Sunday, November 10, 2019

Ship camouflage poster | A visual syntax masterpiece

Dazzle ship camouflage (1942), designer unknown
Above This image of a dazzle-camouflaged ship dates from 1942, during World War II. It is most likely British, but it's unclear if it was a poster, the cover of a government publication, or what. One wonders who devised it because it is simply astounding in terms of the rightness of how it's arranged. I know of very few posters (if that's what it is) that are so complex, yet so precise. It really is breathtaking, a masterpiece of graphic design.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Blend and Dazzle | Art of Camouflage in PRINT 1991

Above and below In old age, in retirement mode, looking through publication files, found this large, then-wonderful article on a lecture series on camouflage at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. It was published in the January / February 1991 issue of PRINT Magazine (New York). It was my first article for that delightful magazine (now defunct), for which I wrote articles, editorials, and book reviews for probably a dozen years.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Portrait of Woodrow Wilson | Grouping during WWI

One reason for the effectiveness of camouflage, of various kinds, is our innate tendency to perceive similar components as "belonging together" (called unit-forming) and to see dissimilar components as "belonging apart" (unit-breaking). There was widespread interest in this and related aspects of vision, among artists and scientists, prior to and during World War I. Here are two wartime examples of the playful use of grouping.

Above is a photograph that appears to be an image of US President Woodrow Wilson. It was made by carefully arranging more than twenty thousand soldiers at Camp Chilocothe in Ohio. By wearing certain clothing and standing in designated locations, the soldiers were able "to produce all the lines and shading in a likeness of the face…The lighter portions of the picture were made by soldiers who wore no coats or hats, while in the darker sections, the men were in full uniform. Nearly 50 men were required to represent one lens of the president's eyeglasses. There were 21,000 men in the picture."

Below is President Wilson's image again. It was produced in 1917 by Harvey Parsons, a cartoonist for a Kansas newspaper, and a typesetter named O.W. Kelly. The portrait is made entirely of metal letters, produced on a linotype machine. The letters can also be read as the text of a statement that Wilson had written to Pope Benedictus. As explained at the time, "light-faced type composes the high lights of the picture, and black or bold-faced, the half-tones and darker portions. The proper spacing of the letters is not destroyed, and the reply to the Pope is legible in spite of the underlying likeness." This second method of portraiture can today, of course, be easily made on a computer with an app that is made for the purpose.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Drawing enemy fire and fake clouds of cotton wool

How to draw the enemy's fire | Ken Kling
These are two of my favorite wartime cartoons, both of which were published in Cartoons Magazine (c1917). Above is a drawing by American cartoonist Ken Kling, with the caption: Cartoonists in the Trenches could be Used to Draw the Enemy's Fire. Below is an ingenious proposal for airplane camouflage by British artist Bernard Hugh, originally published in The Bystander (London), in which he recommends the use of large clumps of cloud-like cotton wool, with the caption: Camouflage for Aeroplanes in the Form of Clouds.

An approach to airplane camouflage | Bernard Hugh