Tomm Moore and Harry Clarke

by John Holbo on June 6, 2015

My hand-drawn post drew a bit of interest. Folks seemed to think I should be talking up Tomm Moore’s films a bit more in this connection: The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. This is very true. I think Song of the Sea was my favorite film, last year.

And one of my favorite art books from last year was Designing the Secret of Kells. Which is sold out everywhere by now. Sucks to be you.

But let me console you with some alternative, Irish flat-style animation.

One of my other favorite art books from last year was Harry Clarke: An Imaginative Genius in Illustrations and Stained-glass Art. It’s a Japanese book, and I already had some Clarke stuff, so I was a bit worried I would only be buying a lot of text I couldn’t read. But it’s great. Tons of pictures. Stuff I’d never seen. High quality printing. English in tiny type for those who need it. (For those who don’t know Clarke, start here to get an idea.)

One bit I especially enjoyed were illustrations from a pair of brochures for a whiskey distillery, John Jameson and Son. This is one of the great chapters in the history of advertising art design gone off the rails, in an art for art’s sake vein. Clarke, being Clarke, assures the alcohol-buying public that Jameson and Son are a lot of asthenic, absinthean-mephistophelian alchemist-wizards they can trust! I think that’s the message. That’s what I took away from the brochures. [Click for larger.]




I don’t know whether you can read the text in the second one. The doctoress is prescribing the patient whiskey ‘daily before and after meals’. That should get his weak ticker ticking over again. As Edgar Allen Poe writes (this could be Jameson and Sons ad copy): “Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant.”

Whiskey, folks! It does a body good!



John Holbo 06.06.15 at 3:03 am

Just to clarify: I classify Harry Clarke as flat-style, hence akin to Tomm Moore’s animation style, due to the former’s stained-glass work in particular. Which informed his illustration aesthetic. Clarke was a stained-glass artist first and foremost.


Meredith 06.06.15 at 4:21 am

Enjoying these posts but not commenting till now, after another of many in life about why I have never visited Disneyworld or Disneyland (yeah, I’m that old to remember when it was the one and only), much less taken my children to either place. Won’t go into how it came up this time, but in just the last week I recalled again my uncle (by marriage, not kin) who worked for Walt in LA in the 40’s and ’50’s. He drew a lot of the frames of all those early movies. (And I have several of his sketches around here, including one of a cat that I see every time I pee downstairs. My cousins have many many more sketches. He really was talented.)

Which is only to say, animation is a bit of a nightmare on the production side, especially for the actual producers. My uncle aspired to be a new generation Hudson River painter. He died out west an alcoholic, as did my aunt, his wife. Just sayin, whisky’s a complicated thing.


John Holbo 06.06.15 at 5:46 am

Thanks, Meredith, I have always known in my heart that a Silent Majority of CT readers are – purely mentally – banging their desks for more comics and animation blogging.

One other thing that’s fun about both Tomm Moore and Harry Clarke in addition to the flatness of a lot of the designs: their work is a weird mix of Christian iconography and fairy tale stuff. Harry Clarke’s stained glass work is really interesting in that regard. Before I saw it I figured the churches that commissioned work probably made him tone it down, so I would probably personally prefer the illustration stuff – Poe and so forth. But he manages to get away with a lot of weird stuff (just as in his whiskey brochure work!) Also, some of his more personal stained glass work is pure fairy tale material. Very charming.


Henry 06.06.15 at 12:25 pm

The Nicola Gordon Bowe book on Clarke is also very good and has some nice illustrations. His work is really lovely.


Bloix 06.06.15 at 2:28 pm

I am mostly ignorant of animation, but I intend to see Song of the Sea because the soundtrack includes one of my favorite singers, Lisa Hannigan.


Anon 06.06.15 at 4:29 pm

I liked Song of the Sea’s drawings and story better. But I was absolutely awestruck by the animation of Kaguya in the way it depicted *movement*. I’ve never seen the motions of people and objects so simultaneously stylized and utterly real in an animated film before. I could turn off the sound, ignore the story, and just watch the details of its depictions of motion–even the most trivial ones, like a leaf trembling–over and over.


Kelly 06.07.15 at 6:33 am

I have both of the above mentioned books but not only that, my Designing of the Secret of Kells is signed along with a sketch by Tomm Moore. Sucks to be you. ;) Kidding (but not about the signed and sketched in book.) You’ve got great taste in books.


John Holbo 06.07.15 at 7:33 am

“I have both of the above mentioned books but not only that, my Designing of the Secret of Kells is signed along with a sketch by Tomm Moore.”

Ha! Did you order it from Stuart Ng Books, by any chance? I was tempted when they had some of those but I am hard on design and art books. So when I have autographed copies I tend to suffer pangs of guilty at my own destructive tendencies. Sour grapes, obviously.


Kelly 06.07.15 at 10:26 pm

I met Tomm and Ross at San Diego Comic Con at the Stuart Ng booth. Well worth the waiting in line.

I’m the opposite. I treat my books with care. I even keep them in special bags. They are well loved but don’t look well loved. ;) They are also mementos of when and where I picked them up.


John Holbo 06.08.15 at 9:19 am

Well, I would have liked to meet Tomm Moore, and gotten a sketch in my (already battered) book.

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