Tuesday, December 14, 2010
It was a pleasure having you all in class & I'll miss everyone, please stay in touch!
You can always see what I'm up to on my blog, which I try to update regularly:
And you can email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOORAY! Enjoy the next semester! :D
Marc Boutavant and Josh Cochran are both similar in their illustrations by using flat colors and few color schemes. They also have similar amounts of negative and filled space; as in their works illustrates the busy creatures or people, yet there’s a fair amount of space that is not used. Both of their foregrounds in their work tend to be busy, but have a solid color for the background. Since their works are busy, they are both able to use few colors in a flat style. Cochran’s Unbalanced and Boutavant’s Momix are both examples that apply to similar space, use of color, and the tools they use. Another comparison between the two is that some parts of the line work is applied on certain areas create a texture (ex. trees and fur from Boutavant’s Abracadabra, and Cochran’s textured flesh in Triton.) Both artists also have their own stylized illustrations that make both of their work unique; as in Boutavant’s artwork is mainly cute, while Cochran’s artwork is frenzied.
They are both different from each other; while Boutavant’s line work remains clean and precious with few outlines, Cochran’s line work reminds me of a sketch (but with cleaner lines, so it’s not too sketchy). Both of them use Adobe Photoshop to work with, but Cochran uses silkscreen for his finished product; on the other hand, Boutavant uses actual pictures to apply to his work, like Elephant. The content of both of their work is different also because Boutavant’s work contains a lot of cute colorful animals, whereas Cochran creates people and buildings that are mostly analogous in color scheme and are arranged in a hectic manner. Though both artists have done works that contains more than a few colors, Boutavant tends to hang out with the warmer colors while Cochran uses cooler colors. Sometimes they have a hint of complimentary color in their works too.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Here are your homework assignments in order-- remember to bring in any redos (and the original piece). If you missed any blog assignments in the past, you can post them here too.
ALSO, since I'm bringing pizza, if anyone wants to contribute any snacks...go for it!
1. Noun/verb illustration
2. 3-person band character lineup
3. Rolling Stone band illustration
4. Classic story book cover (with a monster twist)
5. "Not Measuring Up" editorial illustration AND spot illustration
6. Non-traditional self Portrait
7. 3-image Final Project
Good luck with your final week! YOU CAN DO IT! You're almost there!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I also wanted to share this great blog I found recently: http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/
(c) Greg Manchess
A whole lineup of great sci-fi/fantasy cover artists, gallery artists, and concept artists contribute to the blog, like Dan Dos Santos, Eric Fortune, Jon Foster, and Greg Manchess. I was surprised all these big-name illustrators had a blog together, but it's really great to see their progress & tips. Check it outttt.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I went back to the things I like and I came up with The BONE Eater idea.
I would work with the idea of what a bone eater looks like, how they get their bones to eat and how they prepare their food. I feel like I could go any direction with this idea, and I'm kinda excited.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The idea i came up with for the final is pretty different than the one we discussed at the museum, but I am really excited to start working on it and I have a lot of really interesting ideas for it.
For my final I will create three illustrations that put personified versions of the fundamental forces in nature (gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) within their unique environments. Design elements on the characters and environments will be inspired by asian art and design found at the Walters Art Museum.
Would it be alright if I created a page of three designs for each character as one of the sketches for each illustration? This way, i would be able to work out the characters themselves before trying to make the sketches for the final image.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
This Saturday, 10 am. Meet in Cafe Doris or outside on benches.
Bring sketchbook/supplies, camera. Paint & food & drink are not permitted at the Walters.You will also have to leave bags larger than 13’ x 17’ at the coatcheck. If you get hungry, there is a café in the museum.
After thanksgiving break we only have 3 more classes left, so this is your final project. Sketches are due after thanksgiving break, and your finals will be due on the final day of class, along with the rest of the work you’ve been doing this semester. I
While you’re at the Walters, I’d like you to do 10 sketches in your sketchbook, approx. 10 minutes each (you can do copies of paintings, sculpture, or the spaces themselven). Also, you need to find something that inspires you which you will base your final project on. It can be a specific piece of art, or theme, or colors, or composition, or style of art, or story, it can be basically anything. I want you to use that inspiration to create 3 final pieces that go together in some way. It can be 3 posters, 3 editorial illustrations, 3 children’s book illustrations, 3 t-shirt designs, 3 paintings, whatever you like. So here’s some examples—let’s say you are inspired by one of the stories shown on the greek pottery or the Indian figurines. You could take that story and illustrate 3 scenes or make a sci-fi interpretation of it for your 3 illustrations. Or let’s say you see the painting of Saint Jerome in his study and really enjoy the theme. You could do more of a fine-arts type project and do 3 portraits of your friends or favorite literary characters in their own rooms. Or lets say you’re inspired by some of the art deco brooches, you could make 3 art-deco themed greeting cards or theater posters. You can also focus on something more technically-inspired, like a color palette or composition. The sky’s the limit here!
Before you leave the Walters this saturday, each of you need to come to me and tell me your inspiration and what you’d like to do for your final project, and show me your 10 sketches.
Our next class after the Walters, November 30, is when your sketches will be due for this final assignment. You should have at least 3 sketches for each proposed final piece, which means 9 total. No blog assignments.
I’m putting a list below of some types of projects you can start thinking about.
*I will say right now that I wouldn’t recommend doing 3 comic pages unless you’re really into it, because it’ll be a lot more work. I’m not banning it though.
*You can do a triptych (3 pieces that form one image), but each section of the triptych needs to be able to stand on its own, too.
*If any of the particular projects we had interested you, you can always delve deeper and do a continuation.
*3 scenes from a myth or story, re-interpreted in your own style or in a different setting/context
*Redesigns of bookcovers for 3 classic or favorite books (with your own twist)
*A more fine-arts project, like individualized portraits of your friends (trying to incorporate more than just their looks into their portraits, like the nontraditional self portrait project)
*1 page of 5 finalized character designs and 2 images of the finalized character in its environment (or 2 pages of 5 character designs and 1 image of finalized characters in their environment).
*Album or CD covers or posters for a band you're interested in
*Picking 3 news stories and doing editorial illustrations for them
*A product or graphic-design based project—- greeting cards, T-shirt designs.
*3 Tarot or horoscope drawings with a theme
*3 scenes from a myth, re-interpreted.
*You can do a project with a simpler theme, too. This is wide open for what YOU want to focus on.
Don't make things too complicated for you to finish… You have 3 weeks to get these pieces done (and finish up any redo’s of the rest of your work from this semester), and you’ll have finals coming up in the rest of your classes. Manage your time well.
See you this Saturday!
copyright Juao Ruas
Arum-- you requested images from the self portrait stuff I showed you guys last week.
Here's how to look at them all online:
Go here: IdeaFixa online magazine
Scroll down and click the "Self Portrait" issue. It's white.
A new window will open up, click "Self Portrait" again. It has an "8" below it.
Another new window will open up, click "skip" and start turning the pages!
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This is an exercise in creative thinking...what defines you as a person? It can be one small aspect of your personality or your life, or an event or collection of things. It's not just your face! In fact, your non-traditional self portrait doesn't have to show a physical representation of you at all, but it can. The medium/size/proportion is totally up to you, as long as the final image is at least as large as 8.5x11.
Bring in any preliminary sketches/reference you did, in addition to your final piece next week.
For the blog, do a 15 min or longer traditional self-portrait. It can be B&W or color, any medium. Use a strong lighting source, I want to see shadows and highlights & not just outlines. Don't take a photo of yourself and then draw from the photo, it's an easy way out and it's a more valuable experience (though harder) to draw from an actual mirror.
Have fun with this assignment, I'm looking forward to what you guys come up with! See you next week!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Fredrickson and Gotz have very distinct, yet different styles of artwork. Fredrickson specializes in creating charicatures of famous people, in a hyper-realistic, yet over the top manner. Most of his work has people with extremely large heads, with tiny bodies in comparison. His colors are also realistic, and he seems to specialize in dramatic lighting on the characters. His work also has a somewhat gruesome quality, as the people portrayed are not really portrayed in a very flattering way. He uses a large amount of detail in his work, not through lines, but through his shadowing technique to bring about this hyper-realistic quality. This is not just in his people, though. His backgrounds have the same amount of extreme detail in them that his people do, which helps emphasize the characters. All of his work is done entirely in photoshop, but it has somewhat of a painterly feel to it. In contrast, Gotz’s work focuses on elegant linework and use of flat color. The people in Gotz’s work have more realistic proportions, but the overall effect of them is not realistic, but instead beautifully characterized in simple lines. Her colors are usually limited and have a low saturation. There is also a reliance on the original white of the paper, and not everything is colored in. Gotz also has a lot of detail in her work, but in an entirely different way than Fredrickson. Her detail is in her linework, as she uses many thin lines to give detail to hair and feathers. Although she does also use photoshop, she also uses a combination of cut paper, ink, and pencil to create her works. Gotz’s work, to me, has a very elegant and simple feel to it, which I enjoy much more that Fredrickson’s over the top work, which is more gritty.
Chris Gall and Stephanie Augustine both have very distinctive work. Chris Gall makes heavy use of line, creating both shadow and texture with rows of horizontal and vertical lines. This kind of style makes a lot of sense in regards to his dominant materials: “engraving on heavy masonite board”. Stephanie Augustine’s style is completely different. She rarely uses contours: instead, colors indicate where lines could be. Her work is “entirely handmade” out of “paper and fabric” and acrylic paint. As far as content, Chris Gall’s work focuses on rather more figurative images- his illustrations represent what they are literally supposed to be. While they might be fantastical, it is easy to understand what “Out of Control Media” is trying to say. Stephanie Augustine’s pieces are more abstract. Just looking at “A Heated Debate” without the title will not exactly explain what is happening. When you look at the title, the meaning becomes clearer. Her work requires more explicit interpretation.
Looking through their pieces, there really is not too many similar aspects to their work.. Both focus on images of people. Both use stylized representations of the human form (albeit very different from each other) Both have a distinct color palette: Chris Gall uses warm golds and Stephanie Augustine uses pale colors. Both artists have a heavy use of dark colors. Even though they are very different artists, the two do have some similarities
The two artists I choice to compare and contrast was Lisel Ashlock and Gaston Caba. Upon first glance of these two artists, they appeared to be complete opposites. Lisel’s work is fairly realistic and all of her paintings are mostly composed of earthy, muted colors. Gaston Caba on the other hand has crazy super stylized cartoons that has every color of the rainbow wedged in there some where (not including the countless rainbows already on the image!) Another thing that is clear difference between these two illustrators is the choice of medium. Lisel Ashlock is clearly working with traditional media- acrylic paint and wood panels, while Caston Caba is using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to create her work. Another difference I get when looking at both of the artist’s pieces is the mood. I get a really calming, yet eerie mood from Lisel Ashlock’s work because of her subtle colors and in almost all of the illustrations I have seen of Lisels, there is atleast one character staring right at the viewer which personally gives off an unnerving feel, but when I look at Gaston Caba’s work it is charged with a really happy, bubbly atmosphere created by her awesome characters which reminds me how fun it was to be a kid.
Although Gaston Caba’s style is very simple colorful cartoons, in some of his illustrations he places them in photo’s and creates a surreal affect with this real version of his cartoons in reality. This quality of Gaston’s work is similar to Lisel’s work. Although Lisel Ashlock’s work is realistic, there always seems to have some aspect that doesn’t belong creating a semi surrealistic quality to her pieces. Despite appearing to be completely different, even these two illustrators, Lisel Ashlock and Gaston Caba, have some common ground that one can relate their work.
The two artists from the illustration now book that I chose happen to both be from London. They both uniquely utilize negative, white space in their pieces. They also both have an interesting placement of black versus color in each piece. Both of these artists seem to illustrate nostalgic places. Chakrabarti plays with a lot of different wallpapers and mixes photographs with her drawings. Mills’ artwork is mainly pen drawings that looked almost like they are sewn with embroidery thread. These drawings are mixed with colored silhouettes and black line that gives his pieces a very different look which I find very pleasing. When I began to do more research on these two artists and explore their websites, I found that Chakrabarti is greatly influenced by fashion and pretty patterns being ubiquitous is most of her work. Her personality truly shows through her artwork, she seems delicate and witty. The great amount of detail in some pieces and the simplicity of others is lovely. In comparison with Roderick Mills, I feel as though Nina Chakrabarti has most versatility in her style than Mills. His work, while being thought provoking and different, does not have too much change in his style or what he produces for his clients. There are many sides to Chakrabarti’s work and capabilities. Mills’ artwork is more influenced by current events and his clients are more news oriented in comparison to Nina Chakrabarti’s. However they use writing in some of their pieces, Nina’s are more feminine and fashion forward where Mills’ writing is more about labels and the font he creates. They do however, use similar colors in their pieces: the teal, chartreuse green, and the oranges.
Nina Chakrabarti: http://www.ninachakrabarti.com/about-2/
Roderick Mills: http://www.heartagency.com/artist/RoderickMills/gallery/1
The two artist I chose to compare and contrast are Christian Montenegro and Izumi Nogawa. To be honest, when I first saw these two I was surprised that I liked their work. Normally I like works that are a bit more realistic looking but I find that as time progresses, I’m starting to like the simpler styles more and more.
Both artist use shapes as forms in their work; the circle being a common element in their work. They both use the circle in a way that suggests a realistic form such as a flower or an eye, but they are able to maintain the fact that the image is not in fact a flower or an eye but a circle. Pattern and repetition are another similarity in their work. Both normally repeat a shape or a design multiple times, which I find to do successfully and not make the work seem chaotic. Izumi seems to be a master at this, the object she normally repeats is not the main focal point of the piece yet the pattern does not take away from the focal point, instead enhancing it. Christian as well s able to use a pattern in a way that enhances the overall effect of the piece whether than take away from it. I respect them for this for over the semester I have struggled with doing this.
However, both artists do have their differences. Mainly in the color palette they use. Izumi normally uses a limited color palette, normally uses various tints and shades of one color; every now and then adding the complement color for movement. Izumi’s work tends to be a bit more flowing and along the lines of fantasy than Christian’s work. Christian’s work is more ordered and is very often times symmetrical. Christian also has a very good grasp as to which colors go well together and which do not. I’m hoping from looking a bit more at his work, it will help me be able to choose which colors go well together.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Both Jeremyville and Caba’s styles are, for the most part, shape-based. The major difference lies in Jeremyville’s use of text where Caba has none. Second to that is Caba’s photo manipulation instead of Jeremyville’s graffiti. Aside from these details, however, their art is very similar. Both favor cute, wide-eyed cartoon characters and bright pastel colors. Caba and Jeremyville also share the quirk of slipping mature themes into seemingly innocent content; Caba’s rabbits sometimes feature injuries and scars while Jeremyville less subtly illustrates drink, drugs and cartoon violence. As quoted in Illustration Now! Volume 2, Caba works to illustrate a colorful world for children and adults alike while Jeremyville aims to give life to his stream of consciousness.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Sam Bosma, our guest artist from last week, will be coming in again this week to critique your finals!
A portion of the 60-some thumbnails for the Bilbo/Gollum hobbit image.
Here's his portfolio website: http://www.sbosma.com/
And his blog (he has tags on the right with shortcuts to all his process posts, sketchbook posts, etc.): http://sambosma.blogspot.com/
Gotta catch 'em all!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
At least 3 sketches for a 7x9 illustration (horizontal or vertical) based on the text.
At least 3 sketches for an approximate 3x3 spot illustraton based on the text. The spot should use whitespace in an interesting way-- don't just make a little rectangle or square.
Remember, the magazine is for older kids-- 12ish-- so keep illustrations playful or humorous. They can be still be in a realistic style, or stylized, whatever you want to work with.
Blog assignment--since I forgot to mention it in class, you guys are off the hook this week! Use your extra time wisely! Let's see some good sketches!
John Hendrix is the amazing watercolor artist I introduced in class with his book & illustration of the Internet. His blog is fantastic (he often shows his preliminary sketches), and you can see the rest of his work on his website.
image copyright John Hendrix. Recognize this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Here's the full text of the "Not Measuring Up" article-- get ready to scrolllll downnnnn:
Not Measuring Up
by Burkhard Bilger
When Vincent van Gogh was 31 years old, in the fall of 1883, he traveled to northern Holland and stayed at a tavern in the village of Stuifzand. When I visited the old tavern, which is now a private home, I was shown the tiny alcove where the painter probably slept. “It looks like it would fit only a child,” J. W. Drukker, the current owner, told me. Then he and his wife, Joke (pronounced “Yoh-keh”), led me down the hall, to a sequence of pencil marks on a doorjamb. “My son, he is two meters,” Joke told me, pointing to the topmost mark, six and a half feet from the floor. Joke herself is six feet one. Drukker is six feet two.
A Land of Giants
The Netherlands, as any European can tell you, has become a land of giants. In a century’s time, the Dutch have gone from being among the smallest people in Europe to the largest in the world. The men now average six feet one—seven inches taller than in van Gogh’s day—and the women five feet eight. Throughout the country, ceilings have had to be lifted, furniture redesigned, lintels raised to keep foreheads from smacking them. Many hotels now offer bed extensions, and ambulances on occasion must keep their back doors open, to allow for patients’ legs. “We will not go through the ceiling,” pediatrician Hans van Wieringen assured me. “But it is possible that we will grow another ten centimeters.”
Walking along the Dutch canals, I had an odd sensation of drowning—not because the crowds were so thick but because I couldn’t lift my head above them. I’m five feet ten and a half—about an inch taller than the average in the United States—but, like most men I know, I tend to round the number up. Tall men, studies have shown, benefit from a significant bias. They get married sooner, get promoted quicker, and earn higher wages. According to one study, the average six-foot worker earns $160,000 more, over a 30-year period, than his five-feet-five-inch counterpart—about $800 more per inch per year. Short men are unlucky in politics (only 5 of 44 American presidents have been shorter than average) and unluckier in love. A survey of some 6,000 adolescents in the 1960s showed that the tallest boys were the first to get dates.
Over the past 30 years, a new breed of “anthropometric historians” has tracked how populations around the world have changed in stature. Anthropometric history suggests that height is a kind of biological shorthand: a code for all the factors that make up a society’s well-being. Height variations within a population are largely genetic, but height variations between populations are mostly environmental. In other words, if Joe is taller than Jack, it’s probably because his parents are taller. But if the average Norwegian is taller than the average Nigerian, it’s because Norwegians live healthier lives. That’s why the United Nations now uses height to monitor nutrition in developing countries. In our height lies the tale of our birth and upbringing, of our social class, daily diet, and health-care coverage. In our height lies our history.
I first heard of anthropometric history from John Komlos, a professor at the University of Munich. For 20 years, he has rummaged through archives on both sides of the Atlantic, gathering hundreds of thousands of height records in search of trends that others may have missed.
Komlos stands five inches shy of six feet, and he blames much of the gap on history. His parents were Hungarian Jews who lived in Budapest during the Second World War. In 1944, when his mother was pregnant with him, the Nazis took control of the city. After Komlos was born, there was little food, and he cried incessantly. The Hungarian Communists took over the city in 1948, but Komlos’s diet improved only slightly. In 1956, the family fled to America.
Biologists say that we achieve our stature in three spurts: the first in infancy, the second between the ages of six and eight, the last in adolescence. Any decent diet can send us sprouting at these ages, but take away any one of 45 or 50 essential nutrients and the body stops growing. (“Iodine deficiency alone can knock off ten centimeters and fifteen I.Q. points,” one nutritionist told me.)
When an adolescent Komlos and his parents arrived in Chicago, in the winter of 1956, America was a land of almost mythical abundance. For more than two centuries, its people had been so healthy and so prosperous that they towered above the rest of the world—about four inches above the Dutch, for example, for most of the 19th century. To Komlos, raised on the black bread and thin broth of Communist Hungary, Chicago’s all-you-can-eat restaurants were astonishing. But he found the restaurants not nearly as impressive as the giants who fed there.
Komlos now knows that he arrived in America at a pivotal point in its history. Over the next 50 years, by economic measures, the country remained the richest in the world. But by another set of numbers—longevity (lifespan) and income inequality (the gap between rich and poor)—it began to lag behind Northern Europe and Japan.
A U-Shaped Curve
For centuries, governments have kept careful records of their soldiers’ heights. (Records for women are much scarcer, but they tend to follow the same trends.) This allows us to picture generations of soldiers, row on row, from today’s cadets back to Union soldiers, Revolutionary War soldiers, and beyond.
If you were to stretch a string from the head of the earliest soldier in that row to the head of the most recent recruit, you might expect it to trace an ascending line. We like to imagine that every generation is smarter, sleeker, and taller than the last. Yet in Northern Europe over the past 1,200 years, human stature has followed a U-shaped curve: from a high around 800 AD, to a low sometime in the 17th century, and back up again. Charlemagne was well over six feet; the soldiers who stormed the Bastille a thousand years later averaged five feet and weighed a hundred pounds. “They looked like 13-year-old girls,” the economist Robert Fogel told me.
Fogel, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1993, is the man most responsible for Komlos’s interest in height. In the fall of 1982, Fogel gave a lecture on stature at the University of Chicago, and Komlos attended. Most historians at that time, if they thought about height at all, tended to assume that it was tied to income. The more money people earn, the better they eat; the better they eat, the taller they grow.
Fogel explained that it wasn’t that simple. In the 1970s, he and Stanley Engerman had studied the history of American slavery and found that slaves, although cruelly and inhumanely treated, were well fed because their owners wanted to get the most work possible out of them. Fogel’s graduate student Richard Steckel went through records of 50,000 slaves to find their heights. The results were startling: adult slaves, Steckel found, were nearly as tall as free whites, and three to five inches taller than the average Africans of the time. (Although the adult slaves were clearly well fed, the children, who weren’t old enough to work, were extremely small and malnourished.)
Fogel realized that height records offered a new angle on history, and they were readily available. “There are millions of these data lying around and nobody is looking at them,” Fogel suggested at the lecture. All that was needed was researchers to gather them up.
Anthropometric history was largely a field of two in those years: Steckel and Komlos, with other graduate students conducting studies here and there and Fogel orchestrating from the wings. Steckel enlisted anthropologists to gather bone measurements dating back 10,000 years. In both Europe and the Americas, he discovered, humans grew shorter as their cities grew larger. The more people clustered together, the more pest-ridden and poorly fed they became. Heights also fell in synch with global temperatures, which reached a low point during the 17th century.
While Steckel worked backward in time, Komlos worked forward, tracing American and European heights from the 17th century on. At the University of Vienna, he tabulated the heights of 140,000 Austrian soldiers and their children. At the National Archives in Washington, he studied 4,180 West Point graduates. For 13 years, he gathered and analyzed the heights of 38,000 French soldiers from the late 1700s.
Failing to Rise
“See this?” Komlos said one afternoon, sliding a sheet of paper toward me. “This one graph took me nine years.”
The graph in question showed the heights of American slaves, servants, soldiers, and apprentices in the early 1700s. To produce it, Komlos searched through Colonial newspapers for descriptions of runaways and deserters, until he had gathered 10,742 heights. (“You can drown in these data,” he said.) When Komlos had gathered enough heights, he averaged them out and plotted them on this graph.
The immediate point was clear: America was a good place to live in the 18th century. Game was abundant, land free for the clearing, settlement sparse enough to prevent epidemics. On Komlos’s graph, even the runaway slaves are five feet eight, and white colonists are five feet nine—a full three inches taller than the average European of the time. “So this is the 18th century,” Komlos said. “This is not problematic. It shows that Americans are well nourished. Terrific.” He reached into a cardboard folder and pulled out another series of graphs. “What is problematic is what comes next.”
Around the time of the Civil War, Americans’ heights predictably decreased. By the end of the 19th century, however, the country was rebounding. The economy was expanding at a dramatic rate, and public-hygiene campaigns were sweeping the cities clean at last.
Then something strange happened. While heights in Europe continued to climb, Komlos said, “the U.S. just went flat.” In World War I, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimeters a decade, and some Asian populations several times more, yet Americans haven’t grown taller in 50 years. By now, even the Japanese—once the shortest industrialized people on Earth—have nearly caught up with us, and Northern Europeans are three inches taller and rising.
The average American man is only five feet nine and a half—less than an inch taller than the average Revolutionary War soldier. Women, meanwhile, seem to be getting smaller. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, women born in the late 1950s and early 1960s average just under five feet five. Those born a decade later are a third of an inch shorter.
Just in case I still thought this a trivial trend, Komlos put a final bar graph in front of me. It was entitled “Life Expectancy 2000.” Compared with people in 36 other industrialized countries, it showed, Americans rank 28th in average life span—just above the Irish (the Japanese top the rankings). “Ask yourself this,” Komlos said. “What is the difference between Western Europe and the U.S. that would work in this direction? It’s not income, since Americans, at least on paper, have been wealthier for more than a century. So what is it?”
The obvious answer would seem to be immigration. The more Mexicans and Chinese there are in the United States, the shorter the American population becomes. But Komlos’s height statistics include only native-born Americans who speak English at home, and he is careful to screen out people of Asian and Hispanic descent.
In the 19th century, when Americans were the tallest people in the world, the country took in floods of immigrants. And those Europeans, too, were small compared with native-born Americans. Malnourishment in a mother can cause a child not to grow as tall as it would otherwise. But after three generations or so the immigrants catch up.
Around the world, well-fed children differ in height by less than half an inch. In a few, rare cases, an entire people may share the same growth disorder. African Pygmies, for instance, produce too few growth hormones and the proteins that bind them to tissues, so they can’t break five feet even on the best of diets. By and large, though, any population can grow as tall as any other.
This last point may sound counterintuitive. Height, like skin color, seems to vary with geography: we think of squat Peruvians, slender Kenyans, stocky Inuit, and lanky Brazilians. Animals in cold climates tend to have larger bodies and shorter limbs than those in warm climates. But though climate still shapes musk oxen and giraffes—and a willowy Inuit is hard to find—its effect on industrialized people has almost disappeared. Swedes, who live in a cold climate, ought to be short and stocky, yet they’ve had good clothing and shelter for so long that they’re some of the tallest people in the world. Mexicans ought to be tall and slender. Yet they’re so often stunted by poor diet and diseases that we assume they were born to be small.
After immigrating, the Mexican-American population has transformed. Since the 1920s, the median height of Mexican-American teenagers has nearly reached the United States’ norm. It’s that norm, and not the immigrants, that has failed to rise.
If there is an answer to the riddle of American height, it probably lies in Holland, where everyone has a theory about stature. When I spoke to Hans van Wieringen, the pediatrician, he credited his people’s growth to free medical care for children. Others pointed to the landscape (flatlanders are naturally tall, they said, just as mountain people are naturally short) or to the Dutch love of milk (a study in Bavaria found a direct correlation between height and the number of cows per capita). The Dutch are taller than the Italians, one man suggested, because they go to bed at a reasonable hour.
The most convincing argument was one made by J. W. Drukker, the owner of the old inn at Stuifzand where van Gogh had stayed. Drukker is a professor of economic history, and he has made his own study of Dutch height. In the late 1970s, he and two research assistants gathered information on the heights of Dutch soldiers from 1800 to 1950, then plotted them on a graph. The results were striking.
Holland’s growth spurt began only in the mid-1800s, Drukker found, when its first liberal democracy was established. Before 1850, the country grew rich off its colonies, but the wealth stayed in the hands of the wealthy, and the average citizen shrank. After 1850, height and income suddenly fell into perfect synch: when incomes went up, heights went up (after a predictable lag time), and always to the same degree. “I thought I must have made an error,” Drukker said. He hadn’t. Holland, like the rest of Northern Europe, had simply managed to spread its wealth around. These days, Dutch heights no longer keep pace with the economy. (“We can’t grow to four meters just because our income quadruples,” Drukker says.) But the essential equation is the same: when Holland’s wealth grows, everyone grows.
As America’s rich and poor drift further apart, its growth curve may be headed in the opposite direction, Komlos and others say. The more than fourteen million Americans without a job (a number that’s increasing all the time, due to the current economic recession) are surely having trouble measuring up. And they’re not alone. As more and more Americans turn to a fast-food diet, its effects may be creeping up the social ladder, so that even the wealthy are growing wider rather than taller.
Steckel has found that Americans lose the most height to Northern Europeans in infancy and adolescence, which points to children’s medical care and teenage eating habits. “If these snack foods are crowding out fruits and vegetables, then we may not be getting the micronutrients we need,” he says. In a recent British study, one group of schoolchildren was given hamburgers, French fries, and other familiar lunch foods; the other was fed 1940s-style wartime rations such as boiled cabbage and corned beef. Within eight weeks, the children on the rations were both taller and slimmer than the ones on a regular diet.
Inequality may be at the root of America’s height problem, but it’s too soon to be certain. Recently, Komlos has scoured his data for people who’ve bucked the national trend. He has subdivided the country’s heights by race, sex, income, and education. He has looked at whites alone, at blacks alone, at the most educated people, and at the wealthiest people. Somewhere in the United States, he thinks, there must be a group that’s growing taller.
He has yet to find one.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
"He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword."
"The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
Done in Photoshop; first one with a tablet, second with the trackpad on my laptop which was not fun. Sorry for being late.
Monday, October 25, 2010
What I really appreciated about Walter Wick's style is that he doesn't use photo shop in the majority of his photographs. I really like traditional methods of art because I feel like it's far more personal. I think he only used photoshop in one of the pictures he showed us, and it was to draw a ghost coming out of the bottle in the end of the book. It's amazing how he constructed all of the different images. I think he really likes building sets and, at times, making sure that they work. Something else that I appreciated about his presentation were the slides of fan mail from children. I feel like it really embodied what he was trying to do with his art and his personality. He seemed to have a child-like outlook on life, which is why I think his illustrations interest children so much. Something that I didn't know about him is that he also takes science photos. He does these experiments like the pin sitting on top of water and photographs them. It was a really odd break away from the work that he normally does, but when I saw these pieces I wanted to see more. Overall I feel like his exhibit and presentation were a success.
Anyways, here is my homework: