Finding Art

Guest post by Susan Ventura, Senior Graphic Artist

Being a graphic designer at JHU Press means knowing a little bit about many things, frequently saying “we need more white space,” always searching for art, and creating catalog after catalog after catalog. If you were to put all of the catalogs I have designed at the Press end to end, they would stretch to the Pacific and back. Well, no, not really. But I have designed a lot of catalogs. And part of every catalog we do involves THE ART HUNT, a sometimes frustrating, sometimes laborious, always gratifying quest on which I have spent the last 20 years.

Picking art is like coaxing cream to rise to the top. The process: put everything in the same electronic “pile.” Sift through the pile, eliminating art that is inappropriate, of poor quality, or without rights and see what rises. I have been lucky to have worked with beautiful and compelling art from many talented sources. There is always something that resonates.

Dealing with images is not without pain. Finding that perfect piece of art for a catalog cover can be challenging. For example, I have designed over 20 political science catalogs in my years at the JHU Press. Choices for the catalog cover have included a flag, globes, overlapping flags from different countries, waving flags, flags, maps, eagles, and flags. It can be hard getting that one perfect image and having something fresh year after year.

Dealing with images is not without peril. (Or, quit messing with the images.) Sometimes I cannot help having a little fun. I did a faux cover for one of our books several years ago. I switched an animal holding a pinecone with an edited image of that same animal holding a hand grenade. I mistakenly included the faux cover  with a batch of images I was sending to overseas sales reps. I am happy the folks over in the UK have a sense of humor (and that they used the correct image!).

Dealing with images is not without pleasure. I leave you with some personal recent favorites that were neither painful nor perilous. For even more images, check out our Fall 2013 online catalog.

Who doesn’t love a penguin? or an owl? or a poignant portrait of a Civil War soldier? a beautiful image from the present? or one from the past?

1. Image from Penguins: The Animal Answer Guide, by Gerald L. Kooyman and Wayne Lynch, photo by Wayne Lynch.  2. Image from A Year across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region, by Brian MacKay, photo by Hugh Simmons.  3. Image from African American Faces of the Civil War: An Album, by Ronald S. Coddington. 4. Image from Signs, Streets, and Storefronts: A History of Architecture and Graphics along America’s Commercial Corridors, by Martin Treu, photo by Martin Treu.  5. The Virgin Reading by Vittore Carpaccio. Image from Lyric Poetry by Women of the Italian Renaissance by Virginia Cox.