Quite often I hear and see everything ‘Russian’ being associated with something negative, but, like in every other country, there are a lot of good people, artists and design communities. I’m glad to see Russian designers get noticed and become appreciated these days thanks to great places such as Forrst or Dribbble, and I hope the design community’s opinion about Russia will get even better with time.
This article is dedicated to showcasing some old pieces of Russian art and design – book covers and illustrations from 70s and up until 90s. They have been collecting dust in my grandma’s closet for years, until one day I found them and realized how awesome were some of them. Most of them were written for children, thus the pictures are pretty simple, colorful and funny. Not all of them, however, are that simple. As you will see below, some of the illustrations are very detailed and impressive.
I’ve been using these old books as a source of inspiration for quite some time now, and I must admit, the crumbling pages hold an (almost) infinite amount of it! Thanks to Nikola for the idea of putting this showcase together.
Orange-ish and yellow tractors on a wavy road that resembles the flipped flag of Yemen, green and obviously toxic smoke rings, and apparently ‘high’ birds. I figured this image would be the perfect one to start the Russian illustrations-related article with. :)
Despite how simple this composition is, it brings something to the table. Firstly, the color palette that is just super awesome, to my taste. You? Secondly, the uneven, bumpy shapes that give this hand-drawn feeling to it. Look at the wheels, for instance, or at the human figures – they look like they were made of plasticine. Lastly, I suppose it was originally done with watercolor, judging by the smoke rings and by how certain edges overlap. I like watercolor effect, in its digital equivalent I mean, but the real watercolor on canvas is something too exciting to describe. Try it for yourself!
Although of different style, this cover continues the watercolor theme. The title is beautiful, don’t you find? This piece from 1979 is a perfect example of ‘vintage’ – what we, digital artists, like so much to re-create – bleached old paper texture, subtle watercolor effect, bold chunky typeface combined with an elegant calligraphic handwriting.
What I’ve Seen In India
What I like about this one is type treatment of the title. I’m pretty sure I will, one day, create something inspired by this. The illustration is nice, too, but to me not as much as the title. What do you think?
Icebreaker to the Rescue
The typography here could use some adjustments. I personally don’t like the kerning. The illustration, however, is fantastic. I used to like this book because of the story it tells, but the artwork inside of it is not something to sing odes to, therefore I’m not showing anything but the cover.
I hesitated to add this one as it may seem like it’s nothing special, but I did publish it anyway. The reason being that it once gave me an idea to illustrate letters flying out from the mailbox. Stop laughing, it was a serious creative block. :)
Letters and Postcards
From the same book, “Messenger’s Bag”. I know some people love these things.
There’s something about this style, not sure what exactly. And I definitely like the colors. PS: This one is from 1985, not 1925. I zoomed in, trust me. :)
This is the funniest one, just look at the lion’s face! Isn’t it hilarious?
Doctor Aybolit (Doctor ‘Ouch-It-Hurts’) is a Russian children’s novel by K. Chukovsky and it’s loosely based on the stories of Doctor Dolittle. (wiki ref.)
A group of cloned firemen wearing baggy uniform. Everything around them is orange-ish, so I guess they enjoy walking into the fire. It might as well be a propaganda poster, the idea of which is that firemen fear nothing! Nevertheless, I like how these guys are illustrated. Do you?
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
This is the cover for Russian adaptation of ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ by Hans Christian Andersen.
On the Tales Street
This one is special as it was made in my hometown, a few decades ago. Not only I like the illustrations but I’ve also made a color palette for future references, and you should do it as well! Unfortunately, this is the only illustration in the book, there are no others, not even black-and-white.
Cheerful Youngsters Gang
I like this overall simplicity and limited color palette. By the way, they say limited number of colors are supposed to train your problem-solving ability.
I wouldn’t sleep well if I avoided posting this piece. It’s for all retro-futurism lovers, myself included. I already see the modern take on this one, which I will do when time permits.
What I like here is the calligraphy and colored text.
‘Noddy’ is one of the most colorful books I’ve had. Each chapter of it has a beautiful title illustration and here are some of them:
Look at that funky blue elephant, or at the barking dog. Too awesome. Monkey’s lips are a little weird, though. :)
This one has the most detailed illustrations. I really really like this style and most of all I like the feathers!
Tell Us Some Story Mr. Perrault
One of the Charles Perrault‘s books adaptation has this typical Cyrillic style of type. Pretty nice.
What’s left of a book. Looks like nothing special, but I like its colors and the layout.
Maybe someone will find it useful. I’ve also made this pattern for photoshop, not seamless actually, but the seam is not visible if you don’t zoom in. :)
Download it here.
The Most Awesome One
As title suggests, this is my favorite scan. It was made in late 80s but looks rather modern, doesn’t it? First thing to grab my attention was the pattern on the clouds – I’m sure you notice this style a lot these days – and it’s amazing. Another thing is the bushes on the left! Their leaves, to be exact. They’ve instantly reminded me of Michael Spitz‘s logo, which is one of my all-time favorite logos.
That’s it, this is all I wanted to show you in part 1 of this showcase. If you have a minute, leave a comment telling us what you think. I hope you find some images inspiring or at least funny. :)
Stay tuned for part 2 next week as I need some more time to scan in the rest of the books.