Criterion Designs

Criterion is a wonderful company  that releases amazing blu-ray and dvd editions of  important films. As they like to say “A continuing series of important classic and contemporary films”. I started collecting them with the “Close Encounters of the Third Kindlaserdisc, around 1992. I also got their LD editions of Robocop, Seven, Brazil, Life of Brian and a few more. It was always expensive to get their discs but you got amazing quality in return: director and d.o.p. approved transfers, interviews, extras. They were the ones that created what we all know now as Special Editions. From LD they went to DVD and then BR discs. The list of their releases is huge (almost 1.000 titles on DVD and BR but more on LD that were never released in the new formats like Akira or 2001: A Space Odyssey) and I wish I had all.

Criterion always had good taste when it came to design their products and in the last few years they started working with some brilliant collaborators: Bill Sienkiewicz, Yuko Shimizu, Kent Williams, Mike AllredDaniel Clowes, Sam Smith, Eric Skillman… The amount of high quality art and design made me wonder when they would release a book showcasing all of it.

Well, 2014 was the year it came out.

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Huge hardcover book, beautifully art directed by Eric Skillman and Sarah Habibi (the regular art directors of the collection) showcasing the art of 150 films and over 100 different artists.  306 pages and god it is heavy.

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Part of the fun of the book is discovering what film will appear next and what kind of materials they show: sketches, rejected art, work with typography, etc, so I won´t spoil that for you,. Every design presented here has some short text where they explain some details about how it was created and the reasons for this or that creative option. Also at the end there is a collection of ALL the LD, DVD and BR covers of the company.

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This book is a dream come true for designers an even though it is a bit expensive (not too much) you get a great art collection in return. As I mentioned before I am also an occasional film poster designer (you can check my company USER T38´s work at IMP Awards,  just a few of them are mine) so to me this book is a treasure and I absolutely recommend it.

PD: Eric Skillman, art director, used to have a blog where he explained from time to time the design process and some of this Criterion designs. Not updated anymore but still a great read: Cozy Lummox.

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Mika Ninagawa

Ninagawa is a world-famous photographer from Japan. Her photography is quite personal, full of saturated colors, lots of details, elements, sometimes even overloaded. She has worked for the most important magazines in Japan and abroad but I discovered her in the greatest clothes and pictures and pretty girls magazine, the deceased Smart Girls (which also featured the work of Yasumasa Yonehara and  Naito Keisuke)

I always liked her pictures, not so much her movies (she has been a  2 times director as of now, Sakuran and Helter Skelter). I kinda liked the first one (very similar in style to her photography) but I did not like the second at all. Anyway let´s talk about this book. I got it last year at International Nagoya Design Center.

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The book is thick and heavy and comes in a Cardboard slipcase. As you can expect from usual japanese photography book standards, quality of paper, printing and binding is all top-notch. If you are into japanese culture you will find lots of familiar faces: Yayoi Kusama, Kuriyama Chiaki, etc. The imagery is great, with many japanese motifs and elements, and also lots of nature photography: plants, flowers, etc…

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The book, visually,  is incredible rich even if sometimes you will need to rest your eyes. It is quite the visual overload from beginning to the end (and the book is 352 pages)

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The book also has an introduction and conversation with Moriyama Daido (soon to be featured here) and Ninagawa herself. It is actually a great read.

I bought as soon as it came out and it was expensive. I just can´t remember how much I paid for it but it was worth every yen. Now I believe is not so easy to find, probably out of print, but is still around on the interwebs. Published by Rizzoli.

Definitely recommended.

 

Araki by Araki. The Photographer´s Personal Selection.

Araki Nobuyoshi, as I am sure most of you know, is this controversial photographer from Japan that has a lot of sexual pictures, some of them even pornographic, and has been banned in his own country a few times and seems like he slept with all his models.

Well, part of that is true (I leave to you to find out what), but Araki is actually a much more accomplished artist. Controversy is just one element of many in his work.

This book here is, as its title clearly states, a selection made by Araki himself, of photographs taken in an almost 40 years span of time: 1963 – 2002

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The book is divided in years, one chapter for each year and it covers the whole range of Araki´s ouvre. It is actually amazing to see how much variety and styles Araki has had through all these years.

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Of course you will find sexual stuff in the book, but I just don´t find it offensive at all as I think it is pretty well done and in good taste.

The book design is also pretty good, some pictures taking a  full-page, some other pages full of stuff, and all done beautifully. Kudos to the designers.

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BW, color, flowers, food, cats, people, portraits, candid pictures, sex, death, kids, landscapes, alleys… All is here so this book could be considered a great introduction to the artist.

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The book is thick, 410 pages, and it was published in 2003 by publishing titan Kodansha. I got in amazon at around 50 bucks. I think is out of print but that is not much of a problem as you can find a lot of Araki materials on print, like the Taschen books. and many more. This one reviewed here is just one if the finest I could find.

Nostalgia. The Russian Empire Of Czar Nicholas II.

Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii  was a photographer who, at the beginning of the 20th Century created a very interesting photographic body of work, Basically he took color photos of his time and age, when color photography was almost unheard of.

This book, with such a tarkovskian title as Nostalgia, collects a great bunch of those images.

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He used a 3 color process (something I did too a long time ago with my old Amiga 500!!) to create beautiful and special color images, which look realistic enough but also had some kind of painterly feel. Besides this technical qualities Gorskii was a great photographer on his own right, with excellent sense of composition and framing.

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This book is published by Gestalten (2012). It is a big, thick, hardcover book, with clothed covers and containing lots of the best Gorskii images.  320 pages, excellent paper and binding. The subjects are varied: nature, people, architecture, railroads, landscapes… and the images are fascinating to see. A real window to the past. There are also some texts, providing context, explanation about Gorskii´s life and introducing all the chapters. In english.

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This book is a bit expensive (around 75 bucks in Amazon) but it is worthy. Even better, at the Library of the Congress website you have the surviving negatives scanned at high-resolution and available for free to download, so with some digital artistry you can create your own version of the images. Unfortunately at the time of this writing the Library of the Congress website is down for maintenance so I can´t post the links. Will do in a future update.

Tim Bradstreet: ARCHETYPE

Hello!

Archetype is the second “Art of” book released about Tim Bradstreet. He became famous (at least for me) with his Vampire The Masquerade  RPG illustrations and I always liked his contrasty super-realistic style. He then started doing comic book covers and unfortunately never enough interior work.

The first book was called Maximun Black: Iconic Images and Cinematic Illustrations and was a great introduction to the man´s work but this one here, Archetype: Iconic Images and Cinematic Illustrations Volume 2, is really something else.

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Here we have a huge hardcover book (312 pages no less) that takes a look to Bradstreet´s whole career: comic books interiors and covers, film work, etc, all illustrated profusely. It is quite interesting to see his evolution as an artist and how his work gets better and better.

The book is divided in chapters like Illustration years I & II, The Children of the Night, Blade, Hellblazer, novels, etc. And also there are chapters for more personal stuff like Red Sky Diary and Bad Planet and even some childhood pictures and art from those years.

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Also we can find photography of his work process, with his models and all, which I found quite interesting. You can even see good Thomas Jane posing for some Punisher work. He even has some words inside the book.

The book is written by Bradstreet himself and has a forward by Matt Sturm and introduction by the great Jim Steranko.

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I bought my copy at Bud Plant´s and it was a signed edition with an additional illustration. This edition is sold out but you can find the regular hardcover at Amazon, though for some reason you have to wait a long time to get it.

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Bradstreet is a very talented artist which I enjoy very much (and by his texts he comes across as a very nice guy too) so I definitely recommend this great book. And Maximun Black too!