Tag Archives: illustration

Mind Over Manga

Sailor Moon

Image via Sailor Moon Wikia

I came across an article about Microsoft’s recently launched Windows 8 which placed two packaging versions side-by-side. One was the “regular” version, which had vibrant and colorful elements while retaining a minimalistic and elegant look. The other was starkly different. It was the Japanese packaging, and it features an uber colorful, slightly over-the-top look, with a couple of manga characters thrown in for good measure.

Windows 8 regular packaging. Via IT Pro Portal.

Via NeoWin

Via Neogaf forum

Manga, the distinctly Japanese comic book illustration style, called anime once it is given movement through various animation and filmmaking techniques, has become so much a part of Japanese pop culture, inspiring a worldwide obsession among grownups and kids alike. It has seeped into the mainstream culture, and we see hints of it in Western movies, cartoons and comic books. Sometimes cute, sometimes dark and edgy, but it always reflects the unabashed quirkiness we have come to associate with J-pop, or Japanese pop.

I grew up watching Japanese animation. The earliest one, which I only remember vaguely was Voltes V, an anime in the giant robot sub-genre. It featured 5 pilots of 5 ships that in crucial moments somehow manage to come together to form one kickass giant robot.

Voltes V titles. Via Ghost Lightning.

Another one I remember following was Candy Candy. The main character was this nice blonde girl who had a lot of problems. She cried a lot. But she was good, sweet, and non-violent. I had a pencil case that had her face on it.

Via Poc and Poch

Anyway, I remember being so fascinated with these characters when I was a kid, and that I drew their likenesses on my notebooks, textbooks, and random sheets of paper that I found lying around. So, in a bout of nostalgia, I decided to revisit the old days and try my hand again at drawing manga style.

I found some resources online, such as Manga University, which has a whole lot of very useful tutorials. I also found Mark Crilley on YouTube, who has made a lot of videos on how to get it right when drawing manga style.

Want to see the results of my efforts?

Here are a couple. They are still kinda rough. And you can still see the guide lines. Hope make a better one this weekend, something worthy of coloring in.

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged ,

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.

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged ,

Back to School: The Case for Crayons

Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.
– Mark Twain

A person is composed of mind and body — emotions and senses, muscle, bone, and brain with analytical and creative sides. Clearly, a person is a complex being to grow up to be, and becoming one takes more than just learning letters and numbers. If we are to take the advice of Mr. Clemens, there’s more to education than what schools teach.

To nudge the young ones towards the lofty goals of holistic personhood, how about showing the right side of the brain some love? You can nurture creative instincts by handing over a box of crayons — it’s very handy and fabulously versatile. You’ll  marvel at what can be done with these schoolbag staple.

Here's something that can be done with an interesting water-soluble type of crayons.

Crayons can be melted and cut out in these adorable butterfly shapes. Image from Butterfly Dreams. Click on the it for directions.

Another way to melt crayons. By Etsy user JKCreate.

Out-of-the-box thinking by Ryan Peter Miller -- using individual crayons as a pixel. Awesome!

Or you can just carve them, like Vietnamese-American artist Diem Chau does.

So stash some crayons in your child’s bag, and put a box in your own purse too. Here are a bunch of other little nifty things aside from crayons that you can pack in a backpack that’ll bring out the artist and creative thinker in anybody, whether child or adult.

Brushes Leveled Up

This is what talent can make out of the most basic materials, if it is nurtured and developed. Image created by Roz Wound Up.

Pocket-sized Music

No, we’re not talking about digital music players. But musical instruments to compose and create music with.

Image from Harmonica Songs

Young ‘uns can channel Bob Dylan or Alanis and put out some mind-blowing melodies with a harmonica in their back pockets. Or they can just take out their iPhones — if they’ve got music apps installed, like GuitarStudio or TableDrum.

TableDrum for iPhone turns tapping into drum beats.

Snail Mail My Email

Today’s post is short and sweet.  Sure it’s a summer holiday Monday where I am and perhaps where you are too and we’d both like to be in the sun with the people who make us flutter.  But also this idea is so lovely it deserves an entire post unto itself.

Maybe you already know but right now and ending soon – August 15 to be exact – there’s an international interactive community art project happening that you can join.  It’s called Snail Mail My Email, which does exactly as its title implies.

Type up your email, up to 100 words, for a special person you’d like to make contact with and send this note to snailmailmyemail@gmail.com.  From there volunteers handwrite your note and send it free of charge to your chosen recipient.  Anywhere in the world, no less.  You can even request further customization of your special note, choosing a lipstick kiss, flower petal, doodle or suggesting your own somethin’ somethin’ to make the note more meaningful. (Do visit their site for full details.)

Of course judiciously choose what and whom to send your note as this is a community art project and your note may end up on Snail Mail My Email’s website (they do remove last names and addresses to respect privacy).

So far letters have included notes from parents to their babies, love letters, adults writing to long lost childhood friends, secret bromances and, of course, the obligatory Hogwarts acceptance letters.  The letters themselves are all artistic in their own way, with everything between curlicue penmanship and kiddie scratch.  It certainly adds an element of interest and meaning to the whole endeavour.  You can see a selection of the letters here.

The project is poignant and nostalgic, a little bit voyeuristic, but ultimately urges us to keep letter writing alive!  It’s a gentle reminder to step away from our gadgets long enough to really reflect on our thoughts and relationships to write in longhand, gasp, to all those who enter our consciousness over the course of a day. For me I’m struggling to choose the right recipient (only one note per person please), so many folks come to mind.  Happily this project has inspired me, and I have some time  this holiday Monday, to write a few notes of gratitude and appreciation, catch-ups and thinking of yous to send by post myself.

Happy letter writing everyone!

Yours sincerely,


All images credit Snail Mail My Email

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More Beautiful Bang for Your Buck

The Philippines' new 20 peso bill

People who say “It’s only money” need to have their eyes checked. Those bills are more than money. Artists, illustrators, and engravers infuse in the intricate details a lot of passion, heart, and skill. They depict heroes and history, and objects of national pride. They reveal to the world a glimpse of a country’s character and a people’s personality. Every element, every curl, every little thing depicted is like a line in a poem, a piece of a puzzle, a clue to a mystery.

Money does not just buy things, it symbolizes the country in which it is used. But unlike famous mountains or monuments, new bills are printed and new coins are minted continually, and every so often, they get redesigned and relaunched. Currency is like fashion in the red carpet of international business and tourism. It can be a country’s mode of self-expression, and perhaps even self-promotion.

So here are some countries that I would like to visit and get to know better, based purely on how their bills look.

Aruba. It really looks exotic, and exciting, but the pastel colors give it a light and fun feel. Love the tribal patterns within the geometric shapes. That turtle looks very friendly and welcoming too. I immediately think beaches, snorkeling and beating drums.

Switzerland. This money projects a hip, artsy, high-tech vibe. Club scene hot, film and music industry booming.

Suriname. This country seems to boast of awesome biodiversity. I imagine a tropical eco-paradise wherein I could explore rainforests and see unusual and fascinating plants and creatures.


Close the World on Flickr folded up bills from all over the world origami style and created fabulously irreverent hatted paper heads. Eat your heart out Philip Treacy!

Currency Art

Money is not only the means to buy art materials with. It can be the art medium in itself, which a lot of artists have found to be greatly inspiring. Take Hanna von Goeler for example, who put together a series that she called “My Currency, My Art”, in which she uses the dollar bill as a canvas for powerful and thought-provoking visual statements.

And then there’s tattoo artist Scott Campbell who took a blade to the same dollar bill, and ran with it, taking it to a totally different place.

And then there’s this trio of extremely talented artists known collectively as Alternating Currency whose skill and artistic vision allow money to speak with an eloquence that is truly priceless, leaving us breathless and in awe.

The Great Crash by C.K. Wilde

Portrait of C.K. White by Mark Wagner

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