Exciting news: in the fall I will be continuing my career in design education as a fulltime instructor at Maryland Institutie College of Art (MICA). With that, about a month ago I was invited to visit the senior thesis exhibition at MICA to see the caliber of work the students are doing. I was blown away by everything and left feeling even more excited and inspired.
21 Guns was a senior thesis project that really stood out during my visit. Starting with a reflective lens on her own life, this project by Nina Q. Allen resulted in a poster series honoring various women in pop culture. I love what she has to say about 21 Guns:
"A 21-Gun Salute is one of the highest military honors. My 21-Gun Salute pays homage to women's rights, highlighting the beliefs in the political, economic and social equality of the sexes. My design emphasizes beauty, diversity, & femininity through bold type, imagery and color. The use of music has also been influential to my design process, as direct lyrics are utilized to assign a specific misperception given to each iconic woman. 21 GUNS is an autobiographical journey into womanhood, individualism, and artistic expression."
The scale of these posters (at 21"x37") and bold colors in duo-tone and tri-tone will stop you in your tracks and pull you in to read the copy. I immediately fell in love with the series and started imaging how I could get a copy of the Grace Jones poster to hang in my studio.
Check out all the posters right here.
I'm loving this collaboration between Asilia, a (fabulous) design studio, and Creativity and Noise, a (dope concept) screen-printing studio and workshop based in the UK. The two came together to produce a collection of tees and other soft goods called AfriCAN under the Creativity and Noise moniker, which just launched over the weekend.
Support good work! See the entire collection here.
Also check out the trailer for the BlackStar Film Festival which pays homage to the Rosie Perez dance intro to the film.
A few weeks ago the sad story emerged of two young teenage sisters who were gang-raped and killed after going to use the bathroom, which was a field just outside of their small village in India.
In light of this horrific incident an important project came to mind that speaks to this issue regarding the lack of safe, sanitary and private bathrooms for women all over the world. The project called, The Bottom Line by Noopur Agarwal, is a bathroom stall installation that gives context, insight, and most importantly solutions for giving women access to "hygienic and dignified facilities."
Design is necessary to communicate any message, but when used to inform, educate, and activate for social change it really inspires and invigorates me, and reminds me how powerful the visual image can be.
I love Noopur's concept and hope that it inspires you in some way, too.
The title of this post is a quote I heard long ago from the lips of Erykah Badu at the beginning of her single "Tyrone." Remember this? I'm not sure if she was the first to say it, but since then it's a statement that has been repeated by many, including Queen Bey, who said it in her HBO documentary, Life is But a Dream.
Having gone through art school, being an artist, working as a designer and now teaching design I have a hard time with that statement. I don't know if I believe it. Can one really be an artist and be sensitive about their work?
Creative expression is personal because it comes from a place of experience, emotion (perhaps), and maybe even devotion. In the creative pursuit failures and a-ha moments are in abundance — and money, well sometimes not so much. Months, but more-often, years can go into a project or achieving an artistic goal. In the end, it is that time, effort, and perseverance that makes it all come together. So your heart and soul does become attached, so yes it can get personal and yes the critiques can hurt, sting, and bruise. But isn't that supposed to come with the territory when you are opening up your vision to the world?
I remember my first year in foundation drawing at art school our professor (a famous artist in her own right, by the way, and shall remain nameless) would tell us to hang up our charcoal drawings on the wall and we would do so, reluctantly. After the walls were covered with our "masterpieces" we would all huddle in the center of the studio hoping our collective warmth would protect one another from what was to come. Our professor would go around the room pausing briefly in front of each drawing tearing down and dropping to the floor the ones she didn't feel was worth acknowledging. "If it looks like you spent 5 minutes drawing it then I have even less time to critique it." Boom. You could hear the artists of said drawings gasp for air, or slump into themselves. Meanwhile those who survived would still have hearts racing in preparation for the lengthy critique that would for sure be hard to sit through. She ALWAYS gave tough critiques. You learned a lot, but boy were they brutal.
Some might say she was harsh. In today's world of higher-ed I don't even know if we're allowed to do stuff like this (we should be), but this professor and the many professors that came after only prepared us for what was to come when we would enter the real world — when money is involved and people are thinking about making an investment in your work, and they have even less time to look through your portfolio.
Because I've been on that hurtful side of the stick numerous times, taking brutal critiques from potential employers and portfolio reviewers now is like being an Olympic gold swimmer in a 3 foot pool. I can handle it. (I think, ha!)
Not only do artists have to face the challenges of figuring out what to do with their talents, but they also have to wear armour for the harsh critics ready with bow and arrow responses. Artists have to constantly be ready to defend their work and be completely open to how others will perceive it, but also be able to separate their feelings as much as possible.
So can you enter this line of work and be sensitive? Especially in this day and age when EVERYONE is a critic? EVERYONE has a social media account somewhere and a soap box where they can say whatever they want?
I don't think so. If you decide you want to be an artist (insert writer, designer, performer, etc.) then get ready. It can be tough, but it's part of the job — like a mechanic getting dirty. It's necessary, and if nothing more it helps you grow.
At the end of the day they are just hurdles that are small in comparison to the gift you are sharing with the world.
Stay warm this winter with deliciously chunky handmade knits, like cowls, scarves and shawls (for men and women) from DC based brand DeNada. Founder, Virginia Blanca Arrisueño, pulls from her Peruvian heritage to design the pieces and then has them produced in Peru by skilled artisans. I purchased a beautiful chunky cowl a few weeks ago and can't stop wearing it!
I've always been a fan of vintage African travel posters designed in the 50's and 60's because of their simplicity; the beautiful flat colors and graphic shapes. So when I saw these versions of African travel posters inspired by vintage designs from Jazzberry Blue, I immediately added them to my favorites on Etsy.
The surface design brand, Moniquilla, has always been a favorite of mine with it's beautiful palettes and pattern mixes. I was more familiar with Moniquilla's paper products, like notebooks and stationery, but recently found these fun tie-dyed t-shirts and beautifully printed scarves. After digging a little deeper and found other clothing applications from the brand. I want to rock everything!
I love the work that I do. It is so great to see an idea in my mind and make it come to life with the tools I have at my fingertips. It's not easy work to make it happen, matter-of-fact it has taken me almost twenty years to develop these skills, and I have tons of experience and owe plenty of student loan money to prove it.
What absolutely sucks about this career path I've chosen is the lack of respect I experience regularly in regards to the use of the work I've created.
As an artist/designer I can tolerate having to constantly be on my toes to defend the validity of the work I do, but that doesn't bother me so much. I can talk anyone into the ground about why the arts and design disciplines are important. But what I absolutely can't tolerate is someone using or selling my work to promote their brand without permission.
In the last few years since I've launched I Love My Hair, I have written numerous cease and desist letters and have been emailed several links to people who have used The Only Regret illustration for t-shirts, logos, web site graphics, etc. without my knowledge let alone my permission. Which pisses me off. Why? Not because of money or damages, but because it's just absolutely wrong!
In some of these cases the owners of these brands have been duped and have paid money for something they genuinely thought was an original (at least I hope), therefore I cannot fault them. So it comes down to the "designer" who thinks it's ok to pull designs and use them as their own.
I can slightly see non-designers/artists doing this; some people just don't know or understand copyright-protected materials or that you just don't steal other people's work and claim it as your own. But fellow artists and designers? That is just unacceptable. This field is already tough and highly competitive. We know more than anyone how difficult it is to make it happen — must we shoot one another in the foot to get an extra buck?
With that said. Be careful. Whether you are hiring a designer or using images you've found you need to be absolutely sure it is an original. Do your own research, ask around, and make sure you're using a reputable source. Reach out to other clients of the designer you're working with; and make sure you totally understand the royalty use of any image source you use. Just because it's on the web doesn't mean it's free.
If you have any questions about using designs, illustration, or other imagery for your brand please feel free to email me. I'd be happy to share what I know. I believe the only way to stop this is for all of us to understand the laws and know that artists have rights, too.
My fellow comrades, have you experienced this? How did you handle it?
All I can say is wow. I am in awe of these beautiful illustrated characters Bel Andrade Lima created for this year's carnival in Recife (a city on the coast of Brazil). As a designer/illustrator I totally wish this was something I worked on!
See more of Bel's rich style on her online portfolio here.
I had a wonderful time selling at the Station North Arts Market this past Saturday. As I mentioned last week, it was my first time selling offline which is something I've been wanting to try. Interacting with the market-goers was a pleasure and I really loved meeting my fellow vendors who, like me, were all there excited to be selling at the first market in the Chicken Box gallery space. The response to my work was great so I'm definitely thinking about doing it again.
Is there something you'd like to try or experience before the year is over?