Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lunch: Aaron Meshon

Aaron Meshon grew up about a mile from Andrew Wyeth's compound in southern Pennsylvania. As a student in a Quaker boarding school Aaron much preferred the art classes to math or science and being the progressive school that it was they were happy to cater to the young student's desires. The Quaker influence serves him well in dealing one-on-one with clients who sometimes demand more for less.

There's a genuine sincerity to this man with a self-deprecating wit that will have you in stitches in no time with story after story of home-life growing up, his early days in New York, the way students are convinced that he must drive a Ferrari to things Japanese: taking communal baths with his new father-in-law, the way trains run so efficiently or how many different languages there are inherent in the Japanese language which he is trying to learn--though he'll tell you that the writing part is easier than the speaking part. Being a visual person helps. Having a Japanese wife certainly helps.

A graduate of the RISD illustration program, he and his fellow artist, Chris Buzelli landed in New York in 1994, living together on the upper eastside on little of nothing. The moves to the East Village followed, Chris on 9th, Aaron on 10th and then Aaron on 9th and Chris on 10th, now Aaron calls Carroll Garden's home but Chris hasn't made the leap to Brooklyn...yet.

We talk about his lessons learned working with a rep, now without one, his sojourn into the licensing area--he brings gifts of self-designed tumblers, holiday cards and zipper pulls--it almost feels like Christmas. There's a excited, kid-like quality to the conversation--did you see this, have you gone here--the energy that you also find in his work. He's curious, he wants to know more about you and he makes you feel at ease in opening up. An only child we talk about the advantages--bikes and horses when you ask for them--but also what is missed, we both wished to have siblings though it might just be a thing of the grass is always greener.

As the lunch winds down you can imagine the conversation continuing into the wee hours with more inside stories of an artist who you can tell loves what he does and loves life as well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 2

We just wrapped up our sixth annual proshow and it's our best yet. More entries from more artists from more places around the globe. It's deeply satisfying to see all the entries coming in from places and people we haven't seen before. It always surprises me on who does and doesn't enter our show, or shows in general.

One steadfast illustrator who is still entering shows even though he's a household name is Seymour Chwast. You'd think this co-founder of Push Pin wouldn't need to enter shows, you'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know this artist and his unmistakable style(s). Yet year after year he enters, and what's even more important, he gets in. Not because of his name but because of his work. Truly fresh, year after year. Strong concepts, clever ideas, impactful images -- his work never ceases to amaze me, and inspire me. And it inspires our judges, too.  Makes you wonder why younger artists don't see the need to have their work judged and have the chance of being exhibited in the leading annuals? One thing for sure is those that don't expose themselves are looking at a much shorter lifetime of illustrating than those that do. Take Seymour as a perfect example, the man has been illustrating for over 40 years--how many artists can say that. Oh and the other superstar that keeps on entering, Brad Holland. And he keeps getting in too, for the same reasons.

My guess as to why a lot of younger artist aren't entering shows is that many are too busy communicating with other artists about their work--their blog becomes their exhibition. They look at that as a perfect way to show-off their work. But that's like putting a note in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean, your friends might know about you but the world at large doesn't. The internet is a vast sea of information where it takes a lot to stand out. Annuals serve a purpose of weeding down to the best artists of our time and these are the artists that will be getting the commissions because someone has judged their work--third party endorsements help an art director to try a new artist or return to one they have used before. Having other people acknowledge your work matters, not only to the artist but to those who are buying.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lunch: Matt Rota

One of our favorite young artists came to lunch today, Matt worked for us for us for a year when he was working on his masters at School of Visual Arts. It was a time when it was an unpaid internship and Matt still showed up and gave it his all. He also was good about introducing us to new artists on the web and working with us on a variety of internal projects--he accepted the most mundane assignments without complaint. Matt graduated with a BFA from Maryland Institute of Art and Design (MICA) before coming to New York for the SVA program. 

Originally from upstate New York, Matt was drawn to illustration and while still a student promoted his work to Brian Rea who was at the New York Times Op-Ed page. And it paid off, Matt has had nearly a dozen op-ed pieces in the Times, quite an accomplishment for someone barely out of school. His complex, sensitive line drawings explore the human condition. His reportorial work has the freedom of line coupled with the realism of the moment. His effortless character studies can evoke an almost tranquil time but often with a sudden twist that takes it beyond the obvious. Matt had his first taste of teaching last year and throughly enjoyed it--teaching at MICA one day a week was an experience he wouldn't mind repeating. As far as work goes, like many it's slowed down, several large advertising projects which would have had him wrapped up for the next twelve months were shelved. But he's actively working on a new promotional campaign and staying busy with assignments. We appreciate his support of 3x3 and he did get a paying assignment from us last year for our Good But Cheap Eats book we did for ICON5 distribution. We hope to work with him again...soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Job Opening: Illustration Program Consultant

The New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University, Boston, is looking for a consultant to aid in the development of a BFA program in Illustration. The consultant will review and make recommendations regarding an existing draft curriculum, work with faculty to develop descriptions of all new courses, recommend new hires, articulate unique aspects of the program compared to peer institutions as well as additional duties. Must have significant experience in college-level teaching and curriculum development in Illustration plus professional experience and a broad understanding of traditional and digital media. Apply via email, wdavis@suffolk.edu. Submit CV and cover letter by April 10 to William Davis, Chair, New England School of Art and Design. Salary commensurate with experience. Suffolk University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3x3 ProShow Deadline is Saturday

We're one of the few shows that don't have extensions so if you're planning on entering this year you have to have your work uploaded before we open the doors on Monday morning. Or if you're sending a disc, your package must be postmarked no later than Saturday, March 14. If you have any questions about categories or uploading problems please contact us before 6pm EST on Friday, by email or phone. Do not call after 6pm, there won't be anyone to help you. If you've paid, and you can pay online, you are officially entered in the show. If you have download issues once you've paid we can address them on Monday morning.

We've got a great lineup of judges, so we hope to see your work entered.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lunch: Poul Hans Lange

We had the pleasure of having Poul Hans Lange over for lunch. A native of Copenhagen, Poul is a graphic designer/illustrator who has been based in the US since 1989. Lunches like these let us get to know an artist and their background a bit more. Asked why Poul came to America we learned about his passion for the 5-string banjo and it was this love for blue-grass that played into his first coming to America. Forming a band with his sister who played the fiddle they decided to embark on a transatlantic adventure. Landing in Newark they rented a car and toured all the blue-grass festivals they could find from cost to coast. He admits that their accents lent a new twist to the song's lyrics but he found everyone here to appreciate their interest and devotion to the music. Attending design school in both Denmark and at the School of Visual Arts here in New York Poul is now an instructor in a unique program at SVA for designers who want to learn more about illustration.

Poul has worked at Milton Glaser's studio working with Glaser and Walter Bernard on editorial assignments, he's been at GQ and now works on bookcovers for the likes of Paul Auster as well as dabbling in children's books--his book, "Hulle Bogen was an AIGA winner last year and has a new book in the works. His wife, Kayoko Suzuki-Lange, is the former art director at Golf for Women and now an AD at Essence. A self-trained art director, Poul first noticed her design-eye when he'd come home each night to find the furniture perfectly rearranged. Spotting her talent he encouraged her, helped her with the design software programs and she was able to land her first job at GQ scanning artwork. Working her way up the ladder, when the design director left to go to Golf for Women he brought Kayoko along as associate art director and she rose to the title of creative director. A strong supporter of illustration she is now working on getting Essence to use more art. Poul also teaches intensive workshops in Copenhagen, but prefers if the classes are in the Spring or Summer--he adds, "Copenhagen is dark in the winter." Poul certainly brightened up our afternoon even if he didn't bring his banjo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

For What It's Worth

Starting today we're introducing a column called For What It's Worth, from time to time we'll address some of the issues facing illustration today. Our first column reproduces our appeal to art directors, especially ad agency ADs, that's on the back cover of this year's 3x3 Illustration Directory.

Why Illustration?

Illustration is not at the top of the list when art directors are thinking about solving visual problems. Sure there are the devotees out there, particularly on the editorial side, but it’s rare that an ad agency art director will use illustration. I believe there has been a generational shift away from illustration that started when art directors moved away from print to television and i’m just as guilty as the next art director. We forgot somehow about how powerful illustration can be in setting a client apart in the morass of advertising messages. And now those messages are getting smaller and smaller as we move from the giant screen to pdas. Photos lose detail as images get smaller, illustration can be a wonderful alternative.

There seems to be a real fear out there among art directors to hire illustrators, they may think they’re giving up creative control, or may think that it’s too difficult or it takes too long to do an illustration. That’s where they can benefit from the experience of editorial art directors who have even tighter deadlines. Working with an illustrator is not difficult, getting visual ideas from illustrators isn’t a cop-out. Working in partnership with an illustrator can benefit the client and career of the art director. Take it from personal experience, illustrators always made me look better, i got into more shows, my clients got better exposure, it was a true win-win situation. I would never give an idea to an illustrator, i’d just give them the headline, a bit about the concept and the company and let them go. Sure i had something that i showed the client but i always made it clear that this was just one idea, that we were hiring this illustrator—you may have seen their work in time magazine last week—and the illustrator would be coming up with the real visual. Following that tact i never encountered a problem presenting illustration to even the most jaded client. And niether the client nor i were dispappointed with the results. It’s time for art directors to overcome their fears and collaborate with some of the freshest minds out there. Imagine the possibilities.