Nonfiction Illustrated 2016 2

Continuing from our last installment: 

Category 2: Curated Collections

You might think of this as a subset of informational or educational illustration, as would I under normal circumstances. But I've broken it out to make sure that you see how much range and latitude you really have available to you. 

I'm providing two examples with very strong personality, to drive that point home. 

Mark Todd's, Badasses. Guys + Girls + Rides. A repackaged zine by Mark Todd. Blue Q, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. 2008.  

Todd’s book is a hilarious compilation of deceptively crude drawings in a two-color palette with a scrawled text. The project provides a mock-survey of “badass” characters in popular culture from the 1970s and 80s, and includes men, women and vehicles. Lovingly compiled, silly, knowing and heartfelt.

I received this book a few years back as a Christmas present from my son Andrew. After working my way through it I immediately observed a) that I loved it, and b) what a good example it would be for my students, who can tend to think that nonfiction = snoozefest.

Despite the goofy affect, it is undeniably true that Todd's book documents a set of cultural facts, including the awesomenss of the great Snake Plissken (below right).

Christian Northeast, Prayer Requested: Prayers I Found on the Internet. A D+Q Petit Livre. Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal. 2009. 

In addition to the fact that this book is hilarious and heartbreaking, it shows off a great collagist and provides evidence of what happens when you design pictures, as opposed to just drawing them. Northeast's visual range with type and image–plus his by turns droll/chipper/menacing sensibility–are comically beguiling. Maybe worrying. 


Do not underestimate how important writing is for the curatorial projects. If you build a project based on a collection, you will have to have a strong point of view, good judgment, and the capacity to write unobtrusively, to provide the verbal setting for the stone, as it were. But the opposite may be true. If the editorial voice of the writing is what sucks us in, the words may well drive the selection of visuals.

It can go either way, but not both ways. You will need a methodology. (Of course I can help you reason your way through those questions, but you will drive the bus.) 

Christian Northeast, Prayer Requested, 2009. 

Northeast, Prayer Requested cover. 

Mark Todd, Badasses: Darth Vader. 2008. 

Todd, Badasses, cover. 

Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, in Escape from New York. 1981. Directed by John Carpenter. (And shot in St. Louis.)

Todd, Badassess: Arnold Schwarzenegger as theTerminator, and a Gremlin.  

Northeast, Prayers

Northeast, Prayers