Jan 10, 2009

Another interpretation of Book Art

I can't find the book from which I copied these illustrations from King Arthur; they are not from the original edition, but the artist is Louis Rhead. They're also typical of some of my favorite illustrated fiction; I just love the style of late-19th and early 20th century books, often inspired by Pre-Raphaelite art & design.

This example, and another depicting Arthur and Mordred, have been gracing my dining room wall for about 15 years now. However, they are not simply scans of the book illustrations, which are originally black and white. The process used for this (long before I even owned a computer) was to zoom the image on an office copier to about 10 x 14 inches, insert some high, quality, acid-free 11 x 17 paper into the copier and print. Subsequently, I hand-colored the output with colored pencils, then matted and framed them.

The frames are indeed very plain, but the images are so detailed and the wallpaper behind them is rather busy, so I thought it would be a nice contrast. I really think a more ornate frame would be a distraction; then again, I could not afford a more ornate frame at the time, and that may have been a factor.

I've used similar techniques in the past, and you could certainly do this all using today's illustration software, but I like the hand-rendered quality of the colored pencil. In a similar vein, I've scanned some B&W images from old architecture books and hand-tinted them in Photoshop, usually to match a special single color in a room--like a particular wall paint or a bedspread. Of course, I also know some people also cut books apart to use the illustrations as art, but normally I would consider this a high crime, unless the book is damaged beyond repair / incomplete, or still in print, and therefore--easily replaceable. In any case, an example that books are great for lots of things beside reading.

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