I'm not sure how many folks visiting here are familiar with this book and artist, but I thought I'd do a post on it.
When I was a freshman in art school (1984), I came home in the summer to have my mother, who worked as an art librarian at Stanford, arrive one day with this book for me. Although I was instantly smitten and intrigued by it, I had no idea how rare and valuable it would one day be.
Foolishly, I lent it to a friend and never saw it again. The artist is an Italian guy, Luigi Serafini.
Here are some images I found online about it. Amazingly, The Believer has recently done an article on it.
This book is entirely written in a language created by Serafini. It appears to be an encyclopedia for a parallel universe, from the amoebic structures all the way up through the cultural issues, fashions, architecture and political structure - all illustrated with dead-pan clinical analysis.
The thing is, he leaves no clues in the entire book for how to properly decode anything. It is thus an entire work of imagination, not only of the creator but of the viewer. It is exactly as the title suggests: a codex.
One of the masterful things Serafini does is suggest a code for which one can actually make an attempt to translate. Multiple hints, an actual language system, and a sense that the visuals have some sort of meaning - even when in fact they essentially mean only what the reader projects upon the pages. In the end, it's not unlike reality -and the universe itself - magical, fantastic, and completely confounding.
It is, for me, a masterwork of modern book art. I'd love to know if any of you out there have seen this book. It's one of my biggest regrets that I ever lent this out!
This September brings the release of The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme. We received the advance copy and were delighted to see this crazily complicated production with our very eyes at long last. This was an epic book project, so I'm relieved I can finally reveal this to the world. I'd highly encourage you to click this link to go to the TheMonsterologist.com, an amazing website that the great team at Sterling put together for the book.
Not sure where to begin describing this project other than a couple of years ago I got a call from Scott Piehl, then at Sterling, to illustrate a group of poems with the idea that they were a scrapbook collection written by a retired scientist who's life work was studying monsters. Scott imagined me illustrating it like my sketchbook work, and also wanted to have my wife Cynthia Wigginton design it. The three of us had worked together on a previous book, "Oh No, Not Ghosts!" by Richard Michelson.
I had to figure out the first few spreads in order to get a grasp on how I was going to do this book, so I centered on the endpapers, credit/title pages because they would set up the mood and look of the rest of the book. The stamp concept came up out of a narrative idea to sew a few of the different poems together, so they were created almost a year before the rest of the book was made. I ended up using some of the stamps as elements in the art of various spreads. The yellowed "stamps" and perforations behind the graphics were actual stamps from the collection which I inherited from my great grandmother; some other stamps from this collection made it into other pieces within the book as well. The collection at one time included the famous "Inverted Jenny" stamp, which apparently my great grandmother sold to buy a fur coat!
Here's the title page, which features the unopened letter from Count Dracula. I also created a pattern of bats that I used here and there in various guises, and which I saved in the classic postal colors of red and blue. On the left, I was delighted to work in an old doodle from a sketchbook of a one-eyed beastie constructed with the help of a french curve.
A main inspiration for the feel of this project came from an antique Victorian book I have written about here on Drawger, "Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms". The cover I did is a straight-up reinterpretation of Hill's book, and I co-dedicated Monsterologist to Hill's author, Thomas Edie Hill. Hill was apparently the beacon of quintessential Victorian etiquette, and his book provided endless fuel for me in imagining the life of this Monsterologist character.
Sterling's editor extraordinaire Meredith Wasinger went the extra mile at every turn to fight for production bonuses such as the debossed leatherette cover, die-cuts and gate-fold spreads. In the design work, Cynthia had a crazy time combining all of the fonts, production technicalities and whatnot, and was constantly adding great ideas to the narrative and art concepts. In this gatefold spread, when opened you see Beowulf through a hole in the page, which opens to reveal a recipe written by Grendel's mother. From the next spread, this hole becomes the eye of the Golem.
I found myself "painting" with new images, old images, sketchbooks, ephemera of all ilks. It felt entirely free making this book. I drew these deep sea critters as I watched the ballgame on tv at night and scanned them in the next day as an element of a spread about The Kraken.
Pencils were making me happy on this project too, so direct. I need to get back into more straight up pencil work.
At a garage sale I scored a copy of Grey's Anatomy and used it as reference for some drawings for Frankenstein's monster. I got a lot better at Photoshop too; for instance, here somehow I was able to turn my crummy gym sock into a Sock-Eating amoeba-beast!!
As the book neared it's final stages, the page count revealed the need for a few extra pages. I was able to indulge in a final spread that had only artwork, so I utilized this sketchbook drawing that I made in Santorini during our honeymoon in 2006. Somehow, it seemed the perfect setting for the Monsterologist's meeting with a representative for Zargon Nine, so I drew a little spaceship and popped it in.
This is a travel sticker I made, which Cynthia then put on her old steamer trunk and then photographed it for the final page of the book. You'll have to pick up a copy to see the final result!
For more shots of the book, the iSpot put up a nice post about it.
Below is one of the two book trailers I made for the book. I've been enjoying making these trailers. The music is by Bermuda Triangle Service, in which I play drums with Cynthia (here playing the musical saw) and our dear pal Robert Malta.
This was an unusual project from the UK for The Folio Society, who produce beautiful reissues of classics, history and scholarly works.
These are covers for a three book boxed set, to be silkscreened in gold on black cloth, and are a historical work about the period from 0-400 a.d.
The art director wanted me to utilize the amazing patterns from this period, mostly created as mosaics by the Romans. They had to be historically accurate, but reformatted, with each book given it's own animal symbol.
I was excited to try and understand these patterns, but as I began in on them I realized I was in deep! I figured that some monks spent years creating them, and I had but a week and a weekend to draw them.
The hardest one to figure out was the rotating triangles (horse). I had to use good old math (which I'm terrible at) to plot out the measurements.
Below is some line art. I usually just cram all of the seperate elements onto a sheet of board and then tool it all together on the ol' iMac. I had to avoid drinking coffee before doing this one!
Amazingly, as I was working on this, someone sent me this picture of a crop circle from the UK in 2000. I applaud whomever made this crop circle, in the complete darkness, in mere minutes, in pouring rain and in the middle of the night - whether it was an alien or a hoaxer, I'm rather deeply impressed.
Aerial image by Ulrich Kox from Connector 2000 Archive
A final challenge was to make sure that these patterns lined up properly with each other's spines, so that they'd be harmonius when looked at in their box together. It created pretzels in my mind, but I finally was able to massage it all together.
It was also a nice luxury to not to have any type on the covers. Here they are in completion.
The art director plucked out the lion for the slipcase. Hail Gaius Julius! I'm actually looking forward to reading these as I'm a big fan of learning more about this period of history.