Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Chip Sullivan was awarded the prestigious JB Jackson Book Prize this month for his most recent publication, Cartooning the Landscape (University of Virginia Press, 2016). The award recognizes recently published books that have made significant contributions to the study and understanding of garden history and landscape studies.
Named after renowned landscape architect and editor of Landscape magazine John Brinckerhoff Jackson, The Jackson Prize of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) is dedicated to encouraging the kind of thinking and writing to which JB Jackson devoted much of his life: to encourage Americans to look thoughtfully at the human geography of their own country; to try to understand how that geography came to be and what it signifies; and to convey that understanding to the public at large. For Professor Sullivan, the recognition is significant because it acknowledges the importance of graphic novels in the landscape architecture world.
“Cartooning the Landscape is a graphic novel -- and it’s nice to see that drawing and sequential narratives are now gaining recognition in the literary world and are being accepted as a legitimate means of communication with value to it,” Professor Sullivan explained. “Plus, JB Jackson is considered the godfather of landscape architectural criticism in vernacular landscape: His whole legacy was about writing about landscape, so it’s great acknowledgement.”
For years, Professor Sullivan entertained readers of Landscape Architecture Magazine and students alike with comic strips that ingeniously illustrated significant concepts for designers. In Cartooning the Landscape, Professor Sullivan offers the landscape version of a graphic novel. Framed by a loose narrative in which a young man’s search for wisdom is fulfilled by a comics shop owner who instructs him not only in the essentials of illustrating but in how to see, the book takes readers on a whirlwind series of journeys, from the living sculptures of the Tree Circus on California’s Highway 17 to the vast network of tunnels and fortifications of France’s Maginot Line.
“The book is my acknowledgement to the great teachers I’ve had. It’s a thank you letter of appreciation, because it’s really about a protege and mentor’s relationship,” Sullivan said. “It’s a payback that illustrates the expression of ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today without the mentors I’ve had.’”
Professor Sullivan immerses readers in the artist’s concepts and tools, from the Claude mirror and the camera obscura to the role of optical illusion in art. He shows how hot air balloons introduced aerial perspective and reveals exhibition effects that portended everything from Cinerama to Smell-O- Vision. Sullivan’s book is also a plea, in an era increasingly dominated by digitally rendered images, for a new appreciation of the art of hand drawing. The proof of this craft’s value lies in the hundreds of Sullivan’s panels collected in a passionate, humorous and illuminating tour of the rich landscape surrounding us.
Ultimately, Professor Sullivan hopes that Cartooning the Landscape will expose people to landscape architecture, the design arts and the creative process as a whole because of its accessible and visually-captivating medium. “People who normally wouldn’t pick up a historical book on landscape architecture may read this and find the topic to be pretty cool,” he said.
You can purchase Professor Sullivan's book here.