Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pencil Illustrations: Yosemite and San Francisco

Last month, I did a number of 5" x 7" pencil sketches based on photographs I took during my trip to California back in the summer of 2010. I gave the originals, matted and framed, out to my "Top Ten" clients as Christmas gifts. (Wanna be on my list next time around? Better send me lots of good work in 2012!) Here are some samples - the cream of the crop, if you will.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Typographical Reading of Revelation

I just had to vent. I feel a little better now. Thanks for indulging me.
Carry on.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cartographic Near-Perfection

Okay, I confess to being something of a map nerd. I have quite a few hanging on the wall of my basement/office-space. In fact, one of the highlights of my holiday season was that I finally got around to framing and hanging my 1979 National Geographic map of Medieval England, which I think is one of the best they've ever done.

A good map is rich in both visual interest and information. The cartographic tradition, at its best, weaves together a number of different strands that have always interested me greatly: illustration, design, history, the allure of the distant and exotic, and storytelling, to name a few. (I would have added “geography”, but suppose that would be rather redundant. And if your talking about celestial maps, which is a favored sub-category of mine, you could also throw in “astronomy”.) A map tells a story about the region it depicts—and I don't just mean the ones with all kinds of extra tidbits crammed into the marginalia, although, if handled expertly, that can be a nice approach (as with the England map, again). No, even a more “straight-forward” map tells a story, and tells it well, poorly, or (most frequently) just so-so, based on how it handles the information conveyed within the map itself: which features and details it emphasizes and which it downplays, and the methods it employs for doing so.

Solo cartographer David Imus painstakingly created a new map of the United States which was recently awarded Best of Show at a very prestigious cartographic exhibition. The map, as well as the creative process behind its creation, is a real testimony to the time-honored values of craftsmanship, careful—even loving—attention to detail, and profoundly thoughtful and insightful artistry.

Indeed, from a design standpoint, I am absolutely blown away by this map. Just like a painting by a great master, it’s obvious that it was meant to be appreciated both from far away and very close-up. I’ve also never seen a map that struck such a delightful balance between the natural and the man-contrived, celebrating both with equitable and complementary enthusiasm. Hats off indeed to David Imus, and also to Slate author Seth Stevenson, both of whom offer encouragement to me, quasi-Luddite that I am, as I plug along at my own ponderous pace, in my own quaint way, with my own little projects, occasionally asking myself how hard I really want to (or should want to) continue trying to keep pace with the contemporary world and its rather obsessive predilection for gussied-up novelty and bespangled gee-whizzery. (Not that it’s all bad, now—I fessed up to being a quasi-Luddite, but that is all. Case in point on this topic: I really do like interactive maps, and it’s only rigidly imposed self-discipline that keeps me from becoming a total Google Earth junkie.)

Anyway, I hope to acquire a hard-copy of Imus’ map for myself soon, which apparently can be done here. (At least on a good day, one hopes. As of this posting, the link wasn’t working, but I trust that will get ironed out soon.)

(Closing hint to my wife: Christmas is over, but my birthday is coming before too long!)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Chesterton and Calvinism

Having posted on G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy here before, I thought this insight from John Piper to be right on the money and worth sharing. No doubt there were folks who went by the appellation of “Calvinist” in Chesteron’s own day who were cranks, just as there are today. Notwithstanding, failure to distinguish the straw man or the caricature from the genuine article is a fault that even the most brilliant of men can commit. In Chesterton’s case, it is a most forgivable one.