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Mac Conner: The Man who drew the American Dream…

April 5, 2015 Leave a comment

We went along to the House of Illustrations Gallery in Kings Cross on Good Friday to see a small exhibition of the work of the commercial artist most closely associated with Mad Men era New York.

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Macaulay (Mac) Conner was a Madison Avenue based illustrator whose work graced the pages of the many 1950’s and 60’s lifestyle magazines published throughout North America, a country swollen with pride and full of optimism for the future, where success, wealth and a perfect family life in the suburbs were the corner stones of the American Dream, readily available to everyone who read the articles and features that Conner’s work accompanied.

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And whilst we may look back at those times now as more divisive, with their conspicuous racism, latent sexism and rampant consumerism, in the simple terms of what Mac Conner was commissioned to illustrate, his ability to capture the very essence of those heady times is unquestionable…

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As with many exhibitions, the images accompanying this post, wonderful though they are, do not really do the originals justice. Almost all the paintings on show were produced using gouache on board, allowing Conner to paint faces and figures with a confidence and ability that is endlessly impressive.

Conner was also something of a stylist, using devices such as a limited use of mid tones for skin or a single block colour such as the green above or the purple below, to give the images greater presence.

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And in his own small way he was also a rebel. The restrictions imposed by commissioning editors were, as I understand it, if not draconian then certainly restricting and Conner’s inclusion of strong women, intimate positions (for the time) and black faces is certainly worthy of credit..

So an excellent little show and a marvelous insight into an era that we really only see these days, through the filters of the 21st Century.

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Lazy Post No. 18 : Lego, cables & Sugru…

July 1, 2014 1 comment

Lego-and-Sugru-wire-holders_dezeen_468_8Today’s intriguing fact of the day is that Lego minifigures gripping hands are just the right size to hold charger cables and headphone jacks…

A fine discovery that I will help my Star Wars minifigures put into effect as soon as I get home tonight…

Sugru is a new thing to me as well.. It appears to be a self setting silicone rubber compound that can be moulded like Play Doh, then stuck to or formed around any number of shapes and surfaces, where it cures overnight forming a strong, waterproof bond that still retains its flexibility. Definitely sounds like something you didn’t know you could live without…

The original story is here on Dezeen

Lazy Post No. 17 – Hans Unger…

June 21, 2014 Leave a comment

unger64A quick and lazy post today of some wonderful posters from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Hans Unger (1915 – 1975) was a German emigree who came to London via South Africa in 1948. Unger was a gifted artist and graphic designer who created many posters for amongst others, the GPO, London Transport and the Public Information Office.

Unger was also skilled in designing and making mosaics (which he did in collaboration with Eberhard Schulze) and stained glass.

The Tower, by Hans Unger, 1969I can’t find much more about him to be honest, his work is easy to find, but the person himself seems to have left little trace on the net. The only other rather upsetting fact I’ve found on a site here, is that he took his own life in 1975 for reasons that are not clear…

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Spring in the air; country walks, by Harry Stevens, 1963

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unger-safariThe Zoo Aquarium, by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze, 1963

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poster06_428x652_to_468x312There’s a most excellent book I came across recently, “Keep Britain Tidy, Posters from the Nanny State” which contains some of Unger’s work along with a whole selection of others  from the collection of the National Archives. Thoughtfully, many of these excellent posters have been printed on single sided, removable pages especially for framing and hanging purposes…

Click the pelican to the left to find out more…

Finally there’s an interesting little video here about the book, narrated by the author Hester Vaizey…

 

 

 

 

Lazy Post no. 10 : Are there too many Men in Hollywood?

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Being a regular commuter on the underground, I’m subjected to such a constant bombardment of adverts and posters for new records, products and films, that it’s easy to let any subliminal messages they might contain, slip through your subconscious…

Some time ago now, I started noticing something almost sinister about the large majority of film posters that appear and change with such alarming regularity.

Take these posters for 10 films that are all on release in London at the moment. They were chosen pretty much at random, but if you were to choose 10 of your own, I’d be confident that the results would be very similar. There are representatives from all genres including Sci-fi, Action, Rom Com, History and whatever category Dallas Buyers Club falls under..

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A quick count up of the number of photos and written or highlighted names of the main stars on each of the posters, is simultaneously enlightening and worrying, providing us with an insight into how male orientated and dominated Hollywood land really is… (I’m assuming that the two astronauts in Gravity are Clooney and Bullock although I suspect it’s neither and they’ve been CGI’d, but that wouldn’t change the scores anyway. And I’ve ignored all the people behind DiCaprio as they are unnamed)

The upshot is that across the 10 posters, there are a grand total of 25 photos of actors and 42 different actors names. Of these, 18 photos and 30 names are of men, yet only 7 photos and 12 names of women…

Which means that there are almost 3 times as many photos of male stars as there are of female stars, and in terms of written names the men have more than twice as many as the women…

Not being a Hollywood insider, I don’t know if this is to do with the story lines of films that get made, or the experience of the producers that male stars will always make money than female, or whether it’s down to the choice of the directors or the casting agents to always have more men….

Whatever, I can’t help but think it’s significant that there are so few parts for women in all these major film releases…

As this is a lazy post, I’m deliberately holding back from going into these ideas any further at this point, rather I’m just “planting seeds” as the great Bill Hicks often said… But as I think about them further over the coming weeks, I may well revisit this post and expound my theories a little further…

Feel free to chip in…

Lazy Post No. 5 – James Dawe

September 26, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m liking these digital montages by James Dawe at the moment…

I like their dynamicism and the way the individual images seem to almost organically grow out of each other, as if they always had a shared connection and James has just reminded them of it…

Very nice indeed..

(This is almost a Super Lazy Post it’s so short…)

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Edward McKnight Kauffer

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Poster_1My recent post about the new Oyster Card holders and how much better they were than last years Olympic posters, reminded me that I’ve never written about one of this countries most gifted poster designers…

Despite being generally thought of in terms of British graphic design, Edward Kauffer was actually born in Montana, USA in 1890. After moves to San Fransisco (1910) and Chicago (1912) in the continuing pursuit of learning and perfecting his art, McKnight Kauffer was honoured with the offer of sponsorship by one of his professors, Joseph McKnight to study abroad at the Académie Moderne in Paris. In gratitude for this show of faith, Kauffer added the professors name to his own…

Unfortunately for the young American, this chance of a lifetime was unduly cut short, as within a year of his arrival in Paris in 1913, War broke out across Europe and he moved on once again for the relative safety of London. It was here that he finally got the opportunity to allow his abilities and his now familiar style to develop. Thanks to commissions predominantly from London Transport and London Underground, McKnight Kauffer produced over 140 of the most memorable and arresting images of the period, an achievement matched only, I would argue, by Abram Games.

After this hugely successful career in the UK, War interrupted McKnight Kauffer yet again and he left for New York in 1940, where he struggled to match his previous successes despite producing some very memorable works for American Airlines.

McKnight Kauffer’s graphic style is at once challenging and comforting. To my eyes his work was, and indeed remains successful, due to its skillful combination of the bold often abstract shapes, dynamic lines and bright colours that are so intrinsic to Interwar Modernism, whilst at the same time offering a level of familiarity in the form of easily recognisable flowers, birds, people, trains and the like, that allows the work to be enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible.

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New Oyster Card Holders…

August 14, 2013 2 comments

These new Oyster card holders are rather nice: stylish, contemporary, appropriate and ego free. This one by Noma Bar I think is particularly clever, easily up to to his impressively high standards, the two mice creating the roundel is very clever…

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In lieu of writing about how good they are, I’d like to suggest you might quickly revisit this post I wrote on the Olympic Posters last year. Compare these new offerings from imaginative graphic designers and skilled artists, to the abysmal Olympic posters created by a cabal of (mostly) talentless egotists that somehow seem to always represent the UK’s fine art establishment. They were scattered around the Underground a year or so ago, but are (thankfully and understandably) now long forgotten…

As an aside, you might also note that of the five designers I suggested as being better able to reflect the Olympics and design contemporary posters that would sit well within the pantheon of our fine tradition, TfL have chosen two of them for these holders… Ahead of the game or what.

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Maxell Tape Ads…

July 31, 2013 3 comments

A very quick post today, and one that I’m certain will stir similarly happy memories in all you forty somethings out there…

I’ve heard both these songs on the radio over the last few days and was reminded of these rather fine 1980’s adverts for Maxell, from a time before computers, MP3’s and all the other digital wizardry that makes things so easy today…

And thanks to the digital wonder that is YouTube, you youngsters can also marvel at the simplicity and effectiveness of the angry youth and the cool soul dude with their Dylanesque cue cards and minimal dancing (even if you don’t really know what a cassette tape is…)

A Couple of Old Queens…

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I picked up a copy of the new free Time Out this morning and apart from being surprised at just how many bands from the 80’s and 90’s are still doing the rounds (is ANYONE interested in seeing The Fields of the Nephilim, Space or The Farm!!) these two images sitting either side of the same page, amused me with their similarity of imagery and style…

Curly bouffant hair, eyes closed in concentration, respectfully aged skin, expensive looking clothes and big jewelry…

Methinks Mr. Hucknall didn’t really think this one through … unless his singing career is in such dire straights, that he’s considering an alternative one as a looky likey

The Paralympic Symbol

September 3, 2012 2 comments

It’s everywhere in London at the moment, the rather odd Paralympic Games symbol. The word odd seems appropriate, as it is neither one thing nor another, neither balanced, impressive nor very well thought out, but at the same time blandly inoffensive and comfortably familiar…

The online blurb tells me that it was created by Scholz & Friends Agency in April 2003, and is composed of three agitos, agito meaning “I move” in Latin. The three colours, red, blue and green represent those most commonly found on the various flags of the world, whilst the three swooshes (no connection to Nike obviously!) encircle a centre point that symbolises the bringing together of the athletes to compete.

But it seems incomplete to me and rather ungainly. The agitos might represent movement, but the whole ensemble comes across as rigid and lumpen. I’m also surprised that there’s no reference to the timeless and iconic original five circles that represent each of the five continents of the original design, and it doesn’t read the same from both directions like the linked circles, which means its uses are more limited (as can be seen from the one hiding under all that scaffolding under London Bridge). I’ve read that the event organisers want to become recognised as a stand alone event which I suppose is fair enough, but as the Paralympics are only ever held in the same year and always a couple of weeks after the Olympics, this does seem rather a week argument, as in most peoples  minds they will forever be linked.

Maybe this sense of awkwardness and there being something missing from the logo is intentional, linking it back in someway to the athletes themselves, who although not “whole” in a more traditional sense, have overcome their difficulties and setbacks through effort, dedication and sheer bloody hard work.

Sadly to my eyes, this logo doesn’t do any work whatsoever, and I think these undeniably superhuman competitors deserve far better than something that looks like is was taken from the beginners book of logos.. It’s so reminiscent of other things: Nike as previously noted is the obvious one, but has anyone noticed the similarity to Ariel washing powder… (which predates it by at least 5 years…)

And one final thought, the use of the Paralympic logo as the face of the forever hideous and offensive omni-shambles that is the London 2012 logo, only makes it look constipated, desperately trying to void the turd that is the Olympic font. Or at best really, really angry, when it could be eliciting feelings of courage, strength and determination that these athletes should more rightly be associated with…

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