A Doodle to celebrate Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. (ROMAN MURADOV/courtesy of Google 2014)
A Doodle to celebrate Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. (ROMAN MURADOV/courtesy of Google 2014)

 

IF MUCH OF the world didn’t know Roman Muradov’s enchanting art prior to today, now millions more will appreciate his graphic magic.

Muradov is a master interpreter, pulling from enormous universes of prose just the right reflected lights he needs to represent a moment that visually speaks volumes. He engages. He excavates. And somehow, through the act of peeling away till he has the perfectly distilled still image, he enlarges.

“The language of cartooning … ,” Muradov writes in part, “is the language of reduction; it’s less descriptive than realistic artwork or film, and is less likely to replace the reader’s vision.”

Muradov knows the act of cartooning can be like intentionally looking through the wrong end of a telescope: In theory, you are refracting matters into a smaller impression of a world. Yet when carried out by a master of light and space, the art of cartooning can magnify our sense and appreciation of celestial verses.

So when Google needed a guest doodler to help celebrate today’s 186th anniversary of the great Leo Tolstoy’s birth — to render comets and “an almost full moon against the almost starless night” — who better for the Bay Area tech titan to call than the San Francisco illustrator Muradov, that artistic enlarger of worlds?

“I hardly need to say that making a tribute to Leo Tolstoy was a daunting task,” Muradov writes. “No set of images can sum up a body of work so astonishing in scope, complexity and vigor — its memorable scenes come to life with seeming effortlessness, fully realized in the immortal lines and between them.”


The artist offers a “behind-the-scenes” peek at composing an Anna Karenina image. (ROMAN MURADOV/courtesy of Google 2014)

Yet Muradov, as visual intrepreter of Tolstoy — of “Anna Karenina,” and “War and Peace,” and “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” — is primed for the task. As he notes, he recently — in an assignment for Penguin Classics — illustrated and designed a centennial edition of Joyce’s “The Dubliners.” And so again, Muradov doesn’t merely draw scenes; he renders art that reflects themes. He shares a character’s state of mind, or the tension of duality, or the minute telling detail. He tunes in to the Russian novelist’s “robust” and “modern” language, the just-right rhythm that enlivens the ear of colloquialisms.

And through it all, Muradov is aware not only of canvas but also frame. He sees that the Doodle is “a stagelike format,” and so — working with the Google team — he creates a motion comic that is elevated by a sense of theater.

After all, when the artist is rendering legend – like a Tolstoy or Joyce — he must have a deeply perceptive purpose to wield a brush with greatness.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed by the sheer scope of reach” of a Google Doodle, Muradov tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, “and I’m delighted that people liked it and noticed all the little details I included — like the letters of Levin’s proposal.

“It’s quite strange to have so much exposure, since most of my work is fairly small-scale and often rather underground,” he continues, “but I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

(Note: Muradov’s many illustration clients have included NPR, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.)