Friday, June 27, 2008

The Art of Arkham House (Part 3)

1970s - 2000s

Gahan Wilson, 1970

Herb Arnold illustration, Gary Gore design, 1971

Herb Arnold, 1971

Herb Arnold, 1972

Herb Arnold, 1974

Tim Kirk, 1975

Stephen E. Fabian, 1977

Jason Van Hollander, 1980

Raymond Bayless, 1985

Raymond Bayless, 1986

Raymond Bayless, 1986

Raymond Bayless, 1989

Jeffrey K. Potter, 1993

Bob Eggleton, 1995

Allen Koszowski, 1999

Alan Fore, 2002

Keith Minnion, 2004

Colophon for Arkham House designed by Frank Utpatel

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Art of Arkham House (Part 2)


Ronald Clyne, 1952

Ronald Clyne, 1957

Frank Utpatel, 1958

Richard Taylor, 1958

Richard Taylor, 1958


Richard Taylor, 1962

Richard Taylor, 1962

Richard Taylor, 1963

Lee Brown Coye, 1963

Lee Brown Coye, 1964

Frank Utpatel, 1964
(what's up with the typography on this one?!)

Lee Brown Coye, 1965

Frank Utpatel, 1966

Frank Utpatel, 1967

Lee Brown Coye, 1969

Coming soon-- Part 3

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Arkham House (Part 1)

Arkham House is a “small press” publisher of what is sometimes referred to as “weird fiction”. Founded in 1939 by writers August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, Arkham House was created to publish in hardcover the work of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Creator of what has come to be known as The Cthulhu Mythos, Lovecraft is today widely recognized as one of the most influential writers of horror fiction, but at the time of his death, his work had mainly been seen only in the pages of pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. Derleth and Wandrei were determined to keep Lovecraft’s work from fading away over time, and in 1939 published a collection of Lovecraft’s work under the title The Outsider and Others. The name Arkham House is derived from Lovecraft’s fictitious town of that name, located somewhere in Massachusetts.

Virgil Finlay, 1939

Since 1939, Arkham House has published over 200 titles: all of Lovecraft’s work (including five volumes of his letters), and that of a number of other writers as well. Many of these writers have also achieved wide recognition and success over the years, in no small part due to the vision and dedication of Derleth and Wandrei. Writers published by Arkham House include Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Algernon Blackwood, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, J. G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, and many, many more.

Arkham House was a labor of love. In 1970, Derleth noted, “…the fact is that in no single year since its founding have the earnings of Arkham House met the expenses, so that it has been necessary for my personal earnings to shore up Arkham House finances.” Derleth died in 1971; the publishing house still exists, but has gone through a number of hands since his death and really is a shadow of its former self.

Arkham house books are known for the quality of their printing and binding, and the dust jackets for their books have a certain look to them that plays an important part of the over-all appeal that these books have to their collectors (myself included—I am the proud owner of over forty Arkham House titles, going back to Lovecraft’s Something About Cats, published in 1949).

Obviously, Arkham House was working with a limited budget when it came to producing artwork for their books—although you will see the occasional full-color dust jacket, for the most part what you will see is art that is limited to one or two colors. However, the publishers were as discerning in their selection of artists as they were in their selection of writers. These designers and illustrators, working within the confines dictated by budgetary concerns, routinely produced work of a very high quality. Arkham House worked with a number of artists over the years. Some are fairly well know to this day; others less so.

I will be presenting a series of posts featuring this wonderful artwork, starting with 1939 through the decade of the1940s. Stay tuned for more!

Ronald Clyne, 1945

Ronald Clyne, 1945

Hannes Bok, 1946

Ronald Clyne, 1946

Hannes Bok, 1946

Ronald Clyne, 1949

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Chladni Patterns, Cymatics, Mandalas, etc.

The image that I presented on June 7 and 10 is a series of pictures of Chladni patterns. These patterns are produced by different frequencies of sound. (To see this in action, take a look at the above video.)

Chladni was an 18th century musician and physicist who was instrumental in the development of acoustics, which is the science of sound. Sound is made of physical vibration. (Perhaps you have heard the windows of your house rattle as a result of a car with a very loud sound system with subwoofers going down your street. Thunder will produce a similar effect.) Chladni found a very interesting way to demonstrate the physical qualities of sound—by drawing a violin bow across a plate sprinkled with sand, he produced patterns and shapes that are now known as Chladni patterns (or figures).

The science of the visualization of waves, particularly sound waves, has come to be known as cymatics, a term coined by Swiss scientist Hans Jenny (1904-1972). Jenny conducted a wide range of experiments with the way that sound affects different substances, and was able to produce Chladni patterns by using oscillators and even the human voice. Here is a photograph of a human voice pronouncing the vowel “A” (as seen in the previous post on this blog, where you will also see Chadni patterns in a drop of water and a coffee cup).

Oftentimes these Chladni patterns form mandalas or similar patterns. The word mandala comes from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit, and loosely translated, means circle. Mandalas have been produced in many forms throughout human history all around the world, from the classic Buddhist mandalas (again, see previous post), to Navaho sand paintings, the Aztec Sun Stone (a.k.a. Aztec calendar stone), and even the swastika, which is thousands of years old, and again, is seen in various forms in cultures all over the world.

Aztec Sun Stone, 1479

Mandalas are also seen in the natural world, from things like tree rings and flowers, all the way to the shape of galaxies. The natural world also provides us with that which is known as the “golden ratio”, which can be seen in things like the Nautilus shell, leaves, crystalline structure, etc. The golden ratio has also been used in art and architecture for hundreds and even thousands of years.

Nautilus shell, cross-section

Notre Dame de Paris, 1163-1345

Notre Dame de Paris

The circle itself is one of humankind’s earliest symbols, and is a mandala in its simplest form. The swastika developed from a circle overlaid with a cross. These symbols go back tens and even perhaps hundreds of thousands of years.

The circle, the cross, and the mandala in nature and in art are inextricably intertwined. These forms in many variations also exist in the vibrations of sound, as seen so clearly in Chladni patterns. The interconnectedness of the natural world is truly amazing. Although mathematics, science, and modern technology give us a deeper understanding of these phenomena, they have been part of human culture since the dawn of time.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clues to June 7th post

The other day, I posted this picture, and asked if anyone could identify what it was.

I had one response-- they guessed that it was a quilt. Wrong. Not even close.

So what is this very intriguing series images?

Here are some visual clues:

I would enjoy hearing from some more of my readers-- take a guess!