Want more like this? Try searching the Archives for Sam Vanallemeersch.
So at SPX a few weeks ago, Jim Rugg walked by with a giant Sam Vanallemeersch book (Big Mother #2, from Nobrow Press), which of course sold out before I could get one. Vanallemeersch is no stranger to readers of Drawn—or even me; I’ve been following his Flickr for awhile, have seen his stuff here and there, and liked it. But something about looking through that book made my hair stand up a little; nothing beats a book for a tactile, visceral experience.
So anyway, I got home and started looking him up, and found a bunch of gorgeous, frenetic, manic drawings like the one above, very much in line with what I’d responded to so much in Big Mother. But somehow I had never made the connection between Vanallemeersch’s textured, inky, organic drawing and his second “Kolchoz" style, which is an incredibly polished, shape and color-based approach. Not quite the opposite of the organic style, but a kind of mirror version. Like what if a robot, programmed with everything Vanallemeersch knows about drawing, color, and movement, then struck with some sort of divine lightning, were to create? Look at this, the first image of a eyeball-withering long horizontal scroll, on Vanallemeersch’s Kolchoz site:
It’s a beautiful drawing, right? But when I tried to open it up on my computer, I found something crazy: it’s essentially pixel art!
Now, pixel art by itself is not such a new exciting thing. I mean, this is gorgeous and everything, sure. But as someone who draws all day, who knows a bunch of drawers, who sees drawings and makes drawings and blogs about drawings, sometimes it’s hard to get excited about drawings. But this duality, the mirroring of Sam Vanallemeersch into chaotic-but-sensible organic drawings, and these inorganic-but-insane ordered drawings—something about those two things going on in the same brain makes both more interesting. You end up looking closer at each to discern the other, does that make sense?
The funny thing is, I emailed Sam to ask him a bunch of breathless questions, and he was appreciative but maybe not as excited about his illustration “clean” style. Which is fair, of course. Heck, you can feel anyway you like about whatever you like. But it reminds me of something I read somewhere about illustrators keeping a single sketchbook, rather than having a “work” sketchbook and a “personal” sketchbook. So all your ideas and tryouts and mistakes inform and feed each other, rather than existing in two walled cities, stagnating. Is that what Sam’s doing? I’m not sure, but if he is, there’s definitely a tunnel between the two and some trade going on; a subterranean Athens-Sparta Railroad.
My favorite thing was this: while trying to figure out how to get screencaps of 72dpi pixel art up close, I ended up looking closely at that first image:
I love it! Art is great for looking at and learning from and talking about and all that, but there’s something really enervating and human about seeing someone’s brain at work. Definitely am looking for anything with Sam Vanallemeersch’s name on it, whether it’s the hard-to-spell regular version, or under Kolchoz.
This was a good week for books I picked up or that landed on my desk. Here are a few I enjoyed:
It’s probably safe to say I will automatically buy any book illustrated by Jon Klassen. Between this and I Want My Hat Back, he’s on a real roll. Here we get more of minimalist, textured drawings. It’s a story about bringing colour and beauty into a dull, grey world. In the hands of any other artist it could have been a candy-coated rainbow, but Jon’s elegant restraint keeps things a little muddy and muted, and I think the book is all the more lovely because of it.
Drawn’s own Matt Forsythe delivers the follow-up to his first book, Ojingogo. Jinchalo continues the wordless fairy tale adventures of Voguchi, and Matt has clearly stepped up his game in terms of his art and pantomime storytelling. It’s a little Alice in Wonderland, a little Jack in the Beanstalk, and a little Wizard of Oz, flavoured with Korean folktales. I love these books so much.
I think my only exposure to Sam V’s work has been through stumbling upon his Flickr account. But after visiting his high-res website and seeing this tabloid-sized book of his drawings from Nobrow, it’s clear that the best way to see his work is BIG.