DAN ROSE DRAWINGS, which was designed by Dan Rose in collaboration with the graphic designer Laurie Churchman and published in 2018, won an AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts, Philadelphia) award in June 2019 which came as no surprise. This is the most recent of an array of impressive artistic forays in different genres, some of which I’ve personally witnessed, and, in some cases, been lucky enough to write about or actually be a part of.
The drawings in the book themselves come from as far back as the 1970s, though most are more recent.
Notes that Dan sent out to announce this award to friends and colleagues included an anecdote from his childhood that added insight into his chronology and some of the influences that are realized in DAN ROSE DRAWINGS:
Last fall, I was thrilled to publish a limited edition book of 45 of my drawings, spanning four decades of my life. Drawings was designed by Laurie Churchman of Designlore. The front and back covers feature a single drawing digitally routered into 3mm archival millboard, and was printed by Brilliant: PA and bound by Roswell Bookbinding.
As a child my mother used to give me a pencil and paper to occupy me during Sunday sermons. During these long hours, a small boy invented wild worlds populated with extraordinary vehicles, flying machines, and impossible perspectives.
The boy never quite left me. And I continued drawing.
Over the last year, months of work and the talents of many people came together to produce Drawings, a book superbly realized. But this is not the end of the story.
Earlier this past June, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Philadelphia announced the winners of its biannual Philadelphia Design Awards competition. Awards were given to 27 design firms with work ranging from branding, books, and environmental signage to mobile apps among which only 3 designs made the Judges Choice list. This year’s judges were Shani Sandy, Design Executive at IBM, NYC, Isabel Urbina Peña, Art Director of IUP, NYC, and Rafael Esquer, Creative Director and CEO of Alfalfa Studio, NYC. Drawings was not only one of this year’s winners of the Philadelphia Design Awards competition but was also Rafael Esquer’s Judges Choice.
It gives me great pleasure to share the news with you. It gives me some amusement to look back on those many hours in church, knowing that they were not all completely wasted hours after all.
Dan said of Laurie Churchman:
Laurie was the official designer and asserts that this was a collaboration. She played several roles impeccably. She made numerous suggestions for layout, materials, and processes. She and I made trip after trip to the printer in Radnor where her talent for perfection brought design and production people into the room to discuss markups she made time and again on every image. She was in addition to the designer consultant, the executive producer of the tiniest details of the book. We certainly pooled our perfectionism and she insured that our efforts were translated into the finished product at the printing company. The book completely reflects the success of her labors.
There is real mischief and charm in some of his zeppelin-like space vehicles that are reminiscent of how kids are mystified by the character of the appearance of space vehicles. And the singularly strange seemingly incomplete self portraits in the book, tell something of the story of how a little guy might portray himself, and probably vocalize as he did so (though not in church.)
The themes in this book are related to the comics and the graphic novels that Dan loves. I wrote an introduction to the book prior to seeing it in print, and did the best I could but still didn’t come close to covering it all.
This is an excerpt:
Masks, schematic distortions of space, surrealistic landscapes evolving into or from human influence and intervention, diagrams of hypothetical flying vehicles that sometimes look like implausible flying potatoes, devices—pre-robotic toggle switches, cords, antennae, television monitors, and more are realized in a traditional though unorthodox approach to media. Pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, ink, marker, etc. are executed in what looks to be a rapid matter-of-fact though deliberate technique.
Dan’s work is serendipitous and disorienting, it has a sequence, the encounter, then the learning from the encounter, then the adaptation into his pencil-and-paper or other means. 2Bor not 2B, that is the question in this context. There are the drawings “Landscape With No Particular Point of View” with the ambiguous aerial perspective of an ancient enigmatic earthwork pictogram character as you would see in a flyover or scratched into a rocky outcrop in the Southwest. Several of the drawings employ a perspective and light orientation that renders them optically ambiguous. Our historical visual prejudice assumes that light is always coming from the top left of a page, when this clue is changed, we’re initially disoriented, i.e. why does the shadow from that tree not look right? The drawing looks concave because the shadow is created by the light source coming from the lower right in the page, so therein lays their resemblance to the incision of a pictogram.
The leitmotif of “Landscape With No Particular Point of View” was used as the routered graphic on the book cover.
For brevity’s sake I’ll just try to stick to the realization of the book itself, which is surely where its success at the AIGA found an appropriate critical audience.
The original drawings in the book were rendered in pencil and other media, and it astonishes me how precisely the final printed output captures the original media. Looking very carefully at every graphite-looking rendered page to be sure that the graphite wasn’t rubbing off on its facing page, I had to wonder how it was done!
Secondly, the scale of the embossed graphic titled cover of this ingratiating, sturdy book, its depth relative to the size and its overall compactness, is graphically astute and would be great alone—except that it is accompanied by a precisely routered graphic of the leitmotif “Landscape With No Particular Point of View” which reappears rotated a few more times in the book. It is a conceptual puzzle to look at and think about. The covers were churned out of the book board using Zünd routers—highly labor-intensive work done by Chris Finck, a technician craftsman at Brilliant Printers in Radnor PA. Bob Tursack, the CEO at Brilliant Printers where the work was done said of the project: “This project remains one of my favorite productions of the past few years. I/we are so proud of the finished result.” I’ve included Chris Finc, who heads our Fabrication Department, as he did the CNC work on the cover.
This combination of old traditional media commingled and augmented with new is what, to my mind, at least, is what sets this tour-de-force of an artist book apart.