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News Briefs featuring Leanne Shapton

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USA Today Puts Leanne Shapton's Sunday Night Movies on their Cool Book Alert

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Cool book alert: Leanne Shapton's 'Sunday Night Movies'"
By Whitney Matheson
USA Today, Sep 10, 2013

"With her new book, author, illustrator and former art director Leanne Shapton can add a new title to her resume: film preservationist.

Sunday Night Movies (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95) contains more than 75 of Shapton's lovely watercolors inspired by her favorite black-and-white movies. I love how she chooses moments from these films that aren't always the ones we remember; for instance, she'll paint a shot of the credits sequence or a fleeting glance.

Classics and cult faves are represented here, from Busby Berkeley's 42nd Street to the Dylan doc Don't Look Back to Godard's Masculin Feminin.

Originally collected by the New York Times, Drawn & Quarterly has published them in a lovely paperback. I'm including a few of the images below; before you read the captions, see if you can guess the name of the film!"
 
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Leanne Shapton

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  Rutu Modan and Leanne Shapton at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Rutu Modan And Leanne Shapton Get Stripped"
By Gary Gray
Bleeding Cool, Aug 31 2013

"Now this was one talk I was really looking forward to at the Stripped strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Rutu Modan and Leanne Shapton. And why was this one of the ones I was really looking forward to? Well I don’t know about you I’m fed up people banging on about that there are no strong female creators in comics. It’s bullshit, they are out there just creating the work and getting on with it, such as Modan and Shapton.

And even better was the fact that Shapton was a new find for me, I’ve been following comics with a passion for thirty years and I thought I pretty much knew who everyone is. But how cool that theEdinburgh Book Festival was able to feature someone who you maybe haven’t heard of alongside such greats as Morrison and Gaiman. Shapton is a Canadian writer/artist who is published by Drawn & Quarterly and she was there to talk about her latest book Was She Pretty features small poems alongside extremely loose black and white brush drawings that are pushing the definition of actually being a comic to its limit. But it’s published by D&Q so I’ll go with it.

Modan, and if you don’t know who she is get right out and buy her seminal work Exit Wounds, is a Israeli graphic novelist telling fictional works. Well she bills them as fictional works but admits it’s her way of writing about her family without them disowning her.

Teddy Jamieson of The Herald was chairing the talk, and it kicked off with both authors doing a reading/presentation of their work. Also in attendance in the audience was Bryan Talbot who I think was at as many talks as I was over the weekend. Modan talked of her latest work The Tourist that follows an Israeli grandmother and her granddaughter who visit Poland to try and reclaim their property that was abandoned during the Second World War. Moan’s presentation was much more assured than Shapton’s, which was very stilted and her nerves were obviously on display. And that’s no bad thing as it opened her work of twisted relationships to us more.

Modan then talked through her process of how she created the novel, and I was amazed to find out that she had photographed the entire book by hiring models Frank Hampson style. And through this she found the actors taking over the roles and adding to the book things she hadn’t even planned for, such as the 86 year old actress and the actor who had sang at her own father’s funeral, not realising this until after the shoot. She revealed that she had to get the actors to overact silent film style as thecomic’s panel naturally reduced the emotion, and by overacting she got the feeling and feelings she needed. Her aim wasn’t to make the look of the book natural and by overacting it reversely made it more subtle, unlike film where actors aim to dial it down as far as possible. But she found it hard to let go of control to her actors adding stuff describing comickers as control freaks.

Modan then revealed that when she first started in comics that there were no comics in Israel whatsoever, no Tintin and no Asterix whatsoever as comics had always flopped. Luckily she was introduced to them at art school by a lecturer who got her into RAW, Crumb etc and she realised this is what she wanted to do. Not realising she was the ONLY cartoonist in Israel! If she had then who knows, so not for her struggling to break into a male dominated industry, she was it. Shapton said she had started out as an Olympic swimmer (one of her prose novels is about her journey). But I’m struggling to find much more that Shapton said during the talk as she was very shy and not asquotable as the experienced Modan. Modan was dropping stuff in about Gaughan saying that one day someone will invent the perfect art that combines words and pictures. Well as we all know comicsturned out to be that art form. Kind of appropriate to be discussing that point at a Festival where finally the comics art form was being lauded as an art form properly for the first time, or how she had to look up Poland on Wikipedia as it only existed to her as a mass grave. Yes she knew how to give good quote that didn’t impinge on the powerfulness of the story she had written.

Shapton did tell us about her next project for Drawn & Quarterly where she is drawing directly from stills from Sunday night movies where she freeze-frames the movie and draws her impression of what she has seen. But as I say the talk was fairly dominated (in a nice way, she wasn’t overbearing) by Modan who was fascinating to listen to explaining how she visited Warsaw and was told to visit a certain concentration camp, that was better than Auschwitz. But both books looked equallyfascinating, for different reasons, Modans for its tale of a facet of the 20th century’s most shocking event, and Shapton’s examination of failed relationships. And as I say at the start how wonderful to have two great female comickers out there doing such uniquely personal powerful works."
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Rutu Modan
Leanne Shapton

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Poppytalk praises THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

Updated March 4, 2011


The Native Trees of Canada is a little gem of a book by New York illustrator Leanne Shapton that was sent to me for review and got tucked away last fall in the rush of the holiday season (sorry Raincoast Books). It recently came to surface in my office under a pile of magazines and now I am doing everything in my power not to pull the pages out and frame each and every beautiful image inside. The book was inspired by a book Leanne purchased from a Toronto bookstore titled: Native Trees of Canada, Bulletin No. 61, Fifth Edition; published in 1956 by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Forestry Branch. Leanne has reinterpreted it into a series of bold, painted images, taking complex objects and stripping them down into stark, sometimes abstract shapes and colours. It's truly a beautiful book for the collector and lover of nature.
 
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Leanne Shapton

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  The Montreal Gazette reviews THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

Updated December 21, 2010


Painting The Native Trees of Canada

by Bronwyn Chester

It began with Garry. Garry oak, that is. The sort of oak that you'll never find around here, not even at the Montreal Botanical Gardens where they try out all species of oak from the temperate world.

It's too cold here, but not too cold in British Columbia where Garry is the only native oak. South of the border, they call it Oregon white oak, but they're both Quercus garryana, a stubby, scrubby, V-shaped oak that grows in a thin strip along the Pacific south from Vancouver Island to Southern California.

It was Garry's leaf that caught Leanne Shapton's attention that fateful day in 2009 when she spied a 1956 edition of Native Trees of Canada in a second-hand bookstore in Toronto. Leafing through the black and white plates, Shapton, an illustrator, author and publisher, stopped at the Garry oak spread. There was something in the friendly, mitten-like shape of the leaf that clinched her decision to buy the book.

Later, using ink and sample pots of house paint, Shapton painted the leaf and 83 others of the 172 species in the book as a Christmas present to her boyfriend. Fortunately, her boyfriend has agreed to share his present.

Speaking with Shapton last month at the Drawn & Quarterly bookstore where her almost textless book, The Native Trees of Canada, was launched, she told me that she'd painted strictly from the photographs. "I used the book for reference and let my vague ideas of the leaf and its tree dictate the colours of the pieces," she said.

Shapton's favourite tree is the Manitoba maple, and the tenderness she feels for this arbre mal-aime is evident in the painting of the fruit you see here, which is red on white in the original. It makes you take a second look at all those shimmering chains of Manitoba maple keys now rustling in Montreal alleys and neglected gardens.

My favourites are Shapton's renditions of the mountain alder, the wild apple and the silver maple. But there's something to appreciate in almost all the paintings. In fact, my only criticism of this book is the lack of white space and the almost complete absence of text.

Since the book's publication, Shapton has written a few articles on the history and process of the painting, and, had that information been integrated into the book, it would have been stronger.

I, too, have that same fourth edition of Native Trees of Canada that inspired Shapton. A work of beauty it is not, particularly in comparison to the most recent, full-coloured, 1995 edition, which goes by the name: Trees in Canada (the change in title allowed the inclusion of common exotic and naturalized trees). Comparing the two editions only makes one appreciate the progression of this long-evolving book.

Conceived originally as a pamphlet of 100 trees for forestry students and lay people, Native Trees of Canada was published in 1917 by the Canadian Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources. The current edition -which features 300 tree species that are not only meticulously and attractively photographed but also illustrated and mapped -and Shapton's The Native Trees of Canada would be well placed beneath many a balsam or Fraser fir tree this Christmas season.

Read previous columns about the Manitoba maple, silver maple, apple and balsam fir trees, and link to Leanne Shapton's paintings in colour at foretmontreal. blogspot.com
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Leanne Shapton

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The Native Trees of Canada




Cottage Life loves THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

Updated December 9, 2010


Gifts for cottagers: The Native Trees of Canada

by Michelle
Cottage Life

As you know, I’m tree obsessed, so no surprise that I was so intrigued when I came across a copy of Leanne Shapton’s beautiful new book of paintings, The Native Trees of Canada ($19.95, Drawn & Quarterly, 2010). Shapton’s book was inspired by her discovery of the classic Canadian text of the same name in Toronto bookstore The Monkey’s Paw. The original Native Trees was published by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources in 1917, and was purely a reference text, maybe the kind of book you’d find in an century-old cottage where there was once a tree lover in residence. Shapton’s illustrations are considerably more abstract and colourful than the original’s simple line drawings; she used sample pots of Benjamin-Moore and Farrow & Ball house paint to create a slim volume of stark renderings of our Canadian leaves, in rich contrasting colours. There are no words included, other than the names of each species and a short intro from Shapton.

Besides the simple beauty of these images and my love for their subject matter, there’s another reason why I’m inclined to promote Shapton’s work: She is the sister of one of our regular contributors, Derek Shapton. The siblings are something of a powerhouse in the magazine world, Leanne for her work as art director at titles including Saturday Night and the National Post, and Derek for his photography—he most recently was nominated for a National Magazine Award for his work on “Life at the Taxidermy Motel,” which ran in the October 2009 issue of Cottage Life. I’ll definitely be wrapping this one up and placing it under the tree this Christmas for someone special.
 
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Leanne Shapton

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  The Globe and Mail suggests THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA as the perfect holiday gift

Updated December 9, 2010


No gift so rare as a book: The Globe's Christmas gift-book guide

The comics Uncle Sam didn't want you to see. Wanderlust in 448 pages. The muse who inspired Monet. Once again, The Globe and Mail hand-picks the best eye candy of the season for your gift-giving pleasure.

...

THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA
By Leanne Shapton, Drawn & Quarterly, unpaginated, $19.95

Browsing in a used bookstore, Shapton – a Canadian illustrator, writer and art director in New York City – discovered an old edition of the government reference book The Native Trees of Canada, published in 1917. The dusty compilation inspired her to create her own version, in which she distilled each image into its simplest form, using vivid colours in gouache, stripping the complex objects down to bold, abstract shapes and colours.
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Leanne Shapton

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The Coast reviews THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

Updated December 2, 2010


The Native Trees of Canada
Leanne Shapton (DRAWN & QUARTERLY PETIT LIVRES)

by Sean Flinn
The Coast

The illustrator, a Canadian in New York, re-imagines this country’s trees, each for its abstract possibility. Shapton identifies the trees by their leaves, rendering structure, pattern, texture and pigment in lush watercolour, needles, buds and cones. But the colours are wrong, and purposely so. This is not how the trees actually appear to the empirical observer, but how they’re remembered later by the dreamer. Jack Pine, for instance, is a series of gestural white marks on a yellow background. Black Spruce sinks into opacity, while Showy Mountain Ash is anything but with its subdued green and mauve. Shapton used a 1956 reference text as her guide, published by the forestry branch of the federal Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, a precursor to Natural Resources Canada. Yes, it’s ironic that this is a book about trees but it’s a delicious, necessary irony for seeing and appreciating them fully---for saving them.
 
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Leanne Shapton

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  LEANNE SHAPTON writes about Canadian trees and identity in The Paris Review

Updated November 30, 2010


The Native Trees of Canada

by Leanne Shapton
The Paris Review
November 29, 2010

As a Canadian, the shapes of leaves are part of my subconscious; learning to draw the maple leaf on our flag was like learning to ice skate. I feel a loyalty to Canada. I love how it is somehow still possible to be a speck in a vast landscape—the matter-of-fact feeling that something out there is bigger, greater (which probably contributes to what is taken for national humility and manners). I like that Canadian artists have always grappled with the idea of “north.” I love the mounds of beautiful Precambrian rock that swell up all over southern Ontario.

When I’m in Toronto, I always drop in at the Monkey’s Paw Bookstore. Stephen Fowler, the owner, has an incredible eye. (I recently came back with a book of transcribed seance sessions, a history of women in uniform, a treatise on baking, and a book of party games for adults.) He had this book called the Native Trees of Canada displayed on a table. I flipped through it, and I immediately knew I needed to buy it. It was a government volume: unmediated and strictly informational. It was filled with very sterile, black and white pictures of leaves, placed on a grid for scale. While looking at them, I had vivid memories of picking at maple seeds on my front lawn, of wet leaves stuck to my shoes, of fallen leaves blowing through the screen door. I knew I wanted to paint them.

I love that trees are so big. We pick at them and abuse them and carve them up. We are like Lilliputians at the shins of giants; they are witnesses to our smaller actions. They remind me of the Oscar Wilde story “The Happy Prince,” in which a statue gives the ruby in his sword hilt, his sapphire eyes, and a gold leaf to a swallow to distribute to the poor, leaving the statue blind and shabby. The humans in the story are oblivious to the his benevolence. Maybe this sounds bananas or pretentious (or both), but I think trees maintain their dignity despite our ingratitude; they emanate the same kind of generosity that Wilde’s statue does.

My favorite tree is the Manitoba Maple. I like maple-flavored anything, too. Every Christmas, I try to make my boyfriend a book of paintings. He doesn’t understand my patriotic streak, so I decided to give him a version of the Native Trees of Canada. (He’d also been reading Colin Tudge’s The Tree.) I used the book I found at Stephen’s bookstore for reference and let my vague ideas of the leaf and its tree dictate the colors of the pieces. I worked with very concentrated ink and sample pots of house paint—mostly Benjamin Moore and Farrow and Ball. I like how much white is used in house paint, the colors are more naturally occurring and subtler. The paintings were done in élam scrapbooks that I use as sketchbooks; the Fabriano paper is thick and a good deep-cream color. Not every tree was included. Most were. I find cedars a little boring.

I’m working on a project now that deals with my Canadian identity, first as a competitive swimmer (wanting to swim for my country) and later as an expat. My mother immigrated to Canada when she was twenty-two, and my grandfather flew in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so I’m thinking through a range of Canadian cultures, from monarchist to suburban ethnic.
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Leanne Shapton

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Maclean's reviews THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA

Updated November 11, 2010


A new national forest
Creating glorious fresh foliage from an old government manual

by Anne Kingston
November 11, 2010

Leanne Shapton’s The Native Trees of Canada will likely make forest rangers shake their heads in disbelief. “Why is that basswood leaf turquoise?” they will ask. Or, “What’s with the fuscia alpine lark branch?” Devotees of the New York City-based artist and author’s work, on the other hand, will nod theirs in delight as they peruse the 84 renderings of deciduous and coniferous life in the replica sketchbook. “Why didn’t I notice the papaw’s Fauvist hues before?” they will ask.

Shapton’s work tends to provoke that response. A former art director of Saturday Night and the New York Times op-ed page, her illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker; she has designed book jackets, textiles and movie credits. Brad Pitt was so taken by her last book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, which traced a doomed romance via an auction catalogue, that he snapped up the movie rights.

Her enchanting new national forest was inspired by a government reference book of the same name found in a used bookstore in Toronto. Most would have seen clinical black-and-white photographs, but the native Canadian saw ghostly, abstract beauty: “You don’t see the tree; you just see the leaf,” she says. The absence of colour allowed her imagination to run wild; she used ink and sample pots of house paint to express “that natural awe we have at the way these things are constructed.” The resulting colour-saturated images reflect what Shapton calls the joy one experiences “when you’re really little or really happy or even drunk when you see something as beautiful and whole.”

Shapton gave the original sketchbook to her British-born fiancé for Christmas. “I was, like, ‘Know your Canada! Know your Canadian trees!’ ” she says, laughing. Now, thanks to this modern-day Emily Carr, he does.
 
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Leanne Shapton

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  Design*Sponge reviews THE NATIVES TREES OF CANADA

Updated November 9, 2010


Design*Sponge

Published by Drawn + Quarterly, The Native Trees of Canada is an amazing collection of paintings that would make a wonderful gift for the artist or nature-lover in your life. Devoted entirely to artwork, the book focuses more on the beauty of the images than words. If you’re looking for something different and truly special this season, I highly recommend checking it out ($13.46). It has been my morning “read” for the past few days — it’s like taking an imaginary trip through the forest. Happy (imaginary) travels! xo, grace
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Leanne Shapton

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The National Post examines the inspiration and process behind LEANNE SHAPTON's THE NATIVE TREES

Updated November 9, 2010


Turning over a new leaf

Mark Medley, National Post
Monday, Nov. 8, 2010

Sometime in the next few weeks the last leaves will fall from the trees, and the branches will remain bare until the spring. Summer remains eternal, however, in Leanne Shapton's new book, The Native Trees of Canada, a field guide-cum-art project that explores the country's majestic foliage.

Late last year, Shapton was browsing the shelves of The Monkey's Paw, a bookstore in Toronto's west end known for stocking a peculiar assortment of oddities and ends, when she came across a well-worn copy of The Native Trees of Canada, Bulletin No. 61, Fifth Edition. Originally published in 1956 by the forestry branch of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, this black-and-white manual, which helps amateur arborists to identify different trees, had become, more than 50 years later, a curiosity for sale in a second-hand bookshop. Shapton knew she had to buy it.

When she returned to New York, Shapton began to paint her own interpretation of the trees in her sketchbook, which she then presented to her boyfriend as a Christmas present. Essentially, Drawn & Quarterly has reproduced Shapton's sketchbook, right down to the paint splotches and manufacturer's imprint on the back. While the former National Post editor's previous book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, is being turned into a film, the odds are this one will be more difficult to adapt.

A collection of 84 illustrations of, as the title suggests, the native trees of Canada, the book is part mimicry, part make-believe. These trees all exist, but Shapton has filtered and enhanced them through her memory. It's as if you are gazing at trees as they appear in Shapton's dreams.

"I think of the Manitoba Maple leaves as being a dark red, when I don't thinks it's actually true at all," she explains. "You colourize these memories based on, I don't know, some weird form of synesthesia, or memories that you have but don't have." She never ventured out into the woods for field research. "I really didn't look at any colour reference of these actual trees. I just sort of went, 'Black Walnut? Orange!' and just had far more emotional response. Sometimes it was suggested by the names, but often I worked against that."

She imagines a jack pine against a brilliant yellow sky, a ghost-like black oak, and a technicolour willow. Often, her work seems like a Rorschach test: Everyone will see something different in the leaves.

Despite the subject matter, Shapton insists the book hides no particular environmental message.

"In drawing trees and plants, if it conveys a certain kind of love I have, then that's my statement. But this is a very true and honest and unpolitical love of nature."

The Native Trees of Canada by Leanne Shapton is published by Drawn and Quarterly ($19.95).
 
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Leanne Shapton

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LEANNE SHAPTON pairs images from NATIVE TREES OF CANADA with passages by favorite Canadian authors

Updated November 2, 2010


Loose Leaves

by Leanne Shapton

Last fall I came across a copy of “Native Trees of Canada, Bulletin No. 61, Fifth Edition,” originally published in 1917 by the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Forestry Branch. In its flat, monochrome survey photographs I saw a simplified version of the Canadian landscape, like the one I understood as a child. Seeing the pictures reminded me of our capacity to colorize memories, some not even our own. I made a series of paintings from the book, and afterward, whenever I read a story, any mention of a tree stood out like an old friend. It’s hard to find stories about Canada that do not include references to its trees. Here, from my bookshelf, are passages from some of my favorite Canadian authors on their leafy heritage.

After passing the rapids, the river widened into another small lake, perfectly round in form, and having in its center a tiny green island, in the midst of which stood, like a shattered monument of bygone storms, one blasted, black ash tree.

— Susanna Moodie, “Roughing It in the Bush”
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Leanne Shapton

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LEANNE SHAPTON of THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA at the Monkeys Paw 10/30

Updated October 20, 2010


The author of WAS SHE PRETTY? and IMPORTANT ARTIFACTS AND PERSONAL PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF LENORE DOOLAN AND HAROLD MORRIS INCLUDING BOOKS, STREET FASHION & JEWELRY launches her new D+Q petit livre THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA at the used book shop The Monkeys Paw, where she found the original 1917 government reference book of the same name that served as inspiration for her new book. Shapton distills each subject–leaves, pinecones, and seeds–into its simplest form, using vivid colors in lush ink and house paint.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30, 6:00-8:00 PM
Monkey's Paw Bookshop
1229 Dundas St West
With Jason Logan of FESTUS
 

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Leanne Shapton

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The Native Trees of Canada





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