Tag Poster Art

4 Corners: An interview with Emory Douglas

As a black teenager growing up in East Sheen, I was inspired by the historical contribution of the Black Power and Civil Rights Movement in the US, and influenced by leading black political figures and community activists such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King; Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown; Huey Newton and Bobby Seale – and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in particular. The Black Panthers’ base in Oakland, California was a universe away from the genteel, suburban niceties of south west London, but as an aspiring artist and designer I could not help but be captivated by the powerful and evocative imagery they projected and the striking graphic designs they created. Both the medium and the message had a profound influence on my development as a creative professional and certainly instilled a desire to use design as a tool to promote and tackle social issues and human rights issues that continues to this day. The Black Panthers’ pioneering political visual communications were the handiwork of a truly gifted and visionary man, who served the party as Minister for Culture from 1967 to 1980. A man who in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that I would one day have the honour of interviewing and the pleasure of introducing you to today. Brothers and Sisters please pump your black, gloved fists up for Mr Emory Douglas.

Emory Douglas

Emory Douglas, Revolutionary Artist, Designer and Minister of Culture of The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (1967-80).

What’s your background?

My art background is basically as a self-taught artist with a minimum of professional training. I attended City College in San Francisco off and on from around 1964 to 1966 and majored in Commercial Art.
That educational practice introduced me to the basic graphic designing elements such as figure drawing, sketching, illustration drawing, lettering, layout and design, pre-press production, the offset printing process, the basic animation process and how to critique and evaluate one’s work. This was my only academic graphic design training prior to my actual on-the-job training.Free+All+Political+PrisonersSource: Emory Douglas

How did you get started in your field of expertise?

As a youth I was in and out of detention centers, I will say for illegal activity not sanctioned by the state. While there I would do mostly landscape art – nothing with any social meaning. A year or so after I got out I decided to attend City College of San Francisco. The councillor at the detention center heard of my decision to attend college and suggested I take up art. When I went to enroll I mentioned to the college councillor
I would like to major in Art and he suggested I major in the Commercial Arts, which I did. Thereafter the whole idea of my going to school was to try and break into commercial art by becoming a designer, art director or illustrator. I heard of people who were making good money in those fields so I wanted to join them. However,  after a while I began to see and realise that there was really only an elite few that made it and became successful and they were mostly the white students, particularly the ones who had relatives or close family friends with ties to the commercial art field. While at college I developed my graphic art skills to a professional level, where they would send me out on job assignments. I worked at a silk-screen factory where I learned the silk-screen printing process. I also worked at a downtown store in San Francisco where they sold fine wine goblets and silverware doing layout, cutting and pasting of advertisements and preparing display signs for their store window displays. Also there were paying jobs that came in from various departments at the College for graphic design work such as sign lettering and technical illustrations where I along with other art students who had developed our skills to a basic professional level were offered these jobs.Malcolm+X+SpearsSource: Emory Douglas

What challenges did you face in achieving your ambitions to break into the industry?

Certainly there were challenges, because this was at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Firms weren’t hiring blacks, so it was particularly difficult for African- Americans and there were many racial biases and obstacles to overcome. But at the same time that’s how I got involved in political artwork. For example, the whole time I attended City College there was only me and sometimes one other black person who were enrolled in the Commercial Art classes of about 20 students per class. Also there were graphic styles that I created which one of the instructors expressed to me wasn’t commercial enough, so for a while I had to go along with that whole framework of how they programme you to produce artwork for your portfolio with a certain commercial style that was considered acceptable when it came time to looking for a job or going for job interviews. The graphic styles I personally used I had to just put that to the side until later on. I remember one time as a class assignment to create a magazine layout I created one similar to EBONY magazine (the most prominent African-American magazine of the time) and the teacher pulled me aside and said how much he appreciated what I had done. But he added that to be honest with me, it would be another 10 years or so before ideas like mine would be accepted. Eventually it was the Civil Rights, and human rights pressures and campaigning against discrimination that began the process for black people getting into the commercial arts industry during that period.Paper+BoySource: Emory Douglas

Who and what are your greatest inspirations?

As a youngster growing up it was my mother – she was legally blind and worked hard as a single parent.
 There was an artist I knew named Charles Bible, he lived downstairs from where I lived and he would mass-produce multiple paintings of the same image of Malcolm X every year for the anniversary celebrations of Malcolm’s life. I would talk to him about his assembly-line production process and his painting technique and he would explain both of them to me. The information he shared became very helpful when I began doing some portrait paintings over the years. There was also the Black Arts Movement (BAM), which I made artistic contributions to during and prior to my joining The Black Panther Party in late January 1967. Then there was this calendar I would see as a child at my aunt’s house. Every year it featured artwork by a black artist named Charles White, which had a real impact on me. Politically, I was inspired by the politics and artwork that was being created at the time – particularly the work of the Cuban poster artists of OSPAAL (Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America), and from China, Vietnam, the Anti-War movement and Palestine. The Cuban artists used to remix some of my artwork they saw in the Black Panther Newspaper and created some amazing solidarity posters that they would share around the world – that was very exciting and inspiring.End+to+RobberySource: Emory Douglas

What is the project you are most proud of?

I would say the best piece of work would have to be a volume of work that maybe tells a story – and therefore it would be my body of work for The Black Panther Party. But there are also volumes of work that I’m doing today that I feel strongly about and that I am pleased and satisfied to be able to make a statement on current issues and in a more contemporary way than what I did back then.Free+LandSource: Emory Douglas

What would be your dream project?

If I were younger, my dream job would probably as the head of a company, art department or organisation dealing with basic human rights and enlightening and educating people and using art as a language to communicate with people.Black+PantherSource: Emory Douglas

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

There are many, therefore I prefer not to drop names because I’m sure to remember later that I forgot to mention many others I should have, who are also amazing artists and great communicators through their art.ObamaSource: Emory Douglas

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

Whatever you do stay focused and practise your craft. And if you’re doing political artwork or social commentary art make sure you know the basic politics of whatever social issues that may concern you. Have fun! Don’t do it because it’s a fad, do it because you believe in it and understand that the creative process will be an ongoing life long journey.Endangered+SpeciesSource: Emory Douglas

What’s next for you?

To continue doing what I’m doing, creating artwork that deals with quality of life issues, basic human rights violations and concern for the struggles and challenges of oppressed peoples in this world.

For more information visit www.emorydouglasart.com.

Big thanks to Maurice Cherry of Revision Path for his help in facilitating this interview.

Network:

EUROPE:

‘RETURN OF THE RUDEBOY’ is an original exhibition created and curated by prolific photographer and filmmaker Dean Chalkley and creative director Harris Elliott, which showcases a sartorial subculture through a series of portraits, installations and set pieces. Runs until 25 August 2014 at Somerset House, Terrace Rooms, Strand London WC2R 1LA. Admission FREE. For more information visit www.somersethouse.org.uk.

KERRY JAMES MARSHALL: PAINTING AND OTHER STUFF is an exhibition of the work of the American artist across venues in Madrid and Barcelona. The exhibition is divided between two venues. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid there is a focus on historical works and paintings, while the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona includes more recent works, not only in painting but also in other media such as drawing, photography, video and installation. Exhbitions run until 26 October 2014. For more information visit www.fundaciotapies.org.

THE CARIBBEAN:

40 VOICES is an exhibition encompassing film, photography and an art installation in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Culturama event in Nevis Culturama (Nevis ). Through open, emotive and unguarded interviews of forty Nevis residents, 40 Voices aims to create an empowering film that will capture a snapshot of the feelings, opinions and attitudes of Culturama into one seamless loop. The exhibition runs from Sunday 27 July – Sunday 10 August 2014. For more information visit www.culturamanevis.com or chantimedia.com.

THE US:

DESIGN FOR SOCIAL IMPACT, an exhibition offering a look at how designers, engineers, students, professors, architects and social entrepreneurs use design to solve the problems of the 21st century. The exhibition features projects that address a variety of challenges in the areas of Shelter, Community, Education, Healthcare, Energy and Food & Water. Each category highlights solutions taking place locally, as well as ways in which these challenges are being addressed around the world. The exhibition is on view at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) through to 3 August 2014. For more information visit www.museumofdesign.org. 

AFRICA:

21 ICONS: PORTRAIT OF A NATION, a poignant and inspiring multi-media exhibition by 21 Icons and Mercedes-Benz South Africa, opened on Youth Day, 16 June 2014 at the Museum of African Design in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. In celebration of 20 Years of democracy, the two-month long exhibition features portraits and short films of 21 of South Africa’s greatest social masters including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Sophia Williams De Bruyn, Ahmed Kathrada, Nadine Gordimer and George Bizos. 21 Icons: Portrait of a Nation: Presented by Mercedes-Benz South Africa will be on exhibition at MOAD for the first time, through to 17 August 2014. For more information, please visit www.moadjhb.com/21icons.

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.

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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!

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 Michael Thompson AKA Freestylee

This month we head to the Caribbean, or more specifically one of its biggest islands, Jamaica. Last year was a momentous year in Jamaica’s history; celebrating 50 years of independence from Britain with global events, coupled with the most outstanding display of sprint athletics the world has ever seen at London’s 2012 Olympics.

In sport and music, there is no doubting the enormous impact Jamaica has made on the world, but what about in design?

Were he still alive today, I would have loved to have interviewed Wilfred Limonious; a designer and graphic artist who made a real name for himself in the 80s and early 90s with colourful, charming and characterful artwork for many Jamaican LP record covers – a sample of his work is shown at the end of this article.

Instead, we are extremely fortunate to feature the talents of Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Someone who I believe carries on in Wilfred’s tradition in championing reggae music, but with a strong, sophisticated illustrative style all of his own.Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson, AKA Freestylee. Jamaican graphic designer and founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest.

What’s your background?

I am Jamaican by birth. I left for the United States in 1990, and worked as a freelance graphic designer with companies such as Citigroup, Sanofi Aventis, Bank of America and Estée Lauder. I am also a Creative Activist, using social design as a tool for awareness on a number of international concerns and solidarity. I am the founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest; a visual arts celebration of the positive impact of reggae music globally, and a platform to present a vision to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston, Jamaica. I have had a number of international exhibitions of my Freestylee work; one-man show and group exhibitions.Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

Dancehallstylee, by Michael Thompson

How did you get started in design?

I studied graphic design at the Jamaica School of Art. After finishing my studies my first work was in a small screen-printing operation operated by a Rastafarian by the name of Jah Ned. There I learned to experiment with simple silhouetted graphic design concepts suitable for screen-printing and poster art. It was after winning a poster contest to Cuba that I had a break and was hired as an apprentice with the Daily News newspaper in Jamaica. This was a big step closer to what I wanted to do: layout and design. In the mid ‘80s, I was offered a job at Paisley Kelly Kenyon & Eckhart Advertising in Kingston, Jamaica. Many years later, I joined a public relations firm Mike Jarrett Communications, also in Kingston, as an Art Director. My activist poster designs started in the late 1970s. My first activist poster was created after an incident in Jamaica called the “Green Bay Massacre”. This took place 5 January, 1978, where a number of alleged young gang members from a poor inner-city ghetto in Kingston were lured to a military firing range outside the capital where they were ambushed and executed by the Jamaica Defense Force soldiers. Back then, I had no computer so it was strictly hand-painted acrylic on poster paper. My recent episodes of creative activism started about 2008. I began the journey of Freestylee, Artist Without Borders, a new phase in my awareness activism.Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

Emperor Haile Selassie, by Michael Thompson

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

As a young designer just completing art school and without job experience, it was not easy to find positions in Jamaica as a graphic designer or as an illustrator. I had to make connections and work my way through the hurdles by constantly improving my portfolio and finding other opportunities, and use this process to learn new things that later on I could apply to my creativity process. In 1978, I entered a local poster competition and won a place on the Jamaican delegation to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana, Cuba. You can imagine the jubilation at the time. This was a massive event with youths from many countries participating in political and cultural activates. I entered again in 1982, and won another place, this time to Moscow, the 12th Festival of youth and students. These competitions and trips further sparked my interest in poster art. The colourful silkscreen and lithograph posters I saw in Cuba, created by ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry) and its sister offshoot OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America) made a tremendous impact on my work. If you are familiar with Cuban poster design you can see the influence in my Freestylee posters. It was an exciting and important time for me. The poster competitions and visits to Havana and Moscow created opportunities and opened doors for me in Jamaica, due to the exposure and publicity my works received. Moving to America I had to make new connections and start the process all over again. I had no computer skills to be a designer so I ended up designing T-shirts the old fashioned way for a small company called Wet Paint, in NYC. I later bought a computer and taught myself how to use this new technology. Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Dancehall, by Michael Thompson

Who are your greatest inspirations and influences?

My source of inspiration can come from anything or anywhere. Everything around me comes into play by keeping an open mind. My work has been influenced by a number of artists, designers and events. The influences do not materialize from any one source. My visit to Havana exposed me to the works of designers in that country and the fine art of poster design. This was an amazing cultural experience that had influenced greatly my design aesthetics. Some of the Cuban designers who greatly influenced my own art are names like René Azcuy, Fabian Muñoz, Nelson Ponce and Eladio Ravidulia. Other contemporary socially conscious artist on my list are JR, Ai Weiwei, Banksy, these are the people I admire for the activism as well as their artworks as well. I also admire the creativity of Greek illustrator and designer, Charis Tsevis, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, love his fun colorful works. I am also influenced by Roots Reggae Artistes such as, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear. Their messages of truth, equal rights and Justice are ever inspiring and comforting.

What is the project you are most proud of?

I have no one piece to single out. Yes, some are more memorable of course, because of the impact the work has had. My Haiti Posters, designed in solidarity with the people of Haiti, devastated by the 2010 earthquake, are the ones I am happy to have contributed to the Haiti Poster Project. I am also proud of my Arab Spring posters supporting the grass roots uprising across the Middle East region to remove oppressive governments from their backs.Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

Haiti poster, by Michael Thompson

What would be your dream job or project?

I have already started on a dream project. The Reggae Hall of Fame. In 2012, I started a “why not?” campaign to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Interest in this led to my founding the International Reggae Poster Contest. Today, my partner Maria Papaefstathiou, and I have successfully launched the second annual contest in 2013. For the inaugural contest in 2012, we received 1,142 Posters from 80 countries. We also held two exhibitions of the top 100 posters. The first exhibition was held at the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the second at AKTO Design College in Athens, Greece. We also auctioned a selection of posters from the contest in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised over US$6,000 for an important Institution in the history of reggae music, the Alpha Boys’ School. Alpha Boys’ School is a Sister of Mercy run school for wayward boys in Kingston, Jamaica. This school is credited with shaping the musical journey of many of the founding fathers of Reggae Music. Raising money for this school is one of the contest objectives. I also had the opportunity to rebrand the school’s corporate image. The director of the school Sister Susan Frasier, decided to use one of my iconic Poster images to celebrate the school’s new logo.

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

There are many in the field who deserve to be recognized in the field of graphics and poster design. For example, some of the new young Cuban artists who have taken the baton from the earlier masters. Today, access to the wider world is still limited to Cuban designers due to the limited access to high speed Internet and the embargo. Slanted magazine, from Germany, an independent publication on graphic design, typography, photography, and illustration— has launched a crowd-funding initiative for a project to expose the works of the amazing young Cuban poster designers through their magazine. I am delighted that they are reaching out to the young Cuban designers and giving them an opportunity to share their art on such an international scale. There are also other young artist and designers who are creating powerful designs and illustrations; Taj Francis, a young Jamaica illustrator is one to be applauded for powerful and dynamic illustrations. Dane Thompson, who is my son, for his urban design aesthetics that are outside the box. I find his creative visual expression captivating and fresh.

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

I am not always one to give advice, However, the best advice I can give is to be passionate in what you do. Open your hearts and eyes to the issues of the wider world. Educate yourself about the problems confronting a large segment of the world’s population; poverty, oppression and lack of resources we take for granted in the western world. We are designers and we have powerful tools at our disposal so lets use them to help bring about positive change and support those who are making a difference for the marginalized and impoverished people of the world.Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

Egypt Revolution, by Michael Thompson

What’s next for you?

I am looking forward to new opportunities for Freestylee exhibitions in 2013. At the moment, I am in discussion with a gallery in New York, for an upcoming Freestylee poster exhibition in Spring. On 14 April 2013, I will be conducting a talk about my work at the Allentown Arts Museum in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I am also looking ahead for more creative activism initiatives that will make a difference, and to expand the International Reggae Poster contest campaign toward our objective the Reggae Hall of Fame Museum.

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Nah Leave Di Area, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Wild Apache album cover, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Christmas Time, by Wilfred Limonious

Special thanks and credits to Maria Papaefstathiou, graphic designer and blogger based in Greece and to the record label, Power House and Christopher Bateman for use of the Wilfred Limonious artworks via the websites;wilfredlimonious.com and infinestyle.wordpress.com.

For more information Michael’s work visit www.freestylee.net

This month’s network of events

THE US

TYPO | San Francisco 2013: Part of an annual series of international design talks, TYPO San Francisco takes the theme of ‘Contrast and Compare’; inviting speakers and audience members to reflect on this idea in the design world. 11-12 April at Yerba Buena Center for Arts, 701 Mission Street (at 3rd Street)
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138.  For more information, go to typotalks.com/sanfrancisco/

THE CARIBBEAN

Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. Revamped and redesigned with a new broader vision, this premier Caribbean cultural event will showcase acclaimed global artistes and artisans over 13 days on a beautiful island in the sun. From 30 April to 12 May 2013. Visit www.stluciajazz.org for details.

AFRICA

Candice Breitz / The Woods. The first solo show of Johannesburg-born artist, Candice Breitz. Featuring a trilogy of video installations which look into the world of child performers and the performance of childhood in order to probe the dreams and promises embedded in mainstream cinema. Runs until 30 March at Goodman Gallery, 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Johannesburg, 2193. For more information visit www.goodman-gallery.com

EUROPE

Afrofuture: As part of Milan Design Week, La Rinascente’s flagship store will be celebrating the world’s original design festival Salone del Mobilein dynamic style for 2013 as it presents ‘Afrofuture’. Through media, events and performance, La Rinascente will demonstrate the exciting mind-shift in African technology and how it’s radically shaping new notions of design. Milan Design Week runs from 9-12 April. For more information visit www.afrofuture.it or contact Cristina@karlaotto.com at the press office.

Blacklight Posters

In 1991 I went to New York to attend my great Uncle Belfield’s 95th birthday.

For the duration of the vacation I stayed with my Uncle Deuel and Aunty Lorraine in their house in Brooklyn. It was here that I first set eyes on my uncle’s small collection of Blacklight posters.

Adorning the walls of his den were these bold, funky and fluorescently colourful velvety images of 1970s Afro-American culture; depicting themes of a primarily ‘Black is Beautiful’ nature.

I fell in love with them too and my uncle very kindly let me take away a few.

I wholeheartedly intend to build on my small collection one day, but in the meantime here are some I have sourced from on the internet for your viewing pleasure.

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About Blacklight Posters:

A Blacklight poster is a poster printed with inks which fluoresce under black light. The inks used contain phosphors which cause them to glow when exposed to the ultra violet light emitted from black lights.

In the United States, blacklight posters are commonly found in head shops and other retail outlets that sell items associated with counter culture. Blacklight posters commonly depict images of psychedelia, musicians/bands, African-American and hippie culture.