Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Work Outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ Project

Annual Report cover pen and ink drawing

One of the most frequently asked questions of visitors to #iThinkOutsideMyBoxregards whether all the small paintings have been done by me, and the answer of course is 'no', but I do tell people that the signage is mine and that brings into question the fonts, styles, and execution of such. The drawing above is an original font in mid rendering but much tighter than any of the work on cardboard seen on the iTOMB exhibit. And the reasons for that come in translating hand painted work to hand lettered typography for printing, something that is done primarily by computer these days.

I began as a self taught hand letterer in my teens and eventually found my way into the professional sign painting business by the time I was in college, working for established sign companies and learning from the masters, painters who learned how to 'letter' with brushes as opposed to 'caligraph' with pens and quills. Eventually I graduated in graphic design, but have always had a love of fine typography over the many other 'crafts' of the design world.

Annual Report cover pencil drawing

A sample layout
made with Adobe
Illustrator from my
pencil drawing
Of course today, 99.9% of this work is done in Photoshop and Illustrator, but not always necessarily well if the person doing the work has never learned it by hand in the first place. 

As I was once told, as an apprentice sign painter, "The letterform was originated by the human hand - but then the machine took over, Gutenberg and all that. Now that you are taking mechanical forms of what were once products of the hand, you must put the hand 'back' into the form - for there's no point in doing it by hand if you are just imitating something made by a machine."

And to this day, that continues to be my philosophy in font design. Above was inspired by my more free sign work - quickly sketched out in thumbnail form, then tightened in pencil and pen in a drafting form, and finally tweaked (not twerked) in illustrator. Yet it maintains the personality of the hand in that you couldn't make the design inset from a convention al font - or if you did, it would be a relatively painful process. Sometimes, at least in art, less tech is better.

The work here was commissioned by a graphic designer for his client, a non-profit working in healthcare and I was asked specifically to provide typographical solutions for the project. Should you be in need of hand lettering in any form, from simple sign design on cardboard, to painted permanently on buildings or items, to typography and font design, please feel free to contact me. It's one of the many things I do that's well outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox project.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"If You Build It, They Will Come"

In the film, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner builds a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield because a voice tells him, "If you build it, they will come", and so arrive Shoeless Joe Jackson and the banned 1919 Chicago Black Sox, eager to play baseball. 

In real life, circa fall 2011,  I had just returned from sixteen years overseas to find America deep in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the great depression, when Occupy Wall Street began and I returned to painting in public again. There began iThinkOutsideMyBox, a public studio in a public park where anyone could paint – that moved to the High Line in the fall of 2012.

Two years and twenty thousand paintings later the concept has grown from an activist vehicle for one to an interactive vehicle for all that has become the most attended public engagement activity in the park – an organic growth that I could not possibly have foreseen at the outset but have had the good sense to nurture into a blossoming non-profit social concern that spans genders, ages, skill sets and over 80 countries and counting.

Charles Eames, House of Cards
But what about the structure, the physical representation of the work? Compared by many to Charles Eames' House of Cards, a set of custom playing cards with slits for joining together, I didn't pattern the structure on the Eames concept specifically, but must have had the idea buried deep in my memory, having seen it as a child and studied Eames' design concepts for years.

The architecture for me is a simple form-follows-function distillation of the dimensions of the park's concrete decking, divided by the dimensions in which I am able to buy the corrugated plastic. After that bit of fairly simple mathematics, the components are multiples of a basic 4" cube in which our 3"X3" paintings reside, arranged in a pyramidal composition that probably owes more to Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water than any particular Eames building.

iThinkOutsideMyBox℠ at night
The time-lapse image above was photographed by Alan Pollock-Morris of Northfield Editions and appears in the most recent issue of Into-Gardens. My thanks to Alan for a fun image.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water
Beginning January, 2015, iThinkOutsideMyBox™ will extend its public engagement activity to the museum space as I begin an Artist in Residence program at a museum in the city I'll name later, once we've locked down all the details. In this next incarnation, I've been asked to work with museum visitors on a daily basis, over a period of time, to create an interactive exhibit that will become part of the permanent collection on site - and the only thing I can tell you is that it will not look like the display above:)

As our exhibit on the High Line was designed specifically to integrate with the space around it, whatever we do in this new museum space will be a synthesis of the art participants create, married to the space in which it resides - creating yet another experience for others to view and interact with. 

"If you build it, they will come." Again.