Tag Graphic Design

4 Corners: An Interview with Mo Woods

If race equality progressed at the same rate as technology, we’d be living on an amazing planet right now.

Yet, here we are in 2014 and there is little doubt that the playing field for people of colour looking to break into the world of design and visual communications is still not level. However, our profile designer this month is one man who has managed to break through and scale heights that befit his 6’ 10” frame.

A self-confessed perfectionist, and prodigious college basketball talent, whether working previously with the likes of design legends such as Pentagram or now as senior visual designer with technology giant Yahoo, he always brings his best game. And as co-founder of a pioneering social project that is helping introduce under-priviledged, inner-city kids to the world of design, he’s someone we can all certainly look up to.

Please be upstanding for Mr Maurice Woods.

Maurice Woods

Maurice ‘Mo’ Woods, graphic designer, co-founder of the Inneract Project and senior visual designer, Yahoo.

What’s your background?

My roots are in visual communication design. I received a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree and a Master’s Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. This is a great programme that taught me crucial fundamental skills I still use today. If you are at all serious about being in this business it is imperative that you find a good school with solid teachers that push you and have a good mix of other talented students.

CultureBusThe CultureBus logo was designed while at Pentagram

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

Well, my trajectory was not typical. I got into design via basketball. I was granted a basketball scholarship to play at the University of Washington, and after realising I might not make it to the NBA, I had to decide a major. My mother actually suggested I try graphic design, because I ‘liked to draw’. From her suggestion I took an intro to graphic design course. After the first class, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a designer.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I don’t think I thought of getting into the profession as a challenge. I think I had a personal challenge, and that was to prove that I could be good enough to work with the best designers in the business. I guess you can say that basketball had a profound influence on me. In a way, I think it was the competitiveness that sports ingrains in your spirit that makes you want to win, all the time. I was that way, although I never expressed it. It was more of an inside goal I had to reach. I would do anything I could to achieve the success I believed I could achieve.

Miles+DavisEnvisioning Blackness in American Graphic Design Poster Series, 27” x 40”

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I have a ton of influences. There have been a lot of people who inspire me, not just creatively, but through encouragement, sincerity and advice. I would say that some of my biggest design influences are Doug Wadden, Tony Gable, Kit Hinrichs and Chris Ozubko. I became very close to all of these guys and collectively, I learned a lot of what I now know through them. Doug Wadden and Chris were teachers of mine in both undergraduate and graduate school. They always gave me good solid advice, pushed me to move forward, and were a part of my growth in key phases of my career. Tony Gable, from a creative standpoint, was the first African American designer I encountered. Ironically enough, I stumbled across Tony’s work as I was entering into the school of design. I saw a poster he did at a poster shop. I asked the owner of the shop and he told me about Tony, and I connected to him through this way. Much like my trajectory into design, key experiences in my life I believe shaped the career path I have now. Tony, ‘til this day is still a good friend. Kit Hinrichs was an important person. I learned a lot from him. He probably does not even know it. I always tried to learn from everything down to the way he presented, to his incredible work ethic. Kit has been in the business for a very long time and ‘til this day still is usually the first one in the office and one of the last people to leave. I found that to be extremely inspirational and a trait I felt I needed to learn from. Especially from someone who has had a career as good as he has. 

NikeFrom a series of concepts developed for a project for Nike on an all-black basketball team that thrived in the United States in the period between 1904, when basketball was first introduced among African Americans on a wide scale organized basis, to 1950,

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

Hmmm, I get asked this a lot and the answer is none. I am actually very bad with this. There is not a single project that I feel was just right. I am a bit of a perfectionist. I always see way I could have made a project better. It is a curse and a blessing at the same time. However, the thing I am most proud of, currently is the Inneract Project. This is a free programme I started to expose inner-city youth and communities to careers in design. It is my life’s work. It inspires me because I have seen the work we do impact the lives of young people. As Inneract Project continues to grow, I get excited about the potential of our program developing a greater appreciation of design in the schools and inner-cities.

RobotsRobots exhibition that took place at the Experience Music Project Museum, Seattle. Designed while working at Pentagram

What would be your dream job or project?

My dream design job was to work at Pentagram Design. I worked there, so now I am working at Yahoo. There, I am working on my next current interest, interactive design. I consider myself very fortunate to able to work at this company.

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Most of the people I think would deserve the credit, already have the credit. Those who I know who don’t get enough credit, don’t care. I am one of those people. I, like so many others, do it for the love. But, make no mistake, we want to get paid fairly to do it too.

FistImage created as part of “Envisioning Blackness in American Graphic Design” project.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

The best advice I can give someone is to make goals for yourself, and never stop working til you get there. It sounds sort of like a cliché, but it’s not, really. It is actually pretty simple, and pretty much proven to net you some success. I wanted to be the best, and my competitiveness and work ethic would not let me give up. I practice my skills everyday. If I am putting together a Word doc to send to someone, I am thinking about the format. When I am at home, and moving things around in my house, I tend to think about composition, balance and symmetry. I admit, it is a compulsive behavior, but those little things have helped me fine-tune my skills and now I can work rather quickly and effectively when designing something for someone. It is the daily practice that enhances your skills — working everyday to get better.

What’s next for you?

The next step for me involves my fascination with technology, interactive design, education and community awareness. These areas of interest will more than likely influence the next big thing I do. We will have to see what happens next.

For more information visit www.inneractproject.org

Network:

EUROPE:

Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK is the UK’s largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics, showcasing works that uncompromisingly address politics, gender, violence, sexuality and altered states. It explores the full anarchic range of the medium with works that challenge categorisation, preconceptions and the status quo, alongside original scripts, preparatory sketches and final artwork that demystify the creative process. Open until 19 August 2014 at The British Library, 96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB. For more information visit www.bl.uk

THE CARIBBEAN:

Anything with Nothing: Art from the Streets of Urban Jamaica. The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to present an exhibition of street art from Kingston and environs. The exhibition is on view at the National Gallery until 11 July. National Gallery of Jamaica, 12 Ocean Blvd, Block C, Kingston, Jamaica, (W.I)
For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

THE US:

When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South queries the category of ‘outsider’ art in relation to contemporary art and black life. With the majority of work having been made between 1964 and 2014, the exhibition brings together a group of thirty-five intergenerational American artists who share an interest in the U.S. South as a location both real and imagined. Runs until 29 June 2014 at Studio Museum of Harlem, 144 West 125th Street, New York, New York (212) 864-4500. For more information visit www.studiomuseum.org

AFRICA:

Rotimi Fani-Kayode Retrospective: Autograph ABP presents the first major Rotimi Fani-Kayode museum retrospective in Africa. Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s photographs constitute a profound narrative of sexual and cultural difference, seminal in their deeply personal and political exploration of diaspora, desire and spirituality. In his large-scale colour and black and white portraits, the black male body becomes the focal point of a photographic enquiry: ancestral memories and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call ‘the technique of ecstasy’. Runs until 18 June at Iziko South African  National Gallery,  Cape Town, South Africa. Visit autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/solo-exhibition for more information.

POPCAP 2014 Call for Contemporary African Photography. Now into its third year, POPCAP ’14 welcomes contemporary photographic portfolio submissions for its annual competition. Five winners will be selected by a panel of 18 international judges. The winners will all be invited to exhibit their work internationally at five open-air POPCAP exhibitions in Basel and Berlin during the European month of photography and with the Cape Town Month of Photography, Lagos Photo Festival and Addis FotoFest. Deadline 1 July 2014. You can apply here.

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

4 Corners: An Interview with Barrington Braithwaite

This month we head to a very unique part of the Caribbean, Guyana. It is unique in the fact that it is not an island, but a sovereign state situated on the northern coast of South America. Historically known as the ‘Land of Many Waters’, its heritage can be found flowing through the veins of many notable people, including Baroness Valerie Amos, Lord Herman Ouseley, the late Bernie Grant MP, David Lammy MP, Trevor Philips and pioneering US activist Shirley Chisholm. Many artists and entertainers have roots in Guyana, such as the distinguished playwright, poet and author John Agard; British-based actors Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder and Cy Grant; and musicians such as Phil Lynott,, global superstar Rihanna and Eddy Grant, the platinum-selling musician and entrepreneur. It was Eddy who first mentioned the name of this month’s profiled creative to me, speaking with pride and reverence about the work of his fellow countryman. And who similarly I am proud to bring to your attention now. Introducing the graphic artist and illustrator, Barrington Braithwaite.

What’s your background?

I’m from roots that have produced folk in the arts and media. It’s kind of infra dig though, to talk about folks when the discourse is about self. I spent the formative years of my life with my godparents at Mahaica, rural Guyana, after my Adam and Eve went separate ways. There I was given the opportunity as an only child in their care to explore my imagination. My godparents encouraged my interests and only after their deaths did I realise that I had a privileged initiation to life – I actually have five sisters and four brothers. I was lucky that the Forbes Burnham post-independence Government of the 70s was developing youth-training organisations and bringing experts from overseas in different fields to train the youth of that period. I was interested in art or, I should say, I was compelled by this passion. However I became part of a young settlers co-op group after school in 1974 and there did courses in co-op management and field practices. The Cold War temperature was impacting on Guyana, I left the co-op and worked on the waterfront to survive, until I was encouraged in around 1981 by my friend ‘Fat Boy’ Herbert Archer, a poet, to take my portfolio – which wasn’t much – to Dr Denis Williams at the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology to negotiate a way out of the dog-eat-dog waterfront world. He engaged me and placed me through the training of a scientific illustrator, but I couldn’t help who I was and while on one particular archaeological site in the Northwest of Guyana’s Rain Forests, I wrote my first two stories to be illustrated. I was supposed to go to Scotland to complete my training but it was decided that if I went I wouldn’t return, so disgruntled I left the museum, and worked freelance as a commercial artist at the Guyana Chronicle. With the support of editors I developed and published several comic strips and serials. With a young family I started an advertising service to keep the pot boiling, and have maintained that while developing and self publishing my graphic magazines.

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As far back as I could remember I was enthralled by comic books and most of all telling stories using that medium. While in school I became the class artist. This fame extended even to higher forms, from helping with class art assignments to doing rip-offs of commando comic books in four-page exercise-book middle-page pull outs. These were sold for a penny. I had to wait until 1981, when I was employed by Denis Williams. I presented him with an illustrated story I had done named The Shrouded Legacy. He took me and my story down to the national newspapers who I think he bullied to accept it, and I was guided through my first contract and received my first cheque. When it hit the Sunday pages I received in the weeks that followed great harassment from friends who then pointed out my errors which were many. I had used the only drawing pen I had, didn’t understand the concept of lettering or word balloons and was not a good artist qualified for publishing by the standards of the day. Eerie, Creepy and the Warren Publishing line had enveloped our horizons. I prayed for my series to finish and the torment to stop. I did not fold up and it took years with my wife as the female model and some old muscle magazines for the males to develop my skill, this was a weird mix and with the critical help of my buddy Andy Anderson I emerged with the Elder comic strip, that through negotiations the newspapers carried. As I said before, the policy of the Government back then was to encourage the local arts, but there were standards to be met. I had decided by 1983 to develop a medium for the talents that were directing my thoughts. I had no idea at the time of the necessary independent support systems that were needed to make this happen, I concentrated on making my artwork meet the acceptable standards. In 1988 I published the trilogy of The Shadow of the Jaguar. In the ‘90s I wrote and illustrated The Legend of the Silk Cotton Tree – this went from graphic magazine to stage play in 2010. I work under the Company Name Spectrum Creative Productions and administrate a small advertising service, and have done work for UNICEF, the West Indian Cricket Board and other agencies. The goal of a pure graphic magazine publishing outfit continues to propel the production of several new projects that are yet to be published.

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

There is no publishing industry in the CARICOM belt and the comic book industry is even further away from this reality. The most unexpected and vicious opposition to my work as a self-publisher did not come from competition, but from those who had appointed themselves the custodians of proper culture in Guyana. These were characters that were more British than the English who had ruled British Guiana. The idea of an Afro Guyanese hero was offensive I think to both the caricature class and the PPP government. The Shadow of the Jaguar strip in the National Chronicle Newspaper was dropped after the PPP Government was elected in 1992. I had long concluded that Guyana was not the world and since I had always trained my art along the guidelines of a holistic illustrator’s universe, I proceeded now as artist activist resident in my country. The challenges also lay in understanding the rules of protecting one’s work on the international market place, and having a working understanding of contract law. With the rise of new technologies to apply that to production, also charting a network for collaborations wherever the veins progressively lead. Venture capital has always been the unpredictable Cerberus, from a working-class hemisphere talent as me. Cultivating and honing one’s talents and creative skills were the first of the labours, next lay the support forces, space for work, raising a family and no external finances, rising above this is a task of pure will. Only the perseverance, the muse that from its inception was the driving force, delivers the irrational incentive to face these factors towards the realisation of the real fulfillment that is having the complete means present to publish as I see fit the full studio of works that encompasses the last 35 years.

Who and what are your greatest inspirations and influences?

I was enthralled by the Sunday cartoons and comic books and I had inherited artistic and the scribe’s talent. Then my greatest influences came from the debates in my father’s workshop about local legends, aspects of Caribbean history, Biblical accuracy against movie stuff and other subjects that preoccupied my serious conversations into early manhood. Some of these subjects required research, like when I thought [at about ten years old] that the Ten Commandmentsmovie reflected things that had happened in Spain – it isn’t funny bro. Reading brought me new ideas and information and in discussion with my peers they rebuked me that I should do comic strips about our topics – a herculean task, but an inspiration. Realising that my talents can fill a vacuum with edutainment tales and characters was the greatest inspiration that propelled me into this career.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would like to think that I’m currently working on my most valued project. I first attempted the current project, which in its concept presents WWII and then links it to other historical epochs in a mystical way, because this project has some moons to go – I can’t get into the details. What I can say was that I started it around 1984 and I had shown Dr Williams the first concept issue. He proposed to purchase it for the Department of Culture’s Library, I was been trained as a scientific illustrator and was finding it difficult to survive on the Government’s stipend. He then asked me where I was taking the story, what were the elements I wanted to explore? I explained to him what I wanted to do, what had gripped my imagination. He shook his head and explained to me that I should give the ideas about 20 years to grow because I didn’t have the information at the time, he asked me some questions, to which I replied, he then answered them for me to illustrate his point then assured me not to bother with Hollywood and to cover both African and European history deciphering the in-between propaganda that is inserted in historical works, by cross reading. Reading that included the metaphors of the mystery systems, and Dr Williams concluded prophetically, that I’ll know when I’m qualified to address the topic. Yes I was pissed, but convinced by his questions and his counter-answers that I didn’t know as much as I thought, to do this work of fiction. I was mentally oriented that I must be conditioned to face the exploration, and exploitation of ideas with an understanding of the subject, whether it’s the geography, architecture or costumes. With the medium of graphics one has to come close to accurate. The origins of conflicts cannot be taking for granted either. For example – the current Ukrainian issue, where did it start, was it in the Middle ages, the Stalinist era, or with the Nazi era? A framework for a fictional work has to be grounded in a mythic or historic reference sphere , from there, the poetic license can be applied. So that attitude towards work compels research for development and if you’re operating outside of a major budget , then the work is on you and it will take time, lots of time. Dr Williams was right; I couldn’t do honest work on the subject matter of the graphic series now in progress without a wealth of historic time travels, and a working knowledge of religious beliefs across migrations into their modern innuendos. Because it’s not yet protected I can’t provide insights, except to say it’s my pet project. I’ve just finished a recent pet project that I’ve been working on for years, a graphic novel on the Haitian Revolution, a whopping 123 pages, hand coloured and compartmented into five sections. From the period of composing the first page, outside of the years of research, it took three years to complete and now it’s the stuff of nerves to work out the deal that will take it to pay-day. This can be considered my current showpiece, because it was never done before. But as time goes the showpiece changes with the season.

What would be your dream project?

The greatest achievement as a job for me is to be able to work on set designs and costumes for one of my graphic works turn into a movie, then with enough money I’ll finance research into a lens that can peer into the stuff dogs howl at.

Who in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition?

That list would begin with my parents, whose genetics gave me a certain persuasion, then my muse, who’s out there and whispers and guides in some uncanny, save the moment coincidences, I’m still searching the science magazines on the data of the human brain to see if they’re any clarifications that suit my muse experiences – none so far. Mr Hunter, the head master of the school I attended on the rural east coast of Demerara in my formative years, was a tremendous influence. My godparents Abel Burke and Elizabeth Cumberbatch, who raised me in my formative years until their demise when I was about 14 years old, had indulged my curiosities for toy soldiers, comic books and had engaged me in conversations about the travels of Odysseus and Aesop’s tales, they can be credited with shaping the foundations of my later creative career development. My buddy Andy Anderson, who was my personal critic on the evolution of my art, the long after-school debates on technique in the Art room of Queens College. My Mother Grace lived outside of Guyana, my father was the resident parent, and Hubert Braithwaite never stood in the way of my boyhood interests, though he guided me towards the illustrated Classics and coerced me to read my first novel which was the Louis L’amour book ‘To Tame a Land ‘, my dad read lots of western novels,. he did subtly guide me towards Architecture and furniture design, he built houses and had a furniture making operation, which I found exciting but was mundane in respect to the creative stuff that was compelling me. My wife Donna and children Michelle, Taharka and Makeda who were all seconded for model services over the years, and as the photographer when I had to be the model for immediate anatomy fixes. They endured my on-the-job hastily applied lessons on the model or photography specifics, they snarled and scratched and I growled, until we got it done. When I started in the media, at the Chronicle there were people there who were interested in the unveiling of local graphic storylines, and there are names I must include: Claudette Earle the Sunday editor, Godfrey Wray another editor, Adam Harris, Frank Pilgrim and Ulric Captain, all managers at Chronicle, the latter who I was working with to expand to the Caribbean to have a general pull out graphic publication When the Government changed. My pal Poloma, now Professor Poloma Mohammed, a playwright and writer herself who was always there, and David Granger [Brig. Rtr] whose publications on local history gave me the opportunity to interpret much of our local history in graphics. These are the pivotal persons who have come to thought in related fields. And finally the late Poet ‘Fat Archer’, and the small businesses with an interest in the arts who always supported my graphic projects.

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I would hope that certain systems are in place with the activism of myself and others to make the acceptance of the local graphic storyteller friendlier and with a greater respect for the value of the work produced. The road of the illustrator, painter, poet and writer is not an easy one, the more talented the artist is, will mean the more challenges, and with originality must come the strength to defend the new explored territory. Young aspirants to the graphic arts must understand that they’re embarking into a serious field, especially if they are going to write their own creative or documentary projects. They must, apart from honing their talents, mastering the areas of anatomy, materials and technique, have a historic understanding of the evolution of the field, from the caves to the current top guns, whose work continue to inspire and move us onto our own. For me it was the unknown artists who did the Commando comics, then on the local Guyana scene it was Rudy Seymour who did the first local comics I knew. I later engaged the work of Tom Feelings. Frank Frazzeta , Bernie Wrightson, Will Eisner all came after I had the gift of Treasure Island illustrated by Newell Wyeth. Old magazines led me to the French and Europe, Eugene Delacroix, Dore’ and the guy who in my view jump-started the modern fantasy art trend: William Blake. But this reservoir of knowhows about the field wouldn’t be enough. The practicing artist has to understand the legal world of copyright, to protect from being sued for violating the commanding piece of art or photography you adopted verbatim into your stuff, or if the situation is vice versa, then copyright becomes your best friend. This wouldn’t be complete without a working understanding of contract law. Contract law is a significant crossroad process that will build or break you – from experience I can tell you this. Your talents can work for you or for some other wiseguy, based on what you know when you leave the environs of your muse and enter the entangling vines of the rainforests out there.

What’s next for you?

The next limb on the tree of life I’m reaching for is for the fruit that enables me to launch internationally the pivotal four graphic series I want to place on the market, this would entail the cash-flow to recruit back-up talents and publish the first two unhindered, then the other two series mentioned. This would open the door to introduce, based on the response of license relationships solicited or attracted explorations into comparative mediums, that would allow realising the exploration of other latent ideas for different audiences. Without further whimsical elaborations, the above capture what lies ahead.

A very special thanks to Patrice Hinds for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network

THE U.S:

Serigrafía surveys the powerful tradition of information design in California’s Latino culture, featuring thirty influential silkscreens from the 1970s to the present. Beginning in the late 1960s, graphic art created at and distributed by artist-led collectives, or centros, contributed significantly to the public discourse. Emerging in concert with the civil rights movement and demanding political and social justice for marginalized groups, these prints confront political, economic, social, and cultural issues on both a personal and a global level. Runs until April 20, 2014 at Pasadena Museum of California Art. For more information visit http://www.pmcaonline.org/

THE CARIBBEAN:

Rincón International Film Festival. On a mission to support and promote culture and the arts in Puerto Rico through the medium of film, the festival seeks to inspire student, future and current filmmakers in the art of filmmaking.From7-13 April 2014. For more information visit http://www.rinconfilm.com

EUROPE:

Japanese Poster Art : Cherry Blossom & Asceticism. Intended as a cultural contribution to the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Switzerland, the exhibition presents the history of the poster in Japan, where this medium is primarily known as an artistic statement and image advertising. Works by three old masters, Shigeo Fukuda, Kazumasa Nagai and Ikko Tanaka – from a generous donation to the museum – are to be seen alongside posters from 1950 to the present day. Here the special aesthetic of Japanese graphic designs reflects the dialogue between Eastern and Western visual culture. Runs until 25 May 2014 at Museum für Gestaltung Zürich.

3rd Curacao International Film Festival 2014. 2 – 6 April 2014 at The Cinemas Curaçao‎
1 Baden Powellweg
 Willemstad, Rotterdam. For more information visit thecinemascuracao.com

AFRICA:

Fashioning Africa is set to bring some of the continent’s most exciting contemporary designers to Johannesburg. The multidisciplinary exhibition explores the history of African fashion and surveys the current landscape of fashion in Africa. The exhibition runs until 27 April at the Museum of African Design. Admission: R 30
 Museum opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00am – 5.00pm. For more info visit http://www.moadjhb.com

A Super Hero Identity Crisis

poster-supermanreveal

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about ‘superheroism’. Partly, because of my Afro Supa Hero exhibition currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood, that is centered around my personal collection of African diaspora pop cultural action figures and comics; but also because I see it as a theme that is gradually becoming more visible in society. A trend, I believe is primarily due to the phenomenal rise of gaming across all different platforms and devices. Virtual worlds offering momentary escapes from our real lives through new identities, avatars and alter egos. Sophisticated pursuits that are no longer purely the preserve of children, but also taken through to adulthood.

Although, I am not a big ‘gamer’ myself, I find this whole subject fascinating, especially when I relate it to the African-Caribbean experience in the UK and how many people of my generation; the 1960s first generation Britons, born of Caribbean parents; spent years searching for their own identity.

Even though a sense of displacement was something we shared with our ‘brothers and sisters’ in the Caribbean and the US, I believe our experience in Britain was quite unique. The patriotism, they showed for their respective countries, was a feeling that was often completely alien to me and many of my peers.

Here, we were a group of citizens who felt no more at home in the country of our birth, than we did in the homeland of our parents. In Barbados I was called a ‘Little Englander’ yet in Britain I was seen as a ‘bloody foreigner’. It was an identity crisis that took me years to come to terms with, and even to this day, I still tend to identify more with being a Londoner first and foremost, than being British.

It is experiences like these that have pushed me throughout the course of my life, starting in my early teens, to explore and embrace African Diaspora history and its legions of super heroes and heroines. It fuels my belief that uncovering the truth in ‘History’ is the great equalizer that can help address many of the negative perceptions that surround race, religion, sexuality and gender.

It also informed the approach that I took in creating my Afro Supa Star Twins™ that adorn my exhibition branding and merchandise.  From the outset, I wanted my characters to be accessible to everyone. I was deliberate in making them twins, one male and one female because of my belief in harmony and the equality of the sexes.

In terms of the Afro style, on one hand, and purely for selfish reasons, it embraces the main phase of my childhood; but on the other it was also a dynamic time of ‘Black self-pride’ and ‘Afro-consciousness’ as the formality of the 1960s civil rights and counter-culture movements, paved the way for the free form funkiness of the 1970s.

Although certain strides have been made in the depiction of black cultural heroes and heroines, one issue that still continues to linger is the assumption that a white super hero is for everyone, yet a black super hero is only for black people.  Actually, the ultimate global super hero right now should be from the Han Chinese community, if we are to take our cue from the latest global population statistics.

If we are to go by history, and embrace the scientific facts that suggest all life on the planet came out of Africa, then a super hero of African origin is an entirely fitting concept to be embraced by all.

I have no doubt, the continued portrayal of the white super hero savior of humanity is down to the historical legacy of racism and the continued white male dominated power structure within the worlds of media, television and film. Maybe once they are finally able to accept the ancient African roots of their identity, the world will be a better place for us all.

4 Corners : An Interview with Errol Donald AKA Pride

This month, while we face the winter blues of New Year, we stay home in London and in the warm company of someone I have been blessed to call a friend for more than 30 years. Mr Errol Donald, AKA Pride. We were initially brought together in our teens through a mutual friend, because of our love for George Clinton and all things P-Funk. Followed by a shared passion for design and creativity, as time passed and we developed our own career paths as creative professionals. Throughout that time I have always admired Errol greatly. Like some designer superhero, he effortlessly glided between the worlds of graffiti and graphic design, making his mark on both sides of the track. In the ‘80s, as his alter ego ‘Pride’, he was a founder member of one of Europe’s most celebrated and respected graffiti crews, The Chrome Angelz. He custom-designed t-shirts, like his classic ‘Nike/Spike’ design, which was a total game-changer in my opinion. Then followed a period working as a designer for the classic French brand, Michelin. And in more recent times, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly for a former graffiti artist, working for the international law firm, Hogan Lovells as an executive creative director. As a creative facilitator and educator, Donald has also worked with the Letter Exchange delivering lectures and workshops in graffiti and typography both here and abroad. And he continues to work tirelessly in the community sharing his mad skills and experiences with young people. There’s a lot in a tag, and in Errol’s case its truly fitting. Pride by name, pride by nature.Errol Donald

Errol Donald AKA Pride: creative director, lettering artist, lecturer

What’s your background?

I was born and raised in West London to Jamaican parents. I was fascinated by the many ways in which the youth of my elder brother’s generation chose to express their own identities. From music, politics, right through to fashion and attitude. Culture and creativity seemed to go hand in hand. In trying to be different, I drew inspiration not just from my immediate surroundings and largely Caribbean culture, but also from anything that seemed to challenge the norm, and so I became very curious about how culture was being expressed elsewhere. I studied graphic design at Camberwell School of Art and enjoyed the multi-disciplinary environment and emphasis on traditional practice. Around the same time, Hip Hop had made its way into the UK, and I was hooked! The references to popular culture, politics, and community, confidently expressed by my peers caught me at a time when I was ready to make my own mark as a creative artist. I quickly established myself within London’s Hip Hop community as a graffiti artist with The Chrome Angelz. As a collective, we shared a passion for the visual arts and traditional arts practice and sought to find a way of honouring the original pioneers of the movement, by developing a distinctly European aesthetic. It was a completely new and exciting education for me. I took a year out from my degree studies to paint, collaborate, and experiment. We were very active across the UK and in Europe, yet retained the freedom to carry out solo projects that took us all in new and interesting directions. The autonomy gave me the ideal opportunity to freely express my own ideas across a range of creative disciplines. The Spike T-shirt was a self-initiated project. I wanted to capture the tension between cultural and corporate identity in a single image. It was part of a series and was undoubtedly the most popular! I returned to complete my degree with a lot of confidence, and dedicated my final year to academic research that examined the creative, social, and wider cultural impact of graffiti culture.Chrome Angelz poster

Chrome Angelz poster

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

After graduating, I made the most of my mixed skillset and gained a lot of industry exposure through film, TV and advertising projects. I also began to play a more meaningful role in my community, working in the arts and education, and was invited on to the board of ACAVA, an arts charity based in West London. A few months later, I joined the in-house team at Michelin – a very traditional brand with a proud lineage. Though a little challenging at first, there I was able to utilise my range of skills and experiences and made the transition to commercial branding, which to me shared a number of similarities with brand-conscious nature of graffiti and hip-hop culture. I’ve gone on to enjoy a successful career in the business sector, leading creative teams for global brands across a number of industry sectors (energy, finance, property, law). I love the intercultural enagement the most, as there’s always a part of me that’s able to facilitate a sense of shared understanding.'Nike/Spike'

‘Nike/Spike’

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

As an artist, my early efforts to take graffiti art into (then new) spaces polarised opinion amongst graffiti artists, and the general public. Both audiences were wary of the impact that graffiti would have on their respective communities as it sought ‘acceptance’ in the public realm. As a design professional, my mixed skillset opened some doors, and kept others firmly closed. The familiar dilemma of tailoring my portfolio was worsened by the fact that clients were wary the negative impact on brand and reputation brought on by association with graffiti culture.TDK press ad

TDK press ad

Who and/or What are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My parents and my son, Wesley. Broadcaster and author Alex Pascal was the first to paint a picture of the world outside my window by weaving together culture and creativity. Books: Photographer Charlie Phillips’ – ‘Notting Hill in the Sixties’, Watching my name go by – Norman Mailer and Jon Naar, Getting Up – Craig Castleman, and many more! Not surprisingly, I’m drawn to maverick creativity. My tastes are quite varied and include everything from Thelonious Monk to P-Funk, Alvin Ailey to David Mamet and Ricky Jay. I also admire the wit of Patrick Caulfield and the works of designers Ron Arad, Philippe Starck and Terence Conran. It goes without saying that graffiti and hip-hop culture have provided many amazing moments. I was year into my degree and came across an article on the visionary artist and performer  Rammellzee. His unique theories on lettering and language left me mesmerised.Ties for Michelin

Ties for Michelin

What is your best piece of work or the project you are most proud of?

My first exhibition at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol means a great deal as it was my first gallery experience, and I think it one of the first shows in the UK dedicated to graffiti art. I’ve been lucky to work on a number of projects that I am passionate about. From my first press illustration for TDK, to branding Brixton’s Rough and Ready basketball tournament. I love type and lettering, and recently became a member of Letter Exchange, where I gave a lecture on the aesthetics of graffiti art to a mixed audience of lettering professionals, friends, and family members, most of whom had no idea of my ‘creative past’! In commercial terms, I’m very proud to have led the rebranding programme for  international law firm Hogan Lovells. I had already completed a number of similar projects for other companies, but the scale of the project, spanning different teams and countries made the project rewarding.Work in Bristol's Arnolfini Gallery

Work in Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery

What would be your dream job or project?

Through my company Mindspray, I want to expand my work as a facilitator and consultant to build sustainable links between education, vocational training and business. I’m passionate about collaboration and exchange, and would love to create a global initiative that drew both culture and commerce together.Work for Brixton's Rough and Ready basketball tournament

Work for Brixton’s Rough and Ready basketball tournament

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

Cornbread, Iz, Blade, Barbera 62 & Eva 62, Stay High 149, Tracy 168, Seen, Kase 2, Phase 2, Lee Quinones and Dondi are among the many important figures and pioneers of graffiti culture. Colin Brignall and Dave Farey – for Letraset! What more can I say? Tony Messenger, my tutor at Camberwell who allowed me to take a year out to follow my passion. Artists Simon Cooley and Rita Keegan were amongst the few practising artists to offer advice and encouragement as I swapped sable for aerosol. London’s hip-hop community during the ‘80s for doing things that I’ve never seen before. Or since. All the educators, academics, researchers and many others who have shared their knowledge and experiences with me. Too numerous to list here, all have helped to shape my understanding of cultures past and present, and deserve much credit.Taxonomy

Taxonomy

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Always Be Curious.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just completed a creative campaign for the international charity Coaching for Hope, who use football to create better futures for young people in western and southern Africa. Supported by FIFA, HSBC, Hogan Lovells and nPower, the project will raise awareness around the challenges faced by young women and girls playing sport in South Africa, and aims to educate young women and girls about their rights to play football and remain safe when faced with discrimination and violence. By visiting townships and areas of high unemployment where the work is undertaken, my goal is to build awareness of the campaign and to extend the reach of the programme to other regions and countries where young women and girls face similar issues.Hogan Lovells identity

Hogan Lovells identity

Network

THE U.S:

My Rock Stars: Volume 2, the first American solo show by Moroccan-born artist Hassan Hajjaj. The body of work produced for this exhibition is a continuation of Hajjaj’s ‘Rock Stars’ series, in which the artist portrays his close personal friends in the guise of ‘rock stars’. Taking his pop-up studio through Morocco, London and Paris, Hajjaj’s approach combines the spontaneity of street portraiture with the language of fashion photography, creating an image that simultaneously evokes urban culture and the haute couture of glossy magazines. Runs until 22 February at Gusford Gallery, 7016 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038For more info visitwww.gusfordgallery.com

Albus is South African photographerJustin Dingwall’s solo exhibition made in collaboration with Thando Hopa. It explores the aesthetics of Albinism in contrast with the idealised perception of beauty. Albinism touches every ethnic group and is characterised by the insufficiency of melanin that determines skin and hair color. Rejected, prejudiced and discriminated individuals suffering from albinism in Southern Africa are likely to become targets and victims of physical attacks and mutilations. The project reflects the ability to look inside ourselves and re-invent norms of beauty. M.I.A. Gallery 1203 A Second Avenue Seattle, 98101 WA, USA. For more info visithttp://m-i-a-gallery.com

THE CARIBBEAN:

Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival 2014. Featuring a stellar line-up of international artists, this firmly established event on the global festival calendar takes place between 31 January and 1 February at Greenfield Stadium, Trelawny, Jamaica. For more information visit http://jamaicajazzandblues.com

EUROPE:

Tom Eckersley: Master of the Poster. To mark the centenary of legendary graphic designer Tom Eckersley’s birth, London College of Communication presents an exhibition of iconic Eckersley poster designs which celebrate his enormous contribution to graphic communication and design education in Britain. Exhibition Open: 11 – 29 January 2014, 10:00am – 5:00pm (closed on Sundays) London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle SE1 6SB.For more info visit http://www.arts.ac.uk/lcc/

Herbert Bayer’s Commercial Graphics, 1928-1938 is a special exhibition at the Bauhaus Archive dedicated to the work of the Bauhaus teacher – between his departure from the Bauhaus and his emigration to the USA. The exhibition showcases the commercial graphic work of Bayer during the Weimar Republic and in Nazi Germany, after his departure from the Bauhaus. With his work for Dorland Studio, Bayer continued to be one of the most successful and highest-earning graphic artists of the period. At The The Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design, Klingelhoferstrasse 14 10785 Berlin Germany. For more information visit http://www.bauhaus.de

AFRICA:

ONOMOllywood, a collaborative project by photographers Antoine Tempé and Omar Victor Diop of twenty images inspired by iconic moments from great American and European films. Cinema as a universal art form transcends barriers, be they geographic, cultural, or racial. Iconic scenes have influenced popular culture globally. ONOMOllywood reimagines these famous scenes set in the dynamic cities of Dakar and Abidjan where hotels become the metaphorical juncture. As crossroads, they represent forums where cultures and people from around the world co-exist and merge in a permanent cycle of reinventions and reinterpretations. Onomo Hotel Dakar Airport Route de l’Aéroport BP 38233 Dakar, Yoff, Senegal. For info visit  http://www.onomohotel.com

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

 

SUPERMANDELA. Let the spirit live on!

Although I never had the privilege of meeting ‘Madiba’, I was fortunate to be in South Africa in 1994, just a month before South Africa’s first ever multi-racial elections since the Apartheid regime had finally been dismantled. At the time I was working professionally as an Art Director for a mainstream London advertising agency, Still Price Lintas; and embarking on my first foreign shoot to make a series of TV commercials in Cape Town. Tensions were running high from all sectors of the society, as no one knew what actions might emerge as a result of this new democracy. But on 10 May 1994 in Pretoria, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first Black President. It was also around this time that I started building my collection of African diaspora action figures and comics. A collection, that I have been able to realise as an exhibition called ‘Afro Supa Hero’ and which is currently on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London until 9 February 2014.
'SuperMandela' © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.‘SuperMandela’ © 2013 Jon Daniel. All rights reserved.
I actually came up with the idea for this image, ‘SuperMandela’ several years ago, but had never got around to putting it down until now. I believe much of the ethos of my ‘Afro Supa Hero’ concept is perfectly embodied in the spirit of Mandela. A man of such inner strength, wisdom, vision, courage, and conviction, he brought a divided nation together and commanded the world’s attention and respect. That’s power! Or in the words of the man himself, Amandla!

4 Corners: An Interview with Everton Wright

In October, we in the UK celebrate Black History Month. The tradition started 26 years ago and provides a small, but well established window of opportunity to focus on the achievements of primarily African and African-Caribbean people in the UK. Befitting this historical date in the calendar, I wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to someone who I feel has made a significant contribution to the art and design landscape.

Everton Wright is one of a handful of designers of African-Caribbean origin who has successfully run and sold his own mainstream London design consultancy. He created highly influential, impactful and celebrated work, particularly in the fields of music and popular culture, that remains relevant and respected to this day. Wright is a man, who, through his thirst for the new, continues to evolve his art, which defies age or categorisation.Everton Wright

Everton Wright: Creative entrepreneur and artist

What’s your background?

I am a British artist, with parentage from Jamaica. My works is a conscious ‘mash-up’ of drawing and sculpture, combined with digital film and live installations. The work explores the intricate connections between the body and our experience of the modern environment, and this is communicated through bold interactive art, also using urban and rural landscapes as my canvas. I studied graphic design at Middlesex University, received a first class degree, and continued on to train as an artist in mixed media painting at Central St Martin’s College of Art, where I did my foundation. I also trained in film and video production at Four Corners London. As an award-winning creative director, with a professional background in commercial graphic design, I founded consultancy Creative Hands, which was responsible for creating some of most iconic and memorable music brands and imagery of the late eighties. The company ran for 17 years and was sold in 2004. Over the last nine years, art has become my focus, with the creation of Evewright Studio. I have participated in several group and solo exhibitions with my Walking Drawings project. In 2012 one of my ‘Walking Drawings’ installation prints was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art.Jamiroquai illustration

Jamiroquai illustration

How did you get started?

I started as a junior designer at a company called Design Solutions based in Soho in 1988. The best thing I learnt there was how to be logical with my thought processes when solving design problems. I had creative energy in abundance back then and being in such an environment helped me focus and taught me a lot about the process of how design and creativity was bought and sold. The industry was still very young and graphic design was beginning to be taken seriously by all type of businesses. You could say there was the beginning of bit of a design boom.Work for Talawa Theatre Company

Work for Talawa Theatre Company

What challenges did you face in getting into the industry?

There were not many black designers, let alone companies owned by black designers, when I started out. The industry is still very light in that regard today. So when I set up Creative Hands, it was quite a challenge getting started and growing the company. Overcoming some clients’ perceptions was another barrier we had to deal with. When clients saw the quality of work we produced they would call us in but when I arrived in the offices we had to first overcome the negative stereotype as black men. On more than one occasion a receptionist would mistake me for the courier picking up and delivering a package. I always maintain a high creative output and would always go the extra mile for my clients. The saying that you are as good as your last job ran true for us. We were based in the now-famous Hoxton Square area, but when we were there, only designers like Malcolm Garrett or Neville Brody were our neighbours. Hoxton was a place where not many people wanted to be but it suited me because it had an edge, which is still there today. I believe the Hoxton Hotel is where one of our old offices used to be. The challenge was to develop an impressive and diverse client roster, from music and arts to corporate. I was happy to say that I was able achieve that and eventually sold the company, successfully exiting, which for any business, especially design, wasn’t an easy thing to achieve.Work by Everton Wright

Work by Everton Wright

Who are your greatest inspirations?

Not quite everything, but there’s a lot! Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’a ‘Rumble in the Jungle’Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Ofili’s ‘Dung paintings’,  Melvin Van Peebles’ Blaxploitation movies, the Lucian Freud painting of the Queen, Neville Brody’s ‘The Face’ magazine design, Bob Marley’s ‘No woman no cry’, Francis Bacon’s screaming paintings, Damian Hirst’s Shark in a Tank, British landscapes –  especially the Scottish Highlands, Studio One Reggae, Peter Saville’s New Order Record sleeves, Usain Bolt’s 9.58sec 100 metre world record, Steve McQueen’s film Hunger, Turner nominee Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, invisible Black People, my son and granddaughter. My influences are wide ranging I could go on and on. Art, art history, photography, film, sculpture, performance, typography, paintings, all types of music and sound. Drawings have been the foundation my creative practice and I am rarely seen without a sketchbook. Having a good foundation at St Martin’s really helped formulate the way I look at the world. When I started my degree one of my tutors gave me a book on Milton Glaser.  I just loved the way he was able to work between art and graphics, which gave me a much-needed doorway into how I approached graphic design. When I started to work professionally I have always incorporated the same ideologies, which mean you use whatever appropriate medium to solve a client solution. So even now my art studio works on a wide range of projects. I incorporate everything from film with sculpture and digital installation using coding, to creating public interaction projects with drawing and performance, to traditional design and print. It’s just creative expression to me, the medium I use is irrelevant.Red green experiments

Red green experiments

What is the project you are most proud of?

I find my current Walking Drawing films and project very special. I never try to look back at my designs; however seeing the Jamiroquai campaigns I produced still gives me a buzz. We designed the band’s first two albums in the ’90s and the branding became quiet iconic, it got our name out there. I recently moved house and found all the original artworks produced by hand with the mark up instruction attached, complete with a series of huge flyposters. The ‘Spliff Man’ poster for ‘Space Cowboy’ is still my favourite, even though I don’t smoke. That whole project got us noticed. It is much harder now for young designers with the scaling down of the music industry and marketing budgets. There are fewer places out there where talented young creative can get their work seen.Campaign for Jamiroquai

Campaign for Jamiroquai

What would be your dream job?

I’m lucky. I’m currently doing my dream job playing with sand and film cameras. Making art is the most interesting and engaging thing for me at the moment. I have always been a person who has enjoy the exploration of ideas and with the merging together of media in all forms it’s the most exciting time to be a creative – and especially an artist. Clients are also more open minded as to new ways to reach audiences with the exponential growth of new media. With Evewright Studio I am building a dynamic art practice and I am now working on a new series of Walking Drawings from Africa across the diaspora. It’s a challenge but I suppose that’s my dream project at the moment and I always go for that dream.Walking Drawing

Walking Drawing

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Graphic designers: Henry Obasi At PPaint; best animator: Osbert Parker (Bafta-nominated several times); illustrator: Benjamin Wachenje; advertising: Tre­vor Robin­son OBE at Quiet Storm; photographer: Franklyn Rodgers. Don’t get me going on artists or you’ll run out of space!Work by Everton Wright

Work for Darker than Blue

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Go for anything with technology, especially mobile – ‘there’s gold in them there hills’. Do what you set out to do. Then go do something else. Keep moving and keep innovating and don’t be afraid to be being creative. Clients expect designers to be a little crazy, that’s what they pay you for.Jamiroquai icon

Jamiroquai icon

What’s next for you?

I am a full-time visual artist working in a variety of media from sculpture to film and have been developing a series of installations call Walking Drawings, which I hope to exhibit next year. A Walking Drawing is a large-scale drawing undertaken by Evewright with a combination of freehand and mechanical tools on a vast landscape (canvas) of at least a quarter of a mile in the early hours of the morning. The drawing then becomes pathways and people of different ages, genders and cultures all dressed in black or colours are led on to it and invited to walk its lines in various formats and patterns. The public are invited to walk these lines to engage with, and experience a drawing in a new way to become participants in the creation of the artwork rather than an observer. This unique and evocative art installation consists of three films shot on Redcam, a series of 12 large scale prints and a floor installation sculpted with ten inch in height figures out of waste metal. For more information  and to see the film trailers go to: www.evewrightstudio.comand www.evewright.com And of course I’m designing all the print for the exhibition.Walking Drawing with horses

Walking Drawing with horses

Network:

THE U.S:

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980 chronicles the vital legacy of the African American arts community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work and connections with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California. The exhibition presents approximately 140 works by 32 artists active during this historical period, exploring the rising strength of the black community in Los Angeles as well as the increasing political, social, and economic power of African Americans across the nation. Until 11 November at MoMA PS1. 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, NY
Hours: Thurs–Mon, Noon–6:00 PM. For more information visit www.momaps1.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

Stir It Up Film & Music Festival. A showcase of some of the best work coming from film and music industry professionals from African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the festival offers performances, screenings and workshops. Additionally there are conferences on film and music, as well as other topics relating to Caribbean culture and world music. November 1, 2013 @ 8:00 am – November 30, 2013 Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.

EUROPE:

Kehinde Wiley: ‘The World Stage’: Jamaica is the internationally recognised, African-American artist’s first ever solo exhibition. The exhibition features Jamaican men and women assuming poses taken from 17th and 18th Century British portraiture, the first one in the ‘World Stage’ series to feature portraits of women. The show runs until 16 November at the Stephen Friedman Gallery, 25-28 Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AN. For more information visit http://www.stephenfriedman.com/exhibitions

AFRICA:

Afropolitain, a solo exhibition of images by Ananias Léki Dago presents works from three specific series that were developed over a six year period : Shebeen, Mabati and Bamako Crosses. While travel, or rather the discovery gained along the way, is essential to the work of Dago, Afropolitain is a visual notebook of encounters that have fed his numerous journeys. Documented in black and white, in these intimate experiences we see through the usage of acute details of the everyday, how Dago articulates his questions on the urban environment. Until Nov. 24  Fondation Charles Donwahi pour l’Art Contemporain  06 BP 228 Abidjan 06 Boulevard Latrille, face Eglise Saint Jacques Abidjan II Plateaux, Ivory Coast.  For more info visit http://fondationdonwahi.org/index.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at info at jon-daniel dot com.

ICONOGRAPHIC: The first exhibition of my graphic poster art

As a budding design student, my first love was poster design. I used to pour over old Graphis annuals (many of which I later collected) inspired by the work of Shigeo Fukuda, Tommie Ungerer, Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Herb Lubalin, Per Arnoldi and Waldemar Swierzy to name but a few. I often thought I could have been extremely happy if I just designed posters for a living.

A couple of years ago, I got to a crossroads in my life where I started to think about what I had done to date and where I was going. I reflected on my previous youthful dreams and the thought occurred to me “when was the last time you designed a poster?”

It was a thought that began to nag at me as I started to think about what creative path I might take next. Little signs and co-incidences appeared along the way, like the fact that I found out that I share the same birthday (31 May) with Jules Cheret; the French painter and lithographer who became a master of Belle Époque poster art and is regarded as the ‘father of the modern poster’

So eventually I decided to design a set of posters purely for my own pleasure and centered around my personal heroes and heroines. I then also built a small online poster store called ‘The PStore’ (an anagram of the word ‘poster’) to sell my own works initially, but maybe one day also the works of other artists and designers I admire.

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“ICONOGRAPHIC’ The first exhibition of my work will be at Art Dept at Clapham Picturehouse in London. This small exhibition of 25 artworks runs from 10 October – 10 November 2013.

The centerpiece of the show is a 70x100cm tribute artwork to the legendary and pioneering Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who would have been 75 this month were he still alive today.

For more information visit the online poster store at www.pstore.bigcartel.com to view more examples of my work and purchase prints.

4 Corners: An Interview with Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT

‘Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny…’ This opening line to Bob Marley and The Wailers classic track, ‘Zimbabwe’ (from the album ‘Survival, 1979) aptly sets the scene for this month’s destination and profiled graphic artist.

Born in 1984, he is a product of his country’s Independence, which was realized in 1980. In his own words he was ‘born free from the segregation and colonial repression’ that blighted Zimbabwe’s past, but still ‘grew up in turbulent times characterized by the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions’.

Experiences like this must surely go some way to explain how his tender age belies the depth and range of his work. And the impact he has made not just continentally, beyond the land-locked borders of his homeland, but also internationally in North & South America, Europe and the Far East is equally impressive.

Sindiso Nyoni aka R!OT, over to you.Sindoso Nyoni

Source: Kamo Mogashoa

Sindoso Nyoni, AKA R!OT, graphic artist/designer

What’s your background?

I am an independent graphic artist, born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I am the seventh child in a family of nine. Zimbabwe is widely known for its unique craftsmanship in the arts, from sculptures, masks, traditional ornaments to music and drama. As well as Zimbabwe being a ‘once’ booming African economy, this allowed for me to be exposed to abundant forms of art and popular culture as a four-year-old in the late 80s. I was so inspired from all these surroundings, and it was then that I developed a love for drawing. I haven’t stopped since. This developed into creating my own limited series of handcrafted comics in primary school, right through to high school, where I took art classes at a Catholic institution in Bulawayo. It was here that I was first introduced to the art of communication design by a retired New York Graphic designer, who had relocated to the continent, to teach art. She gave me invaluable insights into the profession and I left Bulawayo for Johannesburg in 2005, enrolling in a four-year communication design course while working as a barman and freelance artist/designer in order to pay my way through college. In 2008, I graduated from the University of Johannesburg with a BTech degree in Graphic Design.Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

Freezim artwork, part of the Voices in Freedom exhibiton in Mexico (2010)

How did you get started in design?

After graduating, I moved to Cape Town where I joined an illustration studio as an intern and collaborated on projects for brands such as Fifa, Nike, Adidas, Smirnoff, HP, Shell and Audi. During my time with the collective I was part of the illustration teams on some Cannes Lion-winning campaigns. Prior to this, during my time as a student, I got into activist art and poster making. I became involved in exhibition showcases, and In 2010 I was part of the global Voices in Freedom poster exhibition alongside several international activist artists. After spending two years working as an illustrator, I relocated back to Johannesburg, where I spent almost two more years working as an art director/designer for an advertising agency. I continued to showcase art via invitational involvements and in 2011 I took part in the Piñatarama 2.0, (Art piñata) exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. I also got to exhibit frequently in group shows locally, and in 2012 I was selected as a participating artist at the Art Takes Times Square exhibition on New York Times square. In 2013 I took part in the Dizajn Afrike (Contemporary design in Africa): Dyalli Association exhibition in Croatia. This exhibition formed part of the ‘Week of Africa’ celebrations in Croatia from the 22nd of May. In the same year, Outdoor ad company JCDecaux, in association with Icograda showcased 50 posters by 50 designers on digital billboards in London’s Cromwell Road for World Communication Design Day. The world’s most promising design talent was chosen to exhibit their work created to the theme of ‘1Love1Word’. My piece, entitled Amandla – All power to the Dreamers, represented South Africa. In late 2010 I developed R!OT, an alias that explores a subversive African ‘street’ style under which I have been operating as an independent graphic artist and illustrator since.Adidas shoe-box work

Adidas shoe-box work

What challenges did you face/overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

During the short space of time in which I have been operating as a creative, I have treated failures, challenges and obstacles as stepping stones to getting to where I would eventually like to be. The first obstacles encountered came early in my college years, when I moved to Johannesburg. I had to freelance and double up as a barman/waiter to raise tuition fees to pay for my degree. Once this was achieved the second goal was to step into the industry and make a mark or name for myself. This proved difficult, in an industry which already has so many gate-keepers. At that time not too many creatives of colour were prominently visible. So, getting some sort of recognition has been a challenging long process, but a challenge that I’ve learnt a great deal from. Growing up in the turbulent times of Zimbabwe inspired my artwork as well, which reflects the social wounds left by a bitter struggle against colonial repression and of course the internal conflicts of the Shona and Ndebele factions. The link to social activism is what denotes my ‘African’ design aesthetic. By combining images and text to inspire people out of placidity my work attempts to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing issues in the form of visual art. Sadly most of the time our industry spends its time promoting commercial products rather than issues that really matter. This is compounded by the fact that as an emerging creative on your career path, in order to get noticed you have to have some big-name brands in your portfolio. In the professional creative industry, there is seldom any room for social communication. Briefs and concepts are often commercially driven, creating a dilemma faced by creatives today, ‘work for charities is cool but doesn’t pay the bills.’ I personally feel that it is a great value for creatives to know that they have tools and the ability to effect massive change, and not always within a for-profit organization. This is why I do not use my skills to support brands or companies that I feel have a negative impact on the world we live in. I feel that as creatives we have a duty to contribute to our communities using art that addresses social issues, advocates awareness and change, which can ultimately open minds to act towards making a difference.Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Poster design for documentary My Africa Is

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My mother is my ultimate role model. Her outlook on life raised me in the direction and career path I took from an early age. The arts and the various branches of creative activity have also always been a love of mine, with early memories of comic book art and vintage animation as influences. I respect and admire many international and local contemporary artists such as Jorge Alderete, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Thami Mnyele, Dumile Feni, Emory Douglas, Jean Michel Basquiat, ROA, Pierre Bernard, Jonathan Barnbrook, and Tomer Hanuka (to name a few.) I am particularly intrigued by artists that blend the digital and traditional processes successfully. I also draw inspiration from disciplines outside my profession. These include music, cinema and literary influences from African authors such as Dambudzo Marechera, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. The work of film visionaries such as Melvin Van Pebbles, Spike Lee, Emir Kusturica, Guillermo Del Toro, Lars Von Trier, Martin Scorsese and even the surreal work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, has also often left a profound impression on me. I studied Graphic design to attain a solid foundation in traditional communication design. I believed that understanding the art or skill of graphic design might inform more unique visuals to go along with what I would later specialise in.Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

Book cover design for When a State Turns on its Citizens: 60 Years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe, by Lloyd Sachikonye

What is the project you are most proud of?

I recently created a poster which was selected as part of the Mandela Poster Project 95 exhibition collection. The project aims to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and the pieces will form part of the facility’s interior design as well. The poster is part of a collection by designers from around the world who paid tribute to and celebrated Nelson Mandela’s contribution to humanity. My submission for the series is entitled The Boxer and is a depiction of a young Nelson Mandela inspired by the critically acclaimed Spike Lee film Do the right thing. The piece particularly pays homage to one of the iconic characters in the film, Radio Raheem whose story about life, and how Love defeated hate echoes Mandela’s philosophy on human rights, forgiveness and reconciliation which contributed to the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa.The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

The Boxer, poster print for the Mandela Poster Project 95

What would be your dream project?

I’m quite an avid film and cinema buff so it would be pretty cool to get to work on an important cinematic project. I’ve always been interested in independent cinema, so to be involved in a project of that nature is definitely on my ‘to do list’ for the not so distant future. I would particularly like to collaborate with filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, who I feel is an all round interestingly amazing individual with an intriguing insight and outlook on life. In my opinion, he’s a very important creative.Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Ghost (Xenophobia), self-portrait based on experiences as an immigrant in South Africa

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition.

Fellow Zimbabwean (and Johannesburg-based) fine artist, Kudzanai Chiurai has been producing some really great provocative work in the past couple of years. I also admire the intricate and heavily detailed, artwork of illlustrator/conceptual artist and graphic designer Linsey Levendall. Soweto-born and Johannesburg-based Mzwandile Buthelezi, AKA Hac-One, is a street/graphic artist who is committed to growing authentic African design styles, and travels around the continent to build networks of creative people committed to using design to make a positive change. Loyiso Mkize is a young visual artist from the Eastern Cape in South Africa who uses art to enrich the world with visions that dare to break the world’s facade and inspire a greater tomorrow.Protect & Serve - a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

Protect & Serve – a piece commenting on controversy surrounding the South African Police Service

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Contrary to popular belief there are no short cuts in this game and hard work always pays off, so pay your dues. I also feel that as long as you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to ‘work’ another day. Its all about creating the ideal job and not waiting for it to come. So in a nutshell, ’Go create!’Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

Zulu Diva, test illustration for South African musician Toya Delazy

What’s next for you?

I’d like to continue creating, and be able to inspire generations after me to create.Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

Logo for the Natural Hair Appreciation Society

You can see more of Sindiso Nyoni’s work at www.studioriot.com.

Network

THE U.S:

KKK – Kin Killin’ Kin is a powerful and thought-provoking series of images that reflect artists James Pate’s deep love and even greater concern for the epidemic of youth violence in the African American community. The exhibition runs until 20 November 2013 at The DuSable Museum of African-American history. 740 East 56th Place, Chicago, Illinois 60637. See more at:www.dusablemuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

New Roots: This exhibition features 10 emerging artists: Deborah AnzingerVarun BakerCamille CheddaGisele GardnerMatthew McCarthyOlivia McGilchristAstro SaulterNile SaulterIkem Smith and The Girl and the Magpie. These artists were selected by the National Gallery of Jamaica curatorial team, which was headed by Nicole Smythe-Johnson, O’Neil Lawrence and Veerle Poupeye, from an initial shortlist of over 30 artists under 40 years old who were either born in Jamaica or of Jamaican parentage or who are active there. Opened on 28 July at National Gallery of Jamaica in Kingston. For more information visitnationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com

EUROPE:

Ellen Gallagher: AxME at Tate Modern, London. One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists to have emerged from North America since the mid-1990s, Ellen Gallagher’s gorgeously intricate and highly imaginative works are realised with a wealth of virtuoso detail and wit. This is her first major solo exhibition in the UK, providing the first ever opportunity to explore an overview of her twenty-year career. Tickets Adult: £11.00 (without donation £10.00 )
Concession: £9.50 (without donation £8.60). Exhibition runs until 1 September 2013. For more information visit www.tate.org.uk

The AACDD 2013 Bargehouse Festival. From September 18 – 23, 2013 the Exhibition of the AACDD (African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora) Awards is the final accolade celebrating the best of the outstanding creative talent of black artists and designers of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 AACDD exhibitions. Visit The Bargehouse
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, 
London SE1 9PH. For more information visit www.aacdd.org

AFRICA:

Meaning Motion. How does movement make meaning? This question is asked by two highly innovative interactive digital artists, Tegan Bristow and Nathaniel Stern in the exciting exhibition. Until 18 August 2013 at Wits Art Museum, Corner Jorissen St & Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, SA. Admission free. For more information visit www.wits.ac.za/ons.html

If you have any forthcoming events that you would like to be considered for inclusion in this column, please do not hesitate to contact me by email .

4 Corners: An Interview with Gail Anderson

I love NY. The first time I visited the city was in the early 1980s when I was aged around 16 years old. My father’s side of the family occasionally held large family reunions either in the US or the Caribbean and so we went over to New York on our way to attend a reunion in New Jersey.

We stayed with family in Brooklyn, and I was fascinated with everything about it and the fact that it all felt so familiar. Here I was walking around the real life film set of my dreams with the soundtracks of TV shows like Starsky & Hutch and films like Car Wash reverberating around my mind.

From a design perspective, I couldn’t help but be consumed by the mega-brand bombardment that screams out at you on all corners. From the bright neon signs and huge billboard advertisements to the plethora of product packaging, confectionery and magazine covers that adorn the news-stands. It is with reference to the latter, and magazine design in particular, that I bring to your attention now.

Rolling Stone magazine was, and continues to be one of the most highly regarded and influential publications of its time. Working during the years stewarded by the prolific and distinctive art director, Fred Woodward, was an African American woman who has blazed her own trail as a designer, art director, author and educator. Her work is honored and celebrated in publications and awards annuals all over the world. And if it hasn’t been done already, her name should be lit up in neon on the side of a skyscraper like the signs that adorn her hometown, New York.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Gail Anderson.Gail Anderson

Source: Darren Cox

Gail Anderson, designer, writer and educator.

What’s your background?

I’m born and raised in New York, originally from the Bronx. My memories of the neighborhood I grew up in defy the stereotype of a crime-ridden slum. There were trees and houses with driveways, and kids on bikes. My parents are from Jamaica, so I am first-generation American, and first-generation college-educated, as well. I attended college at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and worked first at Random House, followed by the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, where I had my first exposure to editorial design. From there, I moved back to New York to work with Fred Woodward at Rolling Stone, where I remained for over 14 years. I served as creative director of design at SpotCo, a NYC-based entertainment advertising agency that focuses on Broadway for a little over eight years, and am now a partner in a boutique design firm that doesn’t even have a website yet (I still have my own site, gailycurl.com though it is hopelessly outdated). I teach at the School of Visual Arts in the undergraduate and graduate design programs (I’ve been teaching for most of my career).'The Next Queen of Soul' Rolling Stone spread

‘The Next Queen of Soul’ Rolling Stone spread

How did you get started in design?

I was fortunate to have a smart and plugged-in studio art teacher in high school, who sent me off to take weekend drawing classes at Pratt Manhattan, and made sure that I participated in competitions and exhibitions. She loaned me books about what was then called ‘commercial art’, and pushed me to attend the School of Visual Arts.

What challenges did you overcome in getting into the industry and achieving your ambitions?

I was not a cool kid from the city, living in the East Village like most of my young colleagues right out of school. I was a dopey kid living with her parents in the Bronx. My hipness factor was extremely low. I didn’t encounter any real issues as a minority, though I was always the one people called on for ‘another’ point of view. That caused a good deal of eye-rolling when I was younger, but is something I’ve grown accustomed to in my dotage.'Chris Rock - Star' Rolling Stone spread

‘Chris Rock – Star’ Rolling Stone spread

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My friend and boss at the Boston Globe, Lynn Staley, was a huge influence. I feel like I matured as a young designer under her tutelage and was able to start my next job at Rolling Stone with my sleeves rolled up, ready to get my hands dirty thanks to her. Fred Woodward, probably the smartest man in magazines, and a dear and gentle soul, is my other strong influence, along with the work of Paula Scher.'Axl Rose Lost Years' Rolling Stone spread

‘Axl Rose Lost Years’ Rolling Stone spread

What is the project you are most proud of?

I’m proud of a series of subway posters I worked on with illustrator Terry Allen for the School of Visual Arts after President Obama’s first-term election. And I’m still fond of much of the old Rolling Stone work – it still holds up almost two decades later.Obama Lion poster (with Terry Allen)

Obama Lion poster (with Terry Allen)

What would be your dream job or project?

I got to work on my dream project about a year ago; designing a postage stamp for the US Postal Service. And now I serve on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, as one of the team of folks who helps decide what future stamps are on the horizon. I am honored to be part of the Design Subcommittee, and am looking forward to the challenge. My partner Joe Newton and I are currently working on rebranding a small art college in Pennsylvania. I’d like to do more of this kind of work, so I’ll put that in the dream category – more academic institutions.Emancipation stamps

Emancipation stamps

Please name some people in your field that you believe deserve credit or recognition, and why.

Boy, do teachers ever deserve more recognition and credit than they get! And more money, too!

What’s your best piece of advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Be the first one in the office in the morning, and the last one to leave at night. Never send an angry email, and read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.Cover for New Modernist Type, by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

Cover for New Modernist Type, by Steven Heller and Gail Anderson

What’s next for you?

I am heading to Italy with my sister and niece this summer. That’s about all I can think about these days.

Network:

THE U.S:

Gordon Parks – A Harlem Family: An exhibition honouring the legacy and work of pioneering African-American artist, photojournalist and true renaissance man, Gordon Parks. Exhibition runs until Jun 30 at The Studio Museum of Harlem. 144 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027 For more information, go to www.studiomuseum.org

THE CARIBBEAN:

The Alliance Française of St. Vincent presents a Caribbean Photography Exhibition. Featuring the work of photographers from St. Vincent & The Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis and Jamaica. The exhibition will be open until May 31st, 9:30am to 5.00pm weekly and 2.00pm on Fridays at the Alliance Française, Carnegie Building (1st Floor), Heritage Square, Kingstown, St. Vincent. For more information email: afofsvg@gmail.com, visit www.facebook.com/afsvg or by call: 456-2095.

AFRICA:

Africa Day Celebrations. Artscape celebrates Africa Day with a concert featuring Bongani Sotshononda’s indigenous ensemble, The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, The SA Youth Choir and Khayelitsha Mambazo. 25 May at 7.30pm at the Artscape Theatre, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town 8000, South Africa Tel: +27 21 410 9800. For more information visit http://www.artscape.co.za/show/africa-day-celebrations/665/

EUROPE:

Design En Afrique is an exhibition focused primarily on the design of objects used as support for the body. Runs until July 2013 at Museum Dapper in Paris, France. 35 bis, rue Paul Valéry – 75116 Paris. For more information visit http://www.dapper.fr

Design Guru gives his stamp of approval to African Diaspora philatelic exhibition

Author and cultural commentator Stephen Bayley lends his support to an exhibition highlighting black achievement as part of Black History Month UK

A thematic exhibition showcasing stamps, autographs and memorabilia of the African Diaspora has been given some heavyweight support from the design community in the form of author and cultural commentator, Stephen Bayley.

Post-Colonial: an exhibition of stamps from the African Diaspora, curated by African-Caribbean creative, Jon Daniel, launches on Saturday 1st October at 399 Strand, London, home of world famous stamp dealer, Stanley Gibbons. Fraser’s Autographs, a division of The Stanley Gibbons Group plc will be supplementing the exhibition with a range of autographs and memorabilia.

Bayley has often been quoted expounding the design qualities of stamps, stating in a press interview last year that, “They involve a whole range of creativity, within clear disciplines, not least dictated by their size. So by collecting stamps, you are, at a fraction of the cost of collecting other forms of art, gaining access to a vast international archive of design.”

 

Having been selected to feature in Creative Review’s Monograph, Jon Daniel’s own collection was the inspiration behind this exhibition and his appreciation of stamp design will be evidenced by a panel given over entirely to stamps chosen by him purely for the quality of their design.

“The design disciplines involved are fascinating: within a tiny space, a stamp must establish national identity, indicate its value, contain (if it is a special edition) usefully suggestive symbolism and needs high visual impact…without compromising the dignity of the issuing authority. Stamps are astonishing bargains as well as examples of miniature genius” said Bayley.

 

Post-Colonial: Stamps of the African Diaspora opens at Stanley Gibbons, 399 Strand, London on Saturday 1st October and runs until Saturday 29th October. For those unable to attend, the exhibition will also be available via the Stanley Gibbons website: www.stanleygibbons.com.