Last month at the Icon 6 Illustration conference I met illustrator Martin French. We had seen each others' work for years, but had never met in person. After a long talk about process, creativity and the pros and cons of working in solitude he challenged me to a day of experimental collaboration in the studio. Knowing Martin's expertise with the figure and his enviable mastery of the calligraphic mark I was, shall we say, petrified.
But the more I thought about it the more it seemed like we could learn a lot from working side by side. Martin works in the language of the figure in motion, but lately he has been creating letter forms. I usually work with the isolated symbol or the alphabet, but have been wanting to get back to the origins of calligraphic art: abstract marks, the field, composition, and a more expressive way of working than my usual projects require.
August is the month for creative renewal and experimentation around here: the garden is at its peak, the days are warm and long, and most clients are at the Hamptons....or wherever it is that clients go. Martin came up from Portland and we worked in my studio for a day. With apologies to Paul and Suzanne at Workbook, we painted on the back of my old reprints -- hey, what else are you going to do with promo pages with obsolete phone numbers from 1995? Truthfully, without Workbook and the years of both of us seeing each other's work unfold within that amazing community of peers, Martin and I would probably have never met. I have kept all the books over the years as a style resource and graphic history of how illustration has evolved and changed. There is a sense of coherence in having a finite collection of work bound between covers, unlike cyberspace, where a bewildering plethora of artist websites stretches out into infinity. To make new art on the back of the reprints gave me a sense of continuity, mingled sweetly with the valor of ecological correctness.
For this studio session Martin painted on the floor and I abandoned my usual slantboard, liberated to be working on a large flat table usually reserved for junk. We made tools out of unexpected materials, poured ink into trays, and turned on Thievery Corporation. Some of the results follow here. The second image is Martin's. You can see more of his pieces at the news section of his site linked above. The last pieces use fragments of my drawings, scanned and colorized.