Monday, November 18, 2013

Growing into the Right Place

In the next few days, I will be involved in some very exciting events associated with welcoming the Walt Reed Illustration Archive to Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library. I have been involved in the development of illustration collections at the university since 1999 or 2000. That’s when Jeff Pike and I traveled to Monterrey, California to assess the Al Parker collection–then mouldering in youngest son Kit and Donna Parker’s garage. (Kit and Donna are devoted stewards of Al’s work; they just weren’t in a position to care for it professionally, which is why they reached out.) 

Another time I will write about where such work has taken me, intellectually speaking. Suffice to say I have been engaged with (and fascinated by) the problems of studying such materials. In part as a result of that ongoing activity, last summer I was invited to assume a new position as faculty director of the Modern Graphic History Library. After some discussion about what success and failure might look like in such an event, I was pleased to accept the position (which hasn’t changed my job really all that much, since I am not teaching less, in accordance with my wishes). I do enjoy representing an institutional perspective, which is distinct from (though in alignment with) my own professional view. It’s fun; I’m happy. 

Especially, I am humbled and delighted by the opportunity to participate in the proper disposition of Walt Reed’s research collection. Amazing to say, over the past dozen years we have built a new institutional context for periodical illustration. We have grown into the right place to house Walt’s legacy. Honestly, incredible!

Images: Harry Beckhoff, fiction illustration for Collier's, April 9, 1938; Al Parker, American Airlines print advertisement, late 1950s; Orson Lowell, cartoon drawing for Life magazine, circa 1912. This last item is one of three in the Reed Collection; they're huge, though they ran small in Life. Virtuoso drawing technique. All three of the big Lowell drawings will be on display in the exhibition in the Art and Architecture Library on Wednesday the 20th. See you there! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Walt Reed's Archive Comes to St. Louis!

Here's an exciting announcement. The Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University has acquired a major resource for illustration research: the Walt Reed Illustration Collection. Walt Reed founded Illustration House in 1974. Starting in Westport, CT and moving to Manhattan, IH became the pre-eminent source for artwork produced for illustration purposes in the United States. 

Walt wrote The Illustrator in America and monographs on Harvey Dunn, John Clymer and others. Walt is now in his 90s. His son Roger Reed is president of Illustration House. We have worked with Roger over the past two years on putting together the package that has come to the MGHL. It includes 1200 illustrated books, 8000 magazines, 250,000 tearsheets and 140 original works. 

This material is truly wonderful stuff, and a treasure trove for students, professionals, cultural historians and others. Special thanks for Jaleen Grove, for the role she played in the process.

A press release describing this in greater detail:

On November 20–a week from Wednesday–we will be celebrating the arrival of the Walt Reed collection. We will be hosting a reception for Roger Reed at 5:30 in the Art and Architecture Library reading room. We're creating an exhibition from the Reed Collection in the A&A library which will open at that time. Roger will deliver a public lecture at 6:30 in Steinberg Auditorium.

For all those within range of St. Louis: come celebrate with us on the 20th!    

Images: J.C. Leyendecker, book cover design, The Crimson Conquest, 1907; the cover of Walt Reed's Illustrator in America, featuring a reproduction of The Nation Builders (1903) by Howard Pyle; Harry Stacy Benton, painting for Cream of Wheat advertisement, 1908; Orson Lowell, cartoon for Life Magazine, September, 1912. (Yes, that's a man on a leash wearing horse blinders. Tension over gender roles?) The Lowell drawing is surprisingly large in scale, and shockingly refined. We have three such drawings in the collection. We also have 82 small studies by Lowell. So much more to see!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hey Seniors: Get Your Butts in the Field

Way behind on the blogging front. I saw the white light and floated over my body this week, as Apple's Spinning Beach Ball of Death threatened to take me down. My laptop has been replaced, but I forgot to migrate the fonts, so all my documents are screwed up, and I don't feel like dealing with it at dinnertime Friday. So I'm foregoing the document, and giving my seniors their final project via blog post.

The course–Design Methods: Image + Story–is a reworked version of Visual Worlds, about which I have written from time to time.

Okay, seniors: we talked about this on Wednesday, but here is a more formal articulation of what I'm asking you to do. Of late we've focused on realizing form in somewhat restricted contexts, to zero in on what your deal is. Many of you have made good progress. Now we're opening things up again. Your problem for the last month of school will be all about generating and integrating: text, image and editorial p.o.v. This prefigures your final semester, in which you will be working with Herr Hendrix to produce a major project. You can get used to turning many knobs on this one.

Nonfiction Zine/Comic Project

Your final project in this course will be a 12 page saddle-stitched booklet with a self-cover. The page size will be 7 x 9 or 3.75 x 5 inches. (Slight adjustments to those sizes are permissible.) 

You’re making a publication: a zine, a comic, a graphic testament. It can be quite lo-fi, but it must be complete and reproducible. It must be suitable to sell at Star Clipper Comics or comparable venue.

The subject of your zine must be nonfictional, and must involve in-person observation and reporting. The text must run from 50 to 750 words. (A newspaper column runs 750 words; nothing more than that.) Given the amount of time you have to write, design, illustrate, photograph and print––you will need to be able to work quickly and directly. Planning will be important, but not in a perfectly linear way.  

Here are five theoretical examples: 1) your flight home for Thanksgiving, woven into a wry reflection on contemporary air travel; 2) a mock-anthropological study of shoppers at the Galleria; 3) overheard dialogue and cell phone chatter on a city bus; 4) a Soulard market butcher shop, 5) interviews from a subculture, with profiles and portraits. In all cases you should bring a point of view to your subject.

Generally speaking, I would encourage you to address setting, a subject that's gotten only modest attention this semester. Also generally speaking, I would encourage you to avoid focusing on your friends and your apartment. Escape your demographic! 

Once you engage your subject, you can begin writing and drawing. I will see you Monday with research. Don't stand around trying to conceive the perfect project. Go out and draw something!

The project is due December 4, which is our last day of class.

Images: Mike Reddy, some spots from The Believer; from a book project he'd been working on when I saw him in New York earlier this year; and some spots about a diner. I love the overprinting and spot color thing in his work. How 'bout that chicken! 

And I made you (seniors) a little diagram: how four little sheets of paper make a home-made magazine!