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We wait patiently here in the Pacific Northwest for the clouds to break. Our gray winter skies can be monotone at best. We don’t get any more rain than my hometown of New York City, but we have long stretches of cloud cover and we say bye-bye to the sun for many a day. Yes, we get SAD (seasonal affective disorder); we are in essence starved for light. Waiting for the sun to break through is a great Seattle winter pastime, supplemented with drinking warm beverages, reading books and watching movies.

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There are some other very useful things that help the ‘winter blahs’…

•Take short walks

•See friends

•Get out of bed and stay active

•Don’t over eat

•Change the colors of your living and work environments (we can help with that)

•Communicate with bright designs (we can help with that too)

•Looking at photos of sunnier times (we took lots of photos this summer)

So look up, and if you’re lucky enough to catch a patch of blue… smile.

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We’re thrilled to announce a book that our studio has just released! Written by Sharon Mentyka and illustrated by Stephen Schlott, B IN THE WORLD is an illustrated chapter book for children ages 4-7 about a gender nonconforming child. It takes an open-hearted, kids-eyed view of what it means to be different and celebrates children for who they are meant to be, not how others want to label them. Written in a fun, engaging voice, B IN THE WORLD is a story about being yourself and being proud of it. It is a story for kids who are different, with the ultimate message that it’s okay to be different.

Many thanks to family, friends and organizations who contributed funding and moral support for the project. Please consider gifting, sharing, and reading aloud B IN THE WORLD. The book is available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or you can order a signed copy here. An e-book version is also available at the Apple iTunes Store.

Here’s what some early reviewers have to say:
“B in the World is a great book for the middle primary reader. It explores themes of inclusion and difference in a fun and readable way about a gender fluid child exploring his female side and struggling with what it means.” ~Tracy Flynn, Welcoming Schools, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

“As the parent of a gender non-conforming son, I am delighted to welcome B into our library and our family. B is a sweet, happy boy with a brave heart and the determination to live his truth. I give B an A!”~ Pamela Privett, Parent

Stay tuned for info on a book launch in the Seattle area. In the meantime, check out B’s website for more information on the book’s genesis and resources.

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Cover designs by Peter Mendelsund

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Book cover design by Partners in Design

It seems the only reason I signed up to the online sharing site Pinterest was to follow my passion for book cover designs. Though I would love to hold these volumes of literature in my hand and turn the pages, the online collection is rich. I can see the design interpretions of thousands of great publications from all around world within moments. The process and the visual storytelling is what I dream of just as I fall asleep at night.

Though my studio has only afforded me only a handful of book cover design assignments I’m still an enthusiast for covers. Sometimes I’d say my designs for some publications end up being cover designs of a sort, but strung together to make brochures or enlarged to make posters. I’m drawn to the classic cover designers like Paul Rand, Romek Marber and Jennifer Heuer, and one of my favorites Peter Mendelsund who was recently interviewed on NPR. You may be as enthralled as I was, but in any case when you work with Partners in Design it’s one of our inspirations. I’ll be designing a cover shortly for a book we’re having published, “B in the World”. You may want to look into this project with an important message.

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I can’t help but post a few of these, they’re delicious and preposterous! Concoctions whipped up by Andy Warhol, his mom, and Suzie Frankfurt. I couldn’t resist and just located a used copy, it should be here in a few days… in time for the holidays. The book condition described a stain on the back cover… I wonder from which recipe.

I’ll will post a few drawings of my Thanksgiving feast. If you do a food drawing we’ll post it here and make our own collective visual feast.

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This is what Barry Moser, the great book illustrator, said to a young artist. He is one of my visual heroes and I’d like to share this quote along with a Moser illustration appropriate for the upcoming holiday “spirit”. When you look at some of Barry’s work it can make you shiver with only the fight between light and dark.

“When I was young, perhaps around your age, I was bored in school, so I stared out the window daydreaming about being home with my dog or building a model. I had a problem with my eyes and didn’t read very well. It was embarrassing when I was called on to read aloud. Reciting my times tables was even more mortifying. I was the last to be picked to play ball at recess, but the first to be chosen to work on the Thanksgiving mural—drawing was the only thing I did well, and I did it at home hour after hour.

I did not go to kindergarten. I started school in the first grade and went six years to public school. Then I went to military academy in the seventh. My family was not rich, so it was a privilege to attend such an elite school. However, the academics were very demanding, sports were required, and military drill as mandatory—and there were no art courses. Not one. In fact, I was often disciplined for drawing, for “wasting my time.” My family wanted me to become a military officer or a medical doctor. Anything but an artist. My daddy told me that I could never make a living at art. But I persisted in spite of his discouragement and today I live a marvelously happy and comfortable life. So, my young friend never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. You can. All it takes—and this is a lot—is the desire to do it, the persistence to learn how to do it well, the courage to stand strong when people around you are discouraging your dreams. And perhaps most important of all is being willing to fail while you are trying your hardest—but then to pick it up and start over again.”

—Barry Moser

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Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that after 42 years it would no longer be issuing its candy-colored metal buttons as proof of paid admission, replacing them instead with paper tickets. As with many things in life, with that decision came the sudden realization of how much something would be missed once it has been taken away.

While living in New York City for over 15 years, I have many memories of finding those little metal buttons everywhere. The little icons were such a ubiquitous part of NYC life. Yet who knew the colors actually had names? It was always a pleasant surprise when visiting the Met to see what the day’s button color would be, and a fun decision determining its placement. Depending on what you were wearing, it might look best on the collar, the strap of a handbag, a pocket edge, or even affixed to the cover of the book you were carrying. A default location was always calling on a buttonhole to do double duty. And a day’s visit would inevitably include the distinctive pinging sound of someone’s button falling to the marble floor.

In theory, you were asked to deposit your buttons in a clear plastic receptacle when exiting the museum but I didn’t know anyone who did. Either you simply forgot or you were prescient enough to think about amassing a full collection, either for the nefarious reason of a future paid admission or simply because they were beautiful little objects. Days later, while doing laundry you would inevitably find one of the little guys still affixed to a collar or pocket. And I’m certain I’m not the only person who, more than once, while waiting for a street light or a subway, noticed a glint of recognizable color near my feet, miles and boroughs away from Fifth Avenue & East 89th Street.

After finding a full set going for a starting bid of $200 on eBay, I spent an hour today searching through old storage boxes in my closets hoping to find just even one. I found two! One inside a jumbled box of little-used jewelry and trinkets and another tucked inside the empty matchbox from Lisanne one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants which closed in 1989.

My buttons’ colors are Joker and Positano.

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These 2 sentences tell you all you need to know about POP art. “Pop Art is basically about two things: ordinariness and eating. It’s about daily consumption; the democratic appetite, ravenous for meat, sweets, life on the street, and getting more of everything, cheap”. And this artwork tells you all about a POP master, Claes Oldenburg. See for yourself if you’re in NYC, there’s an Oldenburg retrospective until August 5 at MoMA. As a designer I’ve always been influenced by Oldenburg, Warhol, Red Grooms, Marisol because they questions “context” on every level. As a communication designer I depend on it every time I want to be an attention grabber, or be a wallflower.

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Well if I had the 104 million, maybe I would have made a bid yesterday in London. It’s a record for an art auction sale. He is one of my favorite artists, Alberto Giacometti. The “Walking Man 1” sculpture was cast from a study commissioned for the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza in New York City but sadly it never came into fruition. The strider stands 6 feet tall.

Despite the efforts of the gallery guards at the Getty Museum last year… while I was vacationing in LA… I had to take a photo of my own of this standing woman. She’s beautiful. I cropped her torso in photographic segments to observe each curve and  captured as I moved up the sculpture with my mind’s hand. I saw a lot of beautiful women in the gallery that day, walking around her… noticing her… maybe not. No they were not thin necessarily or bronzed. But they shared a bond with the sculpture… something close to eternal.

Michael and I were watching a film the other day at the art museum (SAM) of Australian aboriginals, a clan of 27 doing a painting on heavy linen. The painting was almost the size of the floor of a small room. Out in a flat windswept settlement, the painters sat on the dirt ground around the canvas’s perimeter… all very squat. Dogs obediently watched on. They painted a communal journey of sorts—spirit and heritage that they coaxed out in contemporary media. The museum projected this movie onto the floor for viewing, giving you the artist’s perspective. Here are a few examples of paintings similar to what we saw in the gallery, and here is one (the bigger one) I imagined and drew after our visit. I think I’ll do a few more and see where they go. They would make nice scarves or book end papers.

I’m starting a fantasy wish list. I’ll be posting individual items (gifts) or ideas as the holidays approach. There will be few limits on the selections… and undoubtedly I’ll express more greed than sole-searching restraint.

This one, a classic Josef Albers painting… just a little thing, but a window to a great many big things. It’s a 12-inch by 12-inch canvas. Only 3-color, oh c’mon, how much can it cost? It speaks to my heart and my design head. The size is another thing about it. His later “color-field” painters became too big in my opinion—appropriate only for hanging on museum walls.

“Easy—to know that diamonds—are precious.
Good—to learn that rubies—have depth.
But more—to see that pebbles—are miraculous.”
—Josef Albers

Josef and Anni Albers were artistic adventurers who were both pioneers of twentieth-century modernism. Josef Albers (1888-1976) was an influential teacher, writer, painter, and color theorist—now best known for the Homages to the Square he painted between 1950 and 1976 and for his innovative 1963 publication The Interaction of Color. The couple met in Weimar, Germany in 1922 at the Bauhaus. This new teaching institution, now so renowned for its effects on all modern design, emphasized the connection between artists, architects, and craftspeople.

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There are only six studies like this drawing by Michelangelo throughout the world today, done in preparation for painting his “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. Its quality is soft and smudgy due to the chalk used, and the purpose and fashion in which it was executed…it was a sketch.

Sketching is something we all have in common with Michelangelo… we have all sketched to communicate an idea, simple as it might have been. Everyone. Usually the communication works pretty well. If you have a more elaborate or artful message  to convey, chances are you will rise to the occasion and find yourself more technically able. This is something I truly believe.

We recently had one of these drawings on display here in Seattle. When Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the Pope to paint the altar wall, the resulting work, his “Last Judgment,” was a truly original if controversial masterpiece. Read the rest of this entry »

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A part of our “word of the day” series.
We won’t post a new one every day, but you
get the idea. Give us ideas for new words.
Foreign and made-up words count.

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.

The ideology of wabi-sabi is ongoing and has the need to be nurtured… as most natural systems do… or they become extinct. Saving this universe of beauty is elusive since wabi-sabi is not easily reducible to formulas or catch phrases without destroying its essence. Making rules or precisely practicing it is impossible… describing it is like holding sand in your hands.

Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty. Wabi-sabi is, in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.

Read the rest of this entry »

I have a fundamental weakness in character… I can’t stay away from cookies if I see them. I go into a shop for ONLY a cup of tea, dedicated not to have a cookie… and what happens? I used to love to read to my daughter, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. I’ve illustrated some of my favorite cookies in Seattle, and a few tidbits to tell why I love cookies.

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The one on the left is a sour cherry swirl by Tom Douglas, always nicely stacked in a basket at his shop called the Dahlia Bakery. The flower cookie with royal icing is from Seattle’s favorite Macrina Bakery. You see these in the shop in the Spring. Read the rest of this entry »

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Walking on an Olympic mountain trail heading towards the Elwah Valley is a piece of big geological magnitude… not allowing for much notice of the smaller details. The sky finally clearing of clouds, with dramatic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca emerging… turning vibrant and ultramarine. Just off the trailside, almost not noticing, stood an alpine anthill. Covered in dried heather needles, all gathered from nearby plants and placed meticulously. Read the rest of this entry »

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