Goodbye, Nick Dewar


Nick Dewar—a Scottish-born artist with the power to elegantly provoke thought—has died at 37. He was an illustrator whose subtleties appealed equally to the eye and to the brain: gracefully making analogies and arguments with striking, deceptively simple images. No surprise that these talents made him a favorite of editors everywhere. Surfacing in places like The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times, he made great newspapers and magazines look better and look smarter.

His draftsmanship was marked by restraint and precision—if the piece didn’t need x, then x didn’t go in, often leaving his subjects in flat seas of solid color. “Personally I am a big believer in voluntary simplicity and try to discard everything that is unnecessary in my daily life,” he wrote on his site. “I think this has a lot to do with how my work looks.” Whether he was working analog—he preferred a sable brush, acrylic paints from Lefranc et Bourgeois’s Flashe range and Cartoon Colour’s Cel-Vinyl series, Strathmore plate-surface bristol board—or digitally, a sense of self-control kept his work free of frills, even of texture.

This allowed us to focus on the ideas. And Dewar had a lot of them, literally piles of them scattered throughout sketchbooks. As effortless as he makes it look, it was clear that he devoted intense mental effort to his projects, filtering everything through his sophisticated humor, visual and verbal wit, and Magritte-like zest for the surreal.


Dewar’s fluid strokes and retro figures brought to mind both Charles Burns (expressive faces, lustrous hair) and Christoph Niemann (gray suits, intellect, high comedy). Perhaps a more minimalist Daniel Clowes. You suspect that he could craft a brilliant graphic novel. Beyond these traits, a recurring set of images also connected his diverse body of work:

  1. Objects vaporously forming, genie-like, out of other objects
  2. Mirror images and detached faces
  3. Translucent figures and outlines
  4. Handlebar mustaches
  5. Human-shaped nonhumans
  6. Pinstripes coming to life
  7. Thick, transforming beams of light
  8. Colors that radiate warmth even when textbooks call them cool (his favorites: “certain dusky brown, greens, blues and deep yellow and oranges”)
  9. Muscular and blocky prewar lettering a la Chris Ware

We encourage you to visit Design Sponge, to see arguably their all-time best Sneak Peek into his living and working space. The line between life and art is thin, it turns out: Dewar writes beautifully and funnily about a place that is, inspiringly, at once spartan and steeped in art. On the wall, you can spot a giant silk-screened Chris Ware panel.


A Book By Its Cover allows us to briefly invade his privacy, too: through his sketchbooks!


Notice the ratio of words and ideas to images. And notice all the circling and scratching out, all the testing and sorting through. This is ample evidence of a restless mind, which makes for a better illustrator. To enrich your art, he suggests on his site, you have to enrich your life and brain: read lots, look at other people’s work, cultivate interests, travel. Clearly he practices what he preaches. On the same page, he delves deeply into this process, with his customary warmth and deadpan asides.

We took notes. We’ll miss him dearly.

Buy his prints at Thumbtack Press. Trawl Google Images for his commissions. Pore over his work in his portfolio or at Veer. Marvel at his contribution to Readymade’s WPA-inspired Poster Children project. Flip through his Flickr stream.

Annoyingly democratic


Certain mediums of art seem annoyingly democratic. Everyone with a camera thinks he’s magically become a photographer; with Final Cut, a director; with Serato, a DJ. Similar thinking goes with collage. With Photoshop and Google Image Search—or for the stubbornly analog, glue and old magazines—one has all the needed tools to rip new meanings out of old contexts. How does one break any new ground as a combiner of things, while also presenting a distinct voice and vision? The designer Mark Weaver relies on rules. Confining his canvases to a few well-chosen elements—confident typefaces, unpeopled landscapes, period portraits, severe architecture, geometric shapes, arcane charts—he builds a sense of mood and mystery that floats quietly toward the surreal.



Camilla Engman


The Suitcase Series presents in glorious detail the lives of select artists and designers. The books are image-based, full of artwork, sketchbook pages, beautiful photographs and artifacts from where the artists live and work. The book becomes a precious souvenir of a creative journey shared between the reader and the artist.

Some things I never get tired of: seeing artistic processes, unique & inviting homes, or anything with a hand-drawn/hand-made quality. This book does it all, and Camilla Engman is the perfect subject. I’m still a little sad I never got my hands on the reused porcelain collection, but they are beautifully documented in the book!

The visual deus ex machina


Ed Ruscha on Los Angeles:

Being in Los Angeles has had little or no effect on my work. I could have done it anywhere.


Au contraire! David Lynch on Ed Ruscha on Los Angeles:

Ed has said California hasn’t influenced him one little bit, but I disagree. I like to think the California sun has burnt out all unnecessary elements in his work.

some of the best things to receive


Lena Corwin’s Travel Poster from BJ. The mail gods were interfering with our plans to get this poster in our hands, but Lena persevered, and it finally got to us! The poster is basically a tour of European architecture—italicized!


Some of the best things to receive, buy, share are Mike Perry‘s printed works. I snagged Issue #2 (Swimsuit Edition) of Untitled, a zine devoted to his shifting interests. I admire how each element of it—the pictures, clothes, drawings, etc.—belongs to a collaborative effort and one does not outshine the other. Anna’s poetic black-and-white photographs and Mike’s innocent injections of color are the perfect complements.


Untitled Issue # 3 One Photo Shoot


This poster was tucked among the zines as a nice surprise. It looks like a dog-pile of monsters made out of sherbet. I think it’ll go perfectly in my classroom!

olly moss




Olly Moss‘s film poster remixes. Genius. I really admire how he uses  limited tools to perfectly capture the essence of the subject—something I try to reiterate to my students. I can’t blame them for thinking kitchen-sink maximalism is good; ads and magazine pages today are so crowded. I got a headache flipping through my sister’s Seventeen magazine last night. Those layouts are craazzzzy.

Gah. These are so good. And he’s only 22!


This is how I feel about cleaning. (Probably what my back looks like too. Gotta be vigilant about my posture!)

It’s been a long day and my feet are starting to remember what a school day feels like. The classroom is getting closer to being in order, but sometimes it feels like a mountain load of unfinished tasks.

Elsa Mora


A beautiful, breathtaking paper cut necklace by multi media artist Elisa Mora. She is incredibly talented. I love her sculpture and jewelry work, but her sculptural paper cuts are by far my favorite  (some available here). Does this piece seem familiar? Here’s the inspiration behind her design.


Frida Khalo. Self Portrait with Monkeys. 1940

intimate, bittersweet style

marceldzama_studio_smallMarcel Dzama’s studio space. Vanity Fair.  December 2006

After leaving college, I like many of my friends have found it hard to continue doing our own work. Whether it is lack of space, materials, time, etc. there are many reasons that may interfere with the development of our art and craft. For me, it’s all of the above as well as the lingering thought that what I will make is not good enough, not serious enough, not thought out enough…. Well the fact is, I don’t have to present this in front of faculty, I’m not on a crazy deadline so what am I so afraid of? Like I tell my kids, you gotta make “bad” art to make good art. You have to start somewhere even if it’s a doodle.

So I’m excited that some of us are getting together to collaborate a little. Being assigned projects and having other people work along with you is a huge motivator. Hopefully we can continue to do this and get others to join in. I tore out this magazine page awhile ago (horrible, horrible tearing skills. I must of been impatient) and to me, it captures beautifully the spirit of making. Go create!

tears of hope

Mornin’ These illustrations by Andrew Bannecker caught my eye and I didn’t want to forget them- you know when you keep clicking and then you don’t remember where you started in the first place? I love his use of texture and transparency- something I want to learn and master. I found other great examples on his website to show my students. Prints available in his shop. Check him out!

batforlashesBat for Lashes piece for Spread artculture magazine.

lost_at_sea2Tears of Hope. Part of 3X3 ProShow out this fall.