Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the most controversial, contested philosophical novel!

Dear friends, just to let you know, our latest illustrated novel has been published by the Folio Society! Three volumes of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, the most controversial, contested, philosophical and dystopic novel! We created the cover design, bound and blocked in metallic textured paper, and 5 colour illustrations per volume. For more details about our work process, you could read below our Q&A on Digital Arts Magazine, article titled: illustrators The Balbusso Twins on creating art for the 20th century's most controversial novel. The famed illustrating duo talk mixing Futuris with bygone Hollywood cinema for a new Folio Society edition of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Many Thanks for your attention, your comments are very appreciated! All the Best. Balbusso twins. The 3-volume set are available on www.foliosociety.com Here our Q&A:

 

 

1. What style were you aiming for with these pieces, and what sort of iconic imagery did you use as a starting point? Was it a sort of cinematic, Fritz Lang approach?
We chose an aesthetic close to the Hollywood movie of the 30s and 40s. Fritz Lang is undoubtedly one of our favourite directors, but we were also inspired by The Fountainhead (1949), a film directed by King Vidor which is an adaptation of another novel written by Ayn Rand that was loosely inspired by the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. The photography is characterized by strong and clear lights and shadows, from scenes with interiors with large windows and minimalist design furniture, a mix of rationalist and futuristic settings. The beautiful face and elegance of the lead actress, Patricia Neal, was a perfect inspiration for our Dagny Taggart.

Our artistic references, they are our favourite sources, the Bauhuas, Russian constructivism, Italian Futurism. The tower on the cover of the second book is inspired by the Tatlin towers designed by Russian constructivist architect Vladimir Tatlin but never built. The image on the third volume of Dagny’s plane crash is in the style of the aero-painting by the second generation of Italian Futurists. The racing car, the factories, the city with lights and buildings, mechanical gears, are all typically futurist themes.

2. How familiar were you with the book before embarking on the project, and how did you feel about its controversial nature; did you steer clear of such politics by concentrating on the book's main figures and 'noir' thriller feel?

In Italy, Atlas Shrugged and the political theories and philosophy of Ayn Rand are not well-known or popular. We know its controversial nature is widely discussed, especially in American and British culture where Atlas Shrugged is a popular and debated book.  

We think it is a novel of formation that makes us Europeans understand better the capitalist ideology of the "American dream" and of the British entrepreneurial class. To understand the author, we needed an idea of the context in which the book was written. Ayn Rand was born in Russia in 1905 and witnessed first-hand the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist conquest of Russia and the political oppression that followed. Our interpretation does not enter directly into politics, everyone is free to make their own opinion, to agree or not with her political theory but certainly the novel is an impassioned defence of the freedom of man's mind, a hymn to rational intelligence and to meritocracy.

We have focused our personal interpretation on the female figure of the novel, Dagny Taggart, a young entrepreneur, vice president of a transcontinental railroad company founded by her father. She is a heroine, she constantly fights against many crises to keep her father's company alive. Dagny believes in the individual as a complete owner of their abilities and is against all forms of totalitarianism. As women, we think she is a fascinating female character because she is unconventional, the most interesting of the novel. We wanted to communicate her desire for independence, her courage, nonconformity, her ability to break with convention and not be influenced by the majority. The frontispiece for the first volume summarizes this conceptually. Since Dagny was a young girl she has known what her path would be. She has her own vision, a dream to be realized in her life, a goal of ascent, growth, continuous improvement and exceeding her limits through her work. Finally, an independent woman!  

3. The book is massive, so how did you choose the scenes you decided to ultimately illustrate?

We started by reading the complete book, this step alone required over a month of daily reading to underline, the sentences, the thoughts of the author, to take notes on the characters, environments and the most interesting situations from the visual point of view of the narration. Of course, there were many different scenes we thought were suitable to illustrate but the commission was only five images per volume. It was important to create images to intrigue the reader by adding to the reading of the text. Atlas Shrugged includes elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance however the writing style it is characterized by very long dialogues and philosophical dissertations which are sometimes redundant. It was important to make images that were not monotonous and similar, to create images to intrigue and fascinate the reader.

We decided to leave out the sentimental stories and focus on Dagny’s true love. Like Dagny, we have always been fascinated by the beauty of the factories, engines, gears, architecture of the city, bridges, electric pylons, trains and locomotives. Dagny merges into the metropolis becomes part of it, this is the inspiration of the frontispiece of the second book ...

4. It seems that across the three volumes you went with 3 different styles. The first volume seems industrial, based around the colour red and machinery parts; the second seems more about tall buildings and mountains, indigo-coloured; whilst the last has more yellow, 'earthy' tones. Am I right, and were these very conscious decisions to reflect the different natures of each volume?

These are not different styles but rather different colour palettes. Each of the books offers different from the point of view through the style of the narration. This was certainly a conscious decision on our part to reflect the different natures of each volume. Many colours are mentioned by Ayn Rand in the book, she describes what she imagines with accurate chromatic details.

We hope that our work is appreciated by readers, we have loved this project a lot, we thank The Folio Society very much for this great opportunity!