I have always had a thing for Yul Brynner. Maybe this is due to a childhood peppered with musicals from generations prior (i.e. The King and I (1956), in which he starred.) And then of course, he is owed tremendous props for his strange continental-eurasian accent. I took note in the early 2000s when Stephen Malkmus wrote “Jo Jo’s Jacket” which is a 100% idiosyncratic song which begins with an excerpt from a Brynner interview about his shaved head. My family pumpkin this year is a tribute to Yul Brynner and Malkmus. While the face design is mine, the masterful carving is the handiwork of my surgeon husband who relishes cutting and sewing in a tidy fashion. Not sure if it actually looks like Brynner. But it was the intent that mattered to me.
Happy Halloween y’all. Malkmus’ song is below.
One of the challenges in practicing illustration is steering clear of the cliches that saturate the design world. The ubiquitous trend of the moment appears to be the chevron pattern. First lauded in the pages of the now-defunct Domino Magazine which was laid to rest in 2009, the chevron pattern was used first in chic area rugs and bed linens. Five years later, it’s on everything from blouses to Christmas cards. I am bored to tears by this pattern, as much as I genuinely liked it at first. When you see something everywhere it loses it’s potency. Another such cliche is the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, which also took flight as a trend via Domino Magazine. Now part of the public domain, this World War II era poster is now re-purposed by Paper Source and other trendy stationers on cocktail platters that say “Stay Calm and Eat Latkes.” Jesus! Could this be any more a grotesque distortion of the purpose of these posters — to assuage the fear of Londoners during the extended arial bombing of their city? WTF Paper Source? Not to point fingers, but I now look to Paper Source if I want to know what to avoid drawing for my clients. Right now, they’re showing a lot of octopus-strewn paper products, owls (a now nauseating trend since 2010 or so), prisms, mason jars, and still (!) the ever-present deer with antlers.
If I am 100% honest, I am guilty of following trends in my own work too. My logo for Vigilante Paper is surrounded by antlers. (I’ll be changing my logo in 2014.). Similarly, I offer a really fun wedding invitation on my shop that features a prism-esque pattern. Perhaps the most difficult for me, as an illustrator and hand-letterer is the proliferation of “naive lettering” which everyone & their step-brother is attempting — in particular in the manner of the talented Anna Bond of Rifle Paper. I feel bad for Mrs. Bond: she was so original and cool that the establishment has stolen her great ideas. Her calligraphic approach to lettering has snowballed into a naive movement of sorts — especially now at the holidays when you’ll see Happy Holidays printed in gold foil cursive. It’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. And it’s not easy to drop one of your signature moves (in my case, naive lettering) once it becomes an official trend on the shelves of Paper Source. One must keep inventing new drawings and themes and stylistic forms to stay relevant and not get sucked off the cliff, an illustrator lemming.
One of my goals as an artist is to seek inspiration from within and bring it to paper. And also to crush convention. Why can’t a wedding invitation feature a VW Bus? Why can’t a birthday party invitation just feature a bunch of trees and a hammock? Can a holiday card reference Soviet style from the 1970s? The longer I am in the marketplace as a stationer, the longer I realize that it’s pointless to look at what others are doing. It will flavor your work subconsciously and taint your original ideas. At least this is what is working for me right now. And that is why you will not be finding a chevron pattern on my holiday card this year. But you might indeed find a weird portrait of Yul Brenner. Or a bowl of acorns. Or anything else amusing and out of the depths of my perverse noggin.
The mobile phone is the albatross around the neck of modern man. Our lives are dictated by the ring ring, buzz buzz of these insipid devices that keep up supposedly feeling safer, more connected to others, and more informed about our work. But there is such a price to pay — there is a price to pay in feeling truly independent of machines. I found this old picture of my mother. It’s taken in the mid 1960s, and she is using a phone to do something critical. I know this because this picture is taken at her wedding — so it must have been important. She presumably hung it up and walked away from technology to resume her life. I long for a life where I can practice the art of living with less reliance on machines and gadgets. Ironists out there might say “charming that you are announcing this on your blog!” but the immediacy of the cell phone is far more disturbing to life’s natural patterns and sounds than a computer (which you typically go to, rather than wear on your person.) I am not sure what this post is about really, other than to say that this photo moves me — and makes me nostalgic for the time not so long ago when the phone only rang when you were indoors. In a room with a jack. And I am trying to sort out a way to live less with my albatross. Please share if you have any ideas in how to let go, fellow Vigilantes.
This is a post about Marianna Sachse, a case study in Vigilante Style and it’s power. Marianna’s husband is my longtime childhood friend from summer camp. Even as a teen, he was an erudite, badass little Beastie Boy with big plans. He married his equal: Marianna is brainy, creative and nurturing, with street smarts and a dancer’s graceful body. She is an amazing woman with ideas and the energy to implement them. Last year, Marianna was diagnosed with cancer. This is her account of true Vigilante Living — namely, the unconventional approach she took to dealing with hair loss after chemo.
When you get kicked in the face by a cancer diagnosis, you expect that tough roads are ahead and that you will have to say goodbye to your talisman of beauty: your hair. Nine months into my cancer journey I finished chemo and lost my hair at the same time. No one told me that my hair might continue to fall out after I finished treatment. So there I was, watching my hair pile up in the drain and scatter on my pillowcase, wondering what to do about my hair post-chemo.
I was done with treatment and finally feeling better, the last thing I wanted was to look sick. I’d had enough of that, thank you. I’d beat cancer and come out the other side stronger. I needed to look like it. So what to do? Classic chemo solutions just didn’t seem my style. I didn’t want to futz with wigs and scarves. My solution: rock the ‘hawk. When cancer kicks you in the face, fight back like a punk with a Mohawk.
I admire you, Marianna. You are fierce and elegant.
You can read more about Marianna here: www.fullydomesticated.com.
A few months back, I posted about Tiny Atlas Quarterly, a new online travel magazine that is revolutionary in it’s spare layout and poetic photography. San Francisco Bay Area photographer Emily Nathan founded Tiny Atlas Quarterly as an online project to collect new, sumptuously photographed work from locations all around the world. As it happens sometimes in the universe, I was subsequently invited by Tiny Atlas to provide custom illustrations this summer for this piece featured here called “Demystifying Abalone.” Shot in Jenner, California north of San Francisco Bay, Ms. Nathan tapped writer David Prior (formerly Director of Communications at Chez Panisse and the Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project) to explain the culture of abalone diving and the mollusk’s unique status as rare delicacy and skilled diver’s prize. It’s a private world, and Prior does a wonderful job cracking it open.
As a native Northern Californian (I’m from Santa Cruz, a surf town on the Monterey Bay) this project was an utter joy to work on. I’ll spare you a tome of Proustian memories of barking elephant seals that served as my alarm-clock through my bedroom window — but suffice it to say that I know this majestic landscape of ice plant and rocky coast like I know my own family. Emily Nathan has done it justice by capturing the messy seaweed waves, the unfinished, unfancy, salt-worn wood beach houses speckled along the cliffs, and the ruddy faces of surfers and divers who spend much of the day in a full wetsuit in the Pacific’s icy waters. I guess I am a bit homesick for Northern California. But at least I can spend some time on Tiny Atlas’ Jenner piece and let my eyes soak in the beauty. And dude, I am all over that orange WV bus.
At Vigilante Living we applaud unconventional living, and to that end we have become aware of an exceptionally unconventional online project from two New York City designers called 40 Days of Dating. The project is the concept of Jessica Walsh (the brilliant new parter of Stefan Sagmeister at Sagmeister & Walsh) and Timothy Goodman, an illustrator, art director and designer with his own firm too. Their project is one part sociology experiment, one part performance art, and one part sincere quest for love. The rules of their game are this, excerpted from their own words:
“What do you do when you’re tired of the prospect of dating? Two good friends with opposite relationship problems found themselves single at the same time. As an experiment, they dated for 40 days.”
On a daily basis, they answer a questionnaire that summarizes there they are in the relationship’s development. From a design standpoint, its an elegant website, where two illustrators hand letter phrases that capture that moment in time — one for Jessica, one for Timothy, each day. Critics might call it a little like a reality TV show, but actually much more substantive. These two hard-working young people have different issues they’re trying to conquer (fear of commitment, and a constant longing for companionship) and it seems like they might be getting somewhere with this art installation.
Watch the relationship unfold at: http://fortydaysofdating.com/
I just cant help but wonder if this is all a well designed publicity effort for two accomplished young designers… Regardless, I admire their sense of risk-taking. Bravo, young people! Go for broke.
Portraits by Osvaldo Ponton & illustrators for lettering credited here.
Vigilante Paper was delighted to learn that our wedding invitations are featured in the August/September 2013 issue of BRIDES Magazine — a massive inch-thick tomb of wedding planning ideas for the bethrothed. They chose our Odorantes suite, our darkest, most sultry and mysterious invitation suite that features taxidermy birds, luminous moss green leaves and our beloved hand-lettered Caslon font which bespeaks a casualness, despite it being a classical serif. We’re in good company in BRIDES’ invitation round-up, which also features the work of Brooklyn’s hot stationery and paper goods company Paper + Cup Design, and the lauded Cheree Berry Paper of St. Louis (famous for designing Chelsea Clinton’s wedding invitations among many other high-profile gigs) ; both of these stationers have served as inspiration for Vigilante Paper prior to our founding in 2011 for being innovative, creative women-owned stationery design outfits. So we’re feeling good! And we all have a different take stylistically, don’t we? Go check out the issue now on newstands! We’ll keep you posted about new unusual, quirky, and luscious designs in the works for 2013. We’ve only gotten our feet wet folks… looking forward to swimming in outre wedding stationery in the year to come.
One of my favorite things about being an illustrator is getting requests for custom wedding invitations from photographers for a shoot. When it’s custom, it can be an exercise in trial and error. But sometimes you just meet someone with your own design sensibility and the process is a complete joy. In the case of this Vincent VanGogh-inspired shoot, the photographer Danielle Woodall of www.photosbydanyelle.com gave Vigilante Paper a palette and then set us free. What I love about Danielle’s photography is her embrace of the natural landscape — and capturing couples in the most graceful, unposed way possible. Her wedding photography avoids the ubiquitous shots that make me want to yak. No, Danielle’s gift is to see the light on a wooded hillside or a smile in the eyes of a subject and capture it — without a smidgeon of corny-ness. It’s been a pleasure working with her. While I went with the palette of VanGogh’s sunflowers, the end result is more kraft paper meets delicate white buds. In a world of floral overload in the wedding arena, this is a nice way to nod to tradition but works in a more autumnal mood. I also like the austere white invitation envelope, which, when opened offers a world of vibrant color.
I just watched the best television of my life. In general, Vigilante Living does not find much of inspiration on the tele. But that was because we did not know about VICE tv on HBO. I stumbled upon VICE’s brilliant episode Basketball Diplomacy last night. This was hands down the most intelligent, creative and ballsy television reporting I have ever seen. Featuring none other than: The Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, Dennis Rodman, the Harlem Globetrotters, and VICE’s irreverent non-basketball playing reporter. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you by describing it too much. But watch it. This is how VICE describes the Basketball Diplomacy episode:
“U.S. relations with North Korea have been strained to the breaking point by the country’s disturbing nuclear-weapons threats, backed by “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un’s anti-American rhetoric. Fortunately, Kim shares one of his late father’s passions: American basketball. With that in mind, and through official and backdoor channels, VICE organized an unlikely, highly publicized trip to North Korea, hoping to thaw out relations through some hoops diplomacy. With NBA great Dennis Rodman and a trio of exuberant Harlem Globetrotters in tow, VICE traveled to the capital of Pyongyang for a surreal tour of the city, a basketball clinic with under-18 players, an exhibition game witnessed by Kim and 10,000 adoring fans, and – most surprising – a first-ever meeting between the baby-faced leader and an American delegation.”
Where else can you get schooled in international relations, observe a monumental toast by Rodman face-pierced and all, and view a window into the world of the last communist stronghold? They even get drunk together after the basketball tournament. This is what Vigilante Living is about too: seeking substantial meaning, having cojones, thinking rebelliously, and finding yourself attracted to things that seemingly don’t go together until you actually mix them yourself.
All photographs courtesy of hbo.vice.com
What a momentous week! At Vigilante Paper, we have been jumping for joy ever since the Supreme Court announced the legalization of marriage for all people. We’ve been serving the gay community with pride since our founding in 2011. The prospect of all the forthcoming Vigilante weddings in America for lovebirds of all orientations makes us love what we do even more. Love is Love, dammit — and a marriage is a marriage. Our Lovebirds Suite, for example, was designed with two gorgeous Peacocks as a nod to beautiful gay couples out there, as luminous and colorful as two of nature’s regal birds. Sure, a straight couple could happily use our Lovebirds design too, as the design is delicate, lovely and lush. But like all good art, there is an undercurrent of radicalism here — those peacocks are TWO BOYS, people. Vigilante Paper’s Kaleidoscope Suite, is similarly inspired by gay marriages — the color bursts a riff off a deconstructed rainbow. So if any of you are preparing to marry given the Supreme Court’s new ruling, come on over to www.vigilantepaper.com and get your paper on! We would love to help you celebrate your nuptials in the most celebratory, fun, momentous way possible!