Monday, 18 November 2013

Usborne Puzzle Adventures

With my recent house move I've discovered the collection of Puzzle Adventure books published by Usborne which my sister and I adored as children. I was reminded just how good the illustrations were and the quirky ingenuity of their plots.

In the 80s Usborne was the publisher of high-quality children's picture books. Their titles were populated by vibrant, humorous pen-and-ink pictures and often had a 'scrap book' feel with newspaper-style layouts. Amongst their series were the Puzzle Adventures. These described short, fantastical stories, invariably with children as protagonists. Every spread advanced the plot, but ended with a puzzle which often relied on careful examination of the illustration(s) to solve. Thus the drawings were key to both the riddles and the series' success.

These illustrations are still marvellous today. They are invariably brightly coloured, full of humorous detail and incidental jokes. The large, double page spread ones are quite stunning and the artists clearly went to town. They evoke often very British fantasy worlds full of crumbling castles, weird antiques shops or pirate hideouts.

Usborne is still publishing today, but some time in tbe 90s lost its preeminent position to Dorling Kindersley. DK were, I seem to recall, early adopters of the digital clipped-photograph approach to non-fiction children's books, which the public was eager to adopt. Today, the vintage Usborne books feel rather dated and a product of an analogue era. Their hand-made quality, however, ensures they have a magic that makes the DK approach seem rather sterile to my mind. The slightly bonkers environments the characters found in their pages fired my imagination and made me ready to embrace another company's analogue fantasy output: Games Workshop.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Nikon Df

For a long time I've thought to myself, "I'd really love a Nikon which looks like an Old Skool film SLR but is actually digital". Clearly someone at Nikon HQ heard me, and has released the (as-ever catchily-named) "Df". However, that person, it transpires, is also a total git, because the Df weighs in at, like, £2,700.


Will likely never have.

Oh well.

It's got a full frame chip, yada, yada, yada... But what's actually pretty cool is that Nikon is once again making a camera which will mount and use old, manual lenses. Part of Nikon's draw right up until about 2005 was that pretty much every SLR they released could use old glass. However, they've abandoned this of late in favor of their smaller-form-factor bodies only mounting new lenses. It's therefore nice to see the old USP returning. Even if the chances of me owning one are rather slim.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Only Lovers Left Alive trailer

The trailer for Jim Jarmush's new vampire flick has hit the interwebs and it looks like an awesome take on the genre. It seems we can expect more of the languid city crawling shots that made Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai so badass.

Plus it's got Tilda in it, who is hands-down awesome.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Day of the Dead-ator!

Long-time readers will know of my love for Day of the Dead makeup. So it was with great gusto that I prepared for a Dias de los Muertos party this weekend just gone at Nottingham's excellent Contemporary gallery.

However, I subscribe to Marty Neumeier's motto that when everyone zigs, you zag. With all the city's arty types painting their face my humble efforts would likely go unnoticed. But after a bit of a think and a cry of 'Get to the chopper!' I decided to tart up an old Predator mask I had lying around.

I am pretty pleased with the result. It's really nothing special - just white acrylic paint over a black base, with a coat of gloss varnish sprayed over the top. The design was first sketched in white pencil then hand-painted. Up close you can still see the brushstrokes, which I quite like as it retains an honesty about the manufacturing process.

Remember; if it bleeds, we can kill it!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Inside Guillermo Del Toro’s sketchbooks

A quick post at the end of the weekend which has seen me create my latest character - The Day of the Deadator (more on that soon...)

Via The Guardian: A new book by the Pan's Labyrinth and Pacific Rim director reveals how some of his most memorable monsters came to life.