Tag Archives: art

Inspiring Art and Design Docs

image via the verge

I’ve been on a bit of a documentary kick as of late, and on a recent search for new films to watch I couldn’t help but notice how many fabulous docs are out there that cover just about every aspect of design. Here are a few of my personal faves; some are more recent and some you may have missed but are definitely worth a viewing.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011)
Eames is the story of the dynamic design duo Charles and Ray Eames. The film itself is a visual explosion fitting for the incomparable creativity of its subjects. At the heart of this film is the extraordinary love story of Charles and Ray.


Indie Game (2012)
Indie Game is an unexpectedly moving doc about independent video game designers and the passion they have for their work. Even if you’re not a fan of video games the care and respect this doc has for it’s subjects will pull you in.


Art & Copy (2009)
The world of advertising, whether you love it or hate it, makes for a fascinating topic, as demonstrated by Art & Copy. Candid interviews with some of the giants in advertising give you a peek behind the scenes of the ad world. This film also offers a brief history of the advertising industry, and it shows how ads inform all aspects of our culture.


The September Issue
Vogue magazine has long been considered the ultimate source on high end fashion. The September Issue gives the audience unprecedented access into the offices of vogue, and even more interestingly, the life of iconic fashion editor Anna Wintour. Whether you’re a fan of fashion, or just curious about the publishing industry, this film is an absolute must.


Herb and Dorothy (2008)
Herb and Dorothy Vogel are an unlikely couple of art collectors with one of the most extensive and impressive private modern and contemporary art collections in North America. Getting a peek at their impressive collection is marvellous, but so is learning about the history of the Vogels and their instinctive appreciation of art.


Objectified (2009)
How do the objects that surround us shape our lives? That is the question this documentary tries to answer. Featuring interviews with many of the world’s top industrial designers, as well as a look into the manufacturing process, this doc is well crafted and engaging. The success of this film is that after viewing it you can’t help but look at even the most mundane objects in a new way.


Between the Folds (2008)
Origami fans will delight in this  PBS film about origami artists. Not only does the film explore the art of origami but also the engineering and science behind it. The archival footage of the legendary origami artist Akira Yoshizawa at work is reason enough to rent this film or add it to your Netflix queue.


Detropia (2012)
This one is not strictly speaking design related but I am still excited for it nonetheless. Detropia is about the fall of Detroit and the signs of potential rebirth. The trailer itself gave me chills, and it’s made by the people who made Jesus Camp so it’s likely going to be good. If you’re interested in urban planning and architecture this may be one to keep an eye out for.

This list only scratches the surface of art and design documentaries, what are some of your favorites?


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Marvelous Maps

Lately I’ve had a few projects, both at and out of work, that involve creating graphics of custom maps. For the most part I’ve had to do my work digitally, occasionally incorporating a few hand-drawn details in the graphics. Many times, however, the references for the maps are of the historic kind, from a number of different time periods.

Maps are extremely fascinating visual representations of how people saw the world. They also great examples of historic graphic design, showcasing the aesthetic conventions of the period they were created in. The art of map-making is a specific craft, known commonly as Cartography. It is an interesting process that involves a combination of science, aesthetics, and communication. Here are a few interesting and cool examples of maps that show the evolution of cartographic craft.

Celestial Map

Image from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection


This Amazing map from the 17th century shows shows a part of the world that was only beginning to be explored at the time – that is, space. This tile, which is part of a set of maps that shows the position of the constellations, illustrates not only the positions of the stars that make up the constellation, but also the mythical creature or figure for which it is named.

French Map of Japan, 1750

Image from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

This map is fascinating as it shows the old territories of Japan when there was very limited contact with western cultures. It is a representation of a european culture’s perspective of asia at the time.

One of the most interesting features of the map is the naming of the places – especially because most of the names are written phonetically but with spelling that was probably derived from french phonetics. For example, the island of Shikoku today is idenitified as Xicoco on the map.

Engraving Plate

Image from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Most historic maps mae before the industrial revolution were created by master engravers, and were usually accompanied by a nameplate that had their name and the name for whom the map was commissioned. This plate was usually more of an artistic flourish that the engraver used to showcase his skill and mastery of his craft.

Map Postcard

Image from Moody's Collectibles

Maps like this were popular in the 1950’s and commonly used on souvenir postcards. Map postcards are unique in that combine geographic representation with illustrations of culture of a specific place.

Paula Scher Maps

Image from Pentagram

Paula Scher is one of the leading professionals in the field of Graphic Design and a Partner of the renown design firm Pentagram. Most of her work involves the use of typography in very creative and groundbreaking methods and monumental scales.

Image from Paula Scher Maps

In the 1990’s she started painting typographic maps using acrylic on canvas, once again redefining how type can be used as a method of communication as well as considered as an artform. Princeton architectural press published a book of her maps in 2011. This book is definitely on my wishlist!

Maps are compelling, graphic visualizations of the world around us–that communicate stories of where we are coming from, and show the possibilities of where we can go.


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Art on the High Seas

On my first cruise, the last thing I was expecting was an “art experience.”  I pictured a tacky, Vegas-style floating hotel, complete with endless buffets and cheesy entertainment. To be fair, this is more or less what I found in terms of the shows and the food, but I was surprised to discover that almost every inch of the ship was decorated with museum-quality art.

I have since found out that cruise lines spend millions of dollars to amass impressive collections to adorn their fleet. And they contract curators to oversee each new ship, often commissioning new works to complete the themed displays that they create.

19th Century Kid (Sir Joshua Reynolds) by Yinka Shonibare; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On my 2011 cruise onboard the Celebrity Millennium, I walked through one of the lounges and came across an installation that looked a lot like Yinka Shonibare’s work, only to discover that it was! Since I have made special trips to museums and galleries to see his exhibitions, this was a pleasant surprise.

Love by Robert Indiana; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On the same ship, I came across a version of Robert Indiana’s iconic Love sculpture and one of Dale Chuhuly glass chandeliers.

Untitled by Dale Chuhuly; Image: Tracey Eckersley

Unfortunately, I only found out on disembarkation day that the ship had a self-guided iPod tour; Celebrity’s newer ships now have an iPad version available in several languages for individuals to enjoy.

Glassblowing on Celebrity Solstice; Image: Behind the Glass (CMOG)

For cruisers looking for a more interactive experience, Celebrity offers art classes and, on three of their ships, they have partnered with the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) to present live glassblowing demonstrations.

Brainwaves by Jan van Munster; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On my most recent cruise, I made more of an effort to spend some time examining the collection onboard.  And while Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas didn’t offer a comprehensive art tour or boast such famous artists, I found new favourites in their innovative exhibition centered on the theme of light. I was captivated by Jan van Munster’s Brainwave, which documents the human brain’s response to certain words in neon.

Sweet by Kim Koga; Image: Tracy Eckersley

While many of the artworks in the hallways were annoyingly anonymous, those in the main stairways had museum-style labels. Therefore, I was able to learn that the day-glow pickles that caught my eye were artist Kim Koga’s homage to her grandmother, who canned pickles and plums on her farm after emigrating from Japan to Northern California.

Infinite Abyssal by Miguel Chevalier; Image: Tracey Eckersley

If you take a cruise vacation, make sure to take a break from staring at the sea long enough to check out the ship’s art collection. What you find may surprise you!


Posted in Culture, Travel | Tagged ,

Happy Birthday Andy’s Soups!

Warhol's Soup Cans

Andy Warhol is definitely an icon of popular culture – after all, he and his artist contemporaries spawned the era of pop art in the 1960’s. He redefined the nature of art, specifically painting, and became an icon who would be celebrated and revisted generations later. Today, at contemporary art auctions, Warhol’s works still fetch hefty price tags and are sought out by collectors worldwide.

Portrait of Andy Warhol

Image via Fireplace Chats

Pop art was revolutionary in that it brought the contemporary reality of the 1960’s to the forefront and made it the subject of art. It was, in a way, a representation of what real life was like, and not an idealized picture conjured from imagination.

Warhol’s art was profoundly influenced by his experience of reality. He didn’t want to escape it, and instead put it on the canvas, repeating the images as if to mimic the notions of what it meant to live life the way he experienced it.

The paintings, which are part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection, are usually displayed stacked covering an entire wall. The first time they were exhibited at Ferus Gallery however, Warhol lined them in single file, as if they were sitting on the supermarket shelves.

Soup cans on exhibit

Image via The 60's at 50

Today the cans are an almost ubiquitous symbol of popular counterculture and can be seen on any imaginable type of merchandise.

Campbell's Tomato Soup as Pendant

Image via Ephemeraology

Campbell's canvas tote

Image via Privatewerken

Campbell's soup tee

Image via The Masked Gorilla

Campbell's Andy Warhol 50th Anniversary Cans

Via Hypebest

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the soup paintings, Target released limited-edition cans featuring labels designed to mimic Warhol’s iconic screenprinting technique. This wasn’t the first time they’d done it – another run of cans was previously produced in 2006.

Image via IDS News

Needless to say, Warhol’s fame has exceeded his predicted 15-minute run, and from the looks of it, it will be safe to assume that it will continue to stretch on for a while more.


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An Art Walk in Reykjavík

I have just returned from a trip of a lifetime, a 16-day transatlantic cruise, the highlight of which was a few days in Iceland. The Arctic nation has been on my bucket list for a long time and I eagerly awaited trips to the Blue Lagoon and Gullfoss Falls.

Gullfoss Falls

These natural wonders didn’t disappoint but what I was most surprised and impressed by was Reykjavík’s modern and contemporary art, much of which is displayed along the city’s scenic shore walk.

Scenic View from the Reykjavík Cruiseport

Not all of these gems are immediately apparent; a tour guide pointed out that the structure I had mistaken for a small silo in the idyllic landscape across from my balcony was actually the Imagine Peace Tower, which was dedicated by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon on October 9, 2007. The structure is lit each year on this date, the late singer’s birthday, and brightens the winter sky until the end of December.

Imagine Peace Tower; Photograph: Imagine Peace Tower

The chance to see a sight like this is just one of the many reasons that I am already dreaming of returning to this amazing place!

Screw by Sigurjón Ólafsson

After spending the previous day on a tour bus, I wanted nothing more than to stretch my legs and the hour-long walk into town along the waterfront provided an excellent opportunity to do so. But it also offered an excellent introduction to the art of Iceland. Not 10 minutes from the ship, I stumbled upon the Sigurjón Ólafsson Museum which houses much of the renowned Icelandic sculptor’s work in his former studio. While the artist was famous for his figural pieces, the abstract examples scattered throughout the grounds provide a striking contrast to the surrounding landscape.

Íslandsvardan by Johann Eyefells

Iceland’s landscape dominates the work of many native artists, including Johann Eyefells, who has lived in Florida since the 1950’s but whose work focuses on the effects of nature on materials; many of his sculptures evoke the lava formations found throughout the island.

Sólfarið (The Sun Voyager) by Jón Gunnar Árnason; Photograph: Sig Holm via Panoramio

Another common theme in Icelandic art is that of history; the Viking sagas are still an important part of the nation’s culture and were frequently mentioned during my short stay to the island. The Sun Voyager, the most famous sculpture on the shore walk, draws from this history while representing the ideas of hope, progress, and freedom.

Page from an Icelandic Medieval Manuscript; Photograph: The Reykjavík Grapevine Listings

The themes of landscape and history are the focus of several exhibitions at The Culture House in downtown Reykjavík. Medieval Manuscripts: Eddas and Sagas displays important 12th century Icelandic texts and traces the impact of their stories and legends to the present day.

Mountain by Sigurð Guðmundsson; Photograph: UMM Iceland

Millennium currently focuses on modern and contemporary Icelandic art though, as the name suggests, the goal is eventually to include art and artifacts that represent the last millennium of the nation’s history. Several of the works currently on display explore concepts of Icelandic identity through historical and geographical frameworks. My favourite of these was Sigurð Guðmundsson’s Mountain, a photograph documenting one of the artist’s Fluxus-inspired “situations” in which he buried himself among boots, bread, and books as well as natural materials found on the island.

Installation Outside The Hafnarhús, Reykjavík Art Museums

However, a short walk down the street from The Culture House reveals that not all Icelandic art is centered on the past or the natural environment. Walk in one direction and one comes across the Hafnarhús, one of three buildings that make up the Reykjavík Art Museums; Hafnarhús is dedicated to contemporary exhibitions and houses the permanent collection of Icelandic-born graphic artist Erró. And the installation above the door? An artist manifesto modeled on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Reykjavík Street Art

Walk in the other direction and one finds oneself in a hip area dominated by little galleries and rather derelict buildings completely covered in graffiti art.

Graffiti Park in Reykjavík

One small section had been turned into a park/playground/skateboarding area, with artists busy at work at new creations while I watched. One of the more innovative paintings here incorporated a skate ramp into the tongue of a wolf.

Graffiti Skate Ramp

My short time in Iceland proved that everything I had heard about the overwhelming beauty of the countryside is true but my even shorter time in Reykjavík made me realize that there is a lot more to explore in this cultural hot spot.

All images by Tracey Eckersley, except where indicated.


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