Tag Archives: art books

Painting with dark: books of night-themed art to inspire the high ISO photographer

Photography means “painting with light.” But how much light? Today, cameras are more light sensitive than ever, with ISOs up to 400,000 or even 4,000,000. Some have described cameras that can take video by the light of a candle as “painting with dark.” After discussing these advancements at a photo event yesterday, I found myself thinking about how that affects an image. If light is the exception rather than the rule, what kind of images could I create?

So I visited my bookshelf! And I found two art books themed around darkness and nighttime. In a future post, I’ll have to see how these inspiring books guided me. After all, it’s a great time of year to find guidance in darkness.

The Night Life of Trees by Bhajju Shyam, Durga Bai, and Ram Singh Urveti

This book is from Tara Books, a company that does beautiful and imaginative books. I also recommend Waterlife by Rambharos Jha, which I wrote about in a previous post. Both Night Life and Waterlife are silk-screen print books, which gives the colors and ink a life that other printing methods don’t match. Both books also smell amazing. (This sounds weird, but they just do. I don’t know whether it’s the ink, the paper, or both.)

The Night Life of Trees is full of illustrations depicting just that—trees at night and what goes on in them. The images are screen prints on black paper, allowing the book to “paint with darkness” in a way that other books just can’t. Check out the beautiful images below.

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The House in the Night
by Susan Marie Swanson

A children’s book with awesome art. Sometimes kids books have the best art because they keep it simple. This book is literally about light at night. I don’t think that needs too much explanation. Just check out the art, which incidentally mimics the woodcut style that I discussed last week.

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Three beautiful books that inspire

I’m always looking for design inspirations. Whenever I find myself in an art museum or an interesting shop, I always look to see what kinds of design books they have. Today I included three very different commercially available favorites in my little collection.

Waterlife by Rambharos Jha

A stunningly beautiful book by Indian folk painter Rambharos Jha. The critters come alive with the wiggling and colorful lines. Each page is silk-screened by hand onto hand-made paper. You can see the difference from ordinary printing methods immediately. Striking. This is also one of the best smelling books. Every time I open the book, the smell of ink and paper hits me, I’m looking at this book. My only criticism is that the binding method prevents the book from opening as flat as I would like. I love to look at this book when I’m trying to feel energy in my work.

 

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Carl Larsson’s A Farm: Paintings from a Bygone Era

A collection of 19th century Swedish painter Carl Larsson‘s farm paintings. His calendars are a staple with the Scandinavian branch of my family. His work makes me think a bit of Norman Rockwell– beautiful and flowing, but with crisp lines that give a feel of illustration. I love to look at his work for inspirations in depictions of the ordinary, the pastoral, the family.

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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

I previously reviewed this book here. I’m not in love with the writing in this book (see the review), but I am in love with the art. I love the way it connects to the science and is elevated by it. The typography for this book is also divine. Redniss even created a special typeface called Eusapia LR for this book, and it works beautifully. This book is an inspiration in marrying art and science.

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Beautiful Books

I love a well-made book. There is something awesome about a book with golden edges and an embossed cover. I like pages with heft and texture, and books with color illustration. However I am also a great fan of classic science fiction, and 1960s scifi seems rarely to intersect with fine binding techniques. I often go to the used book stores and find paperbacks with yellow cracked pages and broken spines. The cover art is often wonderful, but these books are dying and falling apart. Many of these books have not been reprinted recently, or are offered only for outrageous prices as ebooks.

Lovely books were always a source of inspiration as a kid. This Tasha Tudor fairy tale book was my favorite (and was a big source of inspiration for my own collection of fairy tales). I hope with the rise in ebooks, we will see a rise in beautiful books. When you need not spend space on books, perhaps that space will be spent on books that are also art objects. Lately, I feel like I’ve been seeing more attention towards the appearance of books. Right now it’s more limited to literary classics, but I hope it will grow towards science fiction, which seems like it could benefit from such visualizations. Here are a few pretty books I’ve noticed:

  • Hiroshige, by Taschen (pictured above). This book is gorgeous. Bone clasps hold together the cover, and the book is bound in the traditional Japanese stab-binding style. The paper feel like it is cotton, and it really suits the art it bears. Also at $40, it isn’t insane, and it’s even cheaper on amazon.
  • Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classics Series. There are a ton of books in this series, from Hitchhiker’s Guide to Arabian Nights to Foundation and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. One complaint: it’s very hard to judge the contents from the web. I found in person that the older out of copyright works had many more illustrations inside. I especially like their Arabian Nights. Most of these are around $20, so they are affordable.
  • Basically anything by Folio Society. I am particularly intrigued by their Foundation Trilogy, which has some fun-looking illustrations. Folio Society is a bit pricier, so I haven’t gotten anything from them yet.

I would love to hear about any other finds as well. Good hunting! (And here’s some lovely bookcases as well.)