Archive for the 'Pictoplasma' Category

Happy new year 2012!

All roads have been leading me to read up on the Situationists in relation to theorizing stickers, including a new book I picked up last week at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge entitled Viva La Revolucion: A Dialogue with the Urban Landscape.  (Waugh, I’m not a theorist….)

However, in the spirit of the new year, here’s a picture of me at the Pictoplasma character design art conference in Berlin in 2009!  Happy happy!

Motomichi Nakamura

Today through Friday, the Japanese-born, Brooklyn-based, and internationally renowned artist Motomichi Nakamura is at SLU in conjunction with the exhibition Picto This!.  Motomichi is best known for his inventive character animations, prints, skate decks, and urban toys.

Many sticker artists work in other genres like decks and toys, which is why I have “08 Character Design” as a category on this blog – listed along the right hand column.  Matt Siren and Dalek, for example, are sticker artists represented in both the Picto exhibition with beautiful silkscreen prints and in the street art in Berlin exhibition with vinyl toys.  Motomichi has a skate deck and toys in the current street art exhibition, too.  All of which is to say there is a lot of blurry overlap, which is one of the goals of these two concurrent exhibitions.  I first saw Motomichi’s work at the 2009 Pictoplasma conference in Berlin (sorry for the fuzzy shot – it was taken from a video projection in a dark room).  Or the 2007 conference.  Now I forget.  [Berlin, xooxoxoooxxooo.]

I showed Motomichi my super kewl sticker collection today, and he recognized many of the political stickers from NYC, esp. from the GWBush regime.  It’s pretty rare in general to find someone so knowledgeable about specific s-t-i-c-k-e-r-s.  When I first told him about the collection, he asked about BNE, whose tags I am familiar with.  Nice.

Tomorrow, Motomichi will give a public lecture about his work, and on Friday, he will present a morning and afternoon workshop for students on character design.  Here is his description of the workshop:

“Character design as a branding and communication tool”

Although character design is often described as one more aspect of illustration or graphic design, it is a unique and distinctive art form that is strongly related to branding and advertising.  Step by step, this workshop will teach students how to communicate their ideas through the form of character design and create original and effective characters for commercial projects such as ad campaigns and toy design.  In class, hands-on drawing exercises, discussions and lectures will help students find their unique visual language style which will lead them to create their own set of characters.  At the end of the workshop each student will have a series of characters that represent the artist’s ideas and graphical style.

Morning (10:00 a.m. to noon): Exercise

– Short lecture about character design

– Drawing exercises

– Quick drawing exercises based on random themes

– Exercises to characterize the ideas

– Group discussion and critique

Afternoon (1:00 p.m. through 3:00 p.m.): Character Development

– Sketches, individual critique

– Final presentation and critique

And finally, here is what we put on the card for Picto This! (October 18 – December 10, 2010).

Picto This! is an exhibition that presents character-based art through designer toys, prints and skateboard decks—all expressions of a vibrant contemporary art movement that is global in scope and personal in attitude.  In this genre, artists, illustrators, graphic designers and animators create iconic cult-like characters that can be variously menacing, cuddly, one-eyed, authoritarian, soft, monstrous, lazy, hyperactive, spiky, friendly, loving, alien, childlike, vocal or mute.

Typically made of cloth, plush fabric, resin or soft vinyl, designer toys usually appear in collectible, limited editions that are marketed in large part to adults.  A sense of “cute” and “play” is readily evident in character-based art, which on the one hand appeals to a high-end urban underground audience.  On the other, such work has made its way to brand commercial airlines and also serves as mascots for 47 government prefectures in Japan.

Pictoplasma is a biennial conference in Berlin that includes artists’ lectures, screenings and roundtable discussions focused on character design.  Every Pictoplasma begins with a “character walk,” in which galleries are open to the public for visitors to see multimedia art installations, encounter large soft mutants on the sidewalk, or take photographs of their friends wearing oversized panda masks.

The “brain fathers” of Pictoplasma, Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler, write, “characters are not representations of living beings, but have a more animistic quality, of giving objects or mere thoughts the appearance of life.  As such, characters are often nothing less than projections of guardians to unknown territories and worlds.”

Quick status report

1.  Oli and Nada head home to Berlin tonight.  (Boo.)  I heard from them today that they weren’t sure which was better during their trip to NYC — standing in front of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat or happening upon a photo shoot in Central Park with Chris Rock.  That’s a tough one, but after seeing CR on TV this past week, I vote for CR.

Oli and Nada leaving SLU.  Don’t you love this pic?

2.  I’m listening to stories about the mid-term election results on NPR tonight and had a brief warm fuzzy about U.S. politics.  Democracy in action.  But then I remembered we’re screwed.  If Palladino wins NY, we are TOTALLY screwed.

3.  Paul Rand is in.  Christine O’Donnell is out.

4.  Everyone is asking for help financially.  The Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, NY, is out of funds as of October 20.  I got a phone call tonight from The Nation asking if I’d contribute $$ to be part of an associate’s club or something.  I said yes to both, lucky to have a little extra right now.

5.  There is much to share about the Berlin street art exhibition at SLU, which will all come soon with time.  I’m debating now whether to go back to Berlin next year for the 2011 Pictoplasma conference or for May Day.

(Wow.  That is one incredibly s-u-r-r-e-a-l combo.)

Character Design

I’ve added a new category of links to this blog listing artists who work in character design.  Many of these artists overlap with those who do contemporary street art and stickers.  The Pictoplasma conferences in Berlin are probably the best place to find artists who create digital illustrations, animation, comics, skateboard designs, plushies and vinyl toys.   My favorite plushie and toy artists are Friends With You and Dalek, but check the links on the bottom right for more character design artists.

Plushie toys are difficult to describe, but Wikipedia provides this outline:

Keepon robot at Pictoplasma 2009

I don’t know why, but this video just cracks me up.


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