Monday, July 7, 2008

Illustration Conference v3

The Conference eased into being on Wednesday as I attended a New York studio tour. Of the several choices, I picked Pentagram -- a design firm, started by five partners (hence, the name), and with offices in London, San Francisco, Austin, Berlin, and New York. Their work spans the gamut of graphic design, packaging, products, architecture, and many other things that can bear the fruits of visual thinking.

Our small group was led to Grand Central Station for the train ride to the south side of town -- interesting in itself as that was my foray into the subway ride. We were met by the Communications Director who showed and explained their portfolio of work, then toured us around the former nightclub that is now their 5th Avenue office building.

Paula Scher is one of Pentagram's partners and designer of the identity for the 2008 Shakespeare in the Park productions. Throughout Central Park, one can see her wonderful constructionist-inspired posters for Hamlet and Hair -- one of which I've snapped above.

Stanley Hainsworth gave the opening keynote. His soothing voice led us through his travels from acting to creative director positions at Nike, Lego, Starbucks, and his current position at Tether, his own company devoted to all things hand-crafted.

I'm always fascinated by people and what makes them tick. One can read so much into folks if one looks at the details. Mr. Hainsworth was standing at the front of the ballroom, before 400-500 other creative beings, waiting to be introduced. He was hard to miss. The hair along his receding hairline was shaped like what occurs after throwing a large rock into a body of water. Around the edge where the hair met his head, it stood up at a 60-degree angle -- unusual, but totally appropriate. His personal style reflected a sense of ownership of his individuality, reflected in his visual identity -- one which was crafted through curiosity and self-teaching, which is always inspiring to me. He shared his philosophy through an engaging talk -- one in which I took away a renewed sense of ownership to the potential of my career.

The evening then turned to The Palms room where a reception commenced, featuring the all-illustrator band, The Halftones. It co-featured an open bar and lots of mingling.

I was recently watching an HBO documentary on Chuck Connelly, titled, The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale. Mr. Connelly is an artist whose career arc peaked (so far) in the 80s. This film takes a snapshot of him today, referencing the unlimited potential of his past (he came on the art scene with Julian Schnabel and his hands were doing the painting in the Nick Nolte flick, New York Stories), and paints a character study of a man who seems to have sabotaged his opportunities through an overbearing ego. As a result, he has alienated many of his relationships -- professional or otherwise -- leaving him challenged to make a living as an artist.

Two things I take away from this conference are -- it's about professional tenacity and building relationships. These were two things I knew to be true before I arrived in New York, but one of the virtues of these conferences is they tend to positively confirm, in practice, what I have come to discover on my own, sometimes only in theory. Why is that important if I already knew it? In my opinion, it is always beneficial to physically see the positive results of practice in addition to the theory. I think it tends to give me the push I need to propel my work to another level.

Day 2 coming soon.

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