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.
Here’s a new twist on an old Japanese folk art – painting kokeshi doll faces on matches. The original kokeshi figures, introduced a couple centuries ago, were inexpensive souvenir items that visitors to the onsen (spa) villages of northern Japan would buy to give to friends back home. (Even in California, we used to have a half dozen kokeshi, along with snow globes from New York, native American trinkets from the Grand Canyon, and seashells from Hawaii – don’t know what happened to any of them.) It’s the kind of gift that would merit a T-shirt that read: “Grandma went to the onsen and all she brought me was this wooden kokeshi.” Kokeshi dolls were distinguished by their simple rectangular torso, lacking arms and legs, and their enlarged round wooden heads, minimally painted to indicate eyes, hair and maybe a mouth or nose. (Think “Hello Kitty,” who is also missing a mouth.)
To mark the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s famed “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans” painting, the soup company has just released a limited run of pop art soup cans in select Target stores around the country. The commemorative packaging is a collaboration of the Campbell’s Global Design team and the Andy Warhol Foundation.
Warhol, who died in 1987, had an eye for what was iconic in American culture, albeit a soup can, Brillo box, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, or Mao Tse Tung. The founder of the Pop Art Movement, Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator, then manipulated our view of everyday objects so we could appreciate them as high art.
For a Central China Television (CCTV) promotional commercial, Chinese ad agency, MMIA, undertook to retrace the history of China in an animated version of a traditional Chinese ink-and-wash landscape painting. Ink-and-wash is an art style that developed thousands of years ago and is noted for brush strokes that range from bold forms to faint ink washes that render scenes in a dreamlike mist. To simulate this liquid effect, MMIA turned to Troublemakers.tv, a production company based in Paris, and German director Niko Tziopanos of weareflink. The result is mesmerizing, a merging of design, computer graphics, visual effects and live action blending seamlessly together to appear that an ancient ink painting has come to life.