Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mary Blair Addendum

Don't know why I didn't think to mention this when I wrote about Mary Blair yesterday, but I wanted to add that the back cover of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow (that is, the hard cover under the paper sleeve) is totally me channeling her.

When we designed the back cover, Editor Charlie had the notion of using some of the abstract googie-style shapes characteristic of the 1950s, a few of which made their way onto the paper jacket and the interior pages of the book. This sort of thing:

That would have been great. But I wanted to filter the World of Tomorrow through a kind of mid-century Disney aesthetic (Walt Disney being an influential figure in my book), and the most distinctive stylist I immediately thought of was Mary Blair. My cover isn't really a copy of Blair's style--she would've done it completely differently, probably with cleaner geometric shapes, a broader color palette and more transparency--but the inspiration was there. It was also my first (and to date, only) 100% digital artwork, done totally in Photoshop. Designer Neil Egan and I pressed on with that notion and Editor Charlie either came to see it our way or decided it wasn't worth a fight, I'm not sure which. But we did it.

Mary Blair's work continues to influence artists and illustrators. Funny how it slipped my mind that I'm one of them.


Sherwood Harrington said...

You're certainly not one to slap a crescent Moon into a random orientation, so you must have put some thought into it before giving it a midday aspect. Care to share the thoughts?

Brian Fies said...

HA hahahahaha! I almost added a note about that because I knew you'd catch me out. Obviously, our tableau takes place shortly after dawn in a metropolis near the Arctic Circle and the sun is just off the top-right of the picture (it isn't necessarily a nighttime scene, although it printed much darker on the actual book).

The honest answer is that I tried the Moon in a lot of different phases and orientations but I chose this one because I liked the perpendicular angle it made with the rocket. To me it suggested a bow-and-arrow metaphor, with them both "pointing" the same way. I did at least satisfy myself that it would be possible to see a crescent Moon looking like this sometime somewhere on Earth.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Works for me. I had noticed its confluence with the rocket's trajectory and that it wouldn't really work as well in any other phase or orientation. The whole scene is dreamlike, anyway (as the world of tomorrow always is), so protractorism really has no place, does it?

Brian Fies said...

Thanks for going easy on me.

Designer Neil said...

Great post on Mary Blair - I didn't know all that about the backstory on that illustration you made for the back cover of WHTTWOT. So good to read more about her work - it really is amazing! Now we need to get a sultry portrait of you in the same style as hers. So you can be in the club!

Brian Fies said...

Neil! Thanks for checking in on me. I hope you're settling into the Bay Area nicely. It ain't a bad place to live.

I'm not sure I'm capable of "sultry." On me, it looks like "constipated." But I'll work on it.