I’ve known Joshua Landsman for over 45 years. We went to the same junior-high/high school in Evanston, lllinois, and even worked on our school newsletter together. I was always in awe of his writing talent—and sense of humor. He’s since written screenplays and one-act plays—his “Frank Talk About Matters Big And Small” played at Chicago’s Organic Theater as part of the second Chicago Fringe Festival. What I wasn’t aware of was his talent as an illustrator/designer. After we recently reconnected and renewed our friendship, Landsman showed me his drawings and cartoons, and specifically one project he’d been working on. His “Writers I Have Loved” project is delightful! Executed in sketchbook format, it does a exquisite job of combining Landsman’s love for the written word, the people who write the words, and his unique graphic spin on how to tell the biographical stories he wants to tell. What also blows me away is how he presents his deep respect for the personal world of books in general. When you look through the imagery he’s created to tell an author’s story, you feel as though you’ve received a personal invitation to read through the writer’s diary, journal, or scrapbook. Each story is unique and well thought-out, but they also all retain an impulsive freshness (almost improvised) that feels tailor-made to each individual story. Landsman uses the entire page—drawings, illustrations, tipped-in clippings, typography . . . it’s all a part of his presentation.
The “Writers I Have Loved” portfolio
Here’s how this project happened, in Landsman’s own words:
I started with the drawings of Evelyn Waugh and Flaubert, two of my very favorite writers. I was just trying to see if I could not draw like a monkey (jury’s still out). I’m not sure exactly when it turned into a “project”—a whole sketchbook based on writers and books that have been important to me for different reasons at different times in my life—but I’ve ended up with what I think is a pretty accurate record of my life as a reader, or at least a record of the highlights, the stuff that has stayed with me. It’s been very satisfying for me to revisit these books and writers. I really do love them—I feel like they’re friends of mine who have had a tremendous influence on who I am and how I think. I’ve tried to make the pages personal, too—to tell a little story about my relationship with the writer or book. But sometimes it’s just my thoughts about them. Yes, I was an English Major . . .
Man, this is tasty stuff ! To see ALL the images in Landsman’s project, go here: writersihaveloved.tumblr.com
William Burroughs (I think this is my favorite of all the designs.)
Samuel Beckett / Henry Moore
Andy Warhol . . . or Pat Hackett?
“Anomalies & Curiosities Of Medicine,” 1896
Al Jaffee / Isaac Asimov
“God loves the simple folk”
J. D. Salinger
J. G. Ballard
Ayn Rand / D. H. Lawrence
Charles “Sparky” Schulz
The first page of a Schulz-inspired strip
Things Ludwig Wittgenstein didn’t say. . . but Landsman did.
Isaac Bashevis Singer
The mailer that Joshua put together for an exhibit of the “Writers I Have Loved” project held recently at Chicago’s J. Andrews Salon
A shot from the show. Joshua Landsman is the gentleman in the white shirt with his arms crossed, left of center.
You might also enjoy Steven Brower’s recent posts of the visual art of famous writers (part one and part two)—or Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers.