Archive for the 'Graphic Design' Category

Holiday Market opening reception is tonight

Friday, November 16th, 2018

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

November inevitably brings a year-end uptrend in studio production, if not in my volatile stock portfolio. In addition to releasing a set of new note cards featuring five of my Christmas-tree miniatures, I made two spontaneous artworks for display during Danville’s Holiday Market at the Community Arts Center, which hosts its opening reception tonight. Composed with somewhat more restraint than my typical “maximalist” creations, I am very interested in the response they elicit. Last year’s event was a record-setting kickoff for the season. Shall I be seeing you this evening?
 

   

two new “stocking stuffers” — Gift of Grape and Fortune’s Conspiracy

 

‘more!’ or ‘more?’ — You decide.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Some collage ideas can be best described as a Rorschach.
 

more
collage Rorschach by J A Dixon
7 x 11 inches
private collection

Precursors have precursors

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

“We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.”
— Paul Klee
 

The other day the world learned about an unpublished Ernest Hemingway short story. If there had not been a Mark Twain first, would literature know Hemingway’s writings at all? Could there have been an Isaac Asimov, Stan Lee, or Gene Wolfe without a Verne or Burroughs? The J.K. Rowling body of work without an Austen or Tolkien? Similarly, all of today’s rock music can be linked to direct influences — to bands such as Ramones, Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, which, of course, had their own precursors. Would jazz exist in its current form without the innovations of Armstrong and all those who inspired him? Imagine a contemporary musician saying, “I really haven’t paid attention to any music that was recorded before I started to play.” And yet, not infrequently, collage artists will boast that they have little use for art history (all the breakthroughs of bygone creators who dug the swimming pools in which they now frolic).

It is argued that modern artists were the first to decide that visual art would be about art, rather than subject matter. Nonsense. Art has always been about art, because it always has been structured on prior foundations. The idea that any artist can burst on the scene as an original is absurd. Nobody who comes out of early childhood with any level of awareness has not built an inventory of perceptions — countless images from the culture around them. Each of these individual influences involved creative activity based on another bank of stimuli, and so forth, back to the first proto-human who picked up a piece of charcoal to make interesting marks on a stone (and was probably knocked on the head by another who judged the action as irrelevant to group survival).

Perhaps I have belabored my point. Perhaps it is a point that anyone who reads this would not need emphasized in the first place. Isn’t it obvious to us that no art form is more about all these churning influences from untold visual decision makers — painters, printers, illustrators, photographers, designers — than the medium of collage itself? So, let us all continue to study the collage artworks of the explorers who came before us, to trace the direct lineage of their concepts and techniques, to recognize that valuable inheritance in the work of our peers, as well as in the composition taking shape on the surface before us, and then, fully informed, to push confidently into the second century of collage.
 

Tranquil Ode (to Merz) ~ collage homage by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Tranquil Ode (to Merz)
collage homage by J A Dixon
9.5 x 11.875 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

The “Collagesmith” as Artisan

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

“Even in the absence of inspiration and talent, I think that through sheer craft you can actually create extremely good work, all the time, reliably. Great work is something else. I think for great work you also need a lot of luck. You can only aspire to really good work. The great work either happens or it doesn’t.”
— Christoph Niemann
 

Sloppy collage artwork has never held much appeal for me. Individuals might define “sloppy” differently, so I’ll rephrase that. I have always found well-crafted collage artwork to be the most appealing. In practice, I have aspired to the highest level of artisanship to which I am capable. According to my peculiar notions, the very nature of collage as a “mash-up” of visual ingredients suggests that one resist all the inherent temptations to condone careless techniques. To do anything less is a disservice to the medium, and strikes me as being a bit lazy.

I have been at this long enough to contrast current activity with a study of my “early” work. I perceive it now as more crisp and aligned with my long stint as a designer and illustrator. I remain proud of craftsmanship that continues to challenge my present hand skills. Like everyone who sticks around, I have moved relentlessly toward a period of life when manual dexterity and vision are unlikely to improve. At any rate, clean, precise work is more about attitude and personal commitment than it is about facility. Lately, on the other hand, I have sought a more organic, less contrived look — the impression that a piece is naturally the way it should be, rather than appear too obviously composed and belabored. As I work, I try not to permit the goal of a somewhat softer and cohesive whole to suggest a relaxation of craft. In fact, I have gradually introduced steps in the process that demand extra time and attention: sanding the reverse side of ingredients for adhesive-saturated compression and eliminating white edges on printed scrap to enhance a seamless effect. I combine that with ample burnishing and some hair-dryer prep before curing time under weight, followed by multiple light-touch coats of matte sealant. I would rather be thinking about practical methodology or a musical playlist than what is literally evolving on the surface before me, allowing that to be as intuitive as possible.

And perhaps (just maybe), Lady Luck will smile.
 
Cosmic Crucifixion ~ J A Dixon

Cosmic Crucifixion
mixed-media collage by J A Dixon
2006, 16 x 16 inches
available for purchase

Wetland

Monday, January 15th, 2018

“When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important.”
— Ellen DeGeneres
 

Although it was created in the studio, my new collage landscape titled ‘Wetland’ benefits from a summer of plein-air activity. My “painting with paper” out of doors has opened a rewarding area of investigation for my work as a collage artist. I’m pleased to share this piece with the art-viewing community at my first invitational exhibition of the year, the annual New Year New Art show at our Community Arts Center, just a biscuit toss from my home base in downtown Danville, Kentucky. This event has been a fortifying tradition for regional artists, because we can complete our year of work at a risk-taking level, and still know that the result will get a prominent public display. An artist working outside a metropolitan center could not ask for greater support from a local institution.

Based on an excellent photograph by a longtime pal, this artwork was created as an entry for a contemporary landscape show, but the juror rejected it for unknown reasons. I kept it handy for a pair of upcoming open studio events (my participation in the Central Kentucky ARTTOUR and Gallery Hop Stop). Plenty of praise ensued, but nobody took it home, so I decided to make additional refinements, leading up to the deadline for the January exhibition. A full makeover was unnecessary, as the in-process image above indicates. However, I was not entirely pleased with the vegetation at the waterline, above the dark shadow that spans the composition. In this case, less was not more. Additional ‘foliage’ was needed. I also thought that the lower right corner was too abstract. The desired sense of realism would profit from a more detailed foreground. Late-season ironweed, a favorite of mine, seemed a suitable choice. That led intuitively to a few closing decisions in the sky reflection and distant terrain. stash of premium paper samplesNearly all of the ingredients were infused with wheat paste and press firmly onto the evolving surface with polymer gel. After thorough drying, selected areas were lightly sanded and the total surface evenly daubed with a flat sealant.

It is very satisfying to work with a palette of elegant papers, and I am fortunate to have them. Some of you may remember (especially those with a background connected in some way to the graphic arts) the pre-internet days of a more diversified paper industry. Numerous mills and distributors slugged it out in a highly competitive market. Inkjet printing was still on the horizon and multi-color offset printing was expensive. Printing on colored stock was a cost-effective way to get more color into published material. Paper producers went out of their way to demonstrate creative ways to use colored paper and many of us who specified paper for printing projects were lavished with promotional samples. Decades later, I still have a stash from that era, and I rely on it now for my plein-air miniatures and studio landscapes. A piece such as ‘Wetland’ puts this hoard to good use; it would not look the same with scrapbook or construction paper. The richness of premium papers manufactured for fine printing were accented with fragments of dulled foil, tissue, scraps of found packaging, and fragments of typography. After all, it’s meant to be a collage artwork!

The opening reception for NYNA is this Friday evening, 5 to 8 pm. Perhaps I shall see you there to discuss ‘Wetland’ in person.
 
Wetland ~ collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Wetland
collage landscape by J A Dixon
21.25 x 19.25 inches
on structured panel, framed
currently on consignment

Is there no help?

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

With due respect to Francisco de Goya y Lucientes ~ John Andrew Dixon

 

Assignment: Mars

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

“I would do ‘John Carter’ again tomorrow. I’m very proud of ‘John Carter.’ Box office doesn’t validate me as a person, or as an actor.”
— Taylor Kitsch

One of the more exciting developments for any artist is the request for original artwork based on an interesting theme. Whether it is for personal or commercial purposes, the medium of collage is ideally suited for commissions, and the process can make use of visual ingredients provided by the client, if the artist sees fit to embed them. It probably goes without saying that the applied arts can be a tricky affair for some fine artists. It is important to sort out the contrasts between meeting customer expectations and following one’s own creative direction. There is also a range of differences among the types of projects that might benefit from a collage assignment, including packaging or label graphics, book cover or editorial illustration, product design, or the straightforward commissioning of a fine-art work. Clear communication up front is always the best approach, and there is nothing wrong with declining a job if client objective and artist satisfaction cannot be fulfilled at the same time.

Today’s example was created for the buyer’s presentation as a gift to an engineer closely involved in Martian exploration. When the client described the intended recipient’s passion for the subject, I swallowed hard, but my initial trepidation soon faded as the process took on a life and momentum of its own (as, thankfully, it always does for me). I shall admit, however, that it may take a little time before I replenish my red-planet stash.
 

Dixon_AssignmentMars

Assignment: Mars
collage miniature on panel by J A Dixon
8 x 10 inches
private collection

Arbitrary Mischief

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

“As we mature, all of us learn to ‘put away childish things.’ Often, though, we do such a good job of growing up that we lose contact with our spontaneity, teaching ourselves to follow rules and habits that inhibit us from acting on our hunches and intuition.”
— W. Clement Stone

One of my earliest entries at this site made mention of the intuitive response in our process of collage creation. I have continued to ponder this idea of making visual decisions without conscious thought, especially after a lengthy discussion at the Collage Critique group in the facebook realm. There is something to be said for intuitive spontaneity with no preconceived notions, in contrast to the methodical execution of a concept. Collage as a medium is diverse enough to embody both approaches and everything in between. In my opinion, there is ample “non-thought thinking” taking place, even when no “idea” is driving the process. On the other hand, most of us can tell when a piece is struggling to be more than a mere stew of ingredients and the temptation to declare it “finished” should be resisted.

Personally, it is no longer possible for me to imagine coming to this activity without the foundation of art education, a rigorous training in graphic design, and 40 years of practice as a creative professional. I suspect that I have internalized all this to become part of an inner resource, so that when, at the conscious level, I put all of it out of mind, it still informs each spontaneous visual choice and the sense of something appearing “right” to the eye. Deciding that “an ingredient in play” has the right color, the right value, the right shape, the right texture, or the right spatial role often happens without rational awareness. That is my goal, at any rate, to keep such “non-thinking thought” in motion for as long as possible before I find myself falling back into outer rumination. It is not only a matter of aesthetics. The same phenomenon applies to thematic or symbolic associations, and the overall process of ingredient acquisition and selection that initiates and sustains the whole affair. Not that there is anything undesirable or distasteful about planning, calculation, and a deliberate methodology. Far from it. Nearly every work of art will involve some of that. It just happens to be that what I am most hoping to take place is something else — that the flow of assembly leading to a stimulating but balanced effect is the result of an artistic intention deeper than conscious decision making.
 

hand-crafted collage by John Andrew Dixon, The Collage Miniaturist

Arbitrary Mischief
collage on panel by J A Dixon
8 x 10 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

G A B B F

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

“Design is moving an existing condition to a preferred one.”
— Milton Glaser

I attended the first Great American Brass Band Festival in 1990 with my wife and partner, Dana, the same summer that we relocated our home-based design business to Danville, Kentucky. Big portions of the previous year had been spent apart, as I developed business contacts in Central Kentucky while she held the fort at our studio in Dayton, Ohio. That inaugural Festival was an opportunity to spend time together in downtown Danville, and the ambiance of that weekend supported all that we were discovering about our new home community. We have been devoted fans of the Festival ever since, and it is now impossible for us to imagine a June in Danville without world-class brass music within walking distance. After that first Festival, my capabilities as a graphic designer and lettering artist came to the attention of the organizers. I have since worked closely with them on establishing the visual identity of the event and creating designs for nine commemorative posters.

The 25th Great American Brass Band Festival will be held next weekend, and I shall be signing posters at the kick-off Gallery Hop Stop. Coming up with a suitable theme for this year’s poster was a challenge. We recognized that the milestone 25th Festival demanded a visual approach that would pay bold tribute to its heritage. No single aspect would do that, so I built a montage of images to salute the key elements of the Festival: the musicians, the parade, the picnic, the patriotism, the balloons, the fireworks, and the long history of enthusiasm for brass. With a quarter century of photography on file, it was a tough editing task. The result is a colorful, celebratory design intended to bring a smile to the face of every fan of the event.

The visual montage and the traditional collage are close cousins, and both techniques inform the other in my work as a fine and applied artist. The blurred boundary between graphic illustration and fine-art collage — conventional and digital — is an intriguing subject that I shall explore from time to time at this site. Please stop back here again (and do drop in at the Community Arts Center on Thursday evening, 5:30 to 7 pm, if you are in the Danville area).

Celebrating 25 Years
commemorative poster design by J A Dixon
available for purchase

On collage derivations . . .

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

“I believe that it is better to be receptive to correction than to be satisfied with one’s own imperfection, and to think that one is oh so original!”
— Piet Mondrian

As I mentioned in a welcome statement from over a year ago (and perhaps more recently), I have nothing against digital collage, although I do maintain a bias in favor of conventional (so-called analogue) techniques, especially at this site, but don’t expect me to become “all blogmatic” about the topic, since I have been known to gratefully accept commissions for digital montage and affirm my respect for those who do collage illustration at a high level. The point I want to make today is that, so far, I have not generated much enthusiasm for manipulating or reproducing my “tear and glue” artworks as digital prints or “art merchandise.” Someone recently asked if I sold note-card versions of my miniatures, and I had to admit that “I have never quite gotten around to that.”

There are many reasons, both good and bad, to produce derivations of one’s own work for the marketplace. There are also many reasons, both good and bad, to restrain oneself. I would hope to be open-minded about the subject. Not everyone who enjoys collage can afford to collect originals. In addition, I often get ideas about how to combine separate works into a composite digital design, exploring in the process a distinctive aesthetic resonance that might not be discovered in other ways. I occasionally imagine how one of my miniatures would look as a super-enlargement, or I envision an exhibition of large canvases created from Giclée blow-ups of small works. No doubt, there is an appropriate place for digital technology in the medium, whether on the front- or back-end of the process. The digital image is, of course, the stock in trade of any artist with an active presence on the Interet. That comes with its own set of issues that I plan to cover in my next discussion. Meanwhile, I hope to preserve my emphasis on a traditional methodology and observe how other collage practitioners adopt emerging technology to enhance their fine-art investigations.
 

Microcosmic Moments
compilation of nine miniatures by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Modular Zowee
composite of collage details by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Mystery Solved (detail)
super-enlargement of collage detail by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Mystery Solved (set of four cards)
merchandise with collage details by J A Dixon
proposed digital reproductions, 5.75 x 4.5 inches

Broadband Access
digital montage by J A Dixon
editorial illustration for ACUTA Journal

Dawn Goes Down to Day

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Day One / Open Studios ARTTOUR —
How much sleep I got last night will remain a secret, but I crossed the finish line with everything in place to welcome the public today. We had a steady trickle of folks who enjoyed viewing and talking about art. The design studio, art studio, and gallery/meeting space were looking fine (not to mention the exterior facade), and it feels like I have not caught my breath for several months. Dana outdid herself with some tasty punch and snacks for guests, and she was bragging on my collage all day. Nothing feels like reaching an ambitious goal with a kindred spirit, and I wish every friend in the world had been with me today, too.
 

Dawn Goes Down to Day
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!