Category: art

The Rich Visual Feast

Printmaking was why I got into design in the first place. Drawing was cool, but you did one drawing and that was it. I have always been fascinated by mass producing images.

I learned to silkscreen in Mrs. Hopkins’ 10th grade art class. We exposed the screens in the storage closet at the back of the room.

The first thing I printed was my interruption of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. I had seen the movie, loved it and created my own version of it as a one color print with lots of contrasting white spaces and dark shadows to create these forms that became a scene from Rick’s American Cafe.

I took two semesters of printing once I got to college. One was a silkscreening class taught by Lynwood Kreneck, and the other was a lithography class with Terry Morrow the head of the art department. I loved both those classes in very different ways.

I also had Kreneck for a freshman drawing class, which I think the university made him teach. The thing is, he only wanted to work with students who were committed to making art, not the kids who were there just to get a humanities credit, or worse, there to find a husband. He could be cruel to say the least.

One thing Kreneck said to the class one day has always stuck with me to this very day. “Mr Ratcliff, always strive to create the rich, visual feast”. Make something so compelling that you cannot take your eyes off it. So interesting that you can see something new in it every time you look at it. If you’re going to all the trouble to make art, make it interesting.

Just look at all the glorious detail. The pea green cabinets in the background with the red plates popping in the front with little red accents scattered throughout. This was deliberate and exceptionally well-designed. Chapeau to the Art Director.

I was watching FX’s series “Better Things”, with Pam Adlon, a funny and poignant show about a single mom raising three daughters. I swear my wife and oldest daughter have had some of the same arguments I’ve seen on the show.

Beside the stories, the best thing about “Better Things” is the art direction. It is the most beautifully shot show on television. Even the simplest of shots are cinematic and break-taking in scope. With the sound turned down, the show is beautiful to watch. The backgrounds are colorful and deep. You see into their world, understand a little better about who these women are.

The rich visual feast.

I cannot take my eyes off the show even though some of the stories can be hard to sit through. The visuals and so stunning, so evocative, so captivating, I can sit perfectly still for 30 minutes and drink it all in.

Kreneck was right. When you make something so rich and interesting, you cannot help but make the world a better place in the process.

John Berger

As noted in an earlier post, one of the most influential books I’ve read is John Berger’s Ways of Seeing. It should be mandatory for artists, and recommended for anyone wanting to lead and live a richer life. Berger passed away on 02-Jan, sad news so early in the new year. For the uninitiated, The Guardian as a number of articles they’ve run on Berger that are some fine first steps into understanding the man and his work. Although I am not necessarily a fan of his politics, his philosophy is both thoughtful and timeless. Rest in peace, Mr Berger.

John Berger, art critic and author, dies aged 90
Booker-prize-winning author of titles including Ways of Seeing, G and A Painter of our Time had been living in Paris

British Library harvests archive of novelist John Berger
Writer’s papers come at a price – helping with haymaking on the farm

John Berger: ‘If I’m a storyteller it’s because I listen’
On the eve of his 90th birthday, one of the most influential writers of his generation talks about migration, Brexit, growing old – and his fondness for texting

John Berger: ‘Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper’
Language can’t be reduced to a stock of words. Most political discourse is inert and ruthlessly complacent