Televolution - Malcolm McNeilTelevolution is an animated short by Malcolm McNeil, who I have written about previously here and here.

Originally shown in Japan in 1990, when some of the the tech he suggests was almost prophetic, the animation is meant to salute the birthday of Charles Darwin (an event that just passed again recently).

McNeill traces the course of evolution in a few whimsical steps, and suggests how things might go from here.


Van Gogh’s Letters

Van Gogh's Letters
Anyone who has read Dear Theo, the book of Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his brother, which, in essence, is a kind of autobiography, knows that the popularized image of the artist as an uncouth, irrational, semi-literate wild man, stabbing at the canvas in frantic desperation like a crazed orangutan, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Though certainly emotionally troubled, Van Gogh was a thoughtful, well read and articulate individual, whose insights, observations and accounts of his personal journey as an artist are illuminating on many levels.

Van Gogh wrote hundreds of letters, a number of which contain sketches, or even well developed drawings, that frequently presage his paintings or refer to the circumstances under which they were painted. Together, they form an account of the artist’s life and work that is unlike anything we have from other major artists.

There are several other collections of Van Gogh’s letters, from those specific to a particular time in the artist’s life, like Vincent Van Gogh – Letters from Provence (The illustrated letters), to more comprehensive collections like Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Touchstone), The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Penguin Classics) and Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (Bulfinch).

The latest and most deluxe collection, which should soon be available, is Vincent van Gogh — The Letters (Thames & Hudson) (details here), a multi volume set collecting all of his letters with new transcriptions and translations, reproductions of the illustrated letters and reproductions of all of the works that are referred to in the letters. It promises to be a unique study of the artist and his work, told from the artist’s point of view; but at a list price of $600 U.S. ($480 on Amazon), it’s not exactly a mass market collection.

The book set accompanies a new exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (choose a language at the upper left), called Van Gogh’s letters: the artist speaks, that showcases many of his letters from the museum’s collection and displays them with related paintings and drawings, forming an exhibition in which the artist, in effect, provides the commentary on his own work.

The exhibition runs until the 3rd of January, 2010, but it is part of a larger project, in which the letters were reexamined and photographed in preparation for both the exhibit and the book; and the museum has mounted excellent web resources that will continue after the exhibition has closed.

There is a web site devoted to the project at that is essentially a comprehensive, online, databased version of the book project. It can be searched by period, correspondent or place; or filtered for letters with sketches. There are also advanced search capabilities and background features on the artist, his time, the people with whom he was corresponding and more.

The letters are displayed as original text, translated, with notes and facsimile reproductions of the letters themselves, as well as reproductions of artwork (by Van Gogh and other artists) referred to in the letters.

It’s easy to miss the small links at top of the columns to the facsimile versions and artworks, and it’s worth looking through the Quick Guide they have offered to getting the most out of the resource (it pops up by default the first time you access the letters).

As if this wasn’t enough to delight lovers of Van Gogh’s work, the museum is also maintaining a wonderful Van Gogh Blog, in which letters form the artist are posted daily, giving the effect of the artist writing a daily blog post, or corresponding with you personally on a daily basis (whichever appeals to your disposition). The posts are accompanied with drawings and sketches.

The blog just started in the beginning of October, so you can catch up and then read a daily post from Van Gogh to start your day. Wonderful.

Addendum: Peacay has posted a very nice article with images and quotes from the letters on Bibliodyssey.


Nate Wragg

Nate Wragg
I came across illustrator and animation concept artist Nate Wragg from his participation in the Terrible Yellow Eyes project, and was delighted with his work.

Wragg is a member of Pixar Studios, and worked on the cartoon Pursuit. He also was an illustrator for the children’s book Too Many Cooks (Ratatouille), as well as being the author/illustrator of several other books, which you can find listed and linked on the right column of his blog.

The blog has posts about his illustrations, commissioned art and work in progress. He also has prints and art for sale on his own site and on Gallery Nucleus.

Wragg works, at least in some pieces, in acrylic, gouache and paper collage. His wonderfully snappy, angular style shows the pedigree of his work in animation; as does his knack for creating lively, offbeat characters. There is an interview on the Character Design blog.

Wragg also uses a controlled palette to great advantage, with many pieces that are are almost monochromatic or duotone, in which a few carefully chosen color passages make the entire image pop.


Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see (TED Talk)

Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see (TED Talk)
Beau Lotto, of Lottolab, a combination art studio and science lab, has a talk on TED, a conference started in 1984 to bring together bright lights from the disciplines of Technology, Entertainment and Design.

These talks are almost always informative, entertaining and brain-ticklingly thought provoking. Some are on art (see my post on The Face of Leonardo?).

In this particular talk, Lotto utilizes several familiar but striking optical illusions (see my previous posts on some of them here and here), plus a few others, but goes beyond the usual concerns of the mechanics of vision into the questions of why we see as we do, why these particular illusions work, and how the way we see functions in our adaptation to the world.

The LottoLab site includes some articles and features on related subjects.

Much of the talk is about the nature of color, and in particular about a point that I often mention as perhaps the single most important thing I have ever learned about color, color mixing and color perception — that context is everything.


World War I Poster Archive in the Library of Congress

World War I Poster Archive in the Library of Congress
The venerable U.S. Library of Congress, that vast and vastly underestimated trove of knowledge and culture from the nation’s past, keeps moving more and more of its treasures out onto the web, which is a Good Thing for knowledge and culture lovers of all stripes.

The Prints and Photographs Collection, among its other treasures, has a searchable archive of wartime posters from World War I. The posters are from all viewpoints, and are usually dedicated to promoting their individual viewpoints in an effort to influencing the outcome of that conflict in one way or another (see my post on Propaganda Posters). To that end many artists and illustrators, some historically renowned, were employed in their creation.

The archive can be browsed in a default sequence (the basis of which is unclear), or by category; and can also be searched.

Each image has a higher resolution JPEG version and an even higher resolution archival TIFF file. There is also bibliographic information on the poster, including, where known, the artist’s name.

Some are more interesting than others, of course, and it takes a little digging, but there are some gems to be found.

[Via MetaFilter]


Brynn Metheny – The Morae River

Brynn Metheny - The Morae River
Brynn Metheny is a freelance illustrator based in Oakland, California who loves to draw imaginary creatures.

Metheny has taken this fascination with made-up animals and extended it to the point of conjuring up an entire continent, Orcura, through which flows The Morae River. The river basin has a bestiary and a Classification of Species to describe the animals that inhabit it.

The Morae River project is laid out in its own web site, complete with descriptions of the animals, their habitats and behavior. Animals like the Blue-Throated Hulompolus and the Red Tailed Mardik share characteristics of real animals, arranged in fanciful ways and portrayed with what appear to be pencil and watercolor drawings (though the color may be digital, I don’t know).

I like the way the sketch-like pencil drawing of the animals’ environment is often left in place and color is applied only to the animal, leaving a nice contrast of combined media in the same piece.

Metheny also has a blog and a web site, as well as pieces on

[Via LCSV4]