‘Tags’. Making all our lives so much better.

Some street art is really good, no doubt; but only some of it. The vast majority of urban daubings is the meaningless scrawling and repetition of tags. It’s dispiriting to see every available public space sprayed with someone’s name. Advertisements, even if we don’t like them, can be taken down and are updated often; paintings you buy can be sold when you’re tired of them or just taken off the walls and stored for a while. With tagging, there’s no choice for anyone but the tagger and this is the problem.

The simple tagging phenomenon (distinct from genuine street art) is just a sign of a kind of childish emotional incontinence -they don’t want to have to go through the process of putting their art through any kind of review because they don’t really believe in themselves.

Life is all about growing up and working hard at what you do and presenting your work to the general public who may very well be indifferent to it. That can be tough, but if indeed they are, then you need to go away and work harder on your craft or you stop altogether and find out what you’re actually good at.

It’s simply not true that taggers have no other means of putting their work forward. Didn’t Markey Robinson make his work surfaces out of discarded materials? Art materials have never been so available and cheap.

Tulips Study

Tulips Study. Oils on canvas 10" x 14". Kevin McSherry
Tulips Study. Oils on canvas 10″ x 14″. Kevin McSherry

Irene, one of my students, left me these tulips after this morning’s class. It’s the end of April and tulip season is just about finished and these flower heads are just about to drop. They’re going out in a blaze of glory, though.

Oils on deep-edge canvas. 10″ x 14″.

Financial Report Illustration Project

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan organisation have just launched their new financial report, designed by Toronto-based design studio, The Works. The studio art director’s vision for the project used illustration to convey the central theme of this year’s report which is ‘balance’.
Although The Works had a clear idea of the principal image which is one of a high-wire unicyclist, they wished to use other characters throughout the design to focus on other activities of the OTPP.

Several rounds of sketches were made to present ideas for various aspects of the report. However, after consideration by the designers and the client, the concept was kept to one character.

You can see here, the development of the central character. The sketch at left was my first rough rendering which was changed according to the designers’ comments. The final illustration kept close to this last drawing, save for the objects being juggled. A nice idea was to show the reverse of the unicyclist on the back cover:

It was fun trying to get the model to balance just that little bit longer while I set up my easel on the other side of the line. A thorough dousing with fixative spray helped him to maintain the pose. The report is now in print and online on OTPP’s web site. and the model has finally been removed from the unicycle and returned to his family.

Scanning the Horizon

Lately, I’ve been working on a few projects that have been over A3 in physical size. Notably a suite of illustrations for brand developers Island Bridge and for the Royal Canadian Mint [That’s money, not sweets; though confusingly it did feature a polar bear]. Confident in my reprographic background, I thought they could all go straight down to my local repro bureau for digitising on their high-end drum-scanner. Well, it seems that things have changed somewhat since I left my last full-time job in a repro house, 11 years ago. Apparently, most of the old scanning behemoths have bitten the dust, been sold to China or shagged out into skips. Imagine that! These things must have cost about half a million squid when I were a lad and now they’ve been drummed out, much like myself, [only they lasted longer]. All the Crosfields have gone to Hell, it might be said, and been replaced with tiny little desktop scanners that you can buy out of petty cash.

Ah, but there’s a catch…just try scanning flat-art that’s bigger than A3 -even in your A3 desktop. You’ll get a pain in your face stitching those files together. That’s why I was relieved when I discovered that Master Photo. still have their Crosfield 640 running -and I saw it today when I dropped in the art. What a beast. What reassuring solidity. What the Hell are we going to do when the old dinosaur finally lays down her old head and dies?