I shared this song with a friend on facebook a while back, and introduced the post with the question in the title. He told me: “Not sure if anyone ever said that.” Maybe nobody said it out loud, but I still feel like some people have harboured suspiciouns in this regard. Well, here is the proof that will have you discard your doubts if you ever had any; Break my Stride by Mathew Wilder from 1983. Take note of the crazy outfits, the interesting dance moves and Mathew Wilder’s proto-hipster moustache!
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.
This short cartoon from 1943 is considered in Japan to be one of the greatest anime movies of all time. Even though I didn’t watch an awful lot of anime, it makes perfect sense to me that this wonderful little movie has gained such a standing. Kenzō Masaoka, who created Spider and Tulip is an important figure in the history of Anime, as he was the first to introduce both cel animation and synchronized sound to the genre. He was also a master animator, rivalling his contemporaries in the USA and elsewhere with exceptional drawing skills and stylistic confidence. In Spider and Tulip, we meet an innocent, singing little ladybug, and the sly Mr. Spider, who cunningly tries to capture her in his web.
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.
Cooler, cheaper, better – the microcar is just a more sensible mode of transport than the gas guzzling giants that roam our highways today. Most cars in the developed world have only one passenger – the driver. The average European weighs 70 kgs. A typical car weighs 1-2 tonnes. In other words, the average car weighs 10-20 times more than what it’s transporting. Now that’s just insane. And the reason for it? Well, the car is more than just a mode of transport, it is a status symbol. The car is a napoleon’s horse for men without self irony, who take themselves too seriously and need a big car to compliment their ego.
These animal illustrations are from a 1960’s edition of Danish Lademann’s Encyclopedia. The illustrator has done an impressive job of squeezing all the animals into their respective habitats or families, resulting in these fantastic and somewhat surrealistic illustrations. They are however perfectly in tune with the encyclopedia of the past century, before the creation of Wikipedia and the internet – Get as much information as possible compressed into your limited volumes of books. As a summer temp at an antiquarian book shop in the Norwegian Book Town, I have unfortunately seen a lot of these old encyclopedias end up in the paper recycling. I’ve saved a few, but realizing there is a limit to how many old encyclopedias I need in my book shelf I have also dissected many of them, resulting in a great collection of old illustrations.
Canned sardines, caught in the fjords of Western Norway, were once a staple food in both Europe and the USA. To appeal to buyers in foreign markets, the Norwegian canning factories came up with an abundance of colorful designs, more or less related to the contents of the tin. In the first half of the 20th century, when the canning industry reached it’s peak, there were dozens of canning factories in the southwestern city of Stavanger. In fact the canning industry was one of the main reasons for the city’s growth in this period. Today, Stavanger’s canning museum is the only memory left of the once booming sardine industry, and crude oil has long since replaced it as the main source of income. Most of the images are borrowed from www.norwegiancollector.com.
I really like Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka’s artwork from the 70s and 80s. It’s full of neon glowing space ships in distant galaxies and shiny naked women encountering strange looking martians. Among his greatest achievements are his album art for bands such as Electric Light Orchestra and Earth Wind and Fire. It’s kitschy and over the top, but so much more exiting than the mostly boring album art (and music) of our era.
3D Animation didn’t really take off until the mid nineties – the real breaktrhough came with Toy Story in 1995, which was the first feature lenght computer animated movie. This movie clip, created by 3d animation pioneer Robert Abel in 1981 is surprisingly elegant and advanced, considering it was made almost fifteen years earlier. I love the placid and slightly mystical feel of this movie, enhanced by the VHS quality and the airy soundtrack.
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).
Today’s sleek and soulless computer animations have a long and quirky history behind them. Steve Rutt and Bill Etra were two of the pioneers of computer animation, and revolutionized the field with their video synthesizer from 1972. In the somewhat surrealistic video below, Bill Etra himself explains some of the features of their synthesizer: