I was recently approached to design a poster for the Thayer Street Grand Opening here in the South End of Boston. The client wanted a Soviet-style poster with a fist -- because the event was on May Day (May 1). I also provided an alternative.
Here are the results of my labors:
I used my own hand to model the fist -- notice the slender wrist in an otherwise sturdy forearm. It was fun illustrating this poster. I looked at a bunch of Soviet Era posters to figure out how to deal with the type. I decided on something bold and big. I used outlines on the type to make them more defined.
For the second poster, you can view the Soviet original here. I pulled a Shepard Fairey on this one.
You know that communism and socialism have been totally de-fanged when you can use the visual language of those ideologies to illustrate a capitalist enterprise. I wonder how many people will pick up on the Soviet influences in these posters. It seems so long ago when Cold War was in full swing, people were getting hauled into HUAC, and someone could get blacklisted for having communist/socialist sympathies. Say what you will about the evils of communism, but those Soviets produced visually striking propaganda -- they were on the cutting edge of photography, typography, and design. There is something sensationally original about the graphics from that era. They really owned their look. It is hard to imagine the people who designed these fantastic posters did so in the midst of Stalin's Purges, famines, forced re-settlements, and mass executions.
Anyway -- new stores and galleries will be opening on May 1. Only the graphics are communist -- the party is pure free market capitalism.
Spring is officially here -- and I want to give it a hearty welcome.
I know I'm jumping the gun by displaying these particular photos but I am so looking forward to buds, blossoms, leaves and fruits. Actually these photos were taken last April at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain. This is such an inspiring time of year for me as I love rendering plants and flowers.
These images are from my 2009 Floral Calendar. It is the third flower calendar I've done. This is the time of year when I get the images ready for the next year (2010). How could I not?
This is a page from my notebook that I carry around in my purse. The numbers look so mysterious, don't they?
If I were the victim in a police procedural drama (God forbid), I hope the detectives who find these numbers on my person would not spend too much time on it because it would turn out to be a red herring. No, these numbers do not correspond to contacts and paymasters in an espionage ring. Nor are the numbers dates, locations and casualties of past and future disasters. These numbers will not lead them through a high-speed chase through the capitals of Europe and the Middle East in search of The Holy Grail. (So the cops can rule out an assassination backed by the Vatican.) Did I become a bookie and are each set of numbers a person who owes me money and I just got "mixed up with the wrong kind of people"? Bernie Madoff's Swiss/Cayman Island bank account numbers? The by-product of late onset schizophrenia?
The truth can be so prosaic.
These numbers are International Standard Book Numbers -- ISBNs. Starting in February this year I embarked a de-accessioning program with my personal library. I wanted to find good homes for my books so I started listing them on Amazon.com. My problem was, and is, that I have a 10-year-old Mac at home and it takes several hours to upload 20 ISBNs. So I decided to write down the ISBNs of the books I wanted to sell and upload them on my computer in my studio where uploading 75 books can take as little as 15 minutes to do.
I'm not getting rid of my entire library, just paring down. I want the books in my personal library to be there not just because of content but also as an artifact. I think I'm done buying paperbacks. I am hanging on to my art/photo books. As well as reference books. In the meantime, I have been patronizing the Boston Public Library which is a civic treasure. I look up what book I want on their database, request it online and then they send me an email letting me know that my book is waiting for pick-up at the Copley Branch.
(Boston Public Library Inner Courtyard. January of 2008)
In case you were wondering, the letters next to numbers are a personal code that I am happy to share with you:
ULN - Used Like New
VG- Very Good
G - Good
PY - Pages Yellowing (due to age)
WOC - (Some) Wear on Cover
These are shorthand notes to myself regarding the condition of each book. I try to give an accurate description of each book to avoid unpleasant surprises for the buyer later on. Managing expectations, after all, is key to good customer service.
I want to introduce my latest venture: an online store called The Great Depression. It's another one of my hare-brained ideas. I don't mean to trivialize the severity of our collective economic predicament, but it's either this or have a total, massive freak-out. This is my version of lashing deck chairs together while the Titanic sinks - not optimal but it might just keep me from freezing and/or drowning until the rescue ship arrives.
The beauty of this enterprise is it requires no capital up front from me. I just upload my images onto Printfection's site and then I chose what items I want to apply my designs. I get a small royalty with every purchase. It think it's a great way to test out new products. My only complaint is that they don't have mugs -- I really wanted to do a mug. So I can sell pencils, too.
I'm going to order a few items for myself so I can actually see the quality of the merchandise. If I'm satisfied, I'll set up a photo shoot and show the results here. If the products stink, I'll have to re-think this whole thing.
Please visit The Great Depression. You might just help avert the total destruction of the global financial system by putting money in the hands of people who actually make things.
So the economy is tanking. The stock market has taken a precipitous plunge and the recent gains are so reminiscent of the fluctuations that marked the Great Depression, that it's hard feel optimistic about the future. But I'm no economist -- just a small fry trying to eke out a living in these scary times.
Unlike the Thirties, though, I don't think there's a real threat to democracy. I mean, bad as things are, I would be hard pressed to find any serious player espousing communism as an alternative. Yes, our system is in need of major adjustments, if not outright resuscitation, but communism? Please. Even China is barely communist -- totalitarian, yes. But as afar as communism as Mao and Marx envisioned it -- that train has left the station. Oh, by the way have you seen the Louis Vuitton ads with Mikhail Gorbachev? Do you hear a high-pitched, whirring noise every time you look at this ad? Don't worry, you're not coming down with tinnitus -- it's just the sound of Vladimir Illyich Lenin spinning in his tomb.
Getting back to eking out a living -- creativity is my stock in trade. I tend to find inspiration everywhere -- nature, art, history, current events, etc. Feeling particularly down in the dumps about the economy, I designed "What would FDR do?" buttons. Now I've designed "What would FDR do?" postcards -- an old-timey way to commiserate with friends and family about our economic woes. They are available at my Etsy store for a mere $3.00 plus shipping (you get 3 postcards -- 2 to send out and one to keep on your bulletin board). In the next few days, I will post links for other "What would FDR do?" merchandise t-shirts, mugs (ostensibly from which we can all sell pencils), etc. I think this is what it really means to "never let a good crisis go to waste" -- I'm talking to you, Jonah Goldberg.
I'm infuriated by the recent talking heads who are presuming to rewrite history by claiming that FDR did not pull us out of the Great Depression, and in fact prolonged it. While I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts. Some claim that WWII pulled us out of The Great Depression -- not FDR. And who exactly foresaw the threat of Nazi Germany and quietly started gearing up the industrial base to prepare for the war? Some say that the government did not produce permanent jobs to which I say -- exactly. That's the point. It produced millions of temporary jobs so people wouldn't starve while waiting for permanent jobs to come back. These temporary jobs kept body and soul together. Permanent jobs are the domain of the free market.
The answer to "What would FDR do?" is WHATEVER IT TAKES. Let's save ourselves by re-building our infrastructure so we can have energy efficient buildings and safe bridges. Let's modernize our schools so we can graduate more and more students qualified to meet the demands of a complex and technological future. Let's figure an equitable healthcare system so a medical catastrophe doesn't equal financial ruin. Let's do it together. And that's just for starters.