Tag Archives: books

Spotlight: Marco Palena

Marco Palena has instantly become one of my top 5 favourite illustrators with his stunningly detailed and unique illustrations. The winners of this year’s Association of Illustrators’ World Illustration Awards have been announced, and Marco has won ‘The Overall New Talent Award’ for his work for the ‘Bookshops in Blossom’ book (below), which details Italian literature and culture:

His work has featured on the cover of plenty of magazine covers including ‘My Family and Other Animals’ for Illustrated Magazine (2015):

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Marco’s uniquely crafted illustrations are so incredible that it took me a while to realise that they aren’t digital illustrations, but in fact hand drawn!

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He often illustrates in monochrome, but his colour illustrations are just as incredible, and have been featured in children’s books:

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It’s hard to actually find information about Marco and interviews with him despite his successes, but I think his work speaks for itself. Stunning!

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Greg Heinimann: Book Cover Design for Reni Eddo-Lodge

Designer and illustrator Greg Heinimann was curated by author and journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge to design a book cover for her much talked about book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Reni had originally published a blog post which received so much attention that she decided to write a book about racism in Britain.

I had heard about Reni’s book a few months ago via a post shared by a friend on Facebook. I am yet to read the the entire book, but it seems like something that everyone should be interested in educating themselves about. I recommend reading the blog post called ‘I, Racist’ by John Metta, in which he thanks Reni for talking about racism long before I had the courage to start doing it again”.

The book is published by Bloomsbury, where Heinimann is an art director. The brief requested a typography-only design, and after many rejected concepts, he created something that from a distance reads “Why I’m No Longer Talking … About Race”. Contextually this reflects the message from Reni regarding white people ignoring racism and their privilege:

I was trying to convey the human interaction behind the title. More importantly, I wanted to play with people’s first impressions and interactions with the book and create a double take in public. The crux of the book is that white people won’t engage in conversation on the topic [of race].

I love the design of the book and you can see the previous concepts here. Greg has created something so simple yet very aesthetically pleasing, whilst still remaining on context with the subject of the book.

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California: Designing Freedom | The Design Museum

If you haven’t been to the new building for the Design Museum which recently relocated to Kensington, you are missing out. The architecture and gift shop alone are worth a visit!
The exhibition “California” caught my eye based on the parts that explore ‘freedom’. The exhibition explores more than just the expression of human rights freedom:

California: Designing Freedom explores how the ideals of the 1960s counterculture morphed into the tech culture of Silicon Valley, and how ‘Designed in California’ became a global phenomenon.

The central premise is that California has pioneered tools of personal liberation, from LSD to surfboards and iPhones. This ambitious survey brings together political posters and portable devices, but also looks beyond hardware to explore how user interface designers in the San Francisco Bay Area are shaping some of our most common daily experiences. By turns empowering, addictive and troubling, Californian products have affected our lives to such an extent that in some ways we are all now Californians.

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Aside from the array of Apple inventions and iconic technological advances that California has blessed the world with, the most interesting part of the exhibition for me was “Say What You Want”. Described as “tools of self expression and rebellion”, this part of the exhibition showcased artefacts that were created to highlight racism, sexism and homophobia:

P.S. sorry for the awful photo quality! Taken on my phone.

It was incredible being able to be so close to relics that were created to protest against the biggest human rights movements in the world. They even displayed newspaper articles from the past, and contemporary pieces created against Trump’s America.
I cannot recommend this show enough. It has to be one of my (if not THE) all time favourite exhibitions.

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Hollywood is Deeply Failing Those with Mental Health

A few weeks ago I was sitting at home, watching ads in the break of whatever TV show was on at the time. I found myself both saddened, cringing and wanting to change the channel – the ‘Split’ movie trailer was being aired. As someone who isn’t a fan of horror films, I’d usually never pay attention to trailers that do not interest me, however it was impossible to ignore the clear demonisation and offensive narrative created by M. Night Shyamalan.

From start to finish, James McAvoy provides a performance (an outstanding one, however) that is detrimental to those suffering from mental health, and more specifically dissociative identity disorder (DID). The character, Kevin, has obtained DID from childhood trauma, which is both a Hollywood classic and highly inaccurate assumption of the causes of DID. Most importantly is the overt and presumptive link between mental health and violence, stringed by Hitchcock in the 1960s (e.g. ‘Psycho’) but replicated in hundreds of movie plots, such as Rear Window, Betty Blue,High Tension, Fight Club, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Silence of the Lambs… the list goes on!
Why should we care about the plots in horror films? Isn’t it all clearly an over-dramatic, scripted fantasy that has no attribution to real life? Well, thousands have already signed a petition to boycott Split because “at a time when so much attention is being paid to mental illness and gender identity, we’ve reduced both conversations to a horror movie trope.” I couldn’t agree more! The film and TV industry has progressed enormously in the representation of gender, sexuality and race (although there is a very long way to go, but that’s a whole other story), but has seriously failed those with mental health problems. Despite organisations and campaigns for mental health being heard more and more in the 21st century, Hollywood has remained obsessed with narratives including schizophrenics who murder, rape and torture random victims.

Aside from the representation of DID in ‘Split’, the most common mental health condition used in horror films is schizophrenia, and characters with mental health are being depicted as more demonic and crueler than at any time in movie history, according to a report for mental health charity Time to Change.

Psychiatrist and film expert Dr Peter Byrne says:

This is omnipresent in cinema misrepresentations – the psycho killer is immortal and sadistic, motivated by madness – in almost all psychosis films, that character will kill.

The report highlights something really important – that the main source of information about mental health is from films. That is scary and highly damaging. Unfortunately, the mass media shapes people’s ideas about mental illness, and whilst British soaps contribute a lot of their story lines to mental health, the horror film directors and producers are yet to follow suit.
Little discussion of sympathy towards mental health is depicted in Hollywood horror, apart from the exception ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. In 1975, a time of little understanding or discussion of mental health, a film sympathetic to the mentally ill managed to win all five of the Academy’s top awards. Hollywood (well, some of it) took note: compassion can pay, and gave us films depicting empathy towards mental health like A Beautiful Mind, Shine, Rain Man, Adam, The Aviator, The Black Balloon, Séraphine, Keane, Away from Her and Girl, Interrupted. That being said, take those examples with a pinch of salt, as the characters were not accurately or correctly represented, but still contained sympathy rather than demonisation, which is really important.

One of my favourite films, ‘Shutter Island’, has received a mixed response from those concerned about mental health. Set in the 1950s, when psychiatry involved barbaric practices like lobotomy, electric shock and incarceration (scenes I found incredibly upsetting to watch), the film is based on a best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane published in 2003. Scorsese was out to create high drama and to maximise emotional impact – but how could he do this without becoming yet another director taking advantage of mental health? Before filming, Scorsese’s intense research included appointing his own psychiatrist, Professor James Gilligan, who specialised in violent psychosis. The character Dr Cawley is actually based on Dr Gilligan, who in fact was the director of a Massachusetts prison hospital for the criminally insane (much like the one depicted in the film) in the 1970s. Dr Gilligan wanted to protect the image of psychosocial treatments, and was pleased by the historical accuracy in ‘Shutter Island’, but not so pleased with the script itself. Dr Cawley’s treatment of Teddy Daniels was highly inaccurate, as his attempts to shock Teddy out of his delusion were done by enabling him to act it out. This would never happen. Despite the highly empathic narrative and the fantastic performance by DiCaprio, Teddy is still represented as a murdering maniac. However, Dr Gilligan believes that the plot is:

a kind of metaphor for psychosocial methods of treatment as opposed to damaging the brain.

So, ‘Shutter Island’ was successful at portraying the inhumane practices in mental health hospitals, but in the end, movies are drawn to madness because it’s scary. Horror fans eat that up.

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Hollywood needs to focus less on the fear-factor and presumption of traumatic etiology in mental health, the misrepresentation of psychologists themselves, and more on the authentic experiences those with bipolar disorder, DID, schizophrenia etc. experience. Hollywood has a responsibility to steer away from harmful stigmas about mental illness.

Here’s a list of films that have been praised for avoiding the sensationalism of mental health narratives:

Silver Linings Playbook
Clean, Shaven
The Hours
A Beautiful Mind
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Have a watch! And next time you want to spend your hard earned money on a horror flick, think about what kind of industry you are supporting. Mental health is so common, you will undoubtedly have a friend or family member who suffers and/or has been diagnosed. By supporting films like ‘Split’, you are halting the progression of destigmatising mental health, and that deeply effects people like me.

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AKQA: The Snow Fox

Creative agency AKQA have created this children’s digital storybook for Christmas, transforming the traditional bedtime story of flicking through the pages into a beautifully designed app.

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Inspired by the winter tradition of stories by the fire, The Snow Fox puts the magic of storytelling into the hands of children like never before, giving them the power to bring each page to life in their own personalised story.

Not only is the app’s aesthetic beautiful, the added detail such as personalisation (name and gender of the child) and recordings of the child’s voice for a rendered video at the end is the perfect addition to this digital book.
I love the illustration style and colour palette, which seems to be a rare find in companies and brands who randomly roll out apps and games (not naming any names, Channel4’s ‘Gogglebox’ game, wtf) with little consideration regarding the design.

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WWF: Tiger Protector

I am not crying, I have a large twig in my eye.

Created by J. Walter Thompson London and directed by Martin Stirling, ‘#iProtectTigers’ is an emotive ad featuring a CGI tiger and a personalised book encouraging children to sign up to the charity as “tiger protectors”.
The spot sees a family nurse a tiger back to health, eventually going back into the wild, emphasising the message that we can provide care for the quickly depleting species by donating £5 a month. 95% of the world’s wild tiger population has been lost in the last 10 years…
As part of the integrated campaign, the project has been designed as a gift for children – the book can be personalised with the child’s name, gender, skin and hair colour. Even the parent role can be personalised, steering away from the usual “donate £X a month and adapt an animal” campaign.

Jasper Shelbourne, Creative Director at JWT London says:

By making people Tiger Protectors we are bringing the audience much closer to the action, something manifested in the book, film and print. And, executionally there is something uniquely engaging about a 700lb Tiger in a small bedroom in suburbia.

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The only time I will ever use the term ‘real woman’

It’s Monday morning, and as I lean towards wanting my second coffee of the morning, I come across an article about Wonder Woman as a United Nations ambassador, and start to question whether I had enough sleep last night. I didn’t read this incorrectly, the United Nations have actually elected a fictional superhero as the honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.

My face hurts from glowering at my screen, along with the 2000+ petitioners against electing a cartoon rather than a real-life woman. Not only am I baffled that people thought a character from a comic could represent all women globally, I am also stunned that women are supporting (with the hashtag #WithWonderWoman – is this a joke?) a character who is so clearly the creation of a heteronormative, misogynistic view of the female body. I’m not going to write about Wonder Woman’s (aka Princess Diana of Thermyscira) body shape and the unrealistic expectations for women and girls, because I find the whole ‘real women’ body shaming thing very disturbing and unhealthy for society. Yes it’s rare, but there are women out there with natural size 6 waists, E-cup bras and bubble-butt, just like Wonder Woman. But that’s not the point here…

The choice to anoint Wonder Woman occurred on her 75th birthday at the launch of a social media campaign to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. As fabulous, sexy and empowered as Wonder Woman looks, she was created by two men – Harry George Peter and William Moulton Marston – who have clearly overly-sexualised Wonder Woman, giving her a sultry pin-up look. Marston claimed to be a women’s rights advocate who was inspired by the leaders of the suffragist movement.

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UN official Maher Nasser says:

The focus [of the UN] was on her feminist background, being the first female superhero in a world of male superheroes and that basically she always fought for fairness, justice and peace.

Greg Rucka worked on Wonder Woman for DC Comics throughout the 2000s, and whilst he recently confirmed that Wonder Woman is queer (which is fantastic!), it is impossible to ignore her sexualised body and costume. Fans claim that Wonder Woman is from a feminist utopia, but she looks like a sex doll to me. There’s nothing wrong with showing off your body – I am all about showing-off what your mama gave you – but we cannot claim that this fictional character wasn’t created for the male gaze. She clearly was. Coincidentally, DC Comics is developing a new Wonder Woman comic that will be coming to a cinema screen near you in 2017………

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The most disturbing part about this bizarre idea from the UN is that they somehow were unable to find a REAL woman to become ambassador. Of course, protests ensued inside the Ecosoc chamber where the official ceremony took place. An anonymous protester said:

For something that is this important, you need a woman or a man who can speak, somebody who can travel, somebody who can champion these rights, somebody who is able to have an opinion, somebody that can be interviewed, somebody that can stand up in front of 192 member states and say this is what we would like you to do.

The ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls should be a real-life, living and breathing woman who is culturally encompassing (Wonder Woman is white, of course…) and able to raise concerns for women, globally. Perhaps that is exactly the reason why a fictional woman has been honored. Whilst to some women this might seem like a fun campaign in the right direction for young girls, to me it sounds like yet another technique to shut women up and not allow them to have any opinions. Wonder Woman isn’t real, so she can’t talk, she can’t question and she can’t uncover the truth.

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So, as you can tell, I am an atheist…

This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about religion:

 One thing that really annoys me is when people say “that’s not very Christian of you!” or “you won’t go to hell if you do this or that”, and apparently if you murder, rape or abuse people, as long as you repent your sins before death, you’ll go to heaven. Sorry, but it’s not “very Christian” of the sick priests and vicars who take advantage of their position to abuse young boys form their Church. NO BUT WE MUSTN’T TALK ABOUT THAT! No, we must not talk about the fact that religious figures sexually abuse innocent young boys in their oh so holy place.

Religion is just a load of contradictory rubbish. It is absolutely impossible to follow the Bible. No one even does, people just decide to pick out certain bits and go along with it.

And what does being a Christian have to do with being a good person? I’m a fucking good person, I tell you that, I do SO much for people, but I’m an atheist. My mum is an atheist and she spends so much of her time helping out all the old neighbours – she’s always getting their shopping, fixing things for them, driving them to and from the hospital … one once said to her “you’re a good Christian for doing this”, why can’t she just say she’s a good person?!

I don’t do good things for other people, treat others with respect and cease judgement on people because I want to go to a good place when I die, I do it because I want to. Because it’s what decent human being should do without the thought of gaining something at the end of it.

If you’re religious and your God(s) help you when times are tough, then that’s great, but I HATE it when it’s pushed in my face. Don’t preach to me about bullshit that I know more about than you do. I was brought up a Christian, my boyfriend is from a Catholic family, my two aunts are extremely religious, I went to Church for about 10 years, I own two Bibles, I gained an A in Religious Studies GCSE, I leisurely study the Bible’s meanings and quotes, I watch documentaries, I read books about religion, I read articles about religion…. the list goes on. I think most people assume Atheists are ill-knowledged, but I bet pound for a penny I know more about every religion than most religious people. I can quote from the Bible with who wrote what. Ask any homophobic Christian who exactly wrote that being gay is an “abomination” and where it came from, and I BET they do not have a clue.

And that’s what angers me – talk all you like about your religion, but if you’re claiming things from hear-say or from what your parents have told you, then you are not a proper ‘Christian’. If anything, it’s insulting to your own religion, and it’s insulting to those who do take their religion seriously and actually know their holy book inside-out!

Additionally, there are a few main reasons as to why exactly I am an atheist. Firstly, unlike most Christians, I do not deny actual scientific proof (because I’m not an imbecile, of course). Evolution isn’t just a made up theory – there are actual fossils, skeletons … current animals and us humans are proof of evolution. Honestly, anyone who denies that is just terribly uneducated and I feel rather embarrassed to have a conversation with anyone in denial of such evident facts. Secondly, I see the story of Jesus as a myth – I believe he was a real person, but I don’t believe the stories. Let’s take the story of ‘Adam and Eve’ as an example: if this were true, we would all be retarded. There is no scientific way Adam and Eve and their children could have carried on breeding without creating disfigured and/or disabled babies – take a look at the 8-legged babies in India that are the result of incest. Regardless, even denying that they were just a story means that Adam and Eve are incestrial aaaaaand isn’t that a bit fucked up?… Plus, the story of Noah and the Ark? Really? What about the dinosaurs we have in museums across the world? What about BC – Egyptians, Greeks etc … why has the Bible completely chosen to ignore their existence? Anyway, as my second point, I meant that I see Christianity the same as I see the Greek myths. People used to believe that the Greek Gods and Goddesses were just as real as religious people believe their God(s) are real! I really do not see a difference. It’s just another cult belief – there was no proof then, are there’s no proof now. Thirdly, I believe religion creates hate. Homophobia stems from Christianity (post Christianity, orgies and bisexuality was so common in Greece – that’s where Paul, in the Bible, wrote his disgust for homosexual acts) and I do not see religion as an excuse for discrimination. Not just that. but the Bible discriminates and suppresses women, making it clear that men own women (domestic violence is allowed) whilst giving contradictory references to cheating on your wife. There’s basically a lot of contradiction and hatred, and I HATE that. Religion is no excuse for hatred, and I cannot be a part of something that preaches such disgusting things. If you’re not aware of the extent of discrimination religion brings, Google ‘God Hates Fags’.

 

I hope I haven’t offended anyone, I’m just telling the truth and expressing my opinion. I do not support hate, suppression and idiocy, so I do not support religion.

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