Review: Gil Elvgren All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups

Gil ElvgrenGil Elvgren: All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups

Gil Elvgren: All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups is a 240 paged 9x12in hardcover book that documents some of the best in pin-up illustrations from the twentieth century. I actually picked up this book not being too familiar with Gil Elvgren himself but just interested in getting an illustration book of pin-ups. I’m really glad I did because not only was Gil Elvgren on the forefront of the pin-up & advertising illustrations period but his work within it was exceptional and he is without a doubt one of the masters of the American Pin-Up era. The book includes a 33 page essay by Charles G. Martignette about Elvgren that is very well written and gives a lot of context to era and other artists at the time. As for the artwork featured in this book it includes his illustrations of pin-ups and mostly does not include any of his photography or advertisement work that didn’t contain pin-ups besides a few. There are a total of 534 illustrations featured in this book, each including the name and date of each piece. While it certainly leaves nothing out I would have preferred that the book was organized differently. Though it still beautifully styled and easy to see each illustration it suffers from being very overcrowded and often having too much going on the in places. I much prefer the pages that feature a solid white background over the ones they choose to add color blocking to. However over all I understand the want to show and feature all his work so it’s easy to overlook the design choices. I honestly love this book and haven’t even given it enough time because there is simply just so much to see. Even though I was not familiar with him prior to buying the book, I was definitely familiar with his work just from seeing it in passing and I’m sure most people recognize classic pin-ups of his so it is a great book if you are interested in pin-up illustrations. I am much happier with this book that I think I would have been buying a pin-up genre book instead. Most genre type books are far too plenty so it’s hard to find one that is of good quality and I think this book even though it only of one artist of the period it really encapsulates what it was all about. I highly recommended if like me you are just dipping your toes into pin-up artwork or a hard-core fan, and if you want to have a sneak peak there is a look below.

a closer look at the book:

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Spring Reads

spring reads (11)I don’t know about you but I love hearing about what people around me are reading. However I find online most websites/blogs I run into are geared mostly to YA novels (which I have no interest in) or post about very niche genres that for someone like my who dips my toes into various genres it seems too hard-core (that probably isn’t the right word but that’s how it feels). For a long time now I’ve wanted to find a way to share what I’m currently into reading without having to necessary do a review. I think it is a great thing to share but I also don’t want to feel like I’m doing a High School book report. I love getting intellectual about art books which is why I review them but I honestly feel like I have very limited knowledge about the history of comic books for example so most of my insight wouldn’t be that in depth enough to justify a review. Spring Reads was born out of all that and hopefully I will be doing one post every season to share with you guys great books/comics/zines and everything in-between that I’m reading. Also no plant was harmed in the making of this post, I just happened to amputate one of my lovely vine plants (that had grown as long as the length of my kitchen) by accident right before I planned to take these photos and I thought what better way to immortalize is before it died than use it as a bit of decor.

Biography

spring reads (13)The Dirty Version: On Stage, in the Studio, and in the Streets with Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a biography of the late ODB by his best friend Budda Monk and rap historian Mickey Hess. I’m half way through reading this book and it’s a compelling read. I am a long-time fan of ODB, and never knew much about him beside his persona and Wikipedia page so I thought this would be a good read. The author Budda Monk can be self-severing at times but you do get a sense of what Dirty’s life was really like behind the scenes. Anyone with a deep connection with their best friend knows that they sometimes know us better than ourselves. While I love biographies of musicians and don’t think you necessary have to be a fan to read most of them, due to the writing style of this book I wouldn’t recommend it as a standalone but if you have any interest in his music or rap history in general this is worth it.

Art

spring reads (8) spring reads (6)Fischerspooner: New Truth is a larger than life book (book size pun – hoo hoo) about the synth-pop/performance artists group, put together by no other than Fischerspooner. It’s really a book for fans of the group so it’d probably not be very interesting to anyone else. They just happen to be one of my favourite musical artists so it was an easy decision to pick up. I do actually plan on reviewing this book sometime this summer, so far I have only skimmed it and it looks like it has promise but might suffer a bit from self-indulgence.

spring reads (9)Elvgren: All His Glamorous American Pin-Ups was actually a spur of the moment purchase last month and I am so glad I did. It’s a beautiful book showcasing many of Elvgrens pin-up illustrations; in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they managed to squeeze in all of them. Highly recommend if you love pin-ups or illustrations from that era. In fact I’d recommend it even if you aren’t – his work is sublime. I loved flipping through this book and I plan on doing a full review of it in early June.

Fantasy

spring reads (3)Tales from a Perilous Realm is a collection of fairie short stories from J.R.R. Tolkien, accompanied by illustrations from long time Tolkien illustrator Alan Lee. Included are the short stories: Farmer Giles of Ham, Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootton Major, Roverandom and poems of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Even though Tolkien is one of my favourite writers I just can’t seem to finish this book. I feel like I shouldered through most of this book so unless you are a Tolkien fanatic I’d probably skip out on reading this. It has an academic foreword which although informative is desperately dry. I also found parts of the book much weaker than I usually find his writing (the poems are not my favourite thing). Highlight of the book is the story of Roverandom which is precious and a must read in my opinion even if it’s more aimed at kids. I also enjoyed the story of Farmer Giles of Ham.

spring reads (2)Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country & Memory Prime are two books I found last week at a used book store on the way out to dinner and just had to get. I’ve just recently rekindled my love for Star Trek after rewatching the first two seasons of the original series and can’t get enough. Plus for $2 each it’s hard to not give them a shot. The first one was written after one of my favourite Star Trek movies and the second one, well it has a badass cover. I can’t wait to read these, it’s my first time reading anything in the Star Trek extended universe and I have no idea if these two will be any good. Excited to read! There is hundreds of Star Trek books so it’s hard to really start off but I think used books are a great way to get into an established fan base.

Gaphic Novels & Comics

spring reads (4)The Sworn Sword was original written by George R.R. Martin, adapted by Ben Avery, and illustrated by Mike Miller. This is the second book in a two part series of prequel graphic novels to accompany the existing graphic novels for A Game of Thrones (adapted from the original books). I’ve been having a hard time finding time to read Martin’s books and was curious to check out the graphic novels to get a better idea of material without necessary having to dedicate all my time to reading (lazy I know). I thought I would start with the prequels and work my way up to the other graphic novels. I have already read the first one and just finished reading The Sworn Sword earlier this week. I love the art style of Ben Avery and these stories stand alone as is, no prior knowledge about Game of Thrones required. With the lush illustrations and great story, both are easy recommendations. I plan of picking up another set of these to gift to my younger brother for his upcoming birthday. Worth checking them out if you are a fantasy fan.

spring reads (12)New X-Men Academy: Choosing Sides 5/6 is a comic I found while in Toronto this winter. It was in the $1 bin and after searching the whole store for a comic to buy I didn’t feel like walking away empty handed. Although I haven’t heard good things about this particular series I thought I’d check it out as I mostly only read vintage X-Men from the 70s and 80s and haven’t fallen in love with any of the newer series. It’s decent, and I probably would pick up the rest of them if I found them in a compilation.  For $1 I can’t complain. Let me know if there is a series of X-Men you love because I’m dying to sink my teeth into a good storyline.

Zines

spring reads (1)The two zines I pick up as far this spring are Uncommon Spaces & Everyday Places Vol. 2 by Erin Dorbin and Fur, Hide, & Bone by a community under the same name. Uncommon Spaces is photography zine about Erin’s trip down the transcontinental roadway in the US. All shots are taken with a vintage Polaroid 195 camera using expired Polaroid and Fujifilm 100C film. It’s a lovely collection of photographs and I have no doubt it will be a future zine of the month! The second zine Fur, Hide, & Bone is a mixture of drawings and stories about their favourite pieces of bones, taxidermy, and leftovers from dead animals. I really wanted to pick it because I’ve always been fascinated by dead creatures and terrified at the same time from an early age. Although I don’t think I would ever start my own collection I wanted to read about others and this zine was perfect for that. I love the illustrations the most.

Random

spring reads (10)Lighthouses Of Atlantic Canada: A Pictorial Travel Guide to Lighthouses of Quebec, New Brunswick, PEI, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, which is a mouth full and not actually my book. I bought this for Victor because he has an obsession with lighthouses (no idea where he got that from) and wanted a book of lighthouses in our neck of the woods. He wants to use the book as a guide to figure out which lighthouses are accessible so me and him can go on adventures to visit them. Which is a grand idea and I hope this year we can knock a few off our list. We already sat down together and went through the book picking out our favourites. I just wish we had a car then we could make a much better go at it but I have faith. The book itself is really helpful as it has instructions on how to reach each, lovely photos and plenty of information about each lighthouse. So if you are into lighthouses or live on the East Coast and want to find something to do this summer this book is great.

Let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading this Spring!

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Pick of the Week: Hell Babies by Junko Mizuno

junko mizuno (1)Pick of the Week: Junko Mizuno’s “Hell Babies”

Hell Babies is a 2006 art book by artists Junko Mizuno that features her illustrations of surreal female characters that can be described as kawaii, disturbing, sexual and gothic all at once. Hell Babies is 94 pages and features her work from 1998 to 2001 with a padded sparkly plastic cover (I love this cover). She divides the book into 3 sections, starting with Hell Babies from 1998-1999, Vulgarity Babies 2000, Baby Files 2001 and an extra Unpublished Babies section that is on shiny cardstock. Each page in most cases features 1 manga/comic style illustration of a particular baby, usually along with her name in English and Japanese. The section for Baby Files is slightly difference and features a short story about each baby which I enjoyed very much. All the illustrations featured are very reminiscent of her currently style although less refined. It’s a good look into the start of her career and each illustration is very unique and indivialistic. The book is very well curated and flows nicely together, each illustration deserves its place in the book and it doesn’t grow boring or repetitive at any point. As an extra bonus at the end of the book there is page that can be cut out to make a paper doll with several outfits and accessories. Hell Babies would be a wonderful addition to your collection if you appreciated Junko Mizuno’s art, however if you are more use to her newer work you might want to pick up Flare instead. I have the Upgraded version which features the extra Unpublished Babies section for those of you wanting to pick this up (some versions are signed by the artists as well). I picked up mine a few months ago from Akatako.

a closer look at the book:

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Pick of the Week: Fables

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Pick of the Week: Fables

Fables is a series of comic books created by writer Bill Willingham with various artists and illustrators starting in 2002 and still on going. There are 140 comics so far in the series but for this review I am looking at the deluxe editions instead of the individual comics. I first heard about Fables because the cover art for the first 81 comics was done by one of my favourite artists, James Jean. It wasn’t until the Telltale Game “The Wolf Among Us”  came out though that I made the leap in to the rich fantasy world of Fables **. The story of Fables is based off of characters found in folklore and fairy tales that have been exiled from their fairy-tale homes and into modern day New York to escape from “The Adversary”. The story is rich in detail and contains many different arcs that switch from a variety of genres like murder mystery and other subgenres common to crime fiction. You are introduced to several interesting characters with well-built back stories to help you understand their current circumstance and motivation within the overall story line. I don’t want to go into the story too much for spoiler reasons but for the first few comics Continue reading %s

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Saturday Review: Naughty Girls Paper Dolls

Naughty Girls Paper Dolls (3)Naughty Girls Paper Dolls

Naughty Girls is a book of mature paper dolls styled after the pin art of the 1940’s and 50’s. The book contains 5 paper dolls and 35 costume choices for your titillating pleasure. As an enthusiast of paper dolls and pin-ups I fell in love when I saw this book and had to buy it. The artwork is very faithful to the calendar artwork of the pin-up era so flipping through this book will definitely put a smile on your face if you enjoy that era and the styling is bang on. However if you are viewing this book from a paper doll perspective it is disappointing. The biggest concern I have is the paper quality for the dolls as they are put them on the same paper as the outfits, simply meaning not cardstock. So if you did want to use these as proper paper dolls you will have to adhere them to a more stable cardstock or paper. That is a great disappointment for me to find out (damn online shopping). As well there is no way to remove the outfits or dolls besides carefully cutting out with scissors. Although this is not as big of a deal it is nice when makers of paper dolls put the extra effort into creating pages where you can pop out designs or at least put in an outline for easier cutting.  They do however use one sided pages only and have tabs drawn in so clearly they have intended for people cutting out the dolls and costumes. There is even instructions at the end of the book detailing how to make braces for the dolls, however it should be noted that there is not brace diagrams included merely the 1 example one. So my advice if you want to pick up this book make sure you are willing to do the extra work to make these into paper dolls otherwise you will find this book frustrating or like me simply leave it in its book form. For anyone into pinup art only, my advice is buy a book simply dedicated to that as this book is intended only for paper doll use and although the artwork is good it’s better to view the original work instead.

A closer look at the book:

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Saturday Review: Edward Burtynsky “ Manufactured Landscapes ”

manufactured landscapes (4)Edward Burtynsky ” Manufactured Landscapes “

Manufactured Landscapes is a 160 pages hard covered book that covers Edward Burtynsky career as a photographer. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who has travelled around Canada and the world capturing scenes that most people would be unfamiliar with. Whether it’s shooting ship stripping in Bangladesh or the results of mining in BC, Burtynsky gets access to places often hidden away from view and inaccessible to most. His work focus is the leftovers from man’s industrial relationship with nature.  And his photography is delivered in the style of grand landscapes so instead of nature’s mountains and rivers we are shown tire mountains and rivers of industrial waste. That isn’t to say his work cannot be haunting or that there isn’t beauty too it, the way he captures the shot it takes you a moment to see what it really is. I am obsessed with his work, the grandiose scale of the landscapes are within themselves such a feat and any photography buff or casual observe can see  the value of his contribution to photography. His work simply is breathtaking, but also disturbing for its implication about modern society and our current environmental crisis and almost denial that this is the reality. It’s an important book (and movie) for people to see but that doesn’t mean I don’t have uses with this book. As specular as the photography is the book presentation a less than ideal for viewing Burtynsky’s work. My biggest issue is for a book featuring literal waste the format seems to insist on there being a lot of wasted pages and you cannot help but think about that when you flipping through a book that seems to have empty pages over and over again (or maybe just me). I could easily see this book being 30 pages less if not more. The intros and essays and “Message from the Sponer” are really overbearing and take up the first 55 pages of the book and serve to add context to Burtynsky’s images but tend to be on the excessive side. I am not a big fan of art books that feel they require essays to explain the context of the artist and believe the images should speak for themselves. To give you a run down on a various portions of writting that start off the book we have: Message from the Sponser, Foreword, Auther’s Acknowlegements, Artist’s Acknowledgements, See the Big Picture, Edward Burtynsky: Traditions and Affinites, Form Versus Portent: Edward Burtynsky’s Endangered Landscapes, The Essentials Element: An Interview…I mean come on, it doesn’t help that there is more at the end of the book like List of Works, Chronolgogy, Selected Exhibitions, Public Collections, Selected Bibliography. I don’t believe I have EVER seen a book, art book or not that had in it “A Message from the Sponsers”, that alone literally just makes me cringe. I mean I could go on about the ridiculousness of it all but I wont, I will simply put it out there that this book has a really bad structure to it and even if they kept all of those sections they really should have put all of them at the end of the book and not required people interested in Burtynsky work to flip to page 55 to see his photography. As well I will point out that there is 61 photographs featured in this 160 page book, leaving there to be 66 pages of writing and 29 blank/heading pages. Regardless of the excessive written portion of the book, let us look at the photography portion. To begin with the flow of this book is very stop and start for me over all. They section off the book into various sets sometimes only containing 3 photographs and often only include 1 photo per two pages and never utilize the full two pages to show the largest possible representation of his work which would be ideal consider the scale at which his landscapes are. The size of the book is quiet large so that does help at being able to see the finer details of his work but in my opinion the pages could have been utilized far more and there was no reason that I can see to leave blank pages with nothing on them. Sometimes artist use pages to provide a break between different themes in their work and use the page to provide additional information however that is not the case in this book. I found the pages containing two images far more alluring to the eye than the contrast to the ones left on their own with a white page. His work as well carries one theme throught so the visual breaks are not needed. Despite the issues I have with this book, Burtynsky’s photography is a must see and it’s a really good book if you were interested in photography in general or the ideas that he explores. I have not had a change to look at his other book featuring his photography but I would recommend looking into those ones first before picking up this flawed book.

A selection of pages from the book:

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Review: The Gashlycrumb Tinies

the gashlycrumb tiniesUntitled-5

The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a hard covered book by well-known illustrator Edward Gorey from 1963. The book tells the story of the untimely deaths of 26 children. The 26 children are represented of the 26 letters of the alphabet and paired with Gorey’s wonderful black and white illustrations. All of this while using rhyming dactylic couplets of course. Think back to when you were little and all those different alphabet books you had, this one is much more morbid take. It’s such a unique twist and Gorey’s simple illustrations are vivid and such fodder for creative interpretation. When I first read it I vowed to one day do a photo series of all children’s deaths re-enacting each illustrations meticulously. It’s a wonderful read and I thought perfect for the week before Halloween. The morbidness of the book is very much in the seemingly benign ways that they die.  The sort of everyday worries most parents have and not the outlandish fantasies of children. If you are new to Edward Gorey’s illustrations this is a great way to start and one of his most famous books. He has such an imagination for his time and wasn’t afraid to be outside what everyone expected of illustrators at the time, never afraid to be unsettling. I couldn’t do a review series about art books without featuring him, so check out below the Gashlycrumb Tinies!

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Saturday Review: Camille Rose Garcia “Alice in Wonderland”

Camille Rose Garcia (1)Camille Rose Garcia
“Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland”

“Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” is the classic story by Lewis Carroll featuring illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia, in a hardcover 160 book. When I ordered this book, I thought it might be a graphic novel or just be inspired illustrations taken from scenes in the book. I was delighted to find that this is actually a book featuring the full store of Alice in Wonderland with illustrations through-out of Camille Rose Garcia’s work. There are over 40 full color illustrations included in the book from full paged scenes to characters immersed in the text. There are many small touches incorporated in the book, like stylized gold font for the beginning of chapters and more. It’s easy to see that this was a labour of love and there was a lot of work and thought put behind where the illustrations will go and how to add elements of her style into the book. It’s easy to see why her work has been influenced by her childhood and growing up close to Disneyland. What I like most about this version of the book is the overall style of the book and how her work brings out the more lurid parts of the story closer to the actual acid influence of Lewis Carroll than the Disney version. Her interpretation of the characters will feel alien yet familiar all at the same moment. If you wanted to pick up a refreshing look into Alice’s world or you wanted to pick up a fun fresh version of this classic childhood book you will not be disappoint. Her interpretation is very well executed and you get a good idea of her person style with the imagery and the magic of the Alice in Wonderland. If interest as well she has an illustration book for the story of Snow White.

A look at the book:

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Saturday Review “Duchamp”

duchamp (1)

Duchamp by Jose Maria Faerna

Duchamp by Jose Maria Faerna is a 64 pages hard-covered book that covers Duchamp’s art throughout his life. It’s apart of Edicones Poligrafa’s collection of books about various turn of the century artists. This is more of academic book that the other art books I usually review and the reason I chose this is because really enjoyed going through this book and there not many good art books about avant-garde artists of his day. As well this was before the norm of artists creating books of their own work and most would usually create a publication or magazine about their thoughts on art instead. As someone who was only aware of his readymades this book goes into great details about his earlier work and the build up to his life’s work. The book is very informative and structured in a way that does not come across as dull or over saturated with facts. He switched from many movements and was always expand his personal definition of what art should be and the book covers all aspects of his artwork and shows his natural progression. The images in this book are what impressed me the most, I have quiet a few books about dadaists and earlier avant-garde movements and usually they are focused solely on text so this one of the few times I’ve seen of Duchamp’s work outside of the readymades I’ve seen in museums and art history classes. The photography of his work is very well done in the book and the layout works great. There is a focus on making the images as large as possible which serves his art well as it is very large in person and usually suited to be viewed that way. Of the various movements that Duchamp went through in his life, none is over looked in this book and they do a thoroughal job at showing the complete body of his work. This book may be hard to get as it has been around for awhile, however I highly suggest if you are interested in earlier 1900’s art and the creation of modern art or looking into cubist, surrealist, dadasist and conceptual art at the time that this is good book to pick up and it does a great job at showing Duchamp’s art. (I got mine for $5 at a used book store)

 a look into the book:

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Saturday Review “Paper Cutting”

papercutting

Paper Cutting: Contemporary Artists Timeless Craft

                  Paper Cutting complied by Laura Heyenga highlights the resurgence of paper cutting art in the last few years and featuring 26 international artistes who are currently creating innovative and intricate pieces of work in176 pages. It starts off with a preface by Rob Ryan which is delightful and captivates why people get into paper cutting as a way to express their artistic desires. The preface is followed by a 10 paged introduction by Natalie Avella that is informative and a bit long winded. Natalie’s introduction starts off strong explaining the origins and history of paper cutting and how it started out in China in 600CE up to the current resurgence of interest in the craft. After the strong start, she goes into brief detail about contemporary artists and their choice of mediums and subject matter. At the beginning it feels informative but lags toward the end when it starts to feel like someone gave her the list of what artists were going to be featured in the book and ask her to write a paragraph blurb about their work. This would have work if it had been incorporated into the book in each artist’s section, it is not however and each artist section already contains a blurb describing the same things without Natalie Avella’s personal impressions and to make matters more repetitive there is biography in the back as well. However containing each blurb into the introduction creates this weird flow. In fact the structure of the introduction gives it away as she just uses paragraphs for each artist almost eliminating any flow at all from one artist to the next when reading. It would have been nice if they had insisted on structuring the book this way to also perhaps included artists that were not featuring in the book to give a complete canvas of paper cutting artists. This is a minor issue, as honestly although I do read introductions but I do not get much value from them in art books. The inclusion of artist’s work in the introduction was the only thing really propelling me to the next page. So introduction aside this is a beautifully put together book with a variety of types of paper cutting artists who use a plethora of materials. It does not just single out artists who white stock paper, instead showing colors and installations,  shadow pieces and pretty much all the types of paper cutting that exist currently. The work featured in this book is captivating, and faithfully captured for our eyes. I especially enjoy the installations and the shadow pieces which were shot wonderfully. Each artist is given several pages with multiple pieces of work shown, with the information on each piece like date, name and sometimes materials. I love how they’ve created each artist name in paper cutting font, it is a simple but elegant touch. Speaking of nice touches, the book sleeves include paper cutting in them, with the front sleeve having flowers and the back birds.  It was the first thing I noticed about the book and I adore it. This is a magnificent book and as soon as I caught my eye on the cover at the Architecture Centre’s gift shop I knew I had to have it. My experience before reading this book with paper cutting was always seeing student work at Universities and it always amazed me then and this books gives you a look into a fascinating medium and wonderful pieces of art. Its really must have, and a great way to see fascinating contemporary art.

A look at the book:


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