Archive for the 'Graphic Design' Category

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
 
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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
 
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Is it or isn’t it?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

“Man himself is mute, and it is the image that speaks. For it is obvious that the image alone can keep pace with nature.”
—Boris Pasternak

Those who speak or write as though they understand everything about this medium do not know what they are talking about. But, to be honest, I have never met anyone who behaves that way, so perhaps my opening declaration is meaningless. Sometimes it is even difficult to classify what we do as artists in order to place the effort in some category. I just encountered an interesting chunk of round-table discourse by a new online discussion group struggling to define their area of focus. Most distinctions made between what artists call collage, montage, assemblage, construction, layerism, mixed-media, digital art, illustration, or graphic design are somewhat arbitrary, and we continue to see new terms coined by those who hope to distinguish what they perceive as a unique approach. At any rate, the intent of the artist is central. Clearly, definitions in art are rarely necessary except when attempting to trace a cross-pollination or lineage of influences, and when an organized effort or exhibition requires mutually acknowledged parameters. Additionally, there are always other important considerations to discuss, such as: What is an original? What is the relationship between process and artifact? What is the purpose of reproduction? Does a nomenclature based on exclusion have intellectual validity, or is it simply an adjunct to merchandising?
 

A likely story indeed! ~ J A Dixon

A likely story indeed!
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 6 inches
 
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But is it art?

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

“With the institutionalization of belief, art becomes an instrument of social enhancement instead of what it is— a basic instinct of the human species.”
—Milton Glaser

For more than a century or two, the distinction between the illustrator and the artist has been an ongoing debate. Is there a significant difference, or is it primarily an artificial disparity? Most would agree that there is a contrast of intent— the applied artist subordinates certain aspects of personal expression for a commercial or social objective, and the fine artist is accountable only to the creative self. But what about the illustrator who is handed no constraints by the client, or the fine artist with a market-driven agenda? Like most things, shades of gray preside and one is left to place each instance on a spectrum, or to disregard all attempts to categorize the creative impulse in the first place. I’ll admit that I’ve always been more impressed with the very best of illustration, vintage or current, than with run-of-the-mill fine art, but who am I to judge what is “very best” or “run-of-the-mill?” Regardless of what critics, academics, or connoisseurs may think, the phenomenon of “to each his own” will always play a major role in the world of art. On top of that, public taste, analytical opinion, and the viewpoint of art historians can change radically over time. Thomas Bewick, Alphonse Mucha, Henri Toulouse-Latrec, Jessie Willcox Smith, Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron, Jessie Marion King, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Elenore Abbott, Charles Marion Russell, and Norman Rockwell are examples to consider (to name only a few from the past). Who knows how those in the future will classify Betye Saar, Al Hirschfeld, Bob Peak, Brad Holland, Gary Larson, Jack Unruh, Jean-Michel Folon, James McMullan, or Milton Glaser?

So, you may now ask, since you’ve been kind enough to read this far, what’s the point of all this name dropping and what does it have to do with collage? I suppose that I’m inviting you also to think about what causes an artwork to have an “illustrative look,” separate from the circumstances of its creation. Perhaps the variance between the fine and applied arts has as much to do with appearance as with motivation. I’m interested in your viewpoint, dear reader, and I hope you share it here with your comment. Are there effects a fine artist must always strive to elicit with a collage, if it is to be perceived as art, or methods that should be guarded against, to avoid the verdict of illustration? If a collage is used for editorial purposes, for promotion, or packaging, does that automatically make it an illustration or a graphic design? If a collage is composed for optimum appeal to the perceptions of a particular type of buyer (or a prospective collector who responds to nostalgia, a period look, or the bizarre), does that disqualify it as fine art?
 

Festive Tones by J A Dixon

Festive Tones
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 6 inches

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