• Steven Heller

Don’t Drink and Collage?

Collage is an art that can be evocative and alluring, given the quality of the scrap and ingenuity of the artist. Poul Lange, author of The Book of Holes, has a good eye and a steady hand for collage making. His most recent set of illustrations were produced for Storied Sips, a liquor recipe book and more. I recently ask Lange to explain the mixology behind these illustrative cocktails.

How did this book come about? I was contacted by my old classmate from SVA, Fabrizio LaRocca. He explained that Random House was looking to publish a cocktail book that was more than just a list of recipes. The idea was that the book, written by Erica Duecy, in text and illustration would transport you to the time, mood and location of these precious concoctions.

Why did you choose the collage as illustration method? The subject matter lends itself perfectly to this technique. A cocktail is a collection of ingredients that blend, contrast, compliment and enhance each other as they mix – just as the parts of a good collage should. Also, the golden ages of mixology produced such an abundance of beautiful graphics (many of them applied to liquor labels), that this subject almost begged for collage illustrations.

Who influenced you in this? I have many influences. I tend to look mostly at fine art for inspiration. It’s probably obvious how much I appreciate Kurt Schwitters, but I try not to look too much at other collage artists, to keep my own style. A commercial artist I admire tremendously is A. M. Cassandre. His compositions are just so precise. One of his characters (the Dubonnet Man) even snuck into one of the collages in the book. He thinks he is Napoleon, though.

What were the criteria for the images you used? I always try to use “first generation” materials. That means that I am bound by the size, condition and colors of the scraps and cuttings I use. I think that separates my collages from much of the PhotoShop work you see these days. It’s also very important to me that the references to the text are precise both in fact and period. I had a lot of fun doing research and finding pictures of a young Rita Hayworth (for Margarita), Count Camillio Negroni (for Negroni) and Edward VIII, Prince of Wales (for Pegu Club).

Did you sample the spirits? In the name of authenticity I had to. It was a very important part of the research. So I can certify that all the cocktails in this book are absolutely delicious. Also, I took all the photographs of the drinks, and we couldn’t make ourselves throw them out. Even though I try to keep my techniques very old school, I don’t think I could have completed the photo shoots without the aid of auto-focus.

Did the spirits sample you? Yes.

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