A Woman Comes Back to Work After 30 Years Away…
Without a strong concept, illustration is just glorified doodling. The same can be said of design as well. Those entering these professions need to exhibit more than technical skill; they need to engage their minds and imaginations to get at the crux of the story they want to tell.
I was reminded of this while watching Craig Frazier’s video. A prolifically talented illustrator who still sketches thumbnails with pen and ink and cuts his final image out of rubylith film, Craig explains. “If there is anything magical about making illustration, it happens at the sketch stage. That’s when the idea comes out of the pen. The DNA of the illustration exists right in the sketch. If it is not there, it is not going to show up later on.”
Over the past 30 years, we have seen many professions in the graphic arts replaced by technology. Sign painting is one. Sign painting was a trade that existed in every community to adorn storefronts, banners, billboards, street signs, and buildings. The really good signs were one-of-a-kind works of art, produced by a steady hand, discerning eye, and aesthetic sensibility. Hand-painted signs revealed the pride and skill of the craftsmen. Their execution took human judgment and an active collaboration of eye, mind and hand. On a subliminal level, viewers could feel the effort of the maker. Now signs are mostly computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering. Undoubtedly, this is faster, cheaper and more uniform in quality, but like so much of our urban landscape, it lacks the warmth, soul and touch of human hands. “Sign Painters” is a documentary film (and also a book) by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon that celebrates the vanishing art of sign painting. The film is currently being shown in select locations in the U.S. and other parts of the globe. If it comes to your area, do see it.
Some of you know that seven years ago I wrote a book called “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946,” published by Ten Speed Press/Random House. As usual, it was designed by Kit Hinrichs (Kit’s origami flag assemblage below) and photographed by Terry Heffernan. After more than 30 years as a corporate writer, I suddenly found myself propelled in another direction and immersed in a subject that I largely avoided my entire life. Although I had no thought that it would make a good art exhibition, I began receiving requests from museums across the U.S. and the array of objects made from scrap and found materials by people imprisoned in the camps were exhibited in some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. and the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe. Today it opens at the University Art Museum (Geidai) in Tokyo to kick off a one-year tour of Japanese cities. If you are in Japan, I hope you’ll take the time to see it. I’ll be back in my San Francisco office next week with more new posts. — Delphine