Pablo clavó un clavo en la calva de un calvito;
en la calva de un calvito clavo' un clavo Pablito…
You need to understand this about me. By day, I'm a graphic designer. Since 1978 or so, way before I knew what it was called, I was a designer, arranging words and pictures, and distilling forms down to their essence. Finding extensible symmetries and seeing the shapes in negative space. You also need to know I have degrees of color-blindness.
I've blogged about this at length elsewhere, but over the last twenty years, I've learned to compensate mathematically for this deficit, but it still makes flying solo on press okays a little scary both for me and the paying client. This blog post is not going to explore my color coping techniques nor my indebtedness to Adobe and Pantone corporations. Nor is it a theological rant aimed at a God who would passively (or actively) allow a painter-designer-photographer guy to not fully see the hues with which he creates and vibes upon. In fact, the post is quite the opposite.
I'm more-or-less okay with my color vision. I'm starting to think that perhaps my color-blindness is a gift of sorts. From God. Stay with me. I could imagine myself being much less prolific, and more bogged down by 'getting the color right' in my paintings and other media, if I saw color correctly. I might not play with color the way I do presently.
But black and white. I can't play with black and white the way I play with color. It's the difference between, I dunno, gunpowder and Pixy Stix® fillings.
That's not to say I'm not playful with my linework subject matter. But black and white is … the thing of it, the idea itself. I want to be much more about that idea, which for me frequently means being in service to the line, in service to the inky blacks and the solar whites, and bringing into sharper relief the cross-hatched grays.
All this thought on linework led my thinking to the process of printmaking, etching, intaglio, and then ultimately to José Guadalupe Posada, one of Mexico's most revered artists, printmakers, communicators, designers. Posada's leitmotif was the calavera, pre-revolutionary satire tinged with Mexico's playful/sober take on death/life. His command of design influenced Diego Rivera and countless others. His media, type-metal etching and later, zinc engraving, forced the line out of the shadows and into the light. Jung might even be proud.
My brain whirled back around to Dia de los Muertos, the calavera-inhabited Mexican equivalent to All Saints and All Souls. I reflected (as all three of these traditions might have me do) on the brevity of life and the triumph over death, and questions of life after death: We laugh at death by donning masks and costumes and play at the macabre during this Hallowe'en/ Féile na Marbh season. Although José Posada died a pauper, perhaps his mastery of line and command of the ink on the broadsheet page gave him some temporary triumph over death.
My brain circles back around to my own identity, often hovering in and near my ability and drive to design. Dare I ask myself the tough question: to what extent am I seeking my own (fame, immortality, legacy) through my graphic oeuvre? Do I spend too much time in my own head chasing down the next logotype that will rival Margo Chase or the next poster design that will co-reign with Michael Schwab's? In what other ways am I blind? Is it inevitable?