- PRETTY PICTURES
- THINGS TO BUY
- ABOUT ME
To me, a muse is an elusive thing. One is lucky to have one, and finding one is difficult, sometimes with false stops along the way. I envisioned the way to finding the muse as a maze, where sometimes you find small spots of enlightenment, but it's not until you find your way to a true muse that your world and creativity opens up into full freedom and colour.
Todd Falkowsky asked me to create a surface design for a Blu Dot chair as part of a charity auction. I decided to start a new series for this, with the text of movie descriptions.
This double-page illustration was for the "taste" issue of Varoom. For it, I imagined a menu of unusual things.
I was asked to take part in a project creating carpets to be made by a fair-trade company in Nepal. For some reason I got it into my head that I wanted a sentient carpet - it says "I, carpet": what does it feel when you walk on it? I built the structure of the carpet around these words, and designed patterns of mice, birds, cats & dogs for the spaces formed by the structure.
Then I discovered they didn't want words in the carpets.So, despite a lovely test done, this was never made. Maybe one day.
A two-page spread on the topic of "Entertainment." I created a custom circular type for this.
When I was asked to speak at AGIdeas in Australia, I was also asked to design a special give-away piece for the printers Gunn & Taylor. I designed a notebook with a geometric pattern for an embossed cover, with bits of gold, silver, red and blue foil placed in some of the shapes.
Inside, instead of using lines or a regular grid, I printed different shape-grids on each of the pages, curious as to how it would affect that way people take notes, draw, or think.
I was asked to choose a number between 1 and 65 to illustrate for a book celebrating the TDC's 65th year. I chose the number 11.
I Wonder by Marian Bantjes
15.5 cm × 24cm (approx. 6 × 9½ inches)
Printed in full colour plus gold throughout.
List price: £19.95 / $40
Release date: October, 2010
Published in the UK by Thames & Hudson, ISBN 978-0-500-51529-7
Published in the USA by The Monacelli Press, ISBN 978-1580932967
I spent 15 months writing, illustrating and designing this book. It’s a gorgeous hardcover, with gold and silver foils on a satin cloth, with gilded page edges. It’s printed in 5 colours throughout (mostly CMYK + Gold) on a coated stock. At a smallish size, it is a book meant for holding and reading, curled up in your favourite chair.
Every single illustration is new, created for the book, and the content is not about my work (i.e. not a monograph), but instead combines graphic art with the written word, and lends my own contemplative but frequently amused voice to my observations of the world.
Some of the articles were originally published as blog posts for the now-archived blog Speak Up, but they have been resurrected, edited, rewritten and given new life in these pages.
Those quirkier writings are interspersed between more philosophical musings on the nature of Wonder and Honour and Memory as they pertain to graphics and the visual world around us.
As a book experience, the relationship between the content and the graphics is very important. They are totally interdependent and neither the articles nor the graphics can live without the other.
The book is in many ways eclectic, with a variety of forms and moods, represented in an abundance of typefaces and graphic styles. But, much in the way of one of my favourite films, the documentary “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” by Errol Morris, this disparity picks up threads one from another as it progresses, and starts to weave together in a unified whole.
Ultimately the range of thoughts, personal history and hare-brained ideas come together. To the eyes, it is a feast for visual gluttons, but as those who are familiar with my work will already know, there is food for the mind and the heart as well.
There are even secrets …
While the book will be enjoyed by designers and our ilk, it also has a broad range of appeal. The thoughts and experiences within are largely universal, and at times very personal. Buy one for your mother! Your nephew! Your boyfriend!
It's available worldwide (in theory), at bookstores where you can paw it before buying, or at Amazon, of course.
Here are some shots of the press proofs:
And close-ups of the cover:
"I Wonder is not a monograph but, in Bantjes’ words, ‘a book of ideas’, a generous collection of essays lovingly typeset, illustrated, laid out and produced in a manner that resists a quick glance, a skim read or any easy generalisation or summary. This is ‘slow print’, in which Bantjes’ mind-bogglingly detailed type and lettering forces the reader to spend time with this elaborate yet welcoming book. [...] I Wonder is undeniably obsessively stylish but its contents are by turn informed, witty and, in the case of the chapters about ‘Memory’, movingly personal."
— John Walters, "Slow Print", Eye #77
"...I am compelled to write about “I Wonder” with as much flourish as is graphically demonstrated on page after page; I find the book that engaging. [...] Bantjes’s deceptively compact trove of visual riches, whose floriated cover design is printed in gold and silver metallic inks, with gilt-edged pages that suggest a venerable religious document, is packed with as many stylistic variations as are possible by one author/artist/designer in 192 pages. And it is a wondrous, if breathless, display of virtuosic craft. [...] not a typographic jewel or fleuron or dingbat (as printer’s decorations are called), not a scratch or scribble or scrawl (as some of the typographic techniques should be called) is out of place."
— Steven Heller, "Graphic Content | Marian Bantjes, Illuminated", New York Times Magazine
" 'I Wonder' is more than just eye candy. It is worth taking the time to explore Bantjes' theoretically founded design approach: The illustrations not only serve as decorative frames, but deliver important information which is tightly interwoven with the texts. For example, the photographic series of everyday, bland signposts in the author's hometown first reveals the idiosyncratic typographic appeal of everyday graphics. Not until these elements are agglomerated do the larger patterns in her work take form. [...] 'I Wonder' is a playground for Marian Bantjes' non-conformist emotional approach to design. This stance, which draws its vitality from a childish curiousity makes it a marvelous antithesis to increasingly strategic and calculated communication design."
—Wiebke Lang, "Bantjes wundert sich / A Book of Many Wonders", Form Magazine (Germany)
"I Wonder rises above the usual design book in the way Bantjes marries her text — a deeply considered set of essays on topics such as Wonder, Ornament, Honor, the Alphabet — with the shapes and patterns her imagination enters to reveal layers of meaning. Again, those of us familiar with her art will not be surprised at how she uses everyday elements to capture profound thoughts. In Bantjes’ world, there is really no boundary between text and ornament, message and medium, everyday and profound. What I found most rewarding about I Wonder, though, is that instead of merely impressing or (worse) intimidating, the book is a testament to the artist/author’s belief in the ultimate democracy of the act of creation."
—Tom Biederbeck, Felt and Wire
"I Wonder never, ever stops to let your eyeballs rest. It just keeps coming at you with page after dense page of visual stimulus. It’s like a mix tape that never, ever ends of the best of Metallica, Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin, Spinal Tap (yes, that Spinal Tap), and perhaps some Pink Floyd while another tape plays classical music on your other ear. In other words, it rocks."
—Armin Vit, Quipsologies
"... this book, with its carefully crafted pages has the aura of a precious, if not divine object. Reading and looking at its cornucopia of visual expression, on subjects ranging from IKEA to gravestones, to Santa, makes you feel that held within here there is some hidden code, some secret path to creativity. And at the heart of all this is Bantjes' ability to deliver all this with levity."
—John O'Reilly, Varoom! magazine (UK), #13, Summer 2010, pages 62–63
"... we’re also taken with Bantjes’s sentences, and with her knack for conveying just why it is that certain images cut us to the quick, or kick our imaginations into a higher gear. This eye-catching book is chock-full of brain candy."
—Very Short List
"I was struck that while making notes that my first four bullet points had the word feel in it. It’s appropriate in so many ways. Before opening it I felt I needed to wash my hands. I sort of wish that it had a special box to contain it. Turning the pages was an activity in joy. I loved the weight and the embossing of the front and back covers."
—Michael Surtees, Design Notes
"More than anything I’ve seen recently this book is a tactile experience, and yet another volume (that designation which Borges always used to emphasise) which makes a nonsense of the idea of screens as an adequate replacement for all books."
—John Coulthard, feuilleton
"With the book's insistence on narrative, and focus on typography, the result combines the best of two worlds. It's a readable collection of smart, visually-intense short stories, and a design book that will likely never leave your coffee table."
—Alissa Walker, FastCoDesign
Because I travel a lot, I decided to use old postcards for my Valentines this year. I sent about 480, and the cards range over about 90 years: from 1901 to the late '80s, I think. They are from all over the world and they went all over the world. About 100 of them had writing on the back and had been posted before.
Then, they're all overprinted in silver with my image, which says "From me wherever I am / To you wherever you are."
This is my most recent piece for Varoom Magazine, on the topic of localism. It's a bit post-apocalyptic.
Maybe one day we will all be local
in our small communities structured for survival
we will hew things out of wood
and farm our plots of land for seasonal food.
Our neighbours will be potters, metal smiths,
bakers, weavers and stonemasons.
We'll have a primitive doctor
and a sadistic dentist.
The weather will be our enemy and our saviour,
gracing us with water
or withholding it for too long.
We will be surrounded by the warmth of animals
using them for everything they have to
give us while strugglingto keep them alive.
We'll know each other well and gather
under summer stars and around winter fires
to tell stories of the past.
We'll assist in births and deaths.
We'll worry mostly about food.
We'll draw pictures of each other on skins
and in stone and wood.
Now and then a stranger will come.
Sometime this summer Hemlock Printers contacted me to design their annual set of wrapping paper. I agreed provided they give me carte blanche over the design and they decided to trust me. I wanted to create something that was festive, but completely non-denominational, and not even "Seasonal". So no snowflakes, or Santa, or bells etc., and no red, green or gold. So I decided on a very bright yellow as my dominant colour, with silver.
I had a number of ideas for the theme of each wrapping paper, but I decided on doing something with kittens, trucks and big machinery, cake decorations, and flames. I figured that would cover a wide range of tastes and sensibilities.
They have a standard die of the container/box it comes in, and I designed that too. In the spirit of a surprise gift, there's very little indication on the outside of what's inside. It's very simple, plain white with four symbols on the front.
When you open it up, yellow, silver and black flames come from the sides, while the top and bottom flaps have perforated tags: again something to suit everyone.
Open it further and the whole thing is on fire on the inside, revealing the first of the wrapping paper sheets.
The box contains 2 sheets each of all four wrapping designs:
I've made a separate post for each of the designs so you can see them in more detail here:
Hemlock sent about 2700 of these out to their friends and clients across North America. If you're on their mailing list, I hope you enjoyed this year's wrapping papers. I had a lot of fun making them. Oh, and the good folks at Hemlock tell me they've received an overwhelming positive response!
This is the first of the wrapping papers I did for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It might be my favourite. I certainly had fun making it (beginning with ordering a mass of exciting cake decorations). As usual, the cake decorations are not photoshopped, nor are they glued: I placed them in place, shot them and moved on to the next.
Printed in CMYK with a flourescent yellow background with spot varnish.
And the full sheet:
This is the second of the wrapping papers I did for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It's a toss-up whether this or "Cake Decorations" is my favourite. It's called "Fire", and it's printed in CMYK and flourescent yellow.
The full sheet:
This is the third of the wrapping papers I made for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. It's printed in flourescent yellow and black.
And the whole sheet:
This is the fourth of the wrapping papers I designed for Hemlock Printers in Vancouver. I've been wanting to do something with kittens for a long time (this uses stock photography from Shutterstock), so this was my chance: Kittens! Who doesn't love kittens? Printed CMYK with silver background and spot gloss.
The folded sheet as they first see it, above.
Some of the kitten twirls, below:
And the full sheet:
After doing a poster for one of my favourite bands, The National, last year, I was happy to be asked once again to do another one for them. This time they were playing in my home town of Vancouver at the Orpheum. The 3-light-condition design of the first poster was hard to beat, but I've always wanted to print on a mirrored surface, so I worked with Jake Sorensen at the silkscreen printers PrismTech Graphics to source the right material. Vancouver has become known recently as a city of glass, so this isn't as whimsical as it sounds.
This is not just "shiny," it is mirrored, it reflects everything. This is my best shot of the whole poster: that's me reflected in the bottom (this copy is signed to my friends Cindy & Rory).
I printed on it in white ink.
See how perfectly it reflects my hands and the ceiling above me?
It's a limited edition of 225. The National got 1–175, and I got 176–225.
The only difference between the first 175 and the last 50 is that 1–175 were laminated with a clear laminate to protect them, as they were sold at the concert. Mine are unlaminated because they are slightly more reflective than the laminated ones.
They sold for $50 at the show on November 28 & 29th. (Sadly, I was away and couldn't go!) I may sell some of mine in the future but not yet. It is currently impossible for me to get around to put anything in the mail. One day I hope to have a system, but until then it's not for sale.
OK, this is it. This is the best thing I've made in a while ... that wasn't rejected, anyway. When the good folks at Lynda.com asked to do a documentary on me, that was fun enough, but when they asked for me to do an animation for the end credits, I was super happy, because not only did I get to do something I'd never done before, but I also got to honour the great people who worked on the video. (Original music by Reg Powell, as noted.)
I made it by creating all the frames in illustrator, and then handing those files over to Lynda.com to compile into a moving image. Magic! People often ask me about doing animation but usually they're thinking of something that grows organically ... you know, that growing swirling thing. I couldn't be less interested.
However, what I did want to do was show how I work with systems and parts. So the animations on these evolve into and devolve out of letterforms that are created from a pattern system.
The lettering is pretty much illegible until the last frame, when it comes clear, pauses, and then starts to disintegrate again.
There's alos a pattern transition between each credit.
Piles of fun, with thanks, as always to the folks at Lynda.com.
It is not uncommon for people to ask me to design a tattoo for them. My response is always "no" unless they're a personal friend of mine. However, when SwissMiss asked me to do a tattoo for her Tattly tattoos, I said yes, of course! Here it is on my wrist:
Incredibly, it stays on for a week or two ... although it hasn't been so long-lived on hairy arms. It's a strip of 4 tiles, and if you want to be inventive you could pattern it over a larger area, or cut it into smaller pieces for smaller tattoos.
You can buy it here, at Tattly tattoos.
This is my latest piece for my regular "column" with Varoom Magazine. The theme for this issue is "Next", which is one of my least favourite subjects these days, as it's been on my mind. So I created a piece that shows the direction that some of my work is taking, with bold, unusual layouts, and mixed media. Then I wrote a small diatribe about my fears of the subject of "next" and printed them in tiny type in the design.
With this issue, Varoom went to a tabloid size, and as this is on a double-page spread, it's quite large.
This detail shows my true feelings about "next" with "I DON'T KNOW", which i embellished onto a fan with nail polish.
Another detail which almost—almost!—shows the type.
Each year for the annual AGI Congress, members are asked to contribute to a special project. This year's theme was "Modular" and here is my submission.
For our participation in the OFFF Conference in Barcelona this year, we were asked to create a piece on the subject ot "Time", At least I think it was "Time", or was it "Future"? I forget. In any case I made this 2-page spread of Infinity.
Here's a detail:
Under Nike's NikeID project, they sometimes partner with Maharam for the fabric. This year, for the NikeID in the Japanese market, they used my Maharam "Centric" fabric (in all colours) for the NikeID Airforce One. Maharam, those sweethearts, had a pair made for me!
Sarah Habibi from Criterion (YES!) hired me to do this cover for Satyajit Ray's "The Mirror Room" (1958). She sent me the film (which I really enjoyed), and in it there was a chandelier which seemed to represent what we might call "old India" and the ways of the central character.
So I made a simple pattern based on chandelier crystals which I could use to make the image of the chandelier and the type.
Above, the DVD cover. Below, the booklet cover.
To order the movie for yourself, get it from Criterion!
Casey Dillon at Bronze in San Fracisco hired me to do 2 patterns for some wine labels for his client Rivers-Marie.
Then Casey did a beautiful job on the design of the labels themselves. Here's the first pattern:
Beautifully printed ...
The second pattern is similar, but based on a crown for the Corona Vinyard:
I worked with Carolina Soderholm at Bruce Mau Design to develop this patterny thing for the Dorado Beach resort in Puerto Rico. Meant to somehow evoke a luxurious, elegant, lush jungle, it works with their logo both as single, free-form embellishment, and as a full-on tiling pattern.
I believe that they covered a wall in it somewhere, but I don't have any pictures.
And here is the project on Bruce Mau's site.
In this, the 2nd of my regular "column" for the UK Illustration magazine, Varoom, the theme was "Knowledge". So I decided to create a map which refers somewhat to the "known" beyond which lie monsters.
I had a lot of fun making this ...
It's fun to give directions on the map. There are places of elation and places of despair.
All sorts of destinations and paths we end up in in the pursuit of knowledge.
Including Brain Town ...
This was typeset in the font Absara by Xavier Dupré.
Michael Salu, the Art Director for Granta Publications in the UK hired me to do this cover for Chris Adrian's A Better Angel. (Showing front cover and spine.) It's a companion piece for Adrian's The Great Night.
Michael Salu, the Art Director for Granta Publications in the UK hired me to do this cover for Chris Adrian's The Great Night. (Showing front cover and spine.) It's a companion piece for Adrian's A Better Angel.
It's that time of year again, and herewith are my 2011 Valentines. Because this Valentine thing has gotten a little out of control in a covetous way, I thought it would be nice if I was able to give people multiple valentines that were all similar but slightly different, so they could keep one or two for themselves and still have a few to give away. So I created a modular heart with which I could easily make 10 variations, and as well I made a heart that says "Remember when we were young, we used to give Valentines to all our friends." (My best friend's 7-yr-old did not get this at all, repeatedly saying "But we do give Valentines to our friends." Yeah, wait 'til you're older, kid.)
So here's the press sheet:
Each person got one of the following in either blue or pink:
And then they got 4 or 5 different Valentine hearts. As I said, they are supposed to give them away, but it seems people like to hoard them! These are Kim Berlin's at Sterling Brands:
Kirsten Skipp has added one to a shrine:
Mark Mushet might have given the rest away like a good boy ...
Nik Hafermass has added his to his growing collection:
Stanley Hainsworth has made an odd justaposition:
Darling Tan Le is ready to cash in:
But the amazing Stefan Bucher really knew what to do! ... crazy kid!!
The process for making these was documented by Lynda.com. in this VIDEO!
With big thanks to David White and Scott Erickson and all the folks at Lynda.com.
You might be wondering how you get on my Valentine list. The answer is it's tough. This is a monumental effort for me each year so I'm not anxious to expand the list. However, hiring me and paying me gobs of cash is a pretty sure bet. ;)