Edel Rodriguez Doesn’t Melt in the Face of Adversity

The political discourse in this country has been at a fervent pitch for months, up until the shocking outcome November 8. Political cartoonists and illustrators have been having a field day, but none more so than Edel Rodriguez who has created two of the most talked about cover images in recent times. As a Cuban immigrant he has a great appreciation for the artistic freedom he is allowed in America, and he has a lot to say in his work.

Rodriquez immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, when he was just nine years old. He studied art and design at Pratt Institute, where he graduated with honors. He then received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting from Hunter College. His illustrations have graced the covers of books and magazines like TIME, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and more. In addition to his commercial work, Rodriguez’s fine art paintings voice human concerns, mortality, and cultural displacement.

Here, we talk to him about the influence art has played in his life and life work, and how visual ideas play out in the media. Read the interview here.

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Illustrations: Edel Rodriguez

Marc English is Always Going Off the Beaten Path

Whether he’s teaching, designing, or hitting the road on his motorcycle, Marc English never takes the prescribed route. No, he likes to distance himself from the tried and true, sticking to his gut instincts and following his muse.

English has become widely known in design circles as an eccentric with an appetite for adventure. He’s crisscrossed the U.S. on his Triumph Bonneville, meeting new people, sketching, speaking, and always searching for the best piece of pie. Here he talks about his journeys, people he’s met, things he’s seen, and his role in design.

What exactly are you up to these days?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been beating this expression into the ground, when folks ask what I’m up to: “As little as possible, and I don’t even start that till noon.” The truth is, I’m doing what I’ve been doing for the last thirty years: living life as best I can, with design and education paying the rent. Just more than a year ago, I was speaking at a conference in Palm Springs, and the name of my talk was “The Career I Never Wanted,” as I have never wanted to work for myself. Always wanted to work for someone older, smarter, more talented, that would take me under their wing. Life doesn’t always work the way you’d like, so I’ve had to suffer the consequences of my choices.

At the Boston HOW Conference of 1994, the late Gordon McKenzie, then creative director at Hallmark, spoke movingly about life in design, acknowledging the safest one can be is in an underground bunker with no windows or doors. I liken that to any number of dead-end design gigs — I’ll let the reader fill in the blanks as they see fit. On the other hand, Gordon said the most free one can be is in free-fall from an airplane without a parachute. I’d say that to a degree, I’ve been in the latter category, and after having my own gig for 23+ years, am lucky enough to have not yet hit ground. Before I hit, I’d like to find an equilibrium and halfway point between the two. Read the rest of the interview here.

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The Many Sides of Robynne Raye

If you know anything about Robynne Raye, you know that she’s outspoken, passionate, and a fierce advocate in the design community. As cofounder of the now legendary design studio, Modern Dog, her poster designs have been regularly lauded in industry publications, and the firm’s tongue-in-cheek package designs for Blue Q (among other clients), put them in an enviable position among their peers. For more than 25 years, Modern Dog was at the top of their game.

Then from 2011 to 2013, Robynne and her partner, Michael Strassburger, became embroiled in a copyright infringement case against Disney and Target. It nearly bankrupted them financially, and broke them spiritually. (You can read about the case in Robynne’s own words, here and here.) Fortunately, they persevered and the big corporations settled, but the firm was fractured and displaced, and Robynne and Mike were exhausted. Although Modern Dog still exists, it’s now a part-time venture for the principals, who have since taken on new roles. Read the rest of the article here.

Design by Robynne Raye
Design by Robynne Raye

Timothy Goodman & Jessica Walsh: Being Vulnerable on a Public Platform

What happens when two designers set out to do a social experiment that reveals their vulnerabilities and insecurities? They publish a book, get tons of media coverage, and Hollywood comes calling with a movie deal. Then they start over with a new experiment.

Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman are well respected designers who have plenty on their professional plates already—Walsh as partner of famed Sagmeister & Walsh, and Goodman as a prominent designer, illustrator and art director. Both are based in New York city, and they teach at School of Visual Arts, as well. In 2013, 40 Days of Dating started as a personal exploration where Walsh and Goodman exclusively dated each other for 40 days, following a set of self-imposed guidelines including attending couples therapy, an entire day of holding hands (even in the bathroom), and a romantic weekend get-away. The entire experience was documented daily, with each recording their thoughts about each other and what they were feeling each day. This was the most real, reality program we’ve ever witnessed, and highly addictive. During the experiment, Goodman was asked by a friend why he was doing this, and he said, “I really believe it’s testing my capacity for intimacy.” That intimacy was ultimately viewed by more than 15 million people worldwide. The two didn’t become a couple, but they have remained close confidants and co-conspirators, and Walsh found her happily-ever-after with someone else.

Their latest project, 12 Kinds of Kindness, again took them way out of their comfort zone as they explored their own personal struggles in the past and how they dealt with them—and are still dealing with them—as well as how they respond to unwanted behaviors in others. The description on the site, says, “Two self-centered New Yorkers, often focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s around them, created a series of 12 steps as a way to become kinder, more empathetic people. As a resolution, they practiced this for 12 months.” Here, we talk to Goodman and Walsh about their motivations with each project, why they keep doing them, and how they feel about publicly revealing such personal experiences. Read the rest here.

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Clear Winner: Jonathan Selikoff, Letterpress Artist

Designer, typographer, and letterpress artist Jonathan Selikoff started his studio Vote for Letterpress in 2010 because he had to.

Selikoff wanted to buy a Vandercook press to add to his weekender print set-up in his garage. “I found one in Ithaca, but there was a catch. It came with a Heidelberg Windmill, a manual paper cutter (old-school guillotine), and a lot of wood and metal type. After checking with the boss (my wife, Lauren), we decided that I’d just buy it all and open up a shop.”

That is the moment when Selikoff’s avocation became his vocation. Today, his letterpress shop includes a Vandercook, a flatbed cylinder press, and a Heidelberg Windmill automated platen press (see this marvel of German engineering here).

Selikoff’s letterpress habit began when he was a 12-year-old boy attending summer camp. “At camp we made stationery using a tabletop press,” he recalls. “I loved it. The seed was planted.” His formal education began at Emory University in Atlanta, where he majored in history. Between his junior and senior years there, he won an internship in the art department of Atlanta Magazine. The experience attracted him to graphic design. After graduating from Emory, he enrolled at Portfolio Center/Atlanta (Miami Ad School and Portfolio Center recently merged). His years there, he says, “were transformative.”

While studying at PC, Selikoff’s fascination with “old school technology” grew. “In art school, a bunch of us loved to visit vintage goods shops around Atlanta. I’d poke through whatever type or printing stuff they had, and ended up buying things I found interesting.” These treasure hunts were the beginning of a fantastic library of objects and letterforms he’d later put to use on the letterpress. Read the rest here.

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Design by Graham Clifford; Hand lettering by Wells Collins; Letterpress by Vote for the Letterpress.

Confidence is Overrated: Debbie Millman’s Road to Success

As the voice and founder of the Design Matters podcast, Debbie Millman has interviewed designers, authors, musicians, photographers and entrepreneurs learning not only the secrets of their successful journeys, but also the failures and rejections they’ve experienced along the way. Her keynote for the upcoming HOW Design Live Conference, which will be streamed live here on Creative Live, is called, On Rejection: A Cautionary Tale of Dreams, Hopes and Rejection. In her talk, she draws from her own experiences of rejection and despair through revealing and sometimes hysterical anecdotes.

Here, we asked Millman about how vulnerability and courage have played major roles in her successful creative journey, along with the disappointments and missteps along the way. She holds nothing back. Read full post here.

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Hand lettering by Debbie Millman.

Design Links: Three Hand-Lettering Artists

Editor’s Note: This is part 19 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series, Design Links. Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the last part in the series, featuring Raw Color, The Bouroullecs, and Sabine Marcelis.

I’m enamored with hand-lettering lately, especially when it’s done at a large scale on walls and murals, so I want to feature the work of …

Alex Fowkes

Alex does these amazingly cool mural projects for clients like Sony and Urban Outfitters. He can fill walls with letters and art, and make it look so easy. I had the pleasure to work as his editor for Drawing Type, a book that features not only his work, but the work of 73 other lettering artists from around the world. He’s generous and kind on top of being incredibly talented.

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Alex’s work for Urban Outfitters blows my mind, not only for its sheer scale, but the details he imbues with each letter and illustration. To date, he’s done murals in several outlets in the UK and Europe, but each is distinctly different. The Munich store, in particular, reminds me of walking into a scene in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, with painted lightboxes extruding from the walls providing a dimensional, surreal experience. Watch this time-lapse video that shows Alex creating this amazing atmosphere.

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On a much smaller scale, Alex set the type style and created some hand-drawn slogans for Addlestones Free Range Cider campaign. Each element of the campaign has a different hand-lettered style that perfectly coincides with the statement being made.

To see who inspires Alex, continue reading here.

New Magazine for Creative Entrepreneurs Launches

The first print issue of Aglow magazine, by Design Aglow, was just released. The beautiful quarterly pub is packed full of useful content anyone in the creative industry can use. The issue includes a visit to the studio of photographer Tina Wilson (“Inside Real Studios”); advice on building your business through blogging by Lauren Hooker, founder of Elle & Co, in “Blog About it,” and how to transition from your day job into your dream job, by Modern Thrive founder Cassie Boorn, among many other great features, including a calligraphy tutorial. Read the rest here.

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Featured Maker: Annie Howe

Annie Howe
Annie Howe Papercuts
Baltimore, MD
Business founded: 2010

Annie Howe has always loved playing with paper. She worked in community arts for many years, creating and contributing to the Baltimore art community with large-scale puppetry and shadow puppets. “As my love for storytelling grew through this large medium, I found my focus as an artist shifting from large 3D objects to that of the smaller more intimate medium of paper,” Howe says, adding, “I spent years and years using a simple knife and blades to cut out elaborate shadow puppets with an organization called Nana Projects. One Christmas I decided I could try cutting paper as gifts for family and friends. The papercuts were a hit and I slowly started making more.” Here she tells us how she transitioned from a part-time paper obsession to full-time gig.

What was the process of starting your business?

Encouraged by friends I started seeking out places to sell my work from local restaurants, to shops and craft shows. As I began showing my work, people took an interest and asked me to do commissions and special projects. I was still working full-time so it was a challenge to really grow and get things done in the beginning. It would take me forever to get projects complete. Then the organization I was working for closed, and I had to decide if I was going to apply for another full-time job or pursue papercutting.

The holiday season was approaching and I decided to try and make it through doing craft shows, retail, and custom work. By making more time for my work I was able to grow my business into a full time job! Read the rest of the interview here.

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5 Sharpie Art Exercises from Timothy Goodman

Sharpie art has a unique appeal and an ever-growing field of contributors. It tends to feel improvised and disruptive in the most pleasant way. If you’ve only ever used your sharpies for labeling CD-R’s and (accidentally) making notes on a whiteboard, we’re happy to tell you that there’s so much more to explore.

Timothy Goodman is a highly accomplished Sharpie artist whose new book, Sharpie Art Workshop (Rockport Publishers), offers lots of valuable ideas and techniques for anyone who has a Sharpie and a blank surface to draw on. In addition to his own work, he featured 22 artists from around the world who are making their marks with Sharpies and more. Below are five of his favorite sharpie art exercises from the book to help get you started on your Sharpie drawing kick. Read the rest of the article here.

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