Field Notes Launches New Collection of Letterpress Notebooks Designed by Nine Printers Across the U.S.
For its latest limited edition series, Field Notes tasked nine letterpress shops with capturing the diverse perspectives and histories of the nation through a pocket-sized design. United States of Letterpress is a pastel collection of memo notebooks featuring renderings of small storefronts, geometric patterns, and various slogans, including nods to the upcoming presidential election. Each holds 48 pages of graph paper.
To coincide with the launch, the Chicago-based notebook manufacturer filmed a short documentary, directed by Steve Delahoyde, capturing the processes and history of the art form. The printers involved—which includes Genghis Kern, Full-Circle Press, Mama’s Sauce, Brad Vetter, Springtide Press, Ben Blount, Erin Beckloff, Rick Griffith, and Starshaped Press—speak to the generosity of the printing community, the challenges of the medium, and the endurance of traditional type and equipment. They also details the tactile process of designing and creating their contributions.
For the special collection, Field Notes sent the independent printers cover paper in a different color and asked them to use the same two inks, Rhubine Red and Process Blue. Employing a variety of vintage metal, wood type, laser cutting, and photopolymer plates, some producers submitted two designs, which were added at random into the packs. “There is so much history and tradition in each hand-printed piece, and we wanted to honor that while also showcasing the phenomenal work that modern practitioners of the craft are producing,” co-founder Jim Coudal said.
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Some meals leave an impression—you might remember the cherry pie your grandma always made or a multi-course dinner consisting of toast and caviar, a mound of shaved truffle topping pasta, and wagyu tartare. Rather than solely rely on his memory to envision the fare he’s enjoyed, though, Japanese chef Itsuo Kobayashi has been painting and describing in detail the dishes he’s eaten for the past 32 years in a series of notebooks and standalone works.
While an interesting look at Kobayashi’s nourishment, the detailed projects are also a growing collection of outsider art. N. Kushino, who runs Kushino Terrace gallery in Fukuyama, Japan, and represents Kobayashi, tells Colossal that the artist begins by writing detailed passages of what he eats before going back to create his appetizing illustrations.
What stands out is that all of these drawings feature an overhead perspective so that all of the ingredients of the food Kobayashi depicts can be seen. Furthermore, in the blank spaces in his compositions, the artist writes the names and prices of, and his opinions about the food and the ingredients he portrays. He adds positive descriptive words about his subjects, such as “delicious,” so that he may provoke good memories when he later looks at the drawings.
For many years, Kobayashi cooked at a soba restaurant and provided meals for schools until he was diagnosed with alcoholic neuritis, a debilitating condition that reduced his mobility. Now, the artist mostly works from home, ordering take-out often and continuing to detail his meals at length. Since he started the creative project at age 18, Kobayashi has produced more than 1,000 illustrations. “For him, painting and living have the same meaning. The disease (makes it) more and more difficult to walk, but he does not stop painting,” Kushino says. Most recently, Kobayashi has begun shaping pop-ups in his works featuring bowls of tempura seafood and piles of noodles.
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Back for an eighth year, the annual Moleskine Project, curated by Rodrigo Luff and Spoke Art, brings together a diverse slate of artists all working within the confines of a Moleskine notebook. Featuring over fifty artists from around the world, this year’s exhibiting artists include Laura Berger (previously), Kevin Peterson (previously), and Martine Johanna. Luff describes the mission of the show as “a tribute to how artists have developed and grown by using sketchbooks to dive deeper into the personal realms that fuel their artwork. An energetic visual dialogue of imagery flows from frame to frame, forming a collective sketchbook that allows us to appreciate the radically individual approach taken by each artist.”
The Moleskine Project show opened on June 1 and runs through June 22, 2019 at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco. You can keep up with the bi-coastal gallery’s upcoming events on Instagram and Facebook.
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Recently Digitized Journals Grant Visitors Access to Leonardo da Vinci's Detailed Engineering Schematics and Musings
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London recently published scans of two of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks so website visitors can digitally zoom and flip through the drawings and musings of the Italian Renaissance painter, architect, inventor, and sculptor. Jumbled together in the delicate journals are thoughts on both science and art—detailed charts and speculations contained on the same pages as observational sketches of hats or horse hooves.
Da Vinci is believed to have started recording his thoughts in notebooks during the 1480s while he was a military and naval engineer for the Duke of Milan. The writing included in the notebooks was produced in 16th-century Italian “mirror-writing,” which one reads right to left. Scholars have debated the reasoning behind this style, believing it was either a way to code his thoughts, or simply make writing easier as a left-handed artist. “Writing masters at the time would have made demonstrations of mirror-writing, and his letter-shapes are in fact quite ordinary: he used the kind of script that his father, a legal notary, would have used,” an article on the V&A’s website explains. “It is possible to decipher Leonardo’s curious mirror-writing, once the eye has become accustomed to the style.”
The collective title for the five notebooks in the V&A’s collection is the Forster Codices. This digitized set contains his earliest (1487-90, Milan) and latest (1505, Florence) notebooks in the museum’s collection. The name for the journals comes from John Forster who bequeathed the valuable works to the museum in 1876. The V&A plans to digitize the three other notebooks found in the two volumes Codex Forster II and III, for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death in 2019. You can learn more about the series of notebooks in the collection on the V&A’s website. (via Boing Boing)
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Handmade Sketchbooks Teeming with Colorful Calligraphy, Diagrams, Sketches, and Travel Ephemera by José Naranja
José Naranja creates beautifully detailed sketchbooks by collaging elements of photography, writing, stamps, and his own precise drawings of everything from poisonous mushrooms to a bird’s eye view of his dream studio. The ex-aeronautic engineer began working with sketchbooks after he discovered pocket-size Moleskine notebooks in 2005 and realized they were the perfect vessel to document his daily experiences and develop his wildest ideas. After 13 years of using the same style of notebook, Naranja now crafts his own by hand.
“It creates a special link between my journals and me,” Naranja told Colossal. “Drawings of calligraphy are just useful tools to express ideas They are the visible layer in the whole notebook as a piece, a mandala, and it’s the final artwork. Every detail in the process should be taken into consideration because I give the best effort. At the moment they have given me back only good news.”
The sketchbook artist also sells edited copies of his best work in a compilation called The Orange Manuscript, which you can find on his website. You can see up-to-date sketches and follow his travels (which happen nearly year-round) on his Instagram.
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Since we last checked out Athens-based Fabulous Cat Papers (previously) they’ve released a whole new series of notebooks that incorporate vintage science/medical illustrations printed on Japanese paper with hand-stitched embroidery. The notebooks come in a variety of sizes and options for blank, ruled, and graph papers.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.