Before 2015 gets here, I want to take some time today to tell you all about a book I really enjoyed this year, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design, edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, and published in 2013 by Moleskine. (I believe it was published here in the U.S. this past summer.) And, fortunately, I’ve got some art from it to share here at 7-Imp.
This is a beautifully-designed (book-lovers, take note) and quite comprehensive tribute to artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (Back in 2012, I featured a bit of his children’s book illustrations.) Sironi, a researcher at the Centro APICE at Milan University, writes the book’s foreword, and the book’s opening piece, “Reflections on the Life and Art of My Father John Alcorn (1935-1992)” is from his son, Stephen Alcorn, also an artist and children’s book illustrator (whom I interviewed here in early 2010). In this opening piece, Stephen writes in detail about his father’s career and, with great reverence and a personal touch (the book also includes family photos), lays out the evolution of his father’s work. “At the time of writing,” he notes, “nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since my father’s passing, yet despite the passage of time, his work remains as culturally relevant today as the day it was created.”
The book is divided into four sections — the early years (“The Rise of the Merry Craftsman”), including Alcorn’s studies of abstract expressionism and representational art at Cooper Union, to his experiences at Push Pin Studios, to his apprenticeship with Lou Dorfsman; the “Sixties Heyday,” his experimentation with a more psychedelic style and his graphic design and book jacket work, a time during which most of his work was commissioned (and this section includes a piece on his children’s book work); his time in Italy during the 1970s, which includes discussions of his political satire and work for Federico Fellini (Alcorn designed the opening titles for several of his films); and, finally, Alcorn’s return to the States after he “was beginning to feel as if he had exhausted the creative challenges and professional opportunities Italy had to offer.”
Redbook, January 1966
The book, so elegantly designed, reproduces in color around 500 of Alcorn’s graphic compositions and illustrations, including children’s book illustrations, book jackets and slipcase designs, logos, magazine covers and editorial illustrations, drawings, paintings (some previously unpublished and some printed alongside preparatory drawings), portraits, advertisements (including early newspaper advertisements), poster designs (including political posters from the ’70s), and even billboards — this from an artist who worked in many mediums and styles. It is a treasure trove of information for fans of his design, typography, and illustration work, as well as anyone interested in illustration and visual communication.
It’s a fascinating and thorough look at an artist who has played an important role in graphic design and advertising both here in the United States and in Europe.
Below are some more images from the book. …
Menley & James, art director; Murray Jacobs, 1969
This, Alcorn’s first interpretation of “Eight Days a Week,” was considered
“too licentious” and was rejected. To see the second image, the one the publishers included in the book, click this image to enlarge it.
(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)
pen, sepia ink and watercolor on paper, 1975
(Click to enlarge and see final book jacket)
JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN. © 2013 Moleskine SpA. © 2013 Stephen Alcorn. © 2013 Università degli Studi di Milano, Centro Apice. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moleskine SpA.
Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.
1) Two whole days with no work whatsoever! (The up side to freelance work you can do from home is your very flexible schedule, year-long; the down side is you don’t really get time off like other people during the holidays, but it’s hardly as if I’m complaining either, ’cause that year-long flexible schedule? I love it. A lot.)
2) Good novels.
3) Good novels that are good read-alouds.
4) Calendars. (Well, I can’t help it. Once a nerd, always a nerd.)
5) Toy purges with a nine- and ten-year old.
7) That I have a family and a roof over our heads and food on our plates and warm blankets and good music to hear and good books to read and good art to see and warm cocoa. That about covers it. I’m grateful.
BONUS: My favorite gift? This album-sized limited edition print about one of my favorite songs ever:
What are YOUR kicks this week?