Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visit

Many of you who are my Facebook friends have heard me talk about the Public Affairs event at Missouri State University's JQH Arena last Friday. The keynote speaker was Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who is a lobbyist/lawyer/activist/a Time Magazine Hero for the Planet/falconer/son of Bobby. His speech was titled "Our Environmental Destiny" and he basically talked for an hour about the dangers and stupidity of coal and the need for an infrastructure to use other forms of energy.

Most importantly, since the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department had a big hand in bringing him here and I work as a designer for Parks and Springfield City Public Information, I got to create all kinds of graphics for the event. I designed access badges, parking passes, large signs, an e-vite, and an 8 ft x 17.5 ft stage banner.

Most of my work was done before the event even started, but I was there with my "All Access" badge watching everything go down and just admiring my banner. There were around 3,000 people there at the event to watch my beautiful banner that morning.

There was a little snaffoo with the printing of the banner earlier that week in which a letter "R" mysteriously was left off! Let me tell you my stomach hit the floor! Luckily the printer had a quick fix and my good friend Matt Stufflebeam printed out a new adhesive letter and got it placed on the banner. Thanks Stuffles! The TV crew in my office were taking bets as to when the letter would melt in the lights and float off the banner onto RFK's head or something. Luckily that did NOT happen.

The banner design is a modified version of the Park's logo which I did not create, but the logo has a ton of text and is strictly horizontal (landscape). My job was to make it work on a (very) vertical space.

As soon as he got on stage, RFK, Jr. moved the podium out of the way and then a security guy moved it to the back of the stage. The top photo looks like he is speaking backwards.

Security would not let me take a photo with RFK, Jr., but I was able to get my pal Chris to snap one of me with the GI-normous banner. I hope to see the banner again someday; we are friends for life.

After all the trouble I went to to make "ask Mr. Kennedy a question" signs, he went way over his allotted time and Dr. Nietzel (MSU President) only got to ask him 3 questions on the stage.

Since RFK Jr. is a falconer, we had a very dramatic moment in front of my banner in which a bald eagle and some kind of falcon and their handlers from the zoo walked up on stage and stayed during a great video introduction. Nice job CityView!

After the event I got the glamorous job of moving plants to the loading dock and cleaning up Mr. Kennedy's green room. I can tell you that he drank a diet Pepsi and opened a peanut granola bar, but I don't think he took a bite. I snagged a (different) granola bar and a Coke and a too ripe peach. It's OK- I had an All Access pass- to the refrigerator!

I can honestly say I love working for the City in Parks and Public Info because it is always a new experience every day! Keeps me hopping.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rock 'n Map!

I recently finished creating a festival map for Springfield's Rock 'n Ribs BBQ Festival sponsored by the Rotary Club. The event features BBQ teams and restaurants at booths where you go down the line sampling TONS of delicious meatiness! They also have live local music playing at the big tent all day. All proceeds go to various children's charities so if you are in the Springfield area on April 17, come get your grub on. My maps will be blown up to 4'x5' and placed at various locations to help you keep your bearings.

I had a lot of fun with this project. I drew/wrote out every piece by hand then scanned it in and cleaned it up and aded some color in Adobe Illustrator. Bits of olde timey map work in the location banners and such. I can't wait to see my work put to use and eat my quota of BBQ in the same day! What could be better than that!?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

I recently purchased a book for which I had read rave reviews. “Charley Harper, An Illustrated Life” is a coffee table-type book with LOTS of pictures – more than 700 paintings reprinted for my wide eyes to devour! I didn't really know who the artist was, but had seen a few images on Amazon when I was making my Christmas wish list last year.

The images of birds and bugs haunted me (in a good way) and when the opportunity arose for a trip to Barnes & Noble with a loaded gift card a few months later, there was no question which book I would return home with. That night, my wife went into labor and we spent the next few days in the hospital with my beautiful baby girl- but guess what I packed in the labor bag?

It is a large book and I have still not had a chance to get through it yet, but that is OK. I look at a few pages a sitting and that is all the genius my mind can handle. The paintings influence me more when I just study a few at a time, I think. As an artist, I have traditionally found it hard to get excited about patterns, but Charley Harper does some things with symmetry, pattern, angles and shapes that just blow my mind.

"Minimal realism", Harper (1922-2007) called it, a spare, geometrical style. One quote of Harper’s in the book that sticks with me is “I don’t count the feathers on (the bird’s) wings, I count the wings.” That philosophy to painting is one I hope use to focus my own artwork whether it be wild life or cars and trucks. As I’ve been out an about town since discovering this body artwork, I can see Mr. Harper’s influence everywhere– especially in textiles like clothing, handbags, prints, shoes, etc.

There is a wonderful interview in the first several pages between Harper and designer Todd Oldham in which Harper tells of his upbringing and inspiration for the paintings. His ladybug especially stands out to me, which is built of several perfect circles. Couldn’t be any simpler! One story Harper tells is his early fascination with "Jesus bugs." Harper explained that as a young boy on a farm in rural West Virginia, he would spend hours in the creek watching water striders: insects that seemed to walk on water.

I’m starting to ramble now, but I just wanted to share the latest thing to influence me as an artist. He is one artist whose portfolio, which was more than 60 years in the making, has remained so timeless and beautiful that I would love to hang them on my own walls! Please give Charley Harper’s artwork a chance to wash over you and you will be hooked just like me.

All images ©
Charley Harper