil and printed in various sepia tones, it’s one of the most delightful “graphic novels” I’ve seen in recent years.

I now have The Lost Thing on my list, and I’m looking forward to seeing the animated adaptation, particularly because of Tan’s intimate involvement with the production.

[Via Drawn!]


Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa

Genetic Programming: Evolution of Mona Lisa
Trial and error.

What artist has not at some point resorted to “I’ll just try this and see if it looks better.“?

You might say that, in light of Darwin’s model of natural selection, nature itself does the same: make a genetic mutation or two, or a billion, and see what works.

Swedish programmer Roger Alsing has created a playful experiment in “genetic programming” applied to image making, in which he wrote a small program for rendering 50 translucent polygons into an image area.

He set it to mutate slightly with each iteration, so that each pass of the program produces a different distribution of the polygons (the “genetic mutation”).

The fact that the polygons are translucent allows for many smaller subtle shapes within the composition, produced by overlapping areas of color, like laying an area of yellow glaze over both blue and green shapes in an oil painting.

At the end of each rendering sequence, the program uses a “fitness function”, basically a small routine to compare the resultant image pixel by pixel with a target image, in this case an image of the Mona Lisa.

Based on the “fitness” of the image, the program keeps either the new “dna” or the existing “dna”, whichever is more like the target, as the basis of the next mutation and iteration.

Trial and error. Survival of the fittest.

There is a selection of images on Alsing’s blog showing various renders, from which I’ve pulled a few representative samples, above. (For those who are programmatically inclined, there is also a faq with some of the basics.)

Under each of the sample images is a filename that shows the number of times the program had to run to reach that particular image.

The one at bottom-right shows 904,314 incidences of “I’ll just try this and see if it looks better“.

[Via Kottke]