Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nonfiction Illustrated: Bibliography 1

Classes started last week. I’m excited about the two courses I’m teaching: Nonfiction Illustrated for Page and Screen, to senior illustrators; and Readings in Postwar American Visual Culture, 1945-1965, my spring American Culture Studies offering. I’ll post intermittently for and about these courses. Below, the opening blurb from the syllabus for Nonfiction Illustrated:

This course will be devoted to the development and production of a visual book or brief multimedia presentation (e.g., a short “film”) based on research and reporting. The student will be asked to select and investigate a subject, conduct observations and interview participants (if possible), produce descriptive writing and images, and arrange the parts to capture the essence of the subject. Significantly, the project must present an editorial point of view on the given subject. The running text of the project may not exceed 1000 words, excluding title and call out quotes, if used. The length of the project will run 18 to 24 pages at a scale of 8 x 10 inches. Multimedia projects will run two to three minutes. These are ballpark requirements, with details to be worked out on an individual basis.

To provide a sense of what’s possible in the nonfiction course, I have pulled a set of samples and established a set of categories for consideration. From the annotated bibliography:
These books and projects are presented here to give you a sense of the available range within the stated limitations. Read my annotations that accompany the citation, to be sure you understand the context in which the given work is being presented. Also please note that these sources have been arranged into loose categories, which may help you organize your thinking.

More from the bibliography:

Category One: Social History

Such works take experience in a particular time and place as their subject: the visual and social texture of daily life, the defining features of a culture or place, or a dramatic event grounded in culture. Sometimes these works are composed in the present, other times from a position looking back in time. In the latter case, they require significant research, which can often be accomplished in museums. There are ample resources in St. Louis to do such research--the Museum of Transportation in West County, the costume collection at the St. Louis Historical Society, the History Museum in Forest Park.

The works in this pile include Pascal Blanchet’s White Rapids from Drawn & Quarterly (2007), A chapter of Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan (1999), and Dan Zettwoch’s Won’t Be Licked; The Great ’37 Flood in Louisville, in the D & Q Showcase No. 4 (2006).

Reproduced here are the other two works in the Social History sample set: Miroslav Sasek’s This is London, and Rea Irvin’s illustrations for Snoot if You Must. I picked up the latter at an estate sale.

Snoot If You Must. By Lucius Beebe, illustrated by Rea Irvin. Published by D. Appleton- Century Company, New York. 1943.

The book contains a series of republished magazine features about metropolitan life. The length of the text would preclude its use for present purposes, but I have included the work in your references because of the accompanying cartoon drawings.

These are observed social follies and character types. Rea Irvin was the first art director at the New Yorker and created the masthead type, the Eustace Tilley character, and the magazine’s visual essence.

This comedy-of-manners approach could profitably be brought to a contemporary setting.

Note that this example suggests that cartoon drawing styles are perfectly appropriate for this project.

This is London. Written and illustrated by Mirsoslav Sasek. Originally published by Simon & Shuster in 1959. Republication by Universe Books, a divsion of Rizzoli, 2004.

One of a set of such books, including This is Paris, This is New York, and This is San Francisco. Note how whimsical yet informative the text and images are. Sasek clearly spent a great deal of time developing his representative content.

The illustrations range from occupational costume details [the man with the fish-carrying hat on p.13] to interesting transportation [buses on Fleet Street on p.16-17] to full-blown environmental scenes [view of an Undergound platform on p. 41]. Sasek’s figures have been widely influential in the “modern cartoon” figurative style revived by contemporary illustrators in recent years.

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