Commercial ad work proved difficult for Harper. He was frustrated illustrating the “happy housewife” and began to tire of realism altogether, stating that it “revealed nothing new about the subject, never challenged viewers to expand their awareness, (and) denied me the freedom of editorializing.”
He began to experiment with a new style where perspective was replaced with hard-edged two-dimensional shapes reduced to only straight lines and curves and where shading and depth were replaced by overlapping color. To caricature and simplify at the same time. The idea was “…to push simplification as far as possible without losing identification.” He would eventually call it “minimal realism.” It was a style that would take him 30 years to perfect.
Magic Pencil — A lovely profile of illustrator Quentin Blake by Jenny Uglow, at The Guardian:
He was among a new wave of British illustrators who began work in the 1950s and 60s, an extraordinary flowering, benefiting from the greater availability of four-colour half-tone printing. The brilliant artists of that generation, each with their distinctive signature, still seem fresh. It’s extraordinary to find that Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr and Peter Firmin are in their 80s, while Raymond Briggs, Helen Oxenbury, David McKee and Tony Ross were all born, like Blake, in the 1930s. A galaxy of later stars have followed and authors and illustrators have often formed notable partnerships: Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, Allan and Janet Ahlberg, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and, of course, Dahl and Blake.
“My main experiences in the past had been of the Hollywood variety, which was on many levels repulsive to me. Every film is a remake of a previous film, or a remake of a television series that everyone loved in the 1960s, or a remake of a television series that everyone hated in the 1960s. Or it’s a theme park ride; it will soon come to breakfast cereal mascots.
“But I’d always thought I liked the idea of a really cheap, little film. If you want to be a writer or an artist, all you need is a Biro and a Woolworths jotter; it’s a democratic medium. I love films that are made with almost no budget.”
And on a related note:
The Shit We Hate — Artist and illustrator Jamie Hewlett on a possible return to Tank Girl:
I started looking at [Tank Girl] and realised that, apart from the last three or four strips I drew in that 10 year period, pretty much 90% of it was shit. Really, it was. I spoke to [Tank Girl writer] Alan Martin, and he remarked on how it had been so successful, yet the execution on our part was so bad. I said that “now we’re in our forties, and I can draw much better, and you’re a much better writer, wouldn’t it be great to revisit Tank Girl, do a one-off graphic novel, but do a really good one, and really knock it out of the ball park?’ So we might do that next year. It’s a great character, so anarchic; just a tool for us to rant about all the shit we hate.
Stranger than Science Fiction — History professor Michael Saler on Alan Turing, at the TLS:
Recent histories charting the intertwined origins of the nuclear age and the “digital universe” provoke the queasy feeling that our species is positioned precariously between atomic night and transhuman dawn. Ironically – and reassuringly – the principal instigators of this new era, such as Alan Turing and John von Neumann, showed themselves to be human, all too human, their fallibilities and resiliencies restoring a more grounded perspective about our future. The triumph of a Dr Strangelove or a Hal 9000 remains a possibility, but either scenario pales before the lived reality of their flesh-and-blood progenitors.