Andreja Brulc's Blog

Illustration / Part 3: Flowers

Posted in Books, Illustrations, Photography by andrejabrulc on 26/12/2016

The Earth laughs in flowers.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowers are happy things.
– P. G. Wodehouse

Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.
– Sigmund Freud

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
– Henri Matisse

The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.
– Auguste Rodin

10_flowers-daffodilAs mentioned in one of my last posts – Part 1: Trees and Part 2: Shrubs & Vines – in order to mark my 10th anniversary of graphic design and illustration, I am posting 12 themes in total that have most commonly ‘appeared’ throughout my work. To continue with the natural world, the third part is focused on the flower subject divided into the following sections – wild flowers, cultivated flowers and man-made flowers, as well as flowers as part of life cycles (birth and death).

Photography has always served me as a starting point for the process of making artworks including the flower subject. While majority of photography is accidental gathered through my travels and day trips, a small percentage is intentional depending on the aspect of a project. Also, while some of these photos were used in their entirety depending on the subject matter, many, on the other hand, were a starting point for experiments as flowers got incorporated into a new range of compositions and environments, as well as fragmented or transformed into new shapes and textures, through the use of various techniques.

 

1. Wild flowers

Wild flowers grow where they will.
– Rachel Lambert Mellon

You always have to remember – no matter what you’re told – that God loves all the flowers, even the wild ones that grow on the side of the highway.
– Cyndi Lauper

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.
– Georges Bernanos

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.
– Walt Whitman

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2. Cultivated flowers

I must have flowers, always, and always.
– Claude Monet

By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.
– Robert A. Heinlein

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
– Oscar Wilde

The water-lily, in the midst of waters, opens its leaves and expands its petals, at the first pattering of the shower, and rejoices in the rain-drops with a quicker sympathy than the packed shrubs in the sandy desert.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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3. Man-made flowers

I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.
– Georgia O’Keeffe

I draw flowers every day and send them to my friends so they get fresh blooms every morning.
– David Hockney

I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.
– Claude Monet

If heaven can be on the face of the earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.
– from an inscription – by Amir Khusrow (Persian poet)  – on the arches of the Diwan-i-Khas, Red Fort, Delhi

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4. Flowers as ‘life cycles’ – Birth and Death

No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring.
– Samuel Johnson

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
– Pablo Neruda

I paint flowers so they will not die.
– Frida Kahlo

From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.
– Edvard Munch

A dried plant is nothing but a sign to plant a new one.
– Priyansh Shah

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Illustration / Part 2: Shrubs & Vines

Posted in Books, Illustrations, Photography by andrejabrulc on 25/12/2016

A wise man in China asked his gardener to plant a shrub. The gardener objected that it only flowered once in a hundred years. “In that case,” said the wise man, “plant it immediately.”
– John Charles Polanyi, On the importance of fundamental research

A hedge between keeps friendship green.
French Proverb

As mentioned in my last posts – Part 1: Trees – in order to mark my 10th anniversary of graphic design and illustration, I shall be posting themes (12 in total) that have most commonly ‘appeared’ throughout my work. To continue with the natural world, the second part is focused on the subject of shrubs (bushes) and vines (climbers).

 

1. Shrubs

I walk in the garden, I look at the flowers and shrubs and trees and discover in them an exquisiteness of contour, a vitality of edge, or a vigour of spring, as well as an infinite variety of colour that no artefact I have seen in the last sixty years can rival…each day, as I look, I wonder where my eyes were yesterday.
– Bernard Berenson

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In contrast, Milena was extremely fastidious about the flat and her surroundings–from the reproductions on the walls to the flowers, in vases and in window-boxes on the balcony. Those in the window-boxes we grew from seed, those in the vases were obtained in various ways: sometimes Milena would buy them, sometimes she was given them and sometimes we would take them from the cemetery wall or the gardens in Lobkowitz Square. One evening we were caught cutting roses by a park-attendant when we already had a fine bunch. But Milena managed to persuade him that we were actually pruning the bushes and getting rid of the excess blooms–’overgrown buds’ she called them–which merely sapped the plant’s strength. It was a creditable piece of rhetoric on her part: it is no mean feat, late in the evening, that what you are engaged in at that particular hour is caring for the appearance of the public gardens and that your bunch of half-open buds are merely ‘overgrown buds’ which you have pruned for the good of the bush. It took her some time, but she managed it somehow in the end, and as we were leaving the poor chap actually thanked us and expressed regret that there were no more people like us in the city. I tend to agree with him on that point. But if I were to be asked to repeat all that Milena told him that evening, I would be at a loss. I merely realised what was meant by ‘the art of public relations’ and from that day forth was never in any doubt about Milena’s mastery in that respect.
– Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena (1920–23)

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2. Vines

Every flower about a house certifies to the refinement of somebody. Every vine climbing and blossoming tells of love and joy.
– Robert G. Ingersoll

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Illustration / Part 1: Trees

Posted in Books, Children's, Illustrations, Photography by andrejabrulc on 03/10/2016

I feel like a tree. A tree doesn’t feel a duty to start doing something about the earth from which it comes. A tree just has to bear fruit, and leaves and blossoms. It doesn’t feel grateful to the earth.
– Abbas Kiarostami

I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time.
– Joseph Beuys

14_trees-lonley-treeTo mark my 10th anniversary of graphic design and illustration, I shall be posting 12 themes that have most commonly ‘appeared’ throughout my work – something that I only realised while gathering material for the new website during the summer. The fact that the largest body of artworks I have created thematically for different projects consists of trees, to a ‘tree hugger’ this came as no surprise but rather as a satisfying delight! While most of these artworks were created for Beletrina book covers (a literary imprint of Beletrina Academic Press, Slovenia) and for art/children’s picture book projects where I was able to influence the decision-making in the image creation, I have recently been involved with other projects that specifically required ‘tree’ related artworks – a school textbook for the CAPE (Unit 2) Geography (A-level) for the Caribbean Educational Publishers, Trinidad & Tobago and a website, Bean’s Trees and Shrubs, for the International Dendrology Society, UK.

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I had been photographing trees well before I embarked on a career change from the art world in 2006. I have been particularly interested in their various forms (exploring light and shadow, shapes and textures) and in their different settings (geographical locations and climates), as well as viewing them from a range of natural conditions (growing and decaying) and that of human impact on them (signage, graffiti and incisions). While some of these photos were used in their entirety depending on the subject matter, many, on the other hand, served as a starting point for experiments as the trees got incorporated into a new range of compositions and environments, as well as fragmented or transformed into new shapes and textures, through the use of various techniques. The tree subject is divided into sections – forests, lonely trees, crowns, trunks, branches, leaves and roots – depending on a particular project.

 

1. Forests

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity … and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.
– William Blake

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
– John Muir

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2. Solitary trees

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
– Winston Churchill

I have to stay alone in order to fully contemplate and feel nature.
– Caspar David Friedrich

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3. Crowns

A tree against the sky possesses the same interest, the same character, the same expression as the figure of a human.
– Georges Rouault

No traveler, whether a tree lover or not, will ever forget his first walk in a sugar-pine forest. The majestic crowns approaching one another make a glorious canopy, through the feathery arches of which the sunbeams pour, silvering the needles and gilding the stately columns and the ground into a scene of enchantment.
– John Muir

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4. Trunks

If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.
– Matthew Fox

Just touching that old tree was truly moving to me because when you touch these trees, you have such a sense of the passage of time of history. It’s like you’re touching the essence, the very substance of life.
– Kim Novak

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5. Branches

I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree, past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.
– Georgia O’Keeffe

Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better.
– Henri Matisse

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6. Leaves

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
– Albert Camus

Matisse draws what I call the essence of the plants. He leaves a shape open. He’ll do a leaf and not close it. Everybody used to say, oh, I got it all from Matisse, and I said, ‘Not really.’
– Ellsworth Kelly

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7. Roots

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
– Marcus Garvey

You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself.
– Malcolm X

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If a tree dies, plant another in its place.
– Carolus Linnaeus

Illustration: The Nonexistent Knight / Book Cover / Italo Calvino

Posted in Books, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 30/03/2014

IC_neobstojeci vitez_jacketThis paper cut-out illustration was made for the book cover of the Slovene translation of The Nonexistent Knight (Il cavaliere inesistente), written by the Italian author Italo Calvino (1959) and published by Beletrina (2014). The novel – together with The Cloven Viscount (Il visconte dimezzato) (1952) and The Baron in the Trees (Il barone rampante) (1957) – forms a ‘heraldic trilogy’ titled as Our Ancestors (I nostri antenati) (1960). The Nonexistent Knight is an allegorical fantasy novel – the theme explores the questions of identity, integration with society, and virtues through the adventures of a medieval knight called Agilulf.

The source for the plot

The plot of the narrative is strengthened by the material drawn from the medieval literary cycle known as the Matter of France. The cycle developed from the Old French chansons de geste [‘songs of heroic deeds’] – a medieval narrative, a type of epic poetry that flourished between the 11th and 15th centuries and that celebrated the legendary heroic deeds, such as The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland). The Song of Roland is the oldest surviving major work of French literature (Oxford manuscript, mid 12 century), which, together with the Spanish Poem of the Cid (Cantar de Mio Cid) (1195–1207), represents the most outstanding example of the chanson de geste. The cycle, also called the Carolingian cycle, is a body of literature and legendary material associated with the history of France during the time of Charlemagne – a Christian King of France (from 768) and the first Holy Roman Emperor (800–814) – and his twelve fictional paladins (12 Peers). The cycle praises their ‘heroic deeds’ accomplished through various military campaigns against the Moorish invasion of the Christian Carolingian Empire from the Muslim Spain (Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalus), particularly recalling historical events such as the Battle of Roncevaux Pass (778) in the buffer zone of Marca Hispanica. The plot also references the Renaissance epic poem of Ludovico Ariosto‘s Orlando Furioso (1516).

IC_neobstojeci vitez

The theme of the narrative

The story, which relativises different ways of existence in the world through a network of intertextual citations and inimitable wit, is set into the imaginary Middle Ages, but the imaginary world is not far from the reality of modern man. Agilulf is one of the twelve paladins in the military service of Charlemagne out of his ‘goodwill and faith for the holy cause’. As a knight, he exemplifies virtues of chivalry, piety and faithfulness through his heroic deeds – he thus serves as a role model to those (e.g. Rambaldo) who aspire to knighthood and as an object of envy to those paladins unable to surpass his excellence. The narrative represents him as a righteous, perfectionist, faithful and pious knight – his only problem is that he exists as an empty suit of white armour. Inside his empty armour, which is always shiny and immaculate on the outside as seen by the others, is an echoing voice that reverberates through the metal. But the knight cannot exist without his armour (i.e. his identity) – if he removes the armour, he is no longer a paladin, while the other knights can remove their armour, because in fact they are not ‘true’ paladins. Towards the end of the story, in order to destroy Agilulfo, the other paladins deny his deeds – unable to fight the forced oblivion, Agilulfo, therefore, vanishes leaving only his armour. After he is vanished, his shiny armour, now appropriated by Ramboldo, turns to be opaque and dirty. His servant Gurdulù, on the other hand, is a complete contrast to his master. He does exist, but his is unaware of his existence – his identity, depicted in most bizarre forms and in chaotic situations, is overgrown with everything that he sees, feels and experiences from the outside world.

The identity of Agilulfo, therefore, exists only as the fulfilment of the rules and protocols of knighthood. It has been argued that such a theme set in an imaginary medieval world is exploited as a metaphor that is strongly connected to modern conditions – according to Margareth Hagen, Agilulf has been described as “the symbol of the ‘robotized’ man, who performs bureaucratic acts with near-absolute unconsciousness” [‘La seduzione del cavaliere inesistente’ in Romansk Forum 2002, 16:875–885]. The romance satirises Agilulf as the ideal man yet nonexistent – as the reader progresses through the story, one realises that most of the story is being made up by Sister Theodora, who, as a nun, is writing the story and drawing the map of the knight’s adventures as her own penance tucked away in a monastery. In the end, she understands that such a perfect knight could only exist in one’s imagination.

Making of the illustration

My illustration concentrates on two elements only: the knight and the imaginary landscape. My main source of inspiration, bearing in mind the adventures of the knight in the landscape, was drawn on the famous Italian medieval wall painting in Sienna – a huge fresco of the equestrian Portrait of Guidoricco da Fogliano, painted by Simone Martini in 1330 in the Sala del Mappamondo of the Palazzo Pubblico, as part of the fresco cycle called ‘Castelli’ commemorating the castles conquered by the Republic of Sienna. While reading Calvino, I could not resist but create an imaginary parallel of his knight to Martini’s condottiere. The fresco of this professional military leader, shown in profile in order to emphasise ‘the ideal image’ of the sitter as was the norm in Italian portraiture at the time, celebrates his conquest of the castles of Montemassi and Sassoforte in 1328 in the service of the commune.

Simone Martini_Guidaricco de Foliagno

The description of Agilulf’s armour – anachronistic to the time of Charlemagne as the white armour, a form of plate armour, was fully developed only by 1420 and was popular among the late Medieval and Renaissance knights – constantly recurs throughout the narrative as soon as the knight comes on the scene. I used an old engraving showing a Renaissance knight on horse, which perfectly fits with the description. Just like the condottiere, Agilulf is a well-composed perfect knight of excellence strolling calmly through the landscape, full of self-confidence and with no obstructions from the outside world. The most outstanding detail of his armour that impressed me most is the plume on top of his helmet described as: ‘the plume made of feathers, from who knows which Oriental rooster, which changes to all colours of the rainbow’! Whether or not one would read this statement as politically incorrect, I took it literally. But rather than making the plume turn into 7 colours of the rainbow, I turned the top of the knight’s lance into the flag of typography – the author and title – using the font Memoriam that flamboyantly emphasises the idea of the flag as if moving in the wind and making some letters change into the 7 colours of the rainbow.

Granada_Book of Navigation_Piri Reis_1521-1525With regard to the imaginary landscape, it seems obvious that the background colour of the landscape, and the shapes of hills and architecture, in my illustration resemble the stylised treatment of the landscape in the Sienese fresco. But my visual thinking developed further from the fresco that shows the landscape from the frontal view. In order to emphasise the map drawing of Sister Theodora, I imagined that the landscape must be seen from the bird’s-eye view – a flat world as depicted in the mappa mundi of the Middle Ages. My inspiration for the landscape topography, therefore, in many ways resembles the detail of Granada, a fragment from the first pre-modern world map of 1513, compiled by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis and published in his Book of Navigation (Kitab-ı Bahriye) (1521–25).

However, at this point of the process, I remembered my old visual diary from the trip to Rajasthan (India) in 2004 and various doodles of the landscape of Jaipur, topped with hill forts and walls marked by battlements (a parapet with crenellation) (photos below). So, instead of placing the knight in a detailed but imaginary landscape of medieval Europe, the concertina with a paper cut-out silhouette of the Jaipur hills became the final source for my illustration showing the bare but imaginary landscape – an ideal setting for the perfect but nonexistant knight. It is, however, likely that Martini’s treatment of landscape subconsciously sprang to mind during my adventures in Rajasthan!

Indian Sketchbook_Jaipur Forts_2004

015_Jaigarh_View of Jaipur hills

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020_Jaigarh_View of Jaipur hills

 

Beletrina book cover designs / June 2011 & August 2013

Posted in Books by andrejabrulc on 03/08/2013

Illustration: The Life of ‘the Painter’ and the Death of ‘the Girl’ / Margriet de Moor

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 21/04/2013

In the days leading up to the opening of the Rijksmuseum, I was working solidly for five days on this embroidery, collaged with a patchwork, as my response to the book The Painter and the Girl (De schilder en het meisje) by the Dutch writer Margriet de Moor. It does seem rather morbid to have wasted so much time on this time-consuming technique for a subject as gloomy as it appears on the embroidery, but as the story is closely inspired by at least two historical records – visual and textual – I decided to respond as part of my process as closely as I could! At least the time and place of the story gave me the opportunity to have my first go at using a satin stitch, but before I return to the making, I will first set its context against the story (the book has not yet been translated into English) describing the fate of two main protagonists – the life of ‘the painter’ and the death of ‘the girl’.

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Time and Place: The context for two parallel worlds

Rembrandt_Met_DP800559As the title of the book may suggest, the author uses one of the greatest masters of the 17th century Dutch painting as her main protagonist in much the same way as Tracy Chevalier uses Vermeer for her historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring. In fact, when I started reading the book I thought I was entering into the world of the same historical narrative, but the reader soon discovers that the story is in fact placed in Amsterdam instead of Delft, the city of Vermeer. It, therefore, becomes obvious after a few pages into reading that the historical narrative of the male protagonist, although the name of ‘the painter’ is never clearly spelt out, is inspired by ‘a particular part’ in the life of the greatest master of Amsterdam and indeed the highlight of the museum, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). But while Chevalier’s female protagonist comes directly from the Vermeer household of servants, de Moor’s ‘painter’ never meets ‘the girl’ in her life. Her identity is, however, soon revealed as Elsje Christiaens – the subject of two Rembrandt’s drawings, now kept in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, showing The Girl Hanging on a Gibbet, who was identified as Elsje by I.H. van Eaghen in 1969 (see cat. no. 138, Rembrandt’s Women (exh. cat.), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2001, p. 238).

De Moor first sets the background for her story – a description of Amsterdam as a symbol of the Golden Age in all aspects of life. The city is flourishing due to trade and particularly due to Dutch naval supremacy, and is commissioning art and architecture. As a result of its prosperity, Amsterdam becomes a magnet for artists and travellers from all corners of the world. The town hall (now Royal Palace) on the Dam – an architectural wonder and a symbol of Dutch democracy – is opened in 1655. It is also the palace of justice, where criminals, locked in its dungeons, are given the final verdict by the city councillors.

The story has a precise date – 1 May 1664. The narrative of both protagonists is set into two parallel worlds: both worlds evolve as flashbacks, which in turn lead up to the specific date. But it is the town hall that brings their fate – the life of ‘the painter’ and the death of ‘the girl’ – together.

The painter and the town hall

Rembrandt_van_Rijn_-_Self-Portrait_-_Google_Art_Project_WikimediaOn the one hand, we follow the story of ‘the painter’. In 1664 Rembrandt (Self-Portrait, right, from 1659, National Gallery of Washington) was an old man of 58 left with two children – Titus and Cornelia, the first from his marriage with Saskia and the second from his illegitimate liaison with Hendrickje (ex-housemaid). Saskia died soon after giving birth to their son Titus in 1642. In her will, Rembrandt was given a full possession of her property and any benefits from it unless he remarried or died, which would have had a profound effect on his finances, so this must have made his decision never to marry again, including Hendrickje, who died in 1663.

A few years before Rembrandt was commissioned a large oil painting, The Conspiracy of Claudius Civilis (1661-62), by the city council of the town hall. The painting, now in Stockholm’s National Museum, was returned to him, just before the death of Hendrickje, probably due to a lack of decorum required for a history painting. It seems likely that he was never paid for it – when we meet ‘the painter’ in the story, he is in terrible financial difficulties, probably because by then his style may no longer be in demand  – and when the canvas is returned to him, he cuts it into pieces in order to sell them individually. Also, his household items are confiscated by the city officials in order to raise money to pay off his debts. So, his relationship with the town hall is by no means on friendly terms! At the beginning of the story, on the morning of 1 May 1664, ‘the painter’ even avoids following the flow of people going to the Dam to see the execution of ‘the girl’. ‘The painter’ bears witness to hanging in Leiden but never to strangulation. The full account of the execution is only narrated to him by his son towards the end of the book.

VolewijckIn the final chapter, in the afternoon of the execution, ‘the painter’ sets out with his bag containing art materials in order to meet Elsje ‘in her death’. By then her body is already transferred and displayed on a gibbet on the headland of the Volewijck (now the northern part of Amsterdam) – the public execution field as seen in the print on the left by Anthonie van Borssum (1644), where the criminals were publicly hung and their bodies left to the crows and ravens.

The girl and the town hall

On the other hand, we follow the story of Elsje Christiaens, an 18 years old girl from Jutland (Denmark), whose past and her journey to Amsterdam is created by the author. Elsje, after her older sister suddenly disappears with her sailor but leaves secretly behind five golden coins for her younger sibling, decides to set on her adventure to Amsterdam as she sees the city as the promised land. She arrives to Amsterdam in April 1664. Her dream turns into a nightmare. Rather than finding a job as a maid, she is driven by an unconditional love for her sister in finding her in the city. She fails. Perhaps her sister is already consumed by the bubonic plague that ravages the city. The money runs out quickly. The story from now on follows closely the historical account (see W. L. Strauss, M. van Muelen (eds.), The Rembrandt Documents, New York 1979, 1664/1). On the 27th April the landlady hits Elsje with a broom as ‘the girl’ is unable to pay her rent (in the story the landlady even forces ‘the girl’ into prostitution), but Elsje decides to take a revenge on the landlady and kills her with an axe. As Elsje is being chased out of the inn, she jumps into the Damrak, from where she gets pulled out and saved from drowning. She is locked in the dungeons of the town hall. She shows no remorse during her trail. She meets the verdict for her crime and is sentenced on 1 May 1664 – according to the historical record, it is stated that the executioner is to strike her on the head ‘several times with the same axe with which she killed the woman’ (in the book the execution is by strangulation) and it is ordered that her body then be ‘brought to Volwyck and fastened to a pole with an axe above her head, to decay in the air and to be devoured by birds’. Both drawings from the MET show Elsje with the axe dangling down next to her left shoulder and with her skirt tied with a rope in order to spare her from further humiliation in death.

The Making of the Embroidery: The Presence of the Artist and the Absence of the Sitter

As the threads of the two parallel worlds lead to a culminating point – the meeting of ‘the painter’ of ‘his sitter’ in death – it would, therefore, seem obvious that the illustration required a response to Rembrandt’s drawing as a starting point.

I decided to use the technique of embroidery on canvas in order to replicate the drawing as a kind of ‘painting in stitch’. This old technique reminds me of the woven effect reminiscent of tapestries – Dutch tapestries of the 17th century were considered of the highest quality in Europe, with Amsterdam and Delft being the main production centres. Also, Rembrandt was certainly interested in embroidered fanciful ‘antique’ costumes – whether he actually kept them or painted them from his imagination or even used Old Master prints as a source of his inspiration – as it is evident from some of the female costumes depicted in his historical paintings showing women wearing heavily embroidered textiles. As Marieke de Winkel points out, according to the list of his possessions from 1656 (see ibid., The Rembrandt Documents, 1656/12), Rembrandt did not own a large collection of old costumes but he rather kept ‘a quantity of ancient textiles of diverse colours’, acquired for his study of patterns and colours, and of the fall of drapery (‘Some Interpretations of the Dress of Rembrandt’s Women Re-evaluated’, in Rembrandt’s Women, pp. 61–63). Using the satin stitch as a preference for my piece, I was not only able to outline the figure of ‘the girl’ and fill the shapes of her clothing using threads varying in colour – red for the dress, purple for the overcoat, browns for the boots made of reindeer skin – as described in the book but also to follow the folds of her dress using threads varying in lengths, thus reinforcing the idea of light and shadow in the fall of the drapery.

It is not known whether Rembrandt, like ‘the painter’ in de Moor’s story, did actually draw Elsje from life – her lifeless body is heavily isolated from any surrounding background of the Volewijck. Also, the two MET drawings on Japanese paper are considered very rare drawings by Rembrandt recording a particular event. However, it does seem that Rembrandt was acquainted with the surrounding area as he did a landscape drawing of the Bend in the Diemerdijk looking towards Nieuwendam around 1649–50. As de Moor’s description of the execution field is very close to the print by van Borssum – ‘the painter’ has to take a boat to reach the place surrounded by water and reeds – I decided to recreate the world around ‘the girl’ in much the same way. I created a patchwork using three different kinds of fabrics representing the headland (brown) surrounded by the sea (two blues). Different sorts of reeds were then stitched onto the patchwork, with the crow flying out of the reeds in the direction of ‘the girl’. In other words, I imagined the world for the embroidery as it is (was perhaps) seen through the eyes of ‘the painter’ (Rembrandt) – ‘the on-looker’ – of ‘the girl’ (Elsje Christiaens) in her death as ‘his absent sitter’.

Sketchbook / Book Cover Design

Posted in Illustrations, Sketchbook by andrejabrulc on 20/03/2013

The final artwork and some pages from my sketchbook done for a book cover – a collection of poetry in prose called Material, written by Andrej Brvar and to be published by Beletrina Academic Press (May 2013).

MaterialAs the title suggests, the collection is, in the author’s words, ‘a load of life material’ (‘totality of life’). The poet first de-constructs ‘his material’ in a witty, emotional, sceptical and ironical way in the form of various ‘cut-out’ fragments: aphorisms, impressions, genres, newspaper cuttings, diary notes, anecdotes, life paradoxes, interesting points from the world of science, commentaries on art, literature and history, etc. All fragments are then re-constructed as a kind of collage (‘cut-and-paste’). The theme of love, woman, ageing, death, memory, art, literature, history etc are arranged as a cycle of four seasons.

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I decided to focus the final artwork on the core theme – the love poetry – surrounded by fragments of other themes that span throughout the cover representing the four seasons (spring – birth – cherry tree flowers; summer – youth and joy of life – two figures; autumn – contemplation – tree; winter – death – footsteps in the snow). The starting point is the poem called Skozi mesto – the poet’s memory of his hometown (Maribor), past and present. The poem is a personal lament, on the one hand, for the ‘old times/things’ now lost, while, on the other hand, a sharp public comment on the ‘new times/things’ that changed the old city identity for a boring ‘every-city-looks-the-same’ look. The poet feels as if he is ‘expelled from the Garden of Eden’ (i.e ‘his hometown’). This particular comparison gave me the idea of using the silhouette of Adam from Massacio’s fresco (1425) in the Brancacci Chapel (Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence) for the shape holding the hand-made lettering based on a small section of the poem – Adam’s raised hands show a gesture of shameful realisation that something is no longer kept in one’s possession! For Christians, Adam and Eve were not only the first lovers in the garden of earthly delights but they were also the first humans who realised upon their expulsion having tasted the forbidden fruit that they were also mortal and condemned to ageing, decaying, and dying. So, to complement the composition, Eve had to be added to hold the quote for the book!

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Although the poetry, in my opinion, does not have a specifically religious tone as a whole, the theme of death is universal. Also, although the love poetry is central to the collection, some poems at the end of the happy seasons (spring and summer) already express the passage of time (ageing and decaying of sensual body, separation and death) before even the cycle of the sad seasons begin. But, the tone of nostalgia – remembering and contemplating the beauty of old times and past loves – counterbalances the poetry (autumn and winter) and prepares our last journey more bearable – just like the footsteps in the snow!

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World Book Day 2012

Posted in Books, Craft, Projects by andrejabrulc on 01/03/2012

Today is World Book Day in the UK, and I contributed a postcard to the Random Project to mark this occasion. The words related to the theme were: “Words”, “Dream”, “World” and “Imagine”. The postcard below is a response to the “Words”.

The hand-made letters were originally created for a public art installation – France Prešeren’s New Outfit – dressing the Slovene Romantic poet in a huge cloak, whose monument stands in the main square in Ljubljana. The project was created for the Festival Fabula 2010, run by a literary book publisher Študentska založba, as the central event of Ljubljana time as UNESCO World Book Capital 2010. I have created over 200 book covers for the publisher since 2007, hence my naughty play on the usual phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

World Book Day (World Book and Copyright Day) is a yearly event organised by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. It is a celebration of authors, illustrators and books.  According to the UK World Book Day, the main aim of today in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children of all ages to come together in order to explore the pleasure of books and reading by providing them with a £1 token against the purchase of a book from the list. The organisation will send these tokens to schools that participate in World Book Day.

According to Wikimedia, World Book Day was celebrated for the first time on 23 April. The connection between this date and books was first made in 1923 by Spanish booksellers to honour the author Miguel de Cervantes in the Catalonian festival who died on that day.

In 1995 UNESCO decided that World Book Day would be celebrated on that day, as the source say, because of the Catalonian festival and because the date is also the anniversary of the birth and death of William Shakespeare, the death of Carvantes, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Josep Pia, and the birth of Maurice Druon, Vladimir Nabokov, Manuel Mejíla Vallejo and Halldór Laxness.

The date for World Book Day however differs from country to country. In the UK and the Republic of Ireland is held annually on the first Thursday in March as the established international 23 April would clash with Easter school holidays and as the 23 April is also the National Saint’s day of England, St George’s Day.

World Book Day is not funded by the British government. The funding for activities mainly comes from the major sponsor, National Book Tokens, and the UK book trade (publishers and booksellers).

So much more important that books still get published in hard copies. Cheers.

Sketchbook for a Journey: Exhibition Opening

Posted in Exhibitions by andrejabrulc on 03/09/2011

Photo Melita Zmazek

The opening of the exhibition Sketchbook for a Journey took place at Knjižnica Ivana Potrča in Ptuj, Slovenia on 24 August 2011, showing original works by Andreja Brulc, created for various book projects – including work for Beletrina (a major literary imprint of the Slovene publisher Beletrina Academic Press) and a children’s picture book Barvice. The exhibition is part of the Days of Poetry and Wine Festival, and was accompanied by a children’s creative workshop.

Photo Melita Zmazek

The event was followed by the opening of another exhibition showing the books cover of poetry collections by Tomaž Šalamun, and then by a poetry reading by Anunciada Fernández de Córdova (Spanish Ambassador to Slovenia).

Photo Melita Zmazek

Interview with, and review by, Boštjan Najžar, at the opening of the exhibition Sketchbook for a Journey, for the news site Udarno (the site no longer available), published on 30 Aug 2011. The whole interview (length 2:56) was broadcasted again on Radio Prlek (Oddaja o kulturi) on 15 Sep 2011.

Interview with Petra Skok at the opening of the exhibition Sketchbook for a Journey, Dnevnik TV Maribor, 25 Avg 2011.

For more photos of the opening go to Flickr.

Press Release: Exhibition: Sketchbook for a Journey

Posted in Exhibitions, Workshops by andrejabrulc on 15/08/2011

25 August–10 September 2011, Knjižnica Ivana Potrča, Prešernova 33-35, 2250 Ptuj, Slovenia

Exhibition: in August, Mon 12–19pm, Tue–Fri 8am–15pm, Sat-Sun closed; in September, Mon–Fri 8am–19pm, Sat 8am–13pm

Exhibition Opening: Wed, 24 August 2011, 6pm

Children’s Workshop: Sat, 27 August 2011, 3–5pm, Vrazov trg, Ptuj

Summary

An exhibition of original works by Andreja Brulc, a London-based Slovene graphic designer and illustrator, created for various book projects – including work for Beletrina (a major literary imprint of the Slovene publisher Beletrina Academic Press) and a children’s picture book Barvice. The exhibition is part of the Days of Poetry and Wine Festival, and will be accompanied by a children’s creative workshop.

Exhibition

The title of the exhibition, Sketchbook for a Journey, refers to the creative process of moving towards completed work for publication and to the visual inspiration found on that journey.

Sketchbooks have been used by artists, designers and illustrators for centuries as part of their creative process. These books, such as the currently famous and fashionable Moleskine, are designed to be easily portable and are often kept in an artist’s pocket. As such they offer a glimpse into the artist’s personal work, ranging from drawings, doodles and notes, through observations of the world and reflections on the self, to explorations and creations. The observation sketchook focuses on the external world and is best known as a way of documenting and recording one’s experiences while travelling. The invention sketchook, on the other hand, focuses on an artist’s internal journey while developing visual ideas. Some sketchbooks are self-conscious, with every page signed, while others are filled with seemingly random, hastily drawn sketches and doodles. Still others reveal the progression of an idea or are conceived as a whole.

The exhibition, therefore, shows various pieces and fragments, some taken from actual sketcbhooks, others being preparatory materials and finished elements produced during the exploratory journey towards not only finished work but also the discovery of new concepts and techniques. The exhibition shows a strong interest in typography and in combining illustration with photography, typography, traditional techniques such as hand-printing, stitching and patchwork, embroidery, knitting and crocheting, and industrial materials such as sandpaper and scrim tape.

Andreja writes, “Using a sketchbook to develop the ideas helps to open a valve in the brain that releases the pressure of what is unknown. Once the ideas are released in a sketchbook, they are like planted seeds that start to grow and develop. For me, a sketchbook is a place for a visual experimentation.”

Children’s creative workshop

Children (3–18yrs old) will be invited to create illustations based on the poem Lepa Vida v akciji by Andrej Rozman Roza. The pages will be into a picture book, which will be distributed in digital form.

Notes for editors

Andreja Brulc

Andreja Brulc completed an MA in Art History at University College London, and worked in the Exhibitions Department at the Royal Academy of Arts for nearly ten years. After studying design, typography, illustration and printmaking at the London College of Communications (University of the Arts), she won a public competition to become principal cover designer and illustrator for Beletrina. By end of her fifth year in this role she will have created around 180 book covers, along with promotional material for books and literary festivals – and a series of murals in the publisher’s press room!

Andreja’s illustrations for Beletrina have been selected for prestigious national and international biennials of illustration. Her book covers were given an award of excellence at the 4th Biennial of Slovene Visual Communication (2009). She was nominated as an Honorary Member of the Slovene Design Society (2010) and has won the highest funding award given to an illustrator for 2010 by the Association of the Slovene Fine Artists’ Societies. Work for Beletrina was shown in an exhibition Book Covers for Beletrina in London (2010), accompanied by a literary event and a children’s creative workshop, which produced a picture book Tales from Slovenia. Andreja has also produced her first picture book, Barvice (2010), a book of children’s poems on 12 colours, written by Feri Lainšček.

She has worked on many other projects, including the UNESCO-sponsored public art project, Baptism at the River Savica, which dressed the principal statue of Slovenia’s national poet, France Prešeren, in a cloak covered in hand-made lettering from the poet’s longest work in verse. The national newspaper Dnevnik (22 May 2010) wrote that the poem was given “a form never seen before” and that “the project gave Ljubljana new artistic inspiration”.

Beletrina Academic Press

Beletrina is one of the most highly esteemed literary imprints in Slovenia. Beletrina Academic Press has gained its reputation primarily by introducing prominent works of contemporary national and world literature to Slovene readers. The publisher’s goal is to set standards for a new publishing philosophy which, in addition to focusing on noncommercial titles and giving priority to inventiveness, freshness and directness, respects authors and invests considerable effort in the promotion of their work.

Beletrina‘s list of contemporary Slovene authors is essential, focused as it is on highly regarded writers who not only attract substantial attention today but promise to flourish for decades to come. Although the imprint emphasizes younger prose writers and poets, many older and established authors have contributed to its richness and diversity.

Days of Poetry and Wine

Days of Poetry and Wine, one of the most important European poetry festivals, will bring together poets from all over the world for the fifteenth consecutive year. The festival, which has to this day hosted more than 300 poets, will be taking place in the medieval centre of Ptuj. As tradition has it, poetry readings will be accompanied by other arts; several concerts, film screenings, street shows, performances, exhibitions, puppet shows, readings for children etc. will take place in the very centre of the town, which will be veiled in art installations for a whole week.

This year’s special guests will include: the Romanian poet Nora Iuga, French poet Jacques Roubaud and the Slovene classic Tomaž Šalamun. Each will be honored by having a book of poetry translated and published, while poetry of the other guest poets will be published in a multilingual anthology, Days of Poetry and Wine 2011. The accompanying programme will follow the central topic Poetry and Prose, on which a round-table discussion will be held. A rich selection of wines will ensure a relaxed, social atmosphere.

Contact

Exhibition:
andreja.brulc@gmail.com
www.andrejabrulc.com

Beletrina Academic Press:
info@zalozba.org
www.zalozba.org

Festival:
info@poezijainvino.org
www.poezijainvino.org/2011/

Images are available.

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