On Heraldry

ardmillanarms

Once every fifteen years, I get on a heraldry kick. I recently did a quick doodle of my ancestor’s coat of arms: Crawford of Ardmillan, an older branch of Clan Crawford whose family seat was in Ayrshire, where they were sheriffs for generations. Among my branch’s multiple claims to fame (including repelling a major Viking invasion by delaying them until the autumn storms destroyed their fleet) is that its founder was the maternal uncle of William Wallace. But enough bragging about historical trivia that I had nothing to do with…

If you start googling around for examples of heraldry, you’ll see a lot of heraldic illustrators who get caught up in their own facility, like graf artists will often do. They’ll often go way overboard with rendering everything, which is counter to the purpose of heradlry. The thing about heraldry is that it’s best when flat: they’re meant to function as symbols, first and foremost. Heraldry looks better when rendered in a flat, bold graphic style–much like the devices on the shields themselves, which were meant to be immediately recognizable on a chaotic battlefield.

One of my all-time favorite illustrated books is a children’s book of heraldry by Don Pottinger & Iain Moncreiffe, called Simple Heraldry, Cheerfully Illustrated–and it is. Published in 1953, the book is a joy: very informative to those new to the subject. The illustrations are brilliant: the figures are supple and the line work is spontaneous and vital. I could never match it. But the colors–the colors!–are something special: they’re those wonderful British postwar colors that you never see anymore, like royal blue and firecracker red. You want to eat them.

So yeah: one of my favorite things is thousand year-old coats of arms rendered in a mid-century style.

In Defense of “Unreadable” Books

A case for “unreadable” books like mine: “In 2010, psychologists at Princeton University published “Fortune Favors the Bold (and the Italicized),” a study demonstrating that people have better recall of what they’ve read when it is printed in smaller, less legible type. Texts presented in unusual typefaces (…) created “disfluency” in readers, triggering deeper processing and significantly improved retention. When people are forced to stare at something to decipher what it says, it sticks with them.”

Symonds Cider Ads: UK, Ireland

portraitshortcopy

Spent the better part of May working with the folks at BBH London on a series of print ads for Symonds Founder’s Reserve Cider, which will be running over the coming months throughout the UK and Ireland. It seems that these ads will be inescapable if you use mass transit in Great Britain over the coming summer (My friends in the UK have been sending photos of these train platform ads and billboards, asking me if I had done them, or if someone has been copying my style).

The team at BBH were great to work with, and I thank them for making my job easier throughout the approval process. This project also allows me a significant window of time over the coming months to concentrate on the next books I hope to publish.

horizmichelin

I like working with clients outside the US, because I often find that in many ways, one has much greater creative latitude (I’m fairly certain that there’s no way any agency in the US right now would or could sign off on these illustration-dependent, copy-heavy ads).

BTW: I’m currently seeking representation outside the US, so please contact me if this interests.

3×3 International Annual: Best of Show

3x3best“Honored” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel right now after hearing that Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself has been selected as Best of Show in 3×3‘s International Professional Show (no. 12). I never imagined that I would receive such an honor; after 25 years of working as a graphic artist, this is one of the sweetest moments of my professional life. My sincerest thanks to 3×3, the judges, and my publisher, Tin House. I certainly hope this leads to more opportunities for me to bust my tail. I am working on two books right now, and I am optimistic that I will find homes for them. I’m more hopeful about the future now than I have been in a very long time.

Artists Talk at Poets House: Friday June 12, 7PM

poets-house-manhattanjpg-d2110cc3bf6407aa

Walt Whitman & the Art of the Book: Contemporary Visions
Curated by Deidre Lawrence and drawn from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, Walt Whitman & the Art of the Book presents a diverse selection of contemporary artist books, inspired by the work Walt Whitman.

Artists talk with Allen Crawford, Sam Gordon, Barbara Henry, and Davin Kuntze, contributors to Walt Whitman & the Art of the Book – 7:00pm

More here.