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"Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey" / Brian Joseph Davis

Police Sketches of Literary Characters Based on Their Book Descriptions

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"Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey" / Brian Joseph Davis

It's a complaint you hear time and time again from readers when beloved books are adapted into films: The actors don't match the mental image conjured up by the book's description. So illustrator Brian Joseph Davis decided to see exactly what kind of faces those descriptions would create by using a law enforcement composite sketch software called FACES ID.

The images are shared to the artist's Tumblr blog, The Composites, along with the passages used to make them. In an interview with The Atlantic in 2012, Davis said that the project was inspired by fictional "Identikit" index cards created by author James Ellroy (used in his 2009 book, My Dark Places). In creating the images, Davis used "educated guesswork" to fill in the features that were not explicitly referenced in the texts. "It's a combination of literary criticism—which I know well—and forensics—of which I'm an utter amateur," he said. After using his own book collection for inspiration, Davis turned to e-books, and eventually online fan submissions.

The project has since been turned into a book of illustrations. Check out a few of the sketches and book quotes below and head to Davis's website to stay updated on new additions.

1. AOMAME // 1Q84 BY HARUKI MURAKAMI

Brian Joseph Davis

"5 feet 6 inches … Not one ounce of excess fat … The left ear much bigger than the right, and malformed, but her hair always covers her ears …Lips formed a tight straight line … Small narrow nose, somewhat protruding cheekbones, broad forehead, and long, straight eyebrows … [Face is a] Pleasing oval shape … Extreme paucity of expression."

2. DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE // THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Brian Joseph Davis

"To this rule, Dr. Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire—a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness …The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes.

"Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile … thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair … corded and hairy … God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic … Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other … The few who could describe him differed widely, as common observers will. Only on one point, were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders."

3. SHERLOCK HOLMES // A STUDY IN SCARLET BY SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

Brian Joseph Davis

"His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination."

4. THE MONSTER // FRANKENSTEIN BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY

Brian Joseph Davis

"As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began … How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing … but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips."

5. JACK TORRANCE // THE SHINING BY STEPHEN KING

Brian Joseph Davis

"Ullman folded his neat little hands on the desk blotter and looked directly at Jack, a small, balding man in a banker’s suit and a quiet gray tie … Danny’s face, so much like his own had been, his eyes had been light blue while Danny’s were cloudy gray, but the lips still made a bow and the complexion was fair … His eyes were far away and cloudy. His hair hanging in his eyes, like some heavy animal. A large dog … or a lion."

[h/t: FastCoCreate]

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
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Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:

via GIPHY

This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.

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