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Wherefore Art Thou X-Acto Knife? Kevin Stanton’s Cut-Paper Shakespeare Classics

romeo_juliet cover page
A cut above. The title page for the Signature Shakespeare edition of Romeo and Juliet, illustrated with hand-cut paper artwork by Kevin Stanton.

hamletKevin Stanton remembers the first time he picked up an X-Acto knife. “In an introductory Chinese class I once took, I obsessively chose the hardest pattern for a cut-paper project we did out of construction paper,” he says. “I was struck by how detailed I could be with that knife.” He ended up with a fish that shimmered with painstakingly cut scales and a taste for slicing paper, a technique he returned to during his freshman year at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “I’d done a portrait in small strips of color-aid for my LCD class that was ridiculously meticulous, and I’m convinced the only reason I passed my drawing class was because my drawing professor liked it so much.”

Now a few years out of Pratt (he graduated in 2010 with a BFA in communications design), Stanton has honed his knife skills to the point that Sterling Publishing enlisted him to illustrate several volumes of its Signature Shakespeare series with his hand-cut paper artwork, which is reproduced in all its multi-dimensional glory in laser-cut tip-ins and scans. On Saturday, Stanton will be among the mix of established and emerging artists and designers participating in Pratt’s annual Alumni Art and Design Fair, where books, accessories, jewelry, paintings, and photography by more than 40 Pratt alumni will be up for sale. We asked Stanton to tell us about the process of taking a blade to the Bard, his experience at Pratt, and what he’ll turn his sharp eye (and sharp edges) to next.

What was your process like for illustrating new editions of the Shakespeare classics?
The process for the Shakespeare classics started with large lists of ideas for spot illustrations that were put together by Sterling’s Shakespeare expert (a Columbia professor, I believe). Then a ton of thumbnails and discussions about colors and sketches and ideas and revisions. Then better sketches and revisions. And basically by the end, I had two weeks to finish both pairs of books! It was crazy, but amazing.

What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
The sheer quantity of illustrations with the time, I think. But working with a group of people brings its own challenges too, but I think we cobbled something special together so it was worth it!
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So, How’s Your Graphic Novel Coming?

Need a nudge to get moving on the graphic novel you’ve been writing and/or drawing in your head for years? First, seek inspiration from Code Monkey Save World. The graphic novel in-progress–based on the songs of Jonathan Coulton, written by Greg Pak, and drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa–completed a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year (earning nearly ten times its original goal). According to the creators, the project was born after Pak joked on Twitter about writing a supervillain team-up comic based on Coulton’s characters. Coulton tweeted back “DO IT.” And so they did. You can, too, and the Mediabistro mothership is here to help with an online course that promises to move your graphic novel out of your head and onto the page–and beyond. Marvel Comics veteran Danny Fingeroth leads the eight-week learning adventure, which will take you from devising a proposal and writing word balloons to surviving Comic-Con and handling Hollywood. Learn more and register here. Sessions begin Thursday, October 17.

Color Me Keith Haring: Coloring Book Gathers Artists’ Illustrations to Fuel Young Imaginations

Inside Outside. From left, ready-to-color versions of “Oath of the Pond” by Koichiro Takagi and “Pizza Face” by Ohara Hale. (Photo: UnBeige)

It’s that time of year again, when even those who haven’t stepped inside a classroom for decades feel the unbearable urge to stock up on school supplies. Break out that fresh box of Crayolas—or Prismacolors or Copics—for Outside the Lines, out today from Perigee. This “artists’ coloring book for giant imaginations” is the brainchild of Souris Hong-Porretta, who gathered line drawings (most commissioned especially for this book) by the likes of Shepard Fairey, Exene Cervenka, Gary Baseman, Ryan McGinness, Jen Corace, and 100 other creative masterminds ranging from animators to video game artists. We asked Hong-Porretta, a self-desciribed “art enthusiast, idea enabler, and yay-maker” to tell us more about the colorful project.

What led you to create Outside the Lines?
My daughter, Lulu! She has lots and lots of coloring books and I noticed that she had a preference for coloring books with illustrations by established artists such as Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. After watching her scribble outside the lines of a Moebius coloring book, I thought it’d be cool if she could color artwork by our creative cabal so I wrote a list of folks I knew and one by one asked them if they would contribute work for a coloring book. I had several dozen yeses in a short amount of time—enough to motivate me to write a book proposal. The rest came together rather quickly.

How did you select the artists whose work you wanted to include?
Nearly all the artists included in the book are personal friends. Some very old, some newer. A few are friends of friends. But nearly every artist in the book has a relationship with me by way of previous projects or a social tie. Also, because I had once worked for a lifestyle magazine called, Tokion, I was able to call upon friends I had made from the ’90s, before they were rockstar photographers, illustrators, fine artists, graffiti artists, musicians, and much more.
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Trunk Sale: The Paris Review Turns Cover Art into Swim Shorts

It’s been sixty years since Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton founded The Paris Review, and the storied literary magazine is celebrating the big soixante with a fresh take on beach reading: smashing swim trunks that feature cover art from issues past. Created in collaboration with Barneys New York and Orlebar Brown, the quick-drying trunks are awash in the work of (pictured clockwise from top left) William Pène du Bois, Donald Sultan, Kim MacConnel, and Leanne Shapton. Each pair—limited edition, bien sûr—comes tucked in a Paris Review-branded, waterproof drawstring bag and includes a one-year subscription.

Five (Wild) Things You Didn’t Know About Maurice Sendak

It’s the summer of Sendak here in New York, with the Society of Illustrators celebrating the beloved children’s book artist, who died last year at the age of 83, with an exhibit of more than 200 never-before-seen Sendak originals (on view through August 17). Over at the New York Public Library, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” exhibition (on view through March 2014) devotes an entire wall to a giant, furry, and unmistakable silhouette of one of the “Wild Things” encountered and conquered by young Max. We scoured the gorgeous Abrams book that accompanies the former exhibition—and particularly the chapter contributed by children’s book expert Leonard S. Marcus, who happens to have curated the latter show—to bring you this handful of fun facts.

1. Sendak honed his drawing skills at a young age, while looking out from the window of his family’s Brooklyn apartment and “making endless sketches of the children playing in the streets below,” writes Marcus in Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work, “drawings that recorded not only the children’s body language and facial expressions but also their emotional weather.”

2. He skipped college and went right from high school to a job as the assistant window decorator at FAO Schwarz on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

3. Sendak’s close friend and editor Ursula Nordstrom, who Marcus describes as “America’s most daring publisher of books for young people,” planned early on to pair Sendak with Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon), but she died suddenly in 1952 at the age of 42 before the two could even meet, much less collaborate.
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Wanted: Illustrator to Blind Them with Science

man of science.jpgDo you excel at explaining phenomena ranging from plate tectonics to nuclear fission using only a pen and a dinner napkin? Doodle double helices—and their accompanying nucleotides? Then listen up, because the American Association for the Advancement of Science (or “triple-A S,” as the cool kids call it) is looking for a new visual Einstein to join the graphics and layout department for its flagship journal, Science, at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. Need you be able to tell xylem from phloem, ventricles from atria, a chupacabra from an exasperated kangaroo? Probably not, but be ready to describe how your “proven ability to create sophisticated, high quality visuals” will react with your “strong technology skills in contemporary software packages” to keep the visual standards of Science as high as its impact factor. And don’t forget to balance your equation.

Learn more about this scientific technical illustrator, American Association for the Advancement of Science job or view all of the current design/art/photo jobs.

There’s an App for That: Petting Zoo

Acclaimed illustrator Christoph Niemann (Abstract City, I LEGO N.Y.) gets interactive with Petting Zoo, a new app (for iPhones, iPads and now Android devices) that puts a high-tech twist on hand-drawn animation. Users of all ages can swipe and tap their way through the interactive picture book of 21 unconventional animals, from breakdancing dogs to elastic-limbed rabbits. Says Niemann of each creature in his animated menagerie, “You can slowly approach it, touch it, and it will do something unpredictable, but most likely something fun and adorable.”

Got an app we should know about? Drop us a line at unbeige [at]

There’s an App for That: Trace

Get your sketch on with Trace, a simple and beautiful yet incredibly useful iPad app created by the architects of the Morpholio Project. Free to download, the sketch utility allows users to instantly draw on top of imported images or background templates, layering comments or ideas to generate immediate, intelligent sketches that are easy to circulate. “Tracing over something is absolutely the foundation of the app,” says co-creator Toru Hasegawa. “Layers of trace paper are not the same as ‘layers’ in Photoshop or other tools. Here, they are the stacking of ideas, as opposed to the organizing of files.”

Got an app we should know about? Drop us a line at unbeige [at]

Run, Don’t Walk, to MoCCA Arts Festival

(Illustration from festival poster by Michael DeForge)

The Society of Illustrators and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art have joined forces for the 2013 MoCCA Arts Festival, which gets underway on Saturday at the 69th Regiment Armory in NYC. Among the diverse group of creators on hand at the two-day event will be guests of honor Bill Griffith and Jillian Tamaki; Paul Levitz will moderate an “Art as History” panel with Gabrielle Bell, Jules Feiffer, and Peter Kuper; and Anelle Miller will join Peter de Seve in an attempt to pry trade secrets out of Nora Krug, Arnold Roth, and J.J. Sedelmaier in a Saturday afternoon session entitled “Art as a Mission.” Learn more here.

Vintage Hotel Labels Live On in World Tour Seven Questions for Author Francisca Matteoli

Labels from the Central Hotel in Nantes, France (circa 1930s) and the Joia Hotel in Sao Paulo (circa 1964). © Louis Vuitton Archives

Remember when travel involved more than clutching bar-coded scraps and wheeling an ugly black case through “concourses”? Neither do we, but just imagine scenes from Titanic (pre-iceberg) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (without the murder)–all crisp kerchiefs, exotic matchbooks, and hotel labels slapped onto sturdy packing cases. Return to the golden age in the gilt-edged pages of World Tour, out this month from Abrams.

Chilean-born, Paris-based travel writer Francisca Matteoli (pictured) draws upon the vintage hotel labels collected by trunkmaker and traveler Gaston-Louis Vuitton (whose grand-père founded the leathergoods juggernaut) as fodder for a 21-city global adventure illustrated by oodles of illustrations, photos, vintage postcards, and more than 900 labels that live on as graphic souvenirs of getaways from Athens to Zermatt. “I realized that a small piece of paper like a simple label can tell a million stories,” says Matteoli. “Stories of woman and men, travelers, adventurers, gangsters, elegant people…and also of history, architecture, art, countries.” She made time between voyages to answer our seven questions about culling down the collection of labels, some personal favorites, and her own choice of luggage.

How did you come to write World Tour?
I was having lunch with Julien Guerrier, editorial director at Louis Vuitton, and I told him about my Chilean great grandfather and my family who always lived in hotels, and about our life in Chile and France…He then told me that Louis Vuitton had a magnificent collection of hotel labels and that we could connect our stories. He knew I liked writing stories, and we thought that it would be a very original way to talk about travel. That is how it all began.

How did you go about narrowing down/selecting the labels to feature in the book?
We wanted mythical hotels that are representative of the golden age of travel, that have a real visual quality–many of the labels are works of art. This allowed me to write not only about labels, but also about life, historical events, and people, because travel is connected with everything in life. We wanted a book that was both a pleasure to look at, and a pleasure to read.

What are some of your favorite labels from the collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton?
The ones that bring back personal memories. The one of the Hotel Meurice in Paris–so refined, so art déco, because my grandparents liked walking down the rue de Rivoli when they came to Paris, as do the tourists today. The one of the Hotel du Louvre, where I lived with my family when we arrived from Chile. The Savoy Hotel in London–the label is very creative, very modern for its time–because my mother, who is Scottish, used to go to the Savoy when she was young. The Hotel Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, because I lived in Rio, love Rio, and this label is not only historical but also extremely stylish. The Waldorf Astoria in New York, where I have beautiful memories, so chic and a fine example of the architecture of the 50s.
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