By Nina J P Evans

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sky Series

My last blog post had a black and white graphics style these abstract photographs illustrate the full spectrum in the most glorious colours imaginable. As seen by New York based artist Eric Cahan’s breathtaking Sky Series of photographs taken at sunrise and sunset in NY and CA. I’ve selected from his online portfolio website a few pieces to showcase in portrait format, there’s also a horizontal and diptych/triptych series, but these verticals seem to allow enough space to draw the eye downwards in infinitely subtle colour variations. Sometimes revealing hints of land mass and sea scape whilst remaining mysteriously familiar. Compositionally they are not about places and landmarks, but a sense of watchfulness, utilising real low lighting conditions, rather than flash lighting photography. The sky series is similar in an evocative sense to films Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, directed by Richard Linklater staring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as lovers they trace a moment of time together forming and reforming discontinuous connections. These pictures abstractly enable the viewer to form emotional connections from feelings of graduating vagueness to intense richness of hue. Like the films in context, they could be tracing the lives of the two characters across two continents, possibly showing a doomed love affair that lingers and yet remains open-ended.

By way of repetition, the series captures a greater sense of renewal and change according to different factors such as, the location, the classifying sunset and sunrise and the precise time. Acknowledged by the photographic titles. Graduating harmonies and colour contrasts are all subtlety variable. The series looks and feels surprisingly soft with disappearing horizons and colours that may at first appear to be symmetrically balanced. There’s a vivid cadmium yellow in one piece and a pale cobalt green sky with a soft curve of muted yellow in another.

Sunsets are at risk of looking like visual cliches with inclusions of silhouettes surfing and lovers strolling. These scenes are all too familiar and reminiscent of stock photography's contrived poses. This quote by Eric Cahan clearly describes his creative endeavour: “My work is meant to capture a moment in nature, asking and empowering the viewer to be fully present, involved, and uplifted. I want the viewer to be drawn in, and be completely absorbed by, rather than separate from that fleeting moment in time.” These are more spiritually and visually engaging, all about colour nuances and the timing of natural light. The clouds not always, but sometimes dancing across the surface like a brush stroke adding textured marks as soft and sometimes as similar as a dramatic pause. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Steal Like An Artist

Austin Kleon’s new book titled Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told Me About The Creative Life looks like something for the desk rather than the bookshelf. The black and white graphic styling has free flowing textual information with handwritten visual presentations. Kleon’s illustrations have a talent to amuse and entertain, interplaying with the narrative style aptly with their honest hand drawn integrity. Interestingly the book was published after presenting a guest lecture to students at Broome Community College, upstate New York. The book is about everything with nothing new, really… it's sage wisdom and lists are useful learning methods for the designers consideration. This is a manual for students and professionals alike, as the funny thing is, that mistakes are made equally. Feedback and testing is a vital part of any design process especially considering the viral nature of the web.

The title of the book: Steal Like An Artist can be helpfully explained through the visual diversity of graphic styles, ranging from Saul Bass’ iconic inspired illustrations to cute though sometimes menacing Japanese graphics. These are just two styles out of many… that could complement each together. Though designers adding graphic styles to project pieces, should take note of Kleon’s advice: “Steal from many, not one!” As with other industries research is key, a designer needs to compare and contrast design genres. Below are some further quotes from the book.
You are the consumer. Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use - do the work you want to see done.
It’s the side projects that really take off. The stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. that’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens. Bounce between them. when you’re sick of one, switch to another.
Don’t worry about unity from piece to piece—what unifies all your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense.
The messages are simultaneously direct and poignant with visual presentation that is delightful.