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Tag Archive: Harper Design


Review by C.J. Bunce

You’ve seen the late-night art school advertisements on TV.  Have you ever tried to draw a picture but never knew where to start?  Or you tried an art textbook but never could get your pen to connect with the paper?  Maybe the last time you tried to draw anything was back in grade school.  If you have the desire, but don’t know how to get there from here, a new book from artist John Bigwood may be able to help.

How to Draw Characters for the Artistically Challenged is not the next art school textbook.  It only has one page of words, so it’s also not really going to realistically be able to teach you how to draw.  It is, however, a book for budding artists to hone their skills and learn to draw character portraits.  It includes more than forty illustrations and drawing prompts to help complete them.  But you really don’t need any skill to give it a try, and you may find it is simpler than you think to create basic cartoon characters.  All the sample works seem to be of a beginner skill set, interspersed with slightly more difficult projects, leading to a prompt to draw an image of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (with or without Gene Simmons from KISS swapping out one of The Beatles).

Each two-page spread includes a 7-inch by 7-inch square page to the left with possible finished designs, plus hand-drawn components of the drawing so you can focus on details of the drawing.  To the right is a mostly blank page with one or more colored splotches of watercolors.  It looks like a Rorschach test.  I tried it and quickly had a Marilyn Monroe-inspired picture to show for my effort followed by three more completed pieces.  These aren’t likely to result in frameable or professionally rendered works, but they do provide the spark to get the pen onto the paper.  And it is fun.

Here are a few sample pages from the book courtesy of publisher Harper Design:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new print edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel The Secret Garden is coming to bookstores next month, and its artistry and design could stand as the definitive version–a storybook that could be a new favorite for the next generation of readers.  Originally published in serial form for both adults and children in 1910, Burnett’s classic book of children forced to grow up in difficult times and the value of friendship to their growth was initially not so well-received.  Burnett would be better known for her novels Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Little Princess even years past her death, but over time The Secret Garden flourished to become a beloved favorite, frequently ranked high on British and American reading lists, including those of School Library Journal, the U.S. National Education Association, and the BBC.  The novel made its way into the public domain, and has been the subject of countless print editions, as well as plays, musicals, television features, and theatrical films.  Actors Dean Stockwell, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, Glynis Johns, and Honor Blackman have all found roles in various adaptations of the book.  And soon another big-screen adaptation is coming your way from StudioCanal starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

Design studio MinaLima has partnered with Harper Design to release a truly beautiful version of The Secret Garden incorporating three-dimensional elements and hundreds of pieces of colorful line art and decorations.  A garden’s worth of vibrant flowers hug the footer numbers at the bottom of each page, colorful end papers adorn each new chapter, the off-white pages have an antiqued appearance, each chapter finds an old-fashioned stylized introductory letter, and pop-up images emphasize story elements.  It even includes a traditional paper doll, and cleverly folded paper gardens.  The 384-page hardcover features a gilded, textured cover, and tucked throughout the book are symbols and images found in Burnett’s sumptuous text.  The fifth in a series of children’s classics illustrated by MinaLima, including Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, The Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales, The Secret Garden is the pinnacle of these accurately self-described “lavishly illustrated” editions, finding a story that doesn’t require illustrations, but is enhanced so well by MinaLima’s application of them.  At two points in the story, letters are received via post by key characters, and instead of merely printing them in text as found in the original novel, the illustrators include two actual letters, designed as replicas, neatly folded just as you would have found real letters in the late 19th century, ready for readers to pull out and read as they move through the story.  That tactile experience will move readers young and old.

The style of artwork is suited to the story, combining British and Indian influences the young lead character Mary Lennox would have been familiar with, plus ink color choices and wallpapers similarly found in her era.  In this tale, Mary, an initially angry, “quite contrary” daughter of a British couple living in India that dies of cholera, finds herself nearly abandoned at a widowed uncle’s giant mansion back in England.  There she discovers the widower’s abandoned garden, and her relationships with three young people, an older girl and two boys, allow her to grow and move beyond her past.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When you hear the name Winnie-the-Pooh, what comes to mind?  Phrases like “Oh, bother,” or “Let’s Begin by taking a smallish nap or two”?  For many it’s the images of Pooh and his friends, images that have been around now for ninety years.  Never out of print, the original four books by author A.A. Milne make up a finite set of the stories of the original animal friends of Christopher Robin from the Hundred Acre Wood.  Milne is also who we first think of when we think of these stories, yet as much of Pooh is owed to the drawings and coordination with artist E.H. Shepard, who continued to draw images for new editions and authorized derivative works of Pooh and Friends for 50 years after Milne wrote his last Pooh story.  Shepard is the subject of a new book, The Art of Winnie the Pooh: How E.H. Shepard Illustrated an Icon, written by James Campbell.

The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh is a bit of a family story.  Campbell, author of a previous account of Shepard’s days in World War I called Shepard’s War, is married to Shepard’s great-granddaughter and manages the Shepard artistic and literary estate.  Minette Shepard, the artist’s granddaughter, provides a foreword to the book.  As a child in the 1940s, she was the caretaker of Growler–the original Teddy bear that inspired the look of Pooh we know today.  Fans of the four Winnie-the-Pooh books: When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We Are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner, have long known the story of Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne and his toys as the inspiration for the stories.  Yet the wider story reveals a working relationship between two creators in a manner not common for the era, and an artist who used his own son, Graham, as much as Milne’s son for his imagery.  Known nearly as well for his famous illustrations of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Shepard’s story is a chronicle of a long lifetime of artistry, duty, ups and downs, and a legacy for generations of children and adults alike.

The Winnie-the-Pooh books are one of the earliest examples of a writer and artist working together on a book.  When first published in 1924, publishers typically brought in artists to add images throughout a book after the text had been completed.  That changed with Milne and Shepard, particularly so after the immediate success of the first book.  As Campbell sees it, “Shepard and Milne had torn up the rulebook and made the public look at literature, and particularly children’s literature, in a different way.  Rather than reading to children the books inspired authors to write for children, and in the period up to the Second World War, this opportunity for adults and children to sit and enjoy books together grew rapidly.”  Collaboration became key to the appeal of these books, both the writing and the pictures, and although the publishing industry to this day continues to default regularly to keeping a wall between authors and illustrators, the ready combination of the two can be seen throughout the various niches of children’s picture books, comic books, and graphic novels.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many books have called themselves the definitive guide to Doctor Who, but only one really can back it up.  Five years ago the BBC tapped comic book writer Cavan Scott and Mark Wright to create the ultimate data source for the series’ 50th anniversary and the result was Doctor Who Who-ology: The Official Miscellany.  It’s hard to believe five years have breezed by so quickly, but Scott and Wright are back again with an update in Doctor Who Who-ology: The Official Miscellany Regenerated Edition Scott, writer of comic books and audio novels and one of the few people to have penned stories for Doctor Who and Star Wars and Star Trek, and Mark Wright, Doctor Who tie-in writer and audio actor, have filled in all the blanks leading up to the 11th Season (11th “Series” for British fans), coming this Fall.

So fans will find 55 years of encyclopedic information about everything Doctor Who in this 355-page hardcover brick of a book, nicely designed to represent the appearance of the TARDIS.  For only a five-year span the updates to the 2013 edition are many, with updates representing David Bradley’s new stint as the 1st Doctor, the end of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, John Hurt’s appearance as the War Doctor, the entire run of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, and the beginning this past Christmas of Jodie Whittaker’s new 13th Doctor.  Except for the 13th Doctor’s premiere appearance in this month’s Free Comic Book Day edition of the Doctor Who comic book, Who-ology looks to be the first book to feature Whittaker’s Doctor in an official Doctor Who publication.

Subject to the updates, the same design and organization that made Who-ology a British bestseller five years ago are back.  A trivia guide representing both in-world information and real-world information, cross-references to actors, creators, and episodes of the series, plus references to the radio dramas, audio books, comic books and other tie-in stories will allow anyone to access answers to Whovian questions quickly.  The scope and breadth of reference material demonstrates the reason why the series has so many fans.  Do you want to see a complete list of all the famous celebrities and historical figures the Doctor has encountered?  It’s broken down between people he only name-drops and personalities he encountered in his time travels throughout the series (from Alexander the Great to Shirley Bassey, and Nefertiti to Louis Pasteur).  How about the Doctor’s explanations for all of Earth’s mysteries of the unknown, like the end of the dinosaurs, the fate of Atlantis, the abominable snowman, and the Loch Ness monster?  And Who-ology isn’t just a big cold book of lists–Scott and Wright dig into the details of what makes all the incarnations of the Doctor and all their companions tick.  It’s interesting stuff, tying in the four corners of pop culture fandom, including actors that appeared in both Doctor Who and the James Bond movies, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Harry Potter movies.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As with fans of the other big genre franchises, fans of the Harry Potter universe are always looking for what is coming next for their fandom.  While waiting for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the next best thing is a visual journey into the artwork of the film series via Harper Design’s new 364-page, giant hardcover book, The Art of Harry Potter.  A gallery of more than 600 images, The Art of Harry Potter covers the eight movies, all created under the watchful eye of Academy Award-winning production designer Stuart Craig.

This collection is entirely different from any behind the scenes art book we’ve seen, breaking down the films by environments, characters, beasts, artifacts, and the most eye-opening: the graphic art that grounded the films in the real world.  The graphic art includes photographs of book covers, key documents by MinaLima that were seen onscreen, potion bottles, magazines and newspapers, blueprints, maps, heraldry, Quidditch signage, food and beverage containers, posters, and tapestries.  Trying to mock up a Harry Potter room in your house?  This is your sourcebook.  With only eight pages of descriptive text, no in-depth interviews with creators, or the like, and only photo captions to guide you on your journey, consider this volume the ultimate album of the concept artwork that inspired the films.

The most unique section of the book looks into all the artwork that adorned the Hogwarts school and other environments.  These were images that may not have been seen on the screen at all, or images seen only in the corner of a frame flashing by quickly, but all worthy of gallery display.  Don’t expect to find photographs of actors or as-photographed screen images–these images represent the ideas that were developed over the decade between 2001 and 2011 that were then crafted into the final screen costumes, props, stages, and Harry Potter magic.

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Our borg.com Best of 2017 list continues today with the Best in Print.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2017 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2017 here, and the Best in Television here.

So let’s get going.  Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:

Best New Edition of Previous Published WorkThe Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, David Petersen (IDW Publishing).  David Petersen’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful classic The Wind in the Willows into the hands of new readers.  The new edition from IDW Publishing was the perfect storybook, and Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard series, showed his understanding of these characters and their natural world full of wonder through his fantasy images.

Best Read, Best Retro Read – Forever and a Death, Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime).  Not every good idea comes to fruition.  Not every excellent project gets off the ground.  Not every great book gets published.  The Hard Case Crime imprint of Titan Books came through again, seizing the opportunity to take a lost, never before published work of Donald E. Westlake--Forever and a Death--and brought it to life.  And what a great adventure!  Originally the story commissioned to be the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the projected was shelved, and only now do we get fantastic characters (like environmental activist and diver Kim Baldur) in a very Bondian situation–destroying Hong Kong as payback for China taking it back from Great Britain.  Honorable mention for Best Retro Read: Turn on the Heat, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Dragon Teeth, Michael Crichton.

Best Sci-Fi Read – Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, Bradley W. Schenck (Tor Books).  Imaginative, new, and fun, Schenck took us into a timeless world full of nostalgia and classic science fiction.  Great tech, and a sprawling story.  Interesting characters and great world-building, this novel will be a great surprise for sci-fi readers.  Honorable mention: War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations, Greg Keyes.

Best Fantasy Read – An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors, Curtis Craddock (Tor Books).  The plot of this debut novel is labyrinthine and action-packed, full of assassination attempts from all quarters, courtly intrigue galore, grandiose philosophies, and a cast of characters anchored by the strong, smart, resourceful, and eminently likeable heroes.  Supporting everything is Craddock’s strong, confident, often-funny, and sharply observant writing that goes from heart-wrenching to hilarious on a single page without missing a beat.  A dazzling debut.

Best Genre Non-fiction – Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Daniel Falconer (Harper Design).  We wish every genre franchise had such a magnificent, thorough, monumental guide.  Falconer’s guide to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies is full of interviews at all levels of the creative process, and supported by concept art, photographs, maps, and so much more.  Worthy of the six films it covers, it’s the ultimate fan book and a model for any franchise attempting to put everything fans could want into a single volume.

There’s much more of our selections for 2017’s Best in Print and more, after the jump…

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We’ve reviewed dozens of books from the Alien franchise over the past six years at borg.com.  The latest book blends the look and style of the Batman v. Superman Tech Manual (reviewed here at borg.com) and the virtual world potential of Pokémon Go.  The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams, allows diehard fans of the franchise a new way to immerse themselves in the world of the U.S. Colonial Marines.  With a nod to real world guides like the U.S. Army Survival Manual this future version is interactive, merging a free Alien Augmented Reality app that readers can download to their smartphones with the preparatory lessons and guidance in the book.  The Alien Survival Manual is entirely in-universe, featuring explanatory material for the reader newly stepping into the boots of a new Marine.

The book features historical data on six past missions.  You’ll revisit or learn for the first time what went wrong on key case study missions involving the xenomorph aliens: USCSS Prometheus–the first recorded encounter with the aliens, USCSS Covenant–a colonization ship is annihilated by xenomorphs, USCSS Nostromo–an ovomorph and xenomorph encounter, USCSS Sulaco–less information is on file from this mission, and lastly, the Fiorina 161 mission–two facehugger aliens board the ship, and USM Auriga–the perils of attempting to clone this unpredictable alien species.

Once trainees are up to speed on their history, it’s time to engage via your smartphone or Surface/iPad with six real-world training missions.  An embedded separate workbook inside the Alien Survival Manual incorporates some basic augmented reality features, placing the familiar aliens in the virtual space of your own room when used with the Alien AR app.  The goal of each mission?  Survival.

Mission #1 is engaging a xenomorph egg simulation.  Mission #2 is a drop-ship simulator, where Marines must maneuver a ship onto a designated landing surface.  Mission #3 is an alien autopsy simulation.  Mission #4 is a chestburster simulation.  Mission #5 is an alien queen encounter (hint: just drop your phone and run).  And Mission #6 is weapons training.  Grab that M41A pulse rifle!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Arriving in book stores today is the next fandom book from Star TrekStar Trek: The Book of Lists is the first book to include information from the first six Star Trek television series (including the Animated Series, but not yet Star Trek Discovery) and all 13 films including Star Trek Beyond.  Noted trivia compiler and writer Chip Carter has amassed 100 lists that will tap the into recesses of any Star Trek fan’s memory.

Carter nicely pulls together lists of topics both inside the various Star Trek timelines and real world trivia about the making of the shows.  Altogether you’ll find 100 lists ranging from in-depth comparisons of episodes to quirky oddities.  List #90 includes actors who appeared in both the classic Adam West Batman television series and the original Star Trek series.  How many can you name?  Carter came up with nine.  List #40 includes twelve popular holodeck programs.  List #66 includes ten episodes that directly tie back to prior episodes from other Star Trek series (an example is the NextGen episode “The Naked Now” and the original series episode “The Naked Time”).  Can you think of fourteen different drinks (List #25) mentioned in Star Trek series (and that doesn’t include Raktajino)?

Star Trek: The Book of Lists makes for some great content that could be used as an extension of the popular “Top 10 list” party game Outburst In Outburst one player reads a subject to one or more other players or teams who must try to come up with all the entries on the list.  Here you could randomly flip to a page and read the subject, allowing others to try to list all the items Carter included in his list.  Tally the wins and hand the book over to the other side, taking turns, making for a fun game for any ad hoc assemblage of Star Trek fans.  It would work particularly well because most of Carter’s lists are not exhaustive.  For example, List #82 includes nine costumes created for the shows that were worn by one character and later re-used by a different character in a later episode.  In fact this occurred literally hundreds of time throughout the Star Trek series, so you could give bonus points to someone who can think of entries not included on Carter’s lists.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Timed for release as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, fans of Close Encounters finally get one of the most eagerly awaited, behind the scenes looks at the quintessential UFO film as Harper Design releases its hardcover chronicle this week, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.  And it’s everything fans of the film could hope for.

Known for his work as a publicist on more than fifty films, author Michael Klastorin worked with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment to unearth rare and never-before-seen imagery from their archives.  The book is a stunning collection of on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and recollections of the cast and crew to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen and through the entire production process.  First created as a story idea by Spielberg in his twenties, Close Encounters is still considered by Spielberg as one of his most personal projects.  Spielberg recounts his efforts to sell the film, his attempts to get a known screenwriter to write it only for him to finally decide to write it himself, and his original story synopsis, which remained hardly altered.  Spielberg initially wanted to reflect Watergate in his film to reflect the current zeitgeist, something of a government trying to cover up the aliens like Project Blue Book, but by the time the film was far along in pre-production it was determined audiences were tired of conspiracies as the sole defining theme.  Spielberg’s discussion of his early vision seems very similar to what Chris Carter would develop more than a decade later in his television series The X-Files.

Except those who are no longer with us, all of the players you’d expect provide contributions in the book.  Actor Bob Balaban provides some of the most interesting stories from the set, including his casting process for the film and development of his working relationship with internationally known director and film co-star Francois Truffaut.  Richard Dreyfuss’s recollections focus on his campaigning Spielberg to be cast for the role, the difficulty in the Nearys’ location shoot for the family home, and his realization from his very first discussions about the project with Spielberg that Close Encounters would stand up as a noble film pursuit.  Melinda Dillon’s role changed throughout the shoot, cutting one scene for financial reasons and adding the scene where she has the revelation that Devil’s Tower is the image in her dreams.  She also filmed much of the movie with a broken toe, followed by another leg injury caused on-set jumping from a helicopter.

The most fascinating behind-the-scenes effects discussion comes from Doug Trumbull.  His UFO storm development effect work was extraordinary.  You’ll find location photographs, visual effects explanations and process development discussions, photos of the Mother Ship model and other set models, concept art from Ralph McQuarrie, and many views of the film’s extra-terrestrials.

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With all the celebration activities earlier this year for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind hasn’t received all the love it deserves as it also celebrates the big 4-0.  But Star Wars and Close Encounters were each iconic, appealing to different facets of similar fandoms, with Star Wars as the space fantasy and Close Encounters as brilliant science fiction (and then Spielberg would make E.T.!).   Later this year fans of Close Encounters finally will get an eagerly-awaited, behind the scenes look at the quintessential UFO film as Harper Design releases its hardcover chronicle, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.

Known for his work as a publicist on more than fifty films, author Michael Klastorin explores the production and legacy of the fan-favorite flick, coinciding with the anniversary of the movie and a return to the theaters in a restored 4K version coming your way the first week of September.  Klastorin worked with Sony Pictures and Amblin Entertainment to unearth rare and never-before-seen imagery from their archives.  The book promises a stunning collection of on-set photography, concept art, storyboards, and more to create a visual narrative of the film’s journey to the big screen.  It will also feature commentary from every key player involved in the film, from Spielberg to the film’s stars and the key department heads, including model maker Greg Jein and composer John Williams, who brought Spielberg’s vision to life.

Look for special inserts and interactive elements including script pages, call lists, and concept sketches.  Check out the below 11-page spread, providing a great preview of what will be included in the book’s nearly 200 pages:

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