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Observed

We feel that we don’t share nearly enough cool work that we come upon and just as this thought arose Google gifted us with a charming Google Doodle by Matthew Cruiskshank. As it was not featured worldwide (or even very broadly), we thought we’d share it with you.

The doodle celebrates the iconic US highway Route 66 that ran from Chicago to California and features so prominently in the culture that even us non-Americans are very aware of it. In a charming mix of painted illustration and animation Cruickshank captures the atmosphere of the states the road crosses and some particular attractions on the way. As this official website claims, the illustrations were developed outside, during an actual road trip along the Route. (You can see the whole animation there, too.)

The work charmed us with its mix of light-hearted painterly illustrations, collage and very simple animation that feels unforced and humorous. It has fun typographic (and other) details and is wonderfully matched with Nat King Cole’s “Route 66”. There are one or two moments when the vector elements in the animation style felt a bit jarring to us but they’re quite offset by the fragments of the actual sketchbook and the liveliness of the whole thing. Overall, it was a charming, little morning surprise in our browser that made us happy.

Last week we took our kids to a rather lovely exhibition, another one in a series organized by the Museum of Gdynia to celebrate the work of classic Polish illustrators of children’s books. This one presents the work of Bożena Truchanowska, an artist most active in the 1960s and 1970s, who illustrated scores of children’s and young adults’ books. The exhibition was designed as an interactive experience where kids could move things around, draw on a wall (or on paper) and literally get in touch with the world of Truchanowska’s drawings. It didn’t overwhelm with information (perhaps, in fact, adults could stand to learn a little more theory about the work of the artist) and our kids were delighted. In fact, it’s become a returning topic of discussion why you can’t draw on the walls at home if you can in the museum. The striking thing about Truchanowska’s work is how she never limited herself to a single style, as illustrators usually do, and if you look at a number of her illustrations it’s not always easy to tell they were created by the same person. While our kids enjoyed demolishing the exhibition, we were most interested in the original drawings and even book layouts exhibited on glass panes.

A movable structure with elements of illustrations from which you can build your own creatures.
Ants stuck on the floor.
The whole exhibition space turned colorful and chaotic with stickers.
Animals you could peek at through holes in a wooden structure (that was actually fun regardless of age).
The biggest hit with our kids: a board with movable illustration elements.
Elevator transformed.
Truchanowska has a real way with drawing animals.
One of the original drawigns exhibited on a glass pane.
“Why can’t we draw on the walls at home???”

We know, we know. We still don’t update regularly – but we will, once the seasonal madness is over (which mostly means everyone wants to finish everything before New Year). However, we have a treat for you today. A while ago the Museum of Gdynia showed an exhibition of old Christmas cards from the time of People’s Republic of Poland (which we missed) and then printed a book about the phenomenon (which we failed to buy – still beating ourselves up about that). But we did buy a few of the reprinted cards in the gift shop and wanted to share them with you.

They were drawn by amazing Polish illustrators, working in traditional techniques and evoking an atmosphere of Christmases long ago: snowy countrysides, carollers, things that were already becoming a thing of the past as the cards were drawn. This generation of illustrators also coupled skilled observation with a subtle sense of humor. Enjoy!

Józef Wilkoń and a countryside sleigh ride.

Zbigniew Rychlicki, depicting a Christmas decorations stall – the thing that has definitely not become one of the past and is even multiplying, together with all the Christmas fairs.

And our favorite, Adam Kilian, working in his own, unique technique reminiscent of classic etching.

Check back later this week for our own Christmas card of this year and have a good pre-Christmas time!

First of all, we heartily apologize for the unseemly hiatus. In addition to the usual deadlines and organizational problems, this time included a hospital stay and recovery and this really messed up our schedule. Anyway, we’re back now and today we wanted to show you one of the books from our bookshelf that is frequently reached for by both us and our kids.

It is a full collection of little rhymed theater plays written by one of the best and funniest Polish writers for kids, Jan Brzechwa. Not only are these plays great reading, they were also incredibly illustrated by Magda Kozieł-Nowak and while scores of illustrators have tackled Brzechwa’s iconic poems, her illustrations have quickly become one of our favorites.

The best of these little plays retell famous fairy tales: Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and others, in humorous and modernized versions. Kozieł-Nowak’s illustrations capture the whimsical storytelling and fill its world with hand-painted characters full of life and personality. She has a great touch for watercolors (or maybe gouache? or poster paint? looks water-based) and adapting illustrations to page layouts. And while the style of the book is consistent, each play has little visual features that differentiate it from the other ones. We feel this book deserves more recognition for all the fun it provides.

Cover page.
The prince from Princess and the Pea. Look at how the paint and the paper texture are used. Also, the little dog.
You have to love this wolf from Little Red Riding Hood.
Puss in Boots must be our favorite with the use of those swirly lines reminding us of French 18th century fashion. That, and this hair, of course. Such intelligent illustrations.

It’s this season again! The season to talk about seasons. Last year we showed you the amazing book by Blexbolex, this year a different one, but just as much of a treat: My Four Seasons by one of the most recognizable and recognized Polish illustrators, Dawid Ryski.

The book can serve as a season primer, telling a story of a five-person family (the fifth person being the dog) and how they experience all the seasons of the year. It’s told through simple yet lavish illustrations in Dawid Ryski’s characteristic style, which includes masterful simplification that does not eliminate detail and beautiful color palettes. We especially appreciate the ability to make all the seasons seem appealing because, let’s face it, they’re not all created equal. Don’t even try to convince us they are. But at least they all fuel gorgeous illustrations!

As you can see, there are so many things to love about this book: how all the environments, while different, are consistent when it comes to colors and the level of details, how there’s something fun to do in every season and the sweet, idyllic picture of a family life.

With the pandemic limiting access to art events, we have recently learnt of a fantastic one, and held in the open so it’s virus-free. It is a part of a women art festival and this particular outdoor installation has been created by our friend, Anita Wasik. After childbirth she took up embroidery and developed it now into a project integrated into a beautiful green area in Gdynia.

The installation is called Genesis and consists of 12 embroidered objects the author half-jokingly calls “pussies” that have been installed into 12 tree hollows. You can walk around the park and find them, on purpose or by accident. We love this project for two quite different reasons. One is that it looks fantastic. And also shows mad embroidering skills. The other one is more political: it feels like in some environments anything relating to either women or nature these days is, if not downright dismissed or met with hostility, at least considered a lesser subject. So art which manages to combine these subjects, potentially opening a door for an interesting discussion about the relationship between the feminine and the natural, but without being obvious and ugly, as political art often is, get our highest marks. Also, we love trees and tree hollows, so this endears the project to us even more.

If you happen to be in Gdynia this summer make sure to check out Genesis.

(All photos courtesy of the author.)

Continuing our post-Christmas nostalgia, this week we want to share a lovely picture book that our son got from Santa, Lots by Marc Martin (it’s translated as “A Million Things” into Polish so the cover looks rather different).

Each spread shows an interesting place on Earth: some are about cities, some about natural territories, picking out curios, fascinating animals and memorable constructions for an idiosyncratic, personal catalog of the wonders of the world. The illustrations are painted with a mix of lightness and precision, with distinct color palettes that don’t shy away from gray (as watercolor painters sometimes do). The author’s enthusiasm (if not uncritical) for the variety and richness of the things that make up our world is contagious.

Antarctic, water paints work great to show ice and water.
I have a feeling that in the original book everything was written by hand but the typeface chosen for translation actually works surprisingly well.
The wonders of Asia.
Paris, how we miss you!