I have always been a collector of little things. My first collection was a shoe box full of pine cones. Later I found it more exiting to collect objects that didn’t all look the same, like stamps for instance. My grandfather was a diligent and proud philatelist and used to give me stamps for Christmas. As I child I spent hours organizing and admiring these little artpieces, which is a labour I appreciate now, many years later. As well as being amazing graphic design pieces, these stamps are also icons of a bygone era. A digital print of an Adobe Illustrator file will never be quite the same as a miniature engraving, as many of the old stamps are. Here are some of the favourite pieces from my collection; the rest of the set can be found here: Thirty Stamps
I scanned these images from a book found in Keith Fawkes Books in Hampstead, London. It’s the messiest and most chaotic bookshop I’ve ever been into, but those are the kind of places where strange treasures like “Visions of the Future” can be found. The subtitle reads: “An exciting and novel selction of science fiction art of today”. The book was a British publication, featuring at the time young British artists. Judging from a quick round on google, most of them seem to be active still. So there is plenty of inspiration out there! Here are five of my favourite artworks from the book, which stood out among all the weird and funky sci-fi kitsch.
Allthough Wes Wilson is seen as the father of the psychedelic rock poster, the poster art of Victor Moscoso stands for me as the archetypal expression of the hippie era. With vibrating colours and psychedelic imagery, his posters take you straight back to that special vibe of the late 1960s San Fransisco. Victor Moscoso was born in Spain in 1937, but moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York three years later, where he spent most of his youth and childhood. He went on to study art at Yale under the supervision of Josef Albers, whose color theory later became an important inspiration for him. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was a motivating factor for Moscoso to move on to California and San Fransisco in 1959. But it wasn’t until 1967 with the Summer of Love that Victor Moscoso rose to international fame, with his posters for the Avalon Ballroom (whose concerts featured artists such as Janis Joplin and the Doors). There is an excellent interview with him at The Comics Journal, for those who would like to read more about his fascinating life and refreshing take on art. Victor Moscoso is still active as an artist.
In 1899 German biologist, philospher and artist Ernst Haeckel began publishing Art Forms of Nature (Kunstformen der Natur), a series of detailed litographic prints, depicting the fantastic diversity of life. No life form is left out in this astonishing catalogue of illustrations of everything from mosses and lichens to plants and animals, on land and in water. Many of Haeckel’s theories have since his death fallen from grace, as for instance his dubious classification of human races. But Heackel’s artistic vision of nature has defenitely withstood the test of time, by merging science and art in a most beautiful way. All images are from Wikimedia.
Being born in 1986, I feel privileged to have grown up during the still primitive phase of the computer age, long before touch screens, crisp graphics and social media entered the scene. To me the pixelated computer images from my childhood have a strange beauty to them which can never be rivaled by today’s crystal clear ipad graphics. I guess it’s related with the limitations of the format, the low screen resolution and the limited colour palette. The limitations create a restricted stylistic framework, much like in traditional woodcut, silkscreen printing and stencil graffiti. It seems to me that the chances of succeeding in making something beautiful increases with the restrictions, perhaps making you less likely ending up in some stylistic blind alley.
Pixel artist Jim Sachs is an artist who stuck to his restricted medium even when the times changed – He still makes old school pixel art in the iPad era. A former American Air Force pilot, he got involved with the fledgeling computer and gaming industry in the early eighties. He started writing games for the Commodore 64, then got involved in the development of the Amiga (Commodore’s legendary gaming computer). His computer art from the late eighties and early nineties must be among the greatest achievements within the realm of pixel art. My first encounter with his amazing artwork was on my neighbour’s Amiga sometime in the early nineties, in the form of a desktop background called “Amiga Lagoon” (seen below).
The Japanese Tradition of turning manhole covers into funky artpieces must be the world’s longest lasting and most extensive street art project. The colorful customization of the covers started in the nineteen eighties, when Japanese authorities issued a standard measure and shape for manhole covers. This new measure ignited strong resistance among Japanese local communities, which in turn led to a compromise giving every municipality full freedom over the artwork depicted on the manhole covers. Below are a selection of images from the Japanese manhole covers group pool on Flickr. Click the images below to go to the respective owners’ Flickr page.