Sceptics of design festivals feel that events like Semi-Permanent have become void now that the work of artists and designers is so accessible online.
But nothing beats the chance to sit in a room with thousands of budding creatives, listening intently to the wise words of those who have made significant contributions to dream industries.
JKB Fletcher, one of this year’s speakers, pointed out the humorous problems that can come through solely engaging with work digitally. He is often approached by galleries and magazines who want to feature his hyper-realistic paintings with the kind but mistaken words “I love your photos!”
Creators of pieces that are tactile, digital, interactive and colourful have been flown from around the world to give a direct commentary about their work and life experience. This insight cannot be gained simply by flipping through online portfolios.
The purpose of the festival is to inspire. Here are a few of the acts who put us in creative spirits.
Beci Orpin is an illustrator, graphic designer and a creator of three-dimensional fine art. Orpin openly told the audience about her upbringing with two hippy parents in a Winnipeg commune, her experience as a RMIT textile design student and late-night sneak-ins to a printing house to create a clothing label.
Orpin has put her lovely illustrations on skateboards, Japanese T-shirts, Visa cards, Gorman products, kit cosmetics, a DJ Shadow album, and across other jealousy-inducing collaborations.
“Only in Japan could you put a unicorn on a credit card,” joked Orpin.
Orpin encourages individuals to learn to design off screen, an invaluable and honest piece of guidance.
“The majority of my work is done digitally but as a base for design, you need things that you can’t learn on a computer”.
The resounding message was that you can’t get anywhere without hard work, personality and an understanding of digital and tactile design. With so many people doing vector illustrations, how will YOU stand out?
FANTASTIC MAN & THE GENTLEWOMAN
Editors and creative directors, Gert Yonkers and Penny Martin. “The magazines that we make are always focused on personality. Interesting characters that we love to meet.”
Gert Yonkers launched Fantastic Man with business partner Jop in 2005. The pair had previously produced BUTT magazine, a fun, playful sex magazine for gay men. They wanted people to be able to laugh with them.
Fantastic Man is equally fun but differs in content and structure. The title expresses its purpose; the magazine celebrates successful, stylish men as modern icons. “BUTT is about undressing and Fantastic Man is about dressing up”.
The magazine focuses on personalities through long feature articles. The balance of text and image is usually around 60/40. Gert described to the audience how one of his colleagues does one-question interviews. He manages to construct 5000 words from just the question, “So, who are you?” The pair wanted an honest, reality-based magazine that communicated the real lives of fantastic men.
“I think it’s very important to be personal in journalism; it’s sad when you interview someone and they don’t give any of themselves,” said Gert. “You need to have an interest in real people.”
Penny Martin saw a screaming demand for a female version of Fantastic Man and helped pioneer Gentlewoman from the chaos.
She asked herself some questions: What would a woman’s version be like? What is the female version of a debonair man with style, humour and wit? Who is the female Tom Ford?
Something she definitely wanted to steer clear from was what was already on the market. The great ambition of fashion journalism had come down to “Love the shoes, girlfriend!”
Although they are completely immersed and interested in women’s style, they didn’t feel that real women only speak to each other about clothes.
Martin was hilarious and engaging. She made the crowd laugh with her impersonation of women’s publishing, which included popping a hand on one hip and saying, “Hey girlfriend, buy this bag or it’s over.” Because of the patronising tone that comes with the abundance of promotional pages we have become accustomed to at the beginning of beauty and fashion magazines, they have been left out.
“We wanted women who were just getting on and doing things. Not asking for permission”. Women like Yoko Ono.
Gentlewoman have 6 months and 4000 words to muster up an adequate portrayal of their centre woman. There is an obvious admiration that shines through. Martin said that choosing a cover star was quite romantic and was, in a way, like telling someone they were the one.
The magazine is only really available in print. She praises hard copy magazines as “less is more” and magazines are all that are ensuring the art of the edit is safe from total extinction.
Gentlewoman describes itself as, “Beauty with a photo-journalistic agenda.”
JKB Fletcher is a UK artist who is living in Melbourne, represented by Metro Gallery in Armadale. His practice is hyper-realistic painting. This means he attempts to create pieces that are of a higher resolution than the original photographed image, his works are 6 foot by 6 foot, oil on linen.
Photorealistic painters generally take a photo and replicate it in exact detail, and we thought THAT was impressive. JKB Fletcher believes that hyper-realism allows the painter to have more artistic freedom. On top of an exact representation, texture, form, lines and colour are added and enhanced. The final creation is “an exaggeration of all the things you think are important in the image”
Fletcher showed a video of his process. First, he does a cropped sketch. After he paints onto the model’s skin he takes a photo very similar to his original drawing. On his computer he crops the one most alike and prints it out. He then makes a wooden base and stretches the canvas over it.
Once his canvas is prepared, he paints light outlines in sepia tones. Slowly, he adds colour and detail, as he builds up layers and an intensely realistic image takes shape. Fletcher coats, lacquers and frames his work himself before handing it over to Metro Gallery.
Fletcher’s progressive series of superhero paintings started with The Hulk. The piece is based on a plastic figurine that belonged to a friend’s child. The child’s mother had a drug problem; Fletcher observed him playing, saving the world under the kitchen table, and pondered as to how this toy may have been teaching him more about right and wrong than his own mother.
“A small lump of plastic had a huge responsibility. Superheroes as a subject matter were a window into different psychological questions. A way to question who we look up to and admire and why.”
Fletcher took away advice from his own role models. As a young man, his father turned down prestigious football offers and his mum dropped out of art school. His parents later regretted turning down opportunities and told him, as he also advised the audience, “respect your talents”.
Images by Wanda Chin for Couturing