Life

Ownership is a really interesting concept in the world of design because our industry is one that promotes the sharing and collaboration of ideas. Extraordinary things have come out of these partnerships (the association of Scott Schuman, Garance Dore, and Tiffany & Co. being one of my favorites), and we are left better and more aware because of them. But since so many people have had their hands in the pot, we sometimes have a too many cooks in the kitchen scenario and are unsure of who came up with the recipe in the first place. How do we know to whom to bestow proper credit?

Illustrator and designer Amy Borrell found a solution to this problem with her autobiographical book A Brief Account of a Life Lived So Far. In publishing, teams are built with an editor, writer, illustrator, and printer, and they all work together to produce the books we read and enjoy. Amy singlehandedly encompassed all of those jobs when she collected the sentiments from her experiences, collated these moments in alphabetical order, and created each section to fit within the embroidered binding she had made. She had complete control over each step of the process, and in turn, was able to pour her entire self into the finished product. There is no question here who did what, because it was all her.

Being part of a cooperative will always be beneficial, but doing something for yourself by yourself will always belong to you alone. Take that and cherish it for all its worth.

Books

If you ever wondered what happens when the lights go out at your neighborhood bookstore, this incredible video by Type at their local storefront in Toronto explains just that. It really makes me feel like a kid again, filled with delicious anticipation at what tales and worlds these volumes hold. 

This video is two-fold; it also serves as a gentle reminder to keep small businesses open with your patronage. Barnes & Nobles may be more convenient, but the quirks and charm that captivate your heart belong to the places that bring magic like this to life.

Frame

For the first post of 2012, I wanted to start us off head on with a novel concept for the art that is known as the music video. Growing up in my generation, this meant that you saw the starlette of the day prancing around in her knickers while unsuccessfully trying to evade a man so toxic yet alluring that she had no choice but to eventually succumb to him. Thankfully we've all moved past that somewhat, and due to artists such as OK GoLady Gaga, and Kanye West, the music video is now a method of either humoring our inner nerd, providing shock value, or spreading undercover societal messages - all of the above, actually. What started out as a way for record labels to impart visual language to a song in order to promote the artist's image and boost sales has turned into fully realized and conceived theatricals that can only be called a short film.   

With this precedent set ahead of us, graphic artists everywhere have taken the cue to create their own mini dramas in increasingly imaginative ways, and this is where today's post comes into play. Polish producing pair Katarzyna Kijek and Przemysław Adamski (also known as Kijek/Adamski) have finetuned their skills to combine illustration and animation together in their music video for We Cut Corner's "A Pirate Life". The video is a product of every frame being hand-drawn and spliced together to create each rippling effect of water and each movement of the lead singer, and is an endeavor that took two months and 1,850 marker drawings to complete.

Seeing this makes me excited for what other inventive recipes can be thought up in the world of moving art, and what else we can do to ensure that this kind of passion, research, and creativity is never lost.

Commitment

There's something to be said for the level of dedication and commitment that we place on things. Parents devote their entire lives to their children, artists spend months finishing a painting so that it represents their exact vision, developers give up everything to build an app they can be proud of. It takes a very strong person to feel a sense of purpose and finish what they've started, because it is so easy to sit down and come up with ten ideas off the bat on how to create something, but actually applying yourself to reach the end goal is something that rarely happens at the same rate. To most people, why do something today when you could just as simply do it tomorrow?

Miguel Endara set out to prove us all wrong. His project, titled Hero, is one graphic designer's journey of drawing a portrait of his father by only utilizing stippling, a pledge that took him one ink pen, one full year from start to finish, and 3.2 million dots. At a rate of about 4.25 dots a second, Miguel spent 210 hours on these elements alone, concentrating all his efforts on ensuring that each dot was at the proper degree of solidity so that the overall effect was striking all on its own. Despite feeling undoubtedly tired at times due to the monotonous action that stippling entails, Miguel never gave up and completed the project regardless.

I think this is a beautiful, original tribute to the man who raised him to be the person he is today, a great method of acknowledgement to the importance and meaning his father has to him. As a creative person, Miguel's employment of his skills in this manner shows incredible love and respect.

Write

I came across this video of The Ecriture Infinie Project today that reminded me of the endless power of writing. Began by Bili Bidjocka and curated by Simon Njami, the project asks its participants to note down whatever it is they would write if these words were their last. Everyone's thoughts are collected in eight gigantic Moleskine notebooks and will be hidden in different places around the world for subsequent generations to find. By encouraging people to participate in this exercise, Bili reveals that it is then that the actual process of this project is born. 

The question that remains at large is what the expectation will be once they are uncovered. With technology propelling us forward at such an expotential rate, will writing even be considered a veritable action when we arrive in the future? Or will it have been replaced by emails, texts, and whatever machine-dependent method exists then? How will we ourselves have changed in the way we communicate with others?

Writing has the ability to unify the masses right down to the last period, and making it personal only draws you in deeper. Not only has that purpose been fulfilled in this specific venture, but Bili has also given these individuals a chance to preserve their thoughts, wishes, and dreams for eternity. 

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

When I was growing up, you couldn't find me without a book in my hand due to my avidness as a reader. From a very young age, I would use these stories as a means to escape the reality I belonged to and travel into the hearts and minds of the characters whose lives became my own. The eagerness that I had to bury my head in a novel is something I think about fondly, especially since my time became increasingly occupied on my laptop surfing the internet as I entered high school and college. Now the books on my shelves are dusty with neglect, and you are scarce to find me without my iPhone. Technology has become my heavily relied upon one-way ticket out.

I started talking about the past in my posts this week and how designers are finding inspiration in primordial objects to fuel their modern agendas. Brian Dettmer is one such artist whose mission statement defines the very meaning of this approach. His process is one that revives history, not discards it, by providing a new face to an ancient form that has stood the test of time, but like all pre-mechanical items, is in danger of slowly being on its way towards oblivion. He digs deeper into the material to explore its anatomy so that we may take interest in what lies beneath its current state, and then transforms its interface into a completely new construction to reveal the contents in an exquisite fashion.  As we move forward in the digital age and leave behind the physical one, we need people like Brian to remind us that not all that has been viewed is all that can be seen.

Oxidation, Combustion, Art

The Anthropologist had a brilliant feature recently on Etsuko Ichikawa, an artist who uses fire, glass, and paper, elements which are typically antithetical, to create her work. In her process, Etsuko carefully commands the fire to liquefy the glass at 2100°F until it is in its appropriately diffused state, and then marries the molten material to the paper at the perfect instant to create shadows in its wake. What looks like a bad explosion just waiting to happen surprisingly turns all three components into a beautiful imprint that stands as a testament to the moment it has just witnessed. The level of control it must take in order to maintain the integrity of the paper alone is a difficult task in itself, but Etsuko's deep concentration and sweeping movements make it look effortless.

One thing that particularly drew me to Etsuko's work was the fact that she stands fearless in the face of what most people consider dangerous. Fire is often used when describing an accident, tragedy, or other calamitous misfortune, but to her, it is an old friend that she collaborates with to bring her art to life. This comes from a subaqeous place within herself where she encounters watching something ethereal burn until it dies and is able to understand the meaning behind that episode. Like a phoenix whose mythical powers include the ability to be reborn from its ashes, so does Etsuko's craft from whence it came.

The Isolation of Time

All the work I've presented to you thus far has, I hope, evoked some sort of emotional connection to the piece and the designer behind it. One of my goals here is to create a forum of understanding and conversation so that we may question, learn, and become conscious of the stories supporting the art. This is something I experienced firsthand when I discovered The Imprisoned Calendar, designed by Jason Dean of The Best Part. Part functional, part historical, largely architectural, the calendar illustrates the passage of time over nine years through the eyes of a prisoner. Each tick mark represents one day for a total of 3,190 days that 775 detainees went through at Guantánamo Bay.

I was fortunate to be able to speak with Jason about his ideology behind this piece, and came to ascertain his passion for civil rights, justice, and the overall system of imprisonment. Through his research, he has discovered the unfortunate but true methodology in which the military sometimes penalizes its offenders, at times controversially so. It was this knowledge that he brought over in his development, an enterprise he achieved via interlacing the feelings of helplessness and interminability with the action a person takes when drawing in a single tick mark day by day. This same calculation of the clock moving forward is also something used by prisoners today, thus adding a second layer of junction between the people who use the calendar and the people for whom this calendar represents.

The simplicity and honesty of this work more than merits a second glance. It touches a topic many of us are afraid to broach upon. Jason makes it worth our while to at least try.

Bianca Chang Redefines the Papercut

Paper is one of my personal preferences from which to create art, and I was so pleased to find Australian designer Bianca Chang's work within this channel. Bianca's methods epitomize the meticulous care needed in such an endeavor, so much so that I was rendered speechless when presented with videos of her process.

Each piece is carefully measured and cut to perfectly fit the confines of that paper's place within the overall project. The thin, delicate nature of the paper interpolates to establish its own subtle tonality that needs no extra element. I cannot stress enough the painstaking effort it must take to ensure that both the calculations and dimensions synthesize seamlessly to create the final look and feel. 

Bianca's work ethic inspires me to no end. To be able to sit and tirelessly compose these artworks is a true testament to her passion for her craft, and allows her to generate something that is austere, clean, and beautiful.