Posts tagged with design
Ukiyo-e Heroes: Donkey Kong Visits 17th-Century Japan
Mario racing a rickshaw, Kirby wielding a katana, and Donkey Kong bounding past cherry blossoms. In his fantastical Ukiyo-e Heroes series, 29-year-old illustrator Jed Henry reimagines classic video game characters in the style, setting, and medium of traditional Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). Growing up in Indiana in the 1980s, Henry learned to draw by copying the art in his video game manuals. It was an exciting time to be a gamer, as companies like Nintendo and Sega raced to create the best systems and graphics. A decade later, with a degree in animation and living in Utah, the illustrator and children’s book author is working with Canadian (by way of Tokyo) printmaking master Dave Bull to to create fine art prints of his characters. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign — Henry raised $290,000 more than his original goal — his illustrations are celebrating Japan’s vibrant pop culture, both then and now. We talked to him about his craft.
How do you choose which video games to feature?
I’m a big retro gamer. I played a lot of games as a kid, and my heart is really stuck on those games — a lot of Nintendo, Konami, and Capcom titles. So, that’s how I choose, it’s just my favorites from when I was a kid.
Wall Dogs: The Midair Muralists Who Paint New York
It’s 8am in Soho, the thermometer reads just above freezing, and the sky is bleak. Taxis splash down the streets; New Yorkers stride with their heads down, leaping over puddles, carelessly bumping into each other. Everyone wants to get out of the cold, out of the rain, into the warmth.
Ten stories above — on a long, skinny platform hanging from the facade of a building at Canal and Mercer in downtown Manhattan — it’s a different story. Climbers’ ropes secured around their torsos, Jason Coatney and Armando Balmaceda stand in a melange of open paint cans and brushes. These two muralists of Colossal Media, the largest hand-painted advertising company in America, are heavily layered in sweatshirts and raincoats. But in this industry, c’est la vie. Paintbrushes in their fingerless-gloved hands, earbuds in their ears — “I like to start out with Miles Davis in the morning,” Coatney smiles, his breath visible in the frigid air — they begin yet another workday in the sky.
It’s the third morning at this location, and the duo are on track, despite the rain, to complete a 30x18-foot mural — commissioned by Etsy to advertise a holiday pop-up shop — by the next evening’s deadline. Coatney carefully bends down, dipping the tip of his brush into a ruddy orange. “It’s a really weird mix of things that makes an artist like a wall dog,” he says.
Some say the origins of the term is derogatory. “Wall dogs” were the unofficial names of the men who were, almost literally, chained to outdoor facades to hand paint the enormous signs still decorating the faded exteriors of today’s landmarked buildings. But these days, the name is a sign of professional pride.
Before vinyl posters printed and hung by a couple guys and a crane became the norm, this was the way big-city advertising was done. Common practice in the decades before the Great Depression, painting these signs took days, perhaps weeks, of hard labor and skills that took years to hone.
Despite a couple updates (they now use motorized pulley systems to raise the building rigs, instead of pulling them up themselves), Colossal is carrying on the tradition, just as their predecessors did more than a century before. Paul Lindahl and Adrian Moeller cofounded the company nine years ago (a third cofounder tragically passed away in a subway accident) by pooling together their savings, a few thousand dollars, and leasing a large wall on 14th Street and 6th Avenue. “Hanging banners is faster; there are less variables. Everyone just told us to take a hike,” recalls Lindahl. Finally, months later, someone bit –- Rockstar Games, of Grand Theft Auto fame -– and they were so taken with the medium that they commissioned Colossal to paint 30 walls.
Moeller chuckles proudly as he talks about the past. “For the first few jobs, we couldn’t even afford a pounce machine,” the little contraption that burns holes into the life-size sketch they make for each job. They’ll spread this out and rub it with charcoal dust to get a faint outline when they’re on the rig, to help get the proportions right. “So Paul used a thumbtack. You can imagine, that’s a lot of holes to make for a 20x30 foot wall.”
No more thumbtacks. Today, Colossal is a $10 million company, with over 150 walls around the country and 30 wall dogs to fill them. “It takes years and years of practice,” emphasizes Coatney, still on the Etsy rig, who’s been doing this for 15 years. The rain has abated, and he’s added the finishing touches to the “always handpaint” lettering of the Colossal insignia. He pauses, his brush hovering in midair. “There are a lot of talented people waiting to get up here, you know? A lot of talented people.”
The Creators of NYC: Geometric Artist Aakash Nihalani
Josh Wool spent a decade as an executive chef, opening restaurants across the south. But all that changed in 2010, when the carpal tunnel in his hands meant he could no longer work. To keep from going stir crazy, he picked up a camera and found his next calling. Two years, thousands of portraits, and a move to New York later, Wool is documenting the people who inspire him on a daily basis. Welcome to Creators of NYC.
Aakash Nihalani is at the forefront of the next generation of modern artists working in New York. His work in spray paint and tape can be found not only on the walls of private collectors but in and around the streets of New York. I met up with Aakash in his Williamsburg studio, where he was preparing for a solo show.
How do you describe your art?
It’s hard … I usually direct people to look up an image on their phone. But I think at the barest, the work is about perspective, playing with our idea of three-dimensional space within a two-dimensional plane using tape as my primary medium, often in urban environments.
This Month In Charts: November
Still recovering from their Thanksgiving food comas, the guys from I Love Charts bring you the month of November, charted.
Yes We Can!
Every four years, people all across America gather together for a ritual rich in metaphor for the American experience. From all walks of life, citizens join ranks with their brothers and sisters to stand in line, battling outdated technology and undisguised voter suppression tactics for the privilege of casting their vote for President of the United States. From their homes, jobs, schools, posts they come and wait. And wait, and wait, and wait …
The Creators of NYC: Sculptor & Designer Adrienne Antonson
Josh Wool spent a decade as an executive chef, opening restaurants across the south. But all that changed in 2010, when the carpal tunnel in his hands meant he could no longer work. To keep from going stir crazy, he picked up a camera and found his next calling. Two years, thousands of portraits, and a move to New York later, Wool is documenting the people who inspire him on a daily basis. In the spirit of Creators of LA, welcome to Creators of NYC.
I first met Adrienne in 2005 at a dinner party at her home in Charleston, South Carolina, where we were neighbors. We’ve each lived in a bunch of places since then — Tennessee, Florida, an alpaca farm in Washington state — but it turns out we ended up as neighbors again without knowing it until we ran into each other in Brooklyn one afternoon. Adrienne has spent the last seven years sculpting and designing, and the serendipitous meeting led to me shooting a lookbook for her clothing label, State. I met up with Adrienne in her Brooklyn apartment and studio space for the interview.
You’re a visual artist and designer. What does that mean to you?
Short answer is that I’m always making something. The longer answer is to say that I went to school for sculpture and taught myself how to sew, dye, felt, etc. That recipe of skills translates to me mostly making clothing under the label of State, with occasional breaks to make sculptural fine art work from nontraditional fibers, like human hair.
Photographing Everyday Objects That Make Us Who We Are
They’re oft forgotten under the bed, nestled between some books on a shelf, or tucked away in a closet. A wooden box, a ring, a photograph — we all own those seemingly unremarkable objects that are, in fact, bursting with personal meaning. Revealing their story gives a glimpse into our past, shining a faint light into the depths of our soul.
That’s what Kristen Joy Watts and Ramsay de Give are doing with The Weight of Objects — a photography blog that features portraits of people side by side with ordinary, but prized, possessions. A founding member of the New York Times’ photo blog, Lens, Watts is the editor, and Ramsay’s the photographer — using a medium format “tank of a camera,” as he describes it, that was discontinued in 2004. (He is also colorblind.) We talked to the duo about light, color, and finding subjects in unexpected places.
How did The Weight of Objects come together?
Kristen Joy Watts: I wanted to match quiet portraits with a storytelling method that would reveal just a hint of each person portrayed. I thought that asking each subject to share the story of a treasured object would achieve that. And I knew that Ramsay would capture each object with the requisite awe and wonder.