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Doppelganger by Gestalten

5 May

Images of the Human Being

I would like to preface this review by stating that this book contains the most astounding visuals I have ever seen. Have you ever seen a man with a half eaten face of cake? Laid eyes on a regular fellow who happens to assemble the features of his face like Mr Potato Man? Seen a girl with eyelashes the colours and length of the rainbow?

Doppelganger explores images of the human being in an array of different contexts. Sometimes the body is explored as an entity in itself and is pictured merely in its usual form, perhaps jogging or climbing up a wall as depicted by Willi Dorner. At other times completely manmade art works are made to resemble the human body, for example by artists such as Antony Gormley. Frequently an image of a human being will just be doctored to create an other-worldly concept of what is human. Whatever the method, these images are designed to shock and to invoke deep thought in those who receive them.

Upon observing these images, we are compelled to feel attached and react strongly to them because we can relate to clearly to them; these are body parts which we have ourselves and they are presented in a strange or unconceivable way. Any reader, old or young, male or female, would thoroughly enjoy exploring the possibilities of what could potentially be made of the limbs and features that they take for granted should they inject them with a little paint or a block of ice. An absolute must for fans of the bizarre, this book is truly mind-boggling.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Doppelganger is published by Gestalten and will blow your mind for £37.50.

If you liked this, you may also like Hyperactivitypography by Gestalten.

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Lust: A Travelling Art Journal of Graphic Designers by James Victore

22 Mar

What would you do given complete freedom?

In a quest to explore the possibilities of limitless creative freedom, James Victore sent blank workbooks to an array of graphic designers all over the world (with an address headed, “if LUST please return to”). They were instructed to fill it with their dream jobs, passions and things that they lusted after. After sifting through the books of over forty graphic designers, from golden oldies to new found talent, James presented his findings in this kooky little book.

One of his own designs was quite funny, a billboard that said ‘life is what happens when you are busy texting. Kill your i-Phone’. Another design by Claudia Schmauder was so sweet and liberating, an illustration of lots of brightly coloured birds and a tagline that wished that she could free those that were captured. Things like these were quick to evoke a philosophical contemplation and amounted to a contemplative read. Other designers like Catherine Zask disappointed me; her contribution was merely a few smudges and a couple of words on the page. Although the concept of the book was to explore the wildest dreams of other designers, in reading the book I was hoping to gain an insight into the personality and imagination of each person within it and a couple of these contributions did not enable this to happen. An interview with each contributor is featured at the end of the book to enlighten the reader in regard to the pieces they have seen. With this in mind, LUST has a fantastic variety of design styles that would be brilliant to accompany a discussion on how we really define art.

A la Mode Appraisal: 7/10. A brilliant concept, but points are deducted for the price of this book. It is a little more expensive when considering that it is a scrapbook, albeit a very fascinating one.

LUST is published by Rockport Publishers and will act as a coffee table conversation starter for £20.00.

If you liked this, you may also like Hyperactivitypography by Gestalten.

Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators by Sha Tahmasebi

20 Mar

Scan, trace, copy: 250 templates for professional results

What a fascinating thing the imagination is. Without need for evaluating budget, practicality or feasibility, one can invent all sorts of wild and wonderful things and allow them to exist happily in their own mind’s eye. Unfortunately for fashion designers, this creativity needs to translate into fabulous drawings if it is ever going to manifest itself in a show stopping garment. With this in mind, Sha Tahmasebi has composed Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators to teach designers how to express their ideas with paper and pencil.

Divided into three main chapters, Dynamic Fashion Figures, Basic Garment Blocks and Rendering Techniques, Sha teaches her readers how to sketch the body in a number of positions and in relation to lots of different garments and styles of clothing. For instance, she may use this sexier silhouette for something like an underwear sketch. As well as providing tips and hints for how to sketch correctly, Sha also ensures that she provides lots of information about fashion terminology so that students understand the facts and figures behind their creations. This would prove particularly useful for the budding business fashionista.

Not only does Sha provide an understanding of shapes and garments, but she also gives the reader suggestions for creating the illusion of different textures in shading and how to digitally enhance images. By including finishing touches like these, sketches can be transformed into concepts and thus the reader is capable of presenting completely refined designs. A CD is included with over 250 copyright-free images and the pages of the book include lots of different sketched figures, allowing for easy scanning, tracing or copying. Spoilt for choice when deciding how to create these images, it is merely up to the student to inject the sketched figures with wild and wonderful clothes. This book would be a brilliant starting point for budding fashion illustrators as it contains a perfect combination of beginner’s tips and professional touches.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators is published by Search Press and will teach you to sketch the perfect silhouette for just £14.99 – an absolute steal when considering the CD of images that is also included.

If you liked this book you may also like Fashion Drawing in Vogue by William Packer.

Hyperactivitypography from A to Z by Gestalten

13 Mar

Have you ever wondered about the craftsmanship of typography? Do you pay attention to fonts of the many pieces of writing you may encounter in a day, from a newspaper to a magazine or a graphically delightful website? If not, it is time to go back to school and the best way to learn is to mix hyperactivity with typography in Hyperactivitypography.

In this retro-style playful workbook, Gestalten take us back to childhood with simple and easy to learn facts and exercises so that we can improve our knowledge of typography. Hyperactivity comes into play in a mesmerising array of colours, tasks and graphics along the way. The workbook is divided into chapters from A to Z, with each letter representing something – e.g. ‘G is for Grotesque’. Every time you enter a new chapter, you are encouraged to suggest both a typographical term and a typeface beginning with that letter.

Although presented in a tongue-in-cheek youthful manner, Hyperactivitypography is actually a brilliant tool for anyone wishing to brush up on their knowledge of PostScripts and jumplines. It is presented so whimsically that you can’t help but want to participate in the presented activities – from a mini maze to a true or faux exercise – and results in a knowledge of an intricate writing world that you can’t help but relate to every written word you look upon thereafter. An absolute must for any graphic designers and a lovely treat for those wishing to revel in the nostalgia of their youth.

A la Mode Appraisal: 9/10 (1 mark deducted for the slightly higher price).

Hyperactivitypography is published by Gestalten and can inspire you to type tantalisingly for £17.99.

If you liked this, you may like 1001 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art by Christian Campos.

Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 by Vincenzo Sguera

20 Feb

You can practically hear the drums, smell the incense and see the red glow of the sunset. With an array of beautiful graphics to offer, Vincenzo Sguera’s Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 is the perfect source for anyone looking to add a splash of bohemia to any given project.

A book of incredible patterns, Ethno Pop Textures gives examples of a huge variety of ethnically inspired prints and then comes complete with a disc of 100 designs that are free and ready to use. Pop Textures really is the best phrase to use for this book; bright colours bring the effervescence of classic pop culture but the wide range of pattern configurations provided communicate endless opportunity in terms of texture.

A particular theme I picked up on throughout the book was that it was quite tribal; all patterns had a very earthy feel to them, with lots including pictures of animals or plants in their make-up. Patterns were featured in the book quite accordingly by colour. Since each colour scheme had lots of different textures to accompany it, it was great to know that once you had narrowed down your selection of shades you still had lots of variety in patterns.

If you are about to create something that requires a little hippy-chic, perhaps a new fair-trade website or an ethically sourced clothing line, then the images in this Vincenzo Sguera book are for you. A pricey addition to your bookshelf, maybe, but a crisp and vibrant selection for your creative ventures.

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

Ethno Pop Textures Volume 1 by Vincenzo Sguera is published by Arkivia Books and will bring some ethnic magic to your work for £67.50.

Like I Give a Frock by Michi Girl

9 Feb

Following the fun I had reading Michi Girl’s Michipedia of Fashion, I decided to take a step backwards and indulge in her first book, Like I Give a Frock. With the tagline detailing ‘fashion forecasts and meaningless misguidance’, I began to read in the hope of finding more quirky anecdotes from my new favourite fictional character. The creation of Chloe Quigley and Daniel Pollock, Michi Girl is a fashionista weather girl who loves to give sarcastic opinions on the world of fashion with sprinkled references to the elements poking through along the way.

This light read is divided into four sections in accordance with the seasons and offers whimsical fashion advice to suit each time of year. In her usual arty manner, Michi Girl expresses her views on all sorts of fashion topics with illustrations and collages that please the eye endlessly. Using paints, pencils, textures and whatever else she can lay her hands on, Michi Girl likes to show the reader exactly what she means. Having painted a beautiful paisley print on a pair of skousers (skirt and trousers) in the Autumn chapter, she suggests the following: “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and the most effective. Skousers are the lowest form of garment and the least attractive”. Later she goes on to illustrate the locks of a beautiful lady and inscribes in the colour of her hair, “no one looks good in mustard. Unless of course you’re a hot dog”. A little bit erratic, these snippets of information are highly amusing but seem to lack the structure of her later Michipedia of Fashion. I would recommend it as a gift as opposed to an investment, and can say whole heartedly that it will bring joy to the eyes of art lovers.

A la Mode Appraisal: 7/10

Like I Give a Frock is published by Apple Press and is available for £12.99.

If you like this, you might also like What on Earth Are You Wearing? A Michipedia of Fashion by Michi Girl.

1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art by Christian Campos

8 Feb

“Art or vandalism? If I had a dollar for every time…”

This very question is one posed at the beginning of the book, one that chooses to celebrate the rise in beautiful urban and street art and to abolish the small mindedness of those who see graffiti as nothing more than a nuisance. Featuring ‘murals, tags and more from artists around the world’, this book contains little words and chooses instead to focus on the powerful imagery that it embraces.

Varying in presentation from full page feature images to collages of complimentary street art pieces, 1000 Ideas mixes images of art from all over the world and by different artists. In addition to featuring lots of well known larger cities, smaller places were also featured to enable lots of readers to relate to an area or place – I was delighted to spot my hometown of Birmingham in the mix. A number is featured in the corner of each image and further referenced in detail at the bottom of the page, allowing the reader to identify the artists of their favourite pieces but not interrupting the visuals.

To conclude, a directory detailing relevant websites of each artist is included. In not providing any opinions or text, Christian Campos allows the reader to form their own opinions and focuses on enlightening them about lots of varied street art pieces in order for them to do this.

I unearthed a new favourite street artist named Pariz One along the way. Whenever I was taken by a piece in a collage, it just so happened that it would usually be his! Visit his blog by following the link below and you will find lots of examples of the kind of beautiful art that is featured in 1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art.

http://pariz-one.blogspot.com/

Perfect for those looking to begin their knowledge of street art or indeed pioneers merely wishing to indulge within it, this book would be an inspiring and fascinating conversation starter for any urban coffee table.

A la Mode Appraisal: 8/10

1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art is published by Rockport Publishers and is available for £25.00.

If you liked this you may also like Street Art Contemporary Prints by Riikka Kuittinen.

Street Art Contemporary Prints by Riikka Kuittinen

17 Jan

Perception is one of the most fascinating notions, particularly when related to art. Differences in perception can lead to so many varying interpretations of a piece of art. Riikka draws upon this sentiment at the beginning of Street Art and reminds us to consider that the very phenomenon that we are reading about was once perceived by some as nothing more than graffiti. For this reason, Riikka leaves personal interpretations to a minimum and instead chooses to allow the prints themselves to speak to each individual reader accordingly.

Compiled using street art prints that have been collected by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the book is mainly a visual guide to street art highlights from all over the world. Prints are celebrated as an “affordable and democratic medium” and the ability to spread such art on a large scale is a point of discussion, “it is no coincidence that the escalators of the London Underground are a popular site for street-art stickers”. Artists such as Banksy, Sweet Toof and Evoker provide examples of art forms from screen prints to stickers and therefore take art from places such as the back of a skateboard to a theatre installation. The collection is punctuated with small explanatory sections and divided in accordance with topics of focus. Rather than giving extended detail on artists in particular, areas such as ‘Politics and Propaganda’ are presented with examples of established artists. The words in the book are not perhaps as important as the visuals and it seems that to engage with the art is the main task at hand when reading. Street Art itself is covered with a paper print of ‘Time Waits for No Man’ by Kerry Roper for the reader to enjoy at their own leisure.

My favourite piece was ‘CMYK’ by Blu.

Concluded with a small paragraph about each featured artist and details of websites to look to for more street art inspiration, this book would be a lovely addition either to an art fanatic’s book shelf or those who are looking to begin their street art education.

A la Mode Appraisal: 7/10

Street Art Contemporary Prints is published by V&A Publishing and will amuse and bemuse you for £14.99.

If you liked this you may also like 1000 Ideas for Graffiti and Street Art by Christian Campos.

What On Earth Are You Wearing? A Michipedia of Fashion by Michi Girl

16 Jan

“If you haven’t heard of Michi Girl, don’t worry, she hasn’t heard of you either.”

Welcome to the world of Michi Girl, a fictional weather girl created by Chloe Quigley and Daniel Pollock and “brought to life” by the illustrations of Kat Macleod. In a follow up to her first book, Like I Give A Frock, Michi Girl has released a Michipedia of Fashion that alphabetises common industry terms and gives playful explanations for them.

Before I began reading the book I was completely taken by its beautiful artwork. Both Michi Girl and the pages that she graces have been sketched and painted in many lovely configurations that have been accentuated further with different fabrics, prints and textures.  Once I had absorbed the prettiness of the book I embarked upon indulging in what I thought would be an idiots guide to fashion and, oh, how wrong I was! Michi Girl’s Michipedia is in fact a satirical guide to fashion for its knowing insiders. She combines quirky explanations for simple fashion terms and a few well crafted in jokes to amuse and inform her reader. Some examples:

Chicken Fillets: the breast friends of an A-cup.

Chanel: Old money.

Lycra: No.

Wig: In the words of a two-year-old I know, ‘a hair hat’.

In addition to acting as a fashion informant, Michi Girl also acts as a tongue-in-cheek agony aunt in little question and answer segments that punctuate the Michipedia. When she receives a letter from someone who was upset to have purchased a fake Chanel handbag her response began like this:

“Born in the early 70s to humble factory workers Louis Veeton and Donna Kebab, Cocoa Channel quickly made a name for herself in the fast fashion industry sewing upside-down crocodiles on polo shirts at her uncle’s Lacrock factory.”

Whether you’re a sucker for sweet, artsy creations or someone who knows their Dior from their Dolce and is looking for a giggle, this Michipedia is the perfect way to celebrate fashion whilst poking some fun at it at the same time. I guarantee you’ll end up being transfixed by the Michi Girl website too!

www.michigirl.com

A la Mode Appraisal: 10/10

What On Earth Are You Wearing? Is published by Apple Press and will brighten up your bookshelf (and your mood) for £12.99.

If you liked this you may also like Bethanie Lunn’s The Modern Girls Guide to Fabulousness.

Fashion Drawing in Vogue by William Packer

11 Jan

Unveiling the intricate art work behind the gowns and garments that have tantalised readers of Vogue magazine worldwide for years, Fashion Drawing in Vogue gives fashion enthusiasts a rare glimpse into the artistic craftsmanship behind some of the most elegant designs of the century. Focusing predominantly on Vogue from 1909, the year in which it was taken over by Condé Nast, William Packer explores the sketches behind the clothing and how other art movements managed to influence fashion respectively. Packer presents highlights of sketches from seven decades (1920s-80s) of Vogue.

My favourite chapter was one entitled ‘1935 – 1946: Romantic Expressionism and applied Surrealism, Vogue’s eye on society in peace and war’. It begins by giving context to what was happening in the world at this time, speaking of the Great Depression in America and mass unemployment in England for instance. It is stated that “there is a war on, but London life somehow continues, perhaps even more sociable and high-spirited than ever”. Endless sketches of beautiful women give a visual to the usual standards of classic beauty; high cheek bones, small pouted lips and fluttering eye lashes are in abundance. Links between the war and fashion are also established; for example, were you aware that Michael de Brunhoff, editor of French Vogue during the second world war, closed down the publication in the summer of 1940 and did not resume it until the Liberation? I often feel that the fashion industry is overlooked as something superficial and intimidating. Books like this prove fabulously that fashion is merely an extension of society and situations and in appreciating it you can perhaps gain a further understanding of the world around you. (Failing that, you can feel fabulous and brighten it up a little bit!)

The presentation of this book is as sophisticated and chic as Vogue itself. Broken into sections of pink, white and glossy pages, it is easy to decipher different sections and quickly skim to the silky photographs that accompany them. Although we are often told not to judge a book by its cover, it seems unfair not to note that the appearance of this one is delicate and pretty, much like the sketches inside it.

Perfect for art history students, this collection of coveted names (the likes of Edouard Benito, Paul Iribe and Douglas Pollard among them) and ravishing designers amounts to a collection that is as exquisite as it is informative. A classy and indulgent book perfect for all fashion and art lovers.

A la Mode Appraisal: 9/10

Fashion Drawing in Vogue is published by Thames & Hudson and will enlighten you about the process from pencil to Prada for £19.95.