Happy Bank Holiday everyone and welcome back to my London travels. Although it’s over a week ago now, the memories are wonderfully refreshed as I put these posts together to share with you. I arrived at the Tate in full sunshine and loved these lines of silver birch trees outside. I think they’re possibly my most favourite tree with their ghostly, papery bark and a sense of strength and delicacy all in one.
I always enjoy those first few moments when entering the Tate, when you’re transformed from a person into a small ant in a giant anthill of art ! (well kind of ). The bold lines, the silver metallic sweeping escalators and the beautifully textured wooden stairs, all add to my enjoyment of the space.
I watched as very excited children, queued behind their friends, to get an opportunity to draw or write a coloured message on the huge art wall. It was fascinating to see technology so well used in an art gallery environment.
I took my ticket and headed up to the Sonia Delaunay exhibtion. Not quite knowing what to expect.
Sonia Delaunay, was born in modern-day Ukraine (1185–1979), a Jewish-French artist of the Art Deco period. She was famous for her colourful geometric textile designs, although her work extended to painting and stage set design too.
It was in 1911 that Delaunay’s distinctive style was born – along with the arrival of her son Charles. She spontaneously created a quilt for his crib, and said of it: “About 1911 I had the idea of making for my son, who had just been born, a blanket composed of bits of fabric like those I had seen in the houses of Russian peasants. When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.”
Sonia Delaunay, Coat made for Gloria Swanson, 1923-24.
Delaunay met Sergei Diaghilev in 1917 and went on to design costumes for his production of Cleopatra and Aida. On their return to Paris from Madrid, she began to make clothes privately, and in 1923 her textile business was founded. Commissioned by a manufacturer from Lyon, Delaunay created 50 fabric designs in her distinctive style, using geometrical shapes and vivid colours. Soon after she began to work for herself and simultané became her registered trademark. Even in Milan this year, her work is seen to be emulated by designers who are also inspired by her style.
She created many beautiful and decorative textile designs and there was a huge room dedicated to showing her garments and colourful patterns.
She and her husband Robert were inspired by the wild colours used by the Fauvists, and by Cubism too. Experimenting with colour and design in a style they called simultanéisme, the Delaunays explored the way in which colours and shapes interacted and affected one another, employing a theory similar to Pointilism, in which the eye mixes closely-placed dots of primary colours.
Sonia’s Electric Prisms series was inspired by the introduction of electric street-lights on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in 1913. These produced haloes of reflected light that she transcribed as intersecting coloured discs, radiating energy like artificial suns. Their division into four quadrants suggests the separation of white light into the prismatic spectrum of colours.
After the second world war, Sonia was a board member of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles for several years. Sonia and her son Charles in 1964 donated 114 works by Sonia and Robert to the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Alberto Magnelli told her “she and Braque were the only living painters to have been shown at the Louvre”. In 1966 she published Rythmes-Couleurs (colour-rhythms), with 11 of her gouaches reproduced as pochoirs and texts by Jacques Damase, and in 1969 Robes poèmes (poem-dresses), also with texts by Jacques Damase containing 27 pochoirs.
In 1975 Sonia was named an officer of the French Legion of Honor. From 1976 she developed a range of textiles, tableware and jewellery with French company Artcurial, inspired by her work from the 1920s. Her autobiography, Nous irons jusqu’au soleil (We shall go up to the sun) was published in 1978. Sonia Delaunay died December 5, 1979, in Paris, aged 94. She was buried in Gambais, next to Robert Delaunay’s grave.
Her work in modern design included the use of geometric abstraction and the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings and clothing.
The exhibition is spaced out over 9 rooms and was a very well-organised, visual textile designers treat ! Catch it between 15 April and 9 August 2015 at the Tate Modern.
The two shops at the Tate always are a delight for their array of books, magazine publications and other sumptuous artefacts. From a previous Fishink post, I spotted the work of fellow illustrator Alice Melvin, who’s work seems to be a firm favourite with the Tate as there was so much on display. Which is fine by me as it is rather splendid after all : )
Great to see work from Alex Barrow , who’s London Bus Tee-Shirts I originally mistook for an illustration by Miroslav Sasek !
Of course Alex’s bus is much more modern : )
Something for everyone, young/old, arty/techie and even a huge array or Uber-cool magazines for the hipsters. Who are fanatical about their off-road bikes, mountain trekking, office furniture, tool sheds or sleek line clothing. All in a totally “I’m not really that interested, but I am going to buy an expensive magazine about the fanatical and slightly offbeat subject, that I’m not really interested in anyway ” lol ! If that makes sense.
The children’s book section is huge, a familiar haunt and always makes me drool. Lovely to see some editions in the mix from the likes of Oliver Jeffers, Chris Haughton, Beatrice Alemagna, Ruth Green and Jon Klassen who I’ve either met in person, featured before on my blog.. or both !
A culturally fascinating trip for both old and new subjects all under one roof. Must do this again soon ! Part 4 of my London trip posts, featuring the work of Eric Ravilious, will arrive on Wednesday, see you here then. Hope you’re enjoying my journey too, please feel free to share Fishink with your friends : ) Enjoy your holiday.
I’m back from London and had such a wonderful time there. I’ll be talking you through what I saw over the next few posts, and in place of the regular Mid Week Mix, I’m going to talk about my trip instead as I have so much to share with you, that I don’t want the news to become outdated.
My first exhibition had to be the 50’s/60’s artist McCauley Conner or ‘Mac’ Conner. His art is straight out of the original Mad Men era and with the show being exhibited at the relatively new House of Illustration, it had my name all over it !
At the grand age of 101, Mac Conner has seen it all. In 1943 he came to New York to illustrate training manuals for the Navy and found himself caught up in a post-war New York City, pulsing with life and the ambition of young men wanting to make life happen in the Big Apple. Mac began his career as a sign painter. He studied at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, developing his illustration skills in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he moved to New York and studied under Harvey Dunn at New York’s Grand Central School of Art.
Postwar marriages were booming, sexual relationships were changing and the consumer industries were exploding after the confines of wartime rationing. In 1952 Conner set up the studio Neeley Associates with salesman Bill Neeley and artist Wilson Scruggs and his career as an illustrator really took off. The Saturday Evening Post became a steady client, and other magazines soon followed.
The creation of an illustration for a story was a highly collaborative process. Editors selected manuscripts for publication and art directors managed how they looked in print; matching stories with illustrators, laying out copy to determine the space a picture would fill and guiding the process from inception to production. Conner, like other illustrators, began by discussing the story with art directors, then prepared dramatic ideas and sketches for review. Photography was used to draw scenes from. Conner used pastels on vellum to create colour ‘comps’ (short for ‘design comprehensives’).
When satisfied with the strength of an idea, the art director gave approval to proceed to ‘finish art’. In most cases, this work was executed in gouache; an opaque flat watercolour paint whose quick-drying nature made it particularly effective for fast-paced work. The magazine then photographed the finished gouache for reproduction.
Different fates befell illustrators’ originals; some were retained by art directors and others were returned, though many were thrown away. The work survived because Conner’s agent Bill Neeley was adamant about having his artists’ boards returned.
Much of Conner’s work was for the booming field of women’s magazines. They published a range of features, but none were more popular than romantic short stories and serialised novels. Illustrators gave form to the texts in lavish spreads, which appeared at the front of magazines as ‘teasers’ for the rest of the tale.
The stories reflected the social norms of the era. In America, the austerity of the 1930’s and WW2 were giving way to new beginnings. Returning veterans reunited with their former sweethearts, or courted new ones. Women, who had entered the workforce during wartime, were encouraged to surrender their employment and independence. Fiction editors appealed to them with stories that captured a longing for romance and adventure, believably packaged in recognisable, though idealised, female characters.
Fiction about the romantic intrigues of men and women was known in the publishing industry as ‘Boy/Girl’. Mac Conner’s Boy/Girl illustrations ably addressed and intrinsic difficulty: they conveyed intimacy without directly addressing sexuality, which was off-limits in mainstream magazines. Viewed together, the pictures suggest the bigger story of the time: a mass pairing-off was underway.
The women in Conner’s fiction illustrations project a sense of confidence and stylish supremacy. These smart, lively figures embody an ‘everyday’ glamour: Conner’s female protagonists are never without red lipstick and are always perfectly manicured and accessorised. They demonstrated an informal elegance plausibly within readers’ reach. Through their carefully constructed outfits, they celebrate a heightened, yet self-possessed femininity.
Mac paid close attention to the fashion of the day, including the wasp-waisted full skirts that celebrated the end of fabric rationing after WW2. The ubiquitous garments emphasised the figure when worn with restrictive corsetry. Conner credits Jessie Neeley, his agent’s wife, with adding “polish” to his depictions of women by helping him to stay aware of trends in necklines, hairstyles and glove lengths. He also consulted the collections of emhemera and photographs at the NY Public Library, as did many of his peers.
These fictional women exist in a gender-defined world, in which a “feminine mystique” suggests their satisfaction with restricted female roles. However, Conner’s keen eye and creative sympathy place his heroines at the centre of their own stories.
Men are often mere ‘props’ in Mac’s illustrations, which were aimed at a predominantly female audience. When men appear as central figures, they embody the norms of the 1950’s American manhood; sometimes suggesting the rugged integrity of manual labour, at others capturing the alienation that characterised office work in a new age of large corporate businesses . Often obsessed with work, they pose emotional challenges for the wives, girlfriends around whom most stories revolve.
Perhaps because women formed the primary audience for magazine fiction, male characters tended to lack nuance. They were either standard ‘good guys’ or brooding curmudgeons. Men dominated plots steeped in dark emotions like jealousy and revenge. Most often they stay in the background, emerging to provide a practical obstacle or reassuring attendant to women. Unsurprisingly, they are uniformly masculine, conventionally attractive and completely self-assured.
On the ad side, Mac’s illustrations playfully teased out the pleasure and benefits of ownership, from cars to appliances. In a 1953 ad for Blue Bell coveralls (“It’s autumn time, it’s Blue Bell time!”), a pre-teen clad in the client’s tough denim gleefully hangs upside down by his legs from a tree limb while his sister below rakes leaves. This type of film-still perspective is what set Mr. Conner apart from many of his peers.
In the early 1960s, magazines changed. Advances in print technology and the proliferation of photo agencies made photography more affordable and prevalent, reducing the need for realism in illustrations. Magazine art and ad styles also began to relax, featuring humour, abstraction and line drawings—all of which seem to have been outside of Conner’s stylistic approach. Here’s a couple of advertisements and book covers.
The magazine industry had relied on illustrators for most of the century, but by 1960 the ‘Boy/Girl’ approach began to seem less persuasive. A new critique of women’s roles began to emerge, particularly in the writing of feminist Betty Friedan, who criticised the magazines as perpetrators of stultification. The Civil Rights struggle made the all-white world look increasingly dated and irrelevant.
The economic context was also changing. Magazines relied on income from selling space to advertisers and had already lost some of their clients to radio. It was television that diminished their influence after 1950. ‘Colliers’ and ‘Women’s Home Companion’ ceased publication in 1957 and by 1960, ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ was also out of business. Magazine illustration was never again created at the scale it had been at the height of Mac Conner and his colleagues careers.
In Conner’s case , the effects of these changes were compounded by personal tragedy. His agent and business partner Bill Neeley was killed in a household accident just as the market was evolving. Beginning in his 50’s, Conner found other work in educational publishing and romance novel covers. He continued to draw and paint for his own purposes for the next half a century.
Many thanks to the Wallstreet Journal and exhibition itself for the background information in this post. A fabulous show and is running at the House of Illustration 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4BH, from now until June 28th.
Hello everyone, I’m back from a wonderfully refreshing 4 days in London (did you miss me ? lol)
I’ll be telling you more about the excellent three exhibitions I went to see later this week, in the meantime here’s something that’s about to open this week in Scotland.
Angie Lewin has been busy creating a series of 18 new watercolours especially for her first solo exhibition at The Scottish Gallery. Director of the gallery, Christina Jansen explains:
“We are delighted to present Angie Lewin’s first solo exhibition with The Scottish Gallery. She is best known as a designer and printmaker whose sensitive patterns and motifs are inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement and the work of Bawden and Ravilious. She divides her life between homes in Edinburgh and Speyside and this geographic diversity is reflected in her plant observations and interweaving of the natural and domestic worlds.
She walks, looks and draws; she collects and assembles and her studio is full of reference material, beautiful in itself witnessing a life lived in art and nature. Her chosen medium for this exhibition is watercolour, that most sensitive and difficult medium and her virtuosity is complete but should be no surprise in the context of her rigorous apprenticeship. The playful title for this show hints at her obsessive observing, refined through the artist’s editorial eye to make order out of chaos.”
All of the watercolours are available to purchase prior to the exhibition opening. Please contact The Scottish Gallery for further details.
The exhibition, called ‘A Natural Selection’, runs from 1st to 30th May 2015 at The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ. For everyone who sadly won’t be able to make it, here’s a taste of what will be on show.
Lovely to still see hints of Ravilious’s china creeping into Angie’s work.
Here Angie explores the delicate, subtle wisps of nature and captures them in watercolour, a most appropriate medium to portray finery and fragility.
Picking out a row of selected stems to paint, almost creates a landscape in itself.
Perhaps my favourite below, entitled ‘Pink Lustre Plate With Sheep’s Sorrel’ which has already sold, before the exhibition has even opened ! Check out more details on Angie’s site.
More about Angie’s new fabrics and wallpapers can be discovered over on the St Judes website.
Whilst in London, I bought myself a box of Angie’s postcards to send to friends. 12 cards for just £6.99 and with a sturdy brown envelope with each card, what’s not to like : )
Stay tuned for more news and photos about my London trip this week.
Makoto Kagoshima was born in Fukuoka, Japan 1967.
After graduating from the art college, he worked in the Conran Shop in Fukuoka and didn’t become a full time potter until the age of 35.
Nowadays, Makoto Kagoshima has been creating his art works, pottery, fabric and prints at his shop, Atelier de La Paix, in Fukuoka. He has a wonderfully quirky and bold style.
His characters all speak of mirth and mayhem, as they frolic amidst his stylised gardens and undersea worlds.
His work is all hand produced and every bowl is decorated by Makoto too.
He shows us step by step how he creates a squirrel. Kneading and rolling the clay, using a template to cut out the sides and base. Softening edges, stamping the form, using different sized lightbulbs to mould and shape the form on the back. He then paints slip onto the edges, places both sides together and waits for this to harden before carving and making the join smooth and seamless. He lastly puts on the base, fires and glazes the piece… et Voila ! A squirrel is born : )
For me his work is fresh, fun and a joy to look at.
I’m really liking these little chaps too.
Recently he had private exhibitions also in LA, Taipei and London. Makoto Kagoshima has already many fans all over the world. You can find more to see on the Doinel site. What do you think readers ? If you enjoyed this you may also like the work of Makiko Hastings , Lisa Larson and Jonathan Adler.
Since about 2008, I’ve been collecting images from the internet that have caught my eye. Way back then, I wasn’t so diligent in keeping records as to where images came from, or who had painted, photographed, illustrated or indeed created the artwork in the image. So I apologise in advance for their lack of referencing, but to be honest, it was purely about seeing groups of imagery together, that for whatever reason, I enjoyed.
As I have managed to amass quite a few of these ‘collaged sheets’, I thought I would share them with you, in the hope that they may also provide some inspiration to you the readers, from their shape, colour, texture or out and out randomness : )
Do let me know your thoughts and which images catch your eye for whatever reason.
Here’s a few more of the ‘#colour_collective’ series I’ve been contributing to on twitter. Every friday at 7.30pm about 80+ illustrators all tweet their colour inspired illustration together, from a shade that’s been decided upon the previous saturday. It’s open to everyone, why not check it out on Facebook or Twitter and have a go !
The animals still manage to steal the show : )
I’ll be in London for the next few days, soaking up some southern culture and having a well earned break from the mac screen. Unlike this little hound, barking up the wrong tree by howling at the Mac Moon ! : )
Hopefully the prepared post for Friday will be delivered to you in one piece … flippers crossed !
See you all on Monday, have a great weekend.
Andrea Lauren hails originally from outside of London, but when her family moved to the USA in search of a warmer climate, she caught the travelling bug and has moved around the US visiting it’s great cities and taking in the sights. Lauren has always been interested in printmaking and specialises in hand carved lino-cut prints and a little silkscreen printing too.
She begins with an idea and a sketchbook illustration. I asked Andrea a little more about her work and processes.
How important are sketchbooks in your process of working out how a design will look ?
I do keep a number of different sketchbooks but they are often very rough ideas for the finished pieces. Sometimes they are ideas or themes. Sometimes sketches giving a general guide for composition. Imagining an idea as a relief print has become fairly fluent for me in the last year of concentrated practice. Sketchbooks for me are also a great way to remember and revisit thematic material which was completed earlier in my development and needs another go.
From the sketch, she duplicates the design onto lino that’s been inked with indian ink, in order to create a greater contrast when carving sections away. You can see how fine some of the carved details are, this requires not only sharp tools and a very steady hand but also a great degree of skill, dexterity and patience.
When you create a two colour print where one colour overlaps onto the first do you create one carving and then cut back into it for the second colour or create two separate lino pieces, one for each colour ?
Most often the multiple color prints are done with blocks carved for each separate color. Using a main block as a key for carving out the additional colors has been working pretty well, but I am always looking to evolve the processes and see what other potentials there are in this medium. I have worked in reduction prints on the occasion, but would like to explore some transparent ink printing and build up that knowledge before diving back into those.
What is your first memory of printing with lino ?
Thinking back about it, I remember just wading into carving and printmaking without too much struggle; it just sort of happened in a natural creative evolution of my work. There is an intoxicating smell of ink, the care and attention of inking the plate, placing the paper down in just the right placement, and the excitement of pulling the first good print off the block that keeps me coming back again and again. During some of my studies at Columbia University, I could always be found in the basement printmaking studio pulling prints from their Charles Brand presses. The printmaking class was focused on many traditional mediums — stone litho, copper etching, aquatint etching, and drypoint etching — but I worked on additional linocut projects independently since it was something to which I was drawn instinctively. The first prints were a series of musical instrument playing animals based on a collection of illustrations that was evolving at that time. The carving was rough, the execution of the prints was not amazing, but it was a true joy nevertheless.
I really like the way that Lauren photographs her prints accompanied with the components that have made that design.
Why do you think that you are so attracted to nature and animals in your work ?
Being connected is an overarching motivation for me as a person as well as in my work. It is easy to see how disconnected one can become with the technology available, but without respecting and acknowledging the incredible natural world it would be a much less rewarding life to live. When I am not working on a commission or personal project, taking walks to watch birds or just enjoy nature will be my choice for time well spent.
What is the worst and nicest parts of the process for you ?
The most frustrating thing is when a design concept does not live up to my expectation in the finished print and execution of the carving. Starting over after devoting a significant amount of time to an idea is quite hard for me. On the other hand, there are very many enjoyable parts of every process of printmaking. Creating imagery by hand, the meditative qualities of carving a block, the smell of ink and tactile nature of pulling prints are all traits that keep drawing me back to create more block prints.
Who’s work do you most admire and who would you most like to spend a day with (alive or dead) ?
William Morris, as I mentioned before. Also, Dahlov Ipcar is a fascinating artist and someone with whom I find a connection.
Her work has become more and more detailed and has led her to think about all over repeat patterns.
These Bees, printed in a gold colour on a darker background have also become all over repeats. Some fab designs here.
How natural was the progression of your work into all over repeats and printed fabrics ?
Repeat patterns are a complete joy to create. As in creating traditional relief carving art prints, designing a repeating pattern is a left and right brain process. There are technical aspects for designing a seamless repeat as well as a aesthetic quality of flow or balance in a good design. The work of William Morris has been a thread to which I would like to connect. That turn of the century era of new industrialization combining a return to traditional techniques for creating work is something which mimics a bit of our current place in time.
Do you enjoy collaborating with other companies when you see your work come to life on a whole variety of clothing and household items ?
Absolutely! I am not personally in the position to create product lines so it has been wonderful to see my work featured on a truly wide range of products. It is an honor for me when a company wants to collaborate.
For the future, do you have any plans to produce more fabric or stationery ranges yourself ?
Nothing concrete at this immediate time, but it is a long term goal to print my own textiles — screenprinted by hand or block printed.
You can treat yourself to some of Lauren’s designs on fabric over at Spoonflower or Woven Monkey. Or some of her block prints here. There’s a wealth of information about printing techniques and Lauren graciously shares with her readers what materials and basic supplies she uses when making her Stamps over on her blog.
Beautiful work and more patterns here. Many thanks to Andrea for sharing her beautiful work and thoughts with us today too. What a lovely start to the week, don’t you agree ?
I’ve been working on some new cards and am selling them here on my blog.
The designs are taken from a range of over 100 sketches I’ve been working on, so far all doggy related (sorry cat lovers !) and they are printed onto textured card and then cut out and placed on a sticky tab onto a card base, so that they become 3D.
They are priced at £3 per card or £10 for four cards (mixed pack of designs) with a £1.50 charge for postage in Europe or £3 overseas. Payments are dealt with securely by paypal, so please drop me a message craig @ fishink.co.uk and I can pop some fresh designs in the post today !