My First Week as a Freelancer

So last week Thursday was my last day as a McCann Port-of-Spain employee, and the day was bitter sweet. I said my good byes and that night I went with some friends to our favourite, Dr!nk Lounge & Bistro, to celebrate with some ... well ... Dr!nks. After that we went to Paprika, and then we went to 51. Fast forward a few hours and it's now 9am and my alarm is buzzing because I have a meeting at 10...no rest for the wicked. Day 1 is followed up with 2 more meetings, both back to back in Starbucks. One with a friend/client and his business advisors to talk about a package design I had done the first draft of a while ago; the second meeting with Kevin (Deftment business partner) and an amazing photographer that we will be working with on Deftment's 2017 lookbook ... stay tuned for more of that.

Last photo with some of the McCann Ideation team

Last photo with some of the McCann Ideation team

Day 2 of freelancing was a Saturday and I was off to Starbucks to get a head start on some work that I had due Monday. The evening was spent printing t-shirts for Printmint/ chilling with friends. That night was an early night because the next morning was an early rising morning helping out Alex with a photoshoot on Las Cuevas beach, which is amazing early in the morning (except for the sand flies.)

Early morning Las Cuevas.

Early morning Las Cuevas.

On day 4, my first Monday as a freelancer, I went to Starbucks to work on a new branding and packaging project that y'all can look out for in the next couple of months once the project is launched. Alex and I also had a nice long conversation with the amazing photographer, Marlon James, who was sat next to us. I was worried about leaving the creative haven of McCann, but alas, Starbucks may be a good replacement. I also spilled half of my (hot) black coffee on my leg and all over the floor...I was amazed at how much liquid was in that cup. On day 5 (Tuesday) I worked from home and had a pretty productive morning. In the afternoon I went to the gym, and upon leaving I noticed that the weather was suited more for the beach, and not so much for in front of my computer...so I gave my (self employed) sister a call and off we went to Maracas Bay. More work ensued that evening however.

At least I got some inspiration for an illustration on the way to the beach!

At least I got some inspiration for an illustration on the way to the beach!

On day 6 I was back in Starbucks for an early morning meeting and design session...nothing too exciting, but quite productive. The afternoon was spent working from home, and the night was spent printing t-shirts. One week after my last McCann day was a good one. I woke up later than usual (9am) because of the late night the night before, and worked all morning from home. At 3pm I went to Trotters to watch my first mid week Manchester United game in a long time! That evening was spent having some beers with friends and nicely capping off my first week being self-employed (or un-employed depending on who you speak to.) Here's to many more!

How I grew my Instagram following to 5000 in 5 months

I started my Instagram journey on Feb 21st 2016 feeling pretty inspired. I made a pledge to post an illustration everyday onto the social media platform in the hope of becoming better at what I do and at the same time broaden my audience and get more clients. By spending at least an hour a day (sometimes way more) illustrating, I should become a better illustrator right? 

I was using my "professional" Instagram account @nicholashugginsdesign where I already had 800 followers that I accumulated by sporadically posting for the past few years. The account was, for the most part, dormant but I planned to change that. The goal was to start posting everyday and use the account to generate more paid work by doing a lot of unpaid personal work. 

First things first, I approached this project like any other by starting with some research. By looking at what other successful designers were doing on Instagram, I was be able to look at what they were doing right or wrong and then use that information to my own advantage. I also needed to see what hashtags to use, and I did some research into using the hashtags without looking spammy, but still getting the most out of them. You can check out my account to see how I use hashtags without them appearing in the description of my photo. 

On Feb 21st I started testing the water with an illustration of Kanye West. By March 6th I started posting daily, and three days later (March 9th) I posted an illustration of Aaron Draplin, a designer who is a huge inspiration to me. That post got around 650 likes and a lot of attention on Instagram from other users. In that time I had gone up to over 1000 followers, and that gave me the push to continue as it meant that people were connecting with the work.

A legendary, bearded Graphic Designer 👉🏼 @draplin

A photo posted by Graphic Design/Illustration 🇹🇹 (@nicholashugginsdesign) on

In the early weeks of posting, I did a lot of celebrity portraits and fan art. One portrait I did of reggae singer Kabaka Pyramid, resulted in him reposting (which got a lot of new followers for me) as well as him hiring me to design a t-shirt for him. This was one of the first instances of Instagram becoming a source of income for me. Fortunately it wasn't the last, and I've since worked with a bunch of really cool people who have all contacted me through Instagram...it has proven to be a great connector.

All this time I made sure to continue posting daily, and it became a routine in my life. Each illustration took anywhere from one to four hours depending on the intricacy of it, and the hardest part was trying to come up with new stuff to illustrate daily. My following on the app grew continuously as people found me through my hashtags and random posts popping up on the explore page. The main thing was to interact with other people in the design community. I spent a nice portion of time daily traversing through hashtag feeds and liking images, or leaving a comment on stuff that I liked.  This turned out to be a really effective way of getting people to come check out my page who may not have been able to find it otherwise. 

In this time I also made a few design tutorials and put them on Youtube, and I was featured on a couple of online blogs. By generating a lot of content, my online community was growing and more jobs were coming my way.

Another fun job that came through Instagram was designing album art for DJ R-Wan. You can see all of the stuff I did for him by checking out his Soundcloud page

 My Instagram project was affecting both my side projects/freelance work as well as my day job. Check out the photos below to see some of the illustration work I did for Bmobile, the largest telecoms provider in Trinidad & Tobago and a client of McCann Port-of-Spain.

All these things have helped me to one, become a better designer and illustrator, and two, to build my Instagram following which positively impacted my paid work. Instagram has proven to be an extremely useful tool for people in art and design to get noticed by anyone globally. So if you haven't done so already, go follow me on Instagram (see what I did there), and leave a comment on one of my images!

 

Further reading- Ten Vector artists to follow on Instagram  (A list of ten people in my field that I love to follow)

 

Talent

My name is Nick Huggins and I don't believe in talent. I never have and I probably never will. Well, at least the dictionary definition of Talent.

Talent, as defined by the top hit on google is "...the skill that someone naturally has, to do something that is hard. It is an ability that someone is born with..."

Now let me share with you, a quote by the (extremely talented?) Mixed Martial Artist Conor McGregor- "There's no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession. Talent does not exist, we are all equal as human beings. You could be anyone if you put in the time. You will reach the top, and that is that. I am not talented, I am obsessed."

Since I've been a child in primary school, art has always been a passion of mine and I was lucky enough to know at a young age that I wanted to be an artist. With the encouragement of my family and teachers, by the time I was ready to head to university there was only one choice for me- Art & Design school. I went to SCAD, and at the end of my first year decided to go into graphic design with pretty much zero experience in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. However I was dedicated to learning whatever was needed of me to succeed.

Does this mean I am a "talented" artist or designer...I don't think so. I am simply obsessed with learning this field; practicing everyday; designing and illustrating for late hours into the night. 90% of my books are books on design, my bookmark tab on my computer is filled with design websites; I am most passionate when speaking about design and spend almost all of my free time on the computer watching tutorials, illustrating, experimenting, sketching, whatever. I post new illustrations almost daily onto Instagram, work as a designer all day at an agency, operate a t-shirt company, freelance, do commissioned illustrations, and the list goes on.

I used to read interviews from designers who spoke of working 15 hours everyday, and working on weekends. When I was a teenager, this seemed insane...I now realise that it is what is needed.

It is an obsession, not a talent.  I speak a lot here about design, because that is what I do. However this same idea can be used across the board for anything and I think that anyone with an obsession in any field can reach a certain level of success if they put in the time and the effort. Of course there are some things where physical attributes or levels of intelligence or personality traits may work either for or against you (I'm not going to go into the 100M Dash anytime soon) ... but still- Get started on what you want to do today and soon enough you will get there. 

I know the word talent isn't going to leave the lexicon of humankind anytime soon, and I don't think it should. But just know that behind every "talented" individual is a lot of hard work and effort and not the result of some innate #bornthisway #wokeuplikethis skill.

If you are interested, here is a slideshow of where my art and "graphic design" skills were the couple years before going to university (Circa 2006-08)... This stuff is embarrassingly bad compared to what I see teenage graphic designers and illustrators doing on Behance or Instagram and if anything, is proof that anyone can do this. ----

How I Started My Own T-Shirt Brand **PART 2**

In Part 1 of this series I outlined the process of coming up with a name and developing a brand identity for my t-shirt brand, Deftment. Now I will explain a bit about everything else leading up to our launch. While coming up with the branding for Deftment, the designing of the actual tees were also underway. The design process was pretty straight-forward, I usually start with sketches or just writing down ideas in my sketch book before I start doing anything on the computer. For our first line, close to 50 designs were done that we needed to cut down to five final choices to be printed.

Some of the initial designs

Some of the initial designs

We ended up choosing the design to the far right.

We ended up choosing the design to the far right.

Top Left was chosen 

Top Left was chosen 

A couple of the above designs made the initial print, but most did not for various reasons. Some of the multi-coloured ones had to be taken out for cost purposes, others weren't used because they did not fit in with the ultimate aesthetic of the brand, and some weren't used because they just weren't good enough. At the end of the day, we wanted to not be able to choose a favourite amongst the final designs and we knew that to achieve this we had to spend a lot of time honestly critiquing the work. 

Rejected Test Print 1- The black strokes were a bit too thin

Rejected Test Print 1- The black strokes were a bit too thin

Rejected Test Print 2- The text was too thin and did not match what we wanted.

Rejected Test Print 2- The text was too thin and did not match what we wanted.

After choosing the final designs, the next step was actually sourcing the tees and getting them printed. From the very beginning we knew that we wanted our tees to be of the highest quality which would result in slightly higher prices, but we knew that people would pay for the great quality that we intended to supply. After locking down a US based t-shirt supplier, we found a local print shop to deal with the printing. One of our first problems was that we probably didn't give ourselves enough time to print, and therefore received the final t-shirts on the morning of our launch. It was a close call, but luckily everything worked out in the end.

Nick, Laura, Kevin & Ashley at the Launch.

Nick, Laura, Kevin & Ashley at the Launch.

We launched on a Friday night at a retail store that was being occupied by a couple friends (Laura & Ashley) for the summer months. Deftment was going to move into their space for a couple days to launch the brand. On the Friday night we had drinks, music and all round good vibes. What made it better was that a lot of our friends passed in and made purchases. The compliments as well as the actual purchases legitimized the amount of hard work we put in, and it was definitely worth it in the end.

In Part 3 of this series, I will share the details of where Deftment is now, and how we have developed and evolved since the inception of the brand. Here are a few more photos of the launch in the mean time----

How I Started My Own T-Shirt Brand **PART 1**

The idea for what became Deftment began over a year before our launch, when my good friend Kevin and I dreamed of creating quality tees with a unique Caribbean style. I have always loved t-shirt design because a t-shirt is something that everyone owns, thus making the art/design on it something that is available to a huge audience.

We officially launched Deftment on October 3rd 2014, but the real work on the brand began a year before in September, 2013. Our vision at the time was simple, to provide high quality tees that were suited to a Caribbean lifestyle. This meant that it had to be stylish, versatile and durable; it should transition from the beach, to the pavement bar, to an all-inclusive fete with ease. The Caribbean is full of skilled individuals ranging from artists, musicians, chefs, DJ's, fashion designers; and these were the people who we detailed as our ideal customer. Our brand had to reflect this culture, and this passionate bunch. I had an idea of what I wanted aesthetically; something that drew from elements of typography, nature and mathematical geometry...we just had to figure out how to pull it all together. Developing a name posed a challenge. We wanted to invent our own word, something that we could define without preconceptions. Deftment is a portmanteau of deft, as in skilful, and movement. We set out to be a skilled movement.

In these two pictures I was getting close to the final logotype for the word DEFTMENT. I hadn't settled on a final logomark, the symbol that represented the brand (i.e. the Nike Swoosh vs the word NIKE.)The final logomark was made up of a series of hexagons, and you can see the inception of this idea from the pictures here.

The next thing on the list was creating a brand identity for Deftment starting with a logo. As I stated earlier, for the aesthetic of the brand we wanted to feature different geometric elements, and this was what I focused on with initial logo explorations. 

We were looking for those geometric elements for the logo, and it all came to be by experimenting. I was trying to digitally create the face of a monkey using only geometric shapes. I drew a few hexagons and got to work resulting in something really close to what is the final logo. 

A lot of tweaking and hard work went into perfecting the logo, as it would be the cornerstone of our brand and something that people would associate us with. I think the result was successful because it responded to our initial needs, and in the end we ended up with something that we set out to achieve in our own design brief. 

In Part Two I will discuss the lead up to our launch, and the design process for the first Deftment Line. 

logo

How Advertisers are using Pokemon Go

Unless you've been living under a Geodude for the last month, you would have heard about Pokemon Go by now. Pokemon Go will definitely go down as a (video) game changer when the history books are written and it is particularly interesting to see how brands are using the hype to promote themselves and to be a leading member of the bandwagon.

Pokemon Go launched in Trinidad & Tobago (along with the rest of the Caribbean) a bit later than other parts of the world, so by the time it hit the shores of our islands, the hype was at a fever pitch. Advertisers knowing this, were quick to use the excitement to their advantage.

Here are a few Facebook posts by some of the brands in Trinidad& Tobago.

Leave a reply in the comments to let me know which are your favourites, or if I missed any good ones.

My Top 5 Favourite Summer Olympic Logos

So with the 2016 Rio Olympics upon us, I decided to do a countdown of my Top 5 favourite logos from every Summer Olympic Games. Let me know which you like or if you think I left any out.

5. LA 1984- I love the treatment of the Stars & Stripes in this logo. From the use of negative space to create the white star, to the "movement" effect created with the stripes. It is a memorable logo with all elements working well together. This logo is as American as they come utilizing red, white & blue, and the stars and stripes.


4. Athens 2004- I love the use of the olive wreath in this logo. The olive wreath was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games, so it is a nice "throwback." Without saying where the games are, the viewer can assume that it is Greek based on the colours and the content. Super effective, and very memorable.


3. Rio 2016- A very dynamic logo and logotype. The font treatment is really unique and works really well with the logo mark which depicts three figures in embrace. I really like the overall vibrancy of this and it gives us an essence of the host city.


2. Beijing 2008- My favourite part of this logo has to be the calligraphy treatment of the host city and year (I especially like how the "iji" work next to each other.) The brush stroke application of the man (The Dancing Jing) on red makes up what is an overall pleasant composition. The logo pulls elements from the host country and is very  successful.


1. Tokyo 1964- The gold treatment of the logotype and the Olympic rings; the stark, red, Japanese rising sun; the no nonsense san-serif typeface. There is so much to love about this extremely simple, yet exceptionally effective logo; less is definitely more. This was an easy choice for me!

How to stay inspired?

There are some weeks where I feel a sense of artistic inspiration from morning until night and I find the ability to create a lot of illustrations and think of a bunch of cool ideas with seamless ease. Other weeks however, it is a bit of a struggle to find the energy to pull out a blank canvas or to create a new file in illustrator. If this happens to you as well, I've put together a few things I find helpful to do when I'm stuck in a rut that help me find the creative energy.

1) Look at other artists/designers who are better than you. My number one source for finding and interacting with other designers is Instagram. Check out some of my favourite Instagrammers here.

Read More

10 Vector artists to follow on Instagram

Instagram has recently become my new favourite social media platform, and I have been spending maybe too much time on the app. Apart from posting everyday, I also thoroughly enjoy going through the feeds of other designers and illustrators. There are a few that when I see their work I think "dammit, I wish I thought of that." Here is a list of ten of those vector artists that I always keep up with (in no particular order.) Make sure to give them a Follow to be inspired everyday!

Read More

A few updates

Hey everyone, I just wanted to share some news/updates here.

Firstly, I am working on a brand new portfolio website so make sure to stay on the look out for that! It will have a ton of new work and projects that I've been holding off on posting until I was able to update my site. It's very exciting, but is proving to be a whole load of extra work to add to an already busy schedule.

Something else that was exciting this year was being featured in two magazines. The first was T&T Entrepreneurs magazine. Click the link to see the feature or just check out the screenshot below.

deftment feature

 

The second magazine is a really cool publication called Bassculture Islands out of Poland. They featured my illustrated portraits alongside an interview as well as using my typographic illustrations throughout the rest of the magazine.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.09.05 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.09.12 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 2.09.20 PM

I hope you enjoy these, and make sure to look out for the launch of the new website and a few new projects that are currently under wraps!

Nick.

How to write a decent blog post in 10 easy steps

Step 1- Come up with an interesting name that could catch the attention of people. Names such as "Photographing the Mundane" is boring, back to the drawing board. Step 2- Briefly research your topic.

Step 3- Start writing.

Step 4- Perhaps, include a nice stock photo for impact. Readers respond well when images are included in blog posts.

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Step 5- Think about formatting your blog post as a list. Lists have a proven track record of getting more views! Just look at buzzfeed!

Step 6- Maybe write some more. People love reading stuff.

Step 7- Make sure you proofread for any erors. This is impotent!

Step 8- Double check your accuracy.

Step 9- Upload the blog post and watch the amount of visitors to your site increase exponentially.

 

Trini Christmas & what we can be doing to boost tourism

If, as the popular song goes, Trini Christmas is the best, then why haven't we as a country embraced this as a possible draw for tourism in the same way as Carnival? During a conversation with a coworker about the John Lewis 2015 Christmas ad (Man on the Moon) we wondered why there is not this type of advertising in Trinidad & Tobago during the christmas season. The sort of heart warming, tear jerking christmas ads that are popular abroad, are not employed here. What is the reason? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JUrLFxGgKU

The conclusion we came to is that Christmas means something else to us. I don't mean the general concept of what christmas is; I mean how we celebrate it and what can be broken down as the christmas "vibe."

Like Carnival and Calypso, we have an endemic music for Our Christmas, Parang. Parang music is played with cuatros, maracas, box bass, claves, toc-toc, guitars and tambourines amongst other instruments. Soca-parang, which is more popularly played on the radio has a very distinct style, and is usually humorous in its nature, with a lot of the songs incorporating sexual innuendos and double entendre.

Men-From-The-Mainland-Carriacou-Parang-Bands-Competition-2005

While the malls in the US are softly playing Silent Night etc, our shopping centres are belting out Parang & Soca Parang tunes... "eating, drinking, having a good time; dancing, prancing, having a good time." All of this uniqueness should really encourage a new brand of tourism where Our Christmas is what we are selling.

Ponchecreme

Another main part of our Christmas is of course the food. We have pastelles, ham and hops, sorrel, black cake, and of course the usuals like macaroni pie, corn pie, turkey, stuffing. I'll let the photos do the talking.

pastels

After I began writing this, the news story of the Piarco Airport Christmas decor went viral. The point of arrival for every tourist into Trinidad was decked out as a white christmas wonderland. Maybe it was the intention of those responsible to make visitors feel at home before they were greeted with the Caribbean warmth as they exited.

decor

After the social media outrage they acted quickly to replace it with something more "local." The replacement seemed to be done without much thought, and as one commenter on Facebook said, they thought it looked like they pillaged one of the souvenir stores of their t-shirts and mannequins. It was however, a great improvement from the previous set up.

new decor.1

What this public outrage showed me is that general population do care about showing off our culture and ensuring that our Christmas traditions are celebrated. We have no need to import the customs of other countries when we have such a strong culture. Trinidad & Tobago should be pushing our Christmas to the world and thereby capitalizing on the potential tourism draw. Can you imagine someone from a cold European country purchasing an all inclusive vacation to a tropical island where the first morning they are treated with Pastelles, Hops and Ham with kuchela washed down with a glass of sorrel. That night they could be taken on a guided tour up to Paramin, or to Sangre Grande to be immersed in the Parang. The rest of the time the all inclusive package could include beach trips, hikes, christmas fetes and other cultural explorations.

This is something that should definitely be looked into as Trinidad & Tobago seek to diversify the economy, and I think as a culture and society we would be proud to see our unique Christmas shared with the world in this way.

Holiday Baked Ham-5

Carnival Vendor Booths and the Trinbagonian Aesthetic

Every year around this time the construction of vendor booths begin around the Queen's Park Savannah. Their arrival around the Savannah is always something that has intrigued me as they spark an excitement in people as it signals the arrival of Carnival. But their design is also something that captivates me. 2011-11-28-12-1a_CARNIVAL_BOOTHS_27-11-11_(1)

They are designed to be very utilitarian and serve a single purpose- to house vendors for a short space of time, usually a couple of months depending on the length of the Carnival Season, and because of this they are made to be easily installed and have basic amenities that would be needed by the vendor.

They are painted in very basic colours with each section of the booth usually different to the other. They were probably all originally painted in a single, different colour but because of the fact that they are dismantled every year and then rebuilt, each colour was mixed up and now each one is a structure of varying colours.

These booths remind me of the work of Mark Rothko, the abstract expressionist best known for his paintings of different planes of colour.

http://www.mark-rothko.org/images/paintings/number-10.jpg

As you can see in the side by side comparison below, the way the colours are used in all are similar but for very different intention. The vendor booths are painted in these colours by the National Carnival Commission and because of how they are made, have evolved into a multi coloured structure. However once put up, they are usually covered in advertising making the time that they are at their colourful best very short.

The Middle image is of the Rothko painting, done strictly for the purpose of being an art piece with the colours chosen consciously by the artist to be a work of art.

The third image is of a fete sign with a rothko-esque background. These colours were chosen as a design element; meant to convey meaning to the viewer and to make the portrayal of information effective. We have in these 3 images the difference between coincidence, art, and design.

2007-01-12-8-1A

After studying in the US for 4 years and being around designers from all over the world, I always think about the question of what is the Trinbagonian aesthetic. Visually, what is intrinsically Trinbagonian? To answer this is very difficult; where do you find the answer, what do you look at to find this. Does the answer lie in the colours that we come across everyday such as the vendor booths; or the design that we encounter on a daily basis such as the fete signs; maybe it can be found in the work of the many fine artists, photographers, fashion designers, architects, and mas men of the country.

I think though that anything designed or created here (in T&T) must represent the Trinbagonian aesthetic whether intentionally or not. Or, maybe I'm completely wrong, but I will continue to think about this and maybe one day the question will be answered.

 

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Nicholas Huggins is a graphic designer, art director, and painter from Trinidad & Tobago. You can see his work here.

The work of Peter Minshall

This essay will deal with the role and importance of characters and storylines in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and more specifically, in the work of Peter Minshall. In order to define the work of Peter Minshall, we must first define Carnival. Carnival comes from the Latin Carnis- Flesh and Vale- farewell.[1] Therefore Carnival literally translates to the ‘farewell to the flesh’ period prior to lent. Throughout the history of Carnival, the use of characters to portray different things has been the norm. From the Negue Jardin to the Midnight Robber, and the Pierrot Grenade to the Jab Molassi, the characters are varied and diverse. The work of Peter Minshall is world-renowned and is the epitome of Trinidad and Tobago Mas’ (abbreviated form of masquerade), so much so that he is colloquially known in Trinidad and Tobago as “Mas Man”.[2]

This paper seeks to explore the role and importance of characters in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival through the work of Peter Minshall. Minshall is known for taking the art of Carnival design into choreography and telling stories through his work. Amongst all the carnival artists, it is Minshall who first started breaking boundaries in his work as we will see in his trilogy of bands between 1983 and 1985.

From a very young age he began taking part in Carnival and it was the stories of the characters and what they represented that struck a cord with Minshall. He was riveted with the stories his father told him of the characters and the design of the characters, and how when they moved, the cloth used to make the costume danced, and through this dance, they spoke to him.[3] As a child in the Caribbean, and more specifically Trinidad and Tobago, being around the creativity and experience of Carnival would have influenced the art of Minshall. At the age of 12 he came to Trinidad with his family from British Guiana, and just one year later at the age of 13 he made his first Carnival costume. Throughout his teenage years he started making costumes for friends and family, and at the age of 21, he went to study theatre and performance arts at the Central School of Art and Design in London. In fact, his thesis paper was on the Carnival Character of the Bat; a character that intrigued him and even served as inspiration in his later works.[4]

Carnival has its origins as “Canboulay” (French- Cannes Brulees – Cane Burning) when in the 1800’s, the slaves and indentured laborers were not permitted to take part in Carnival, and they created their own procession.

The dissident slaves would signal their comrades with a hillside fire to burn the cane fields. The Negue Jardin who were field slaves from neighboring estates were the ones in charge of extinguishing the fires. This was eventually reenacted as a street performance annually, and was later joined by the upper class French- Creoles, who, in their torn pants and sooty face, parodied the Negue Jardin. The Canboulay planted the seeds for what is now Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago as there were masquerades, characters, and the early signs of an endemic music from Trinidad and Tobago, including the steel pan.[5]

By the 1940’s the Canboulay was replaced by the Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday with the first Dimanche Gras taking place in 1948. This was when the King and Queen of Carnival were crowned and it began as a way to create a theatrical experience out of the mas or carnival.[6] Of course it wasn’t until 26 years later in 1974 that Minshall’s debut into the this competition would take place, with his band “Land of the Hummingbird,” but it is important to note the history in order to better understand his thinking, and his work.[7]

His first Carnival Band “Land of the Hummingbird” was, to Minshall, everything he sought to embody through his Carnival designs. It was a character where the cloth was dancing.

Peter Minshall’s Hummingbird, 1974. Photo by Noel Norton
Peter Minshall’s Hummingbird, 1974. Photo by Noel Norton

According to Minshall, “At first she looked like nothing, just a little blue and turquoise triangle, bobbing along among those grand plumed and glittering chariots, a little tent bobbing along. And then, the hummingbird burst into life, like a sapphire exploding.”7 He sought, through this costume to make the hummingbird not someone in a hummingbird costume, but a hummingbird itself. The costume wearer became the character and performed a narrative based on that. Throughout the years and in his work that came after Land of the Hummingbird, Minshall’s work began to take on new heights as he sought to find a deeper meaning within his work. He did this by looking at world-wide issues such as environmental problems, homophobia, and other such things in his works, rather than just have his carnival bands be purely about revelry.

Nothing fits this new meaning better than Minshall’s trilogy of bands that he put out between the years 1983-1985. These bands were the epitome of the character usage that Minshall did so well, in 1983, the first band was “River,” followed by “Callaloo” in 1984, and finalized with “The Golden Calabash” in 1985. In 1983,the first band of this trilogy “River” was created. It featured Mancrab as the king and Washerwoman as the queen.[8]

Mancrab and Washerwoman. Photo by Noel Norton
Mancrab and Washerwoman. Photo by Noel Norton

The construction of the king, Mancrab, was quite exquisite. Based on a crab, the costume had six arms that resemble pincers and were able to be moved as if dancing. There were two poles attached to each foot, that were 16 feet in height and attached to a 25-foot square canopy of white silk. The mask was papier-mache and was made to reflect the contours of the human face. Everything from the music played (East Indian- derived Tassa Drums) when the king crossed the stage, to the actions of the dance, were coordinated into a form of theatre never before seen in Trinidad carnival.[9] Washerwoman was the beautiful Queen of Mancrab. She wore a long white skirt, and she had two poles attached to her shoulders where clothes were hung from a clothesline. She also carried a wash basket, which reflected the washing of clothes.

The story of Mancrab and Washerwoman was called “Crab and de Callaloo,” which was derived from a Trinidadian folktale. “Mancrab was jealous of the powers of this beautiful queen, who protected her river people from the crab’s pollution and greed. Through the course of Carnival, the Mancrab was determined to capture the admiration of the river people by offering them technology. Jealous of the power of love symbolized by a magical calabash filled with pure water, which was controlled by the queen, Mancrab planned to destroy that protective love. With slick black oils and beautiful chemicals that composed a rainbow, this villain painted the river. The colors stood for the luxury and profits brought by the technology. The river people were attracted to the promised wealth and fought with one another to fill their basins with the colored water. This turning away from purity by the people broke the heart of the queen, causing her death.”9

The following year with “Callaloo,” the costume was, according to Minshall, “an unprecedented conjunction of celebration and dance.”[10] The importance of story line and character in Minshall’s work at this time were very important. Callaloo is defined as “A thick green soup made from dasheen leaves, ochroes, coconut milk, seasoned to taste. Invariably includes crab. Pot- Pourri. Blending of unlikely elements.”[11] For this piece of the trilogy, the main characters included King Callaloo who was the son of Washerwoman, the Mancrab, the Bird of Paradise as queen symbolized peace and harmony and represented the spirit of Washerwoman, and an individual called Madame Hiroshima who was a creation of Mancrab’s technology. King Callaloo represented the every race of the very diverse Trinidad and Tobago; African, European, Chinese, Indian, mixed. It represented every color, creed, race, and culture.[12]

Madame Hiroshima-Photograph by Jeffrey Chock
Madame Hiroshima-Photograph by Jeffrey Chock

In the finale of the trilogy entitled “The Golden Calabash” in 1985, the concept of good versus evil was explored by Minshall. This was presented as a clash of two bands, the “Lords of the Light “ and the “Princes of Darkness.”12 The battle of these two bands would determine who won the prized Golden Callabash, however it ended inconclusively before an awestruck audience at the Queens Park Savannah.

Historically in Carnival, the characters could be divided into either good or bad, light or dark. Characters such as Clowns, Pierrot Grenades, Fancy Sailors and Dame Lorraines can be considered as the light characters with the dark characters including the Bat, the Midnight Robber, Jab Molassi, and Blue devils. Throughout his career as a Mas Man, Minshall explored both good and bad characters in his bands, and this can be seen clearly in the River trilogy where both good and bad characters are portrayed.[13]

Peter Minshall’s trilogy was perhaps before its time in terms of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival as it failed to win any official titles, but it did win the people’s choice award, which was decided by ordinary spectators.[14] The river trilogy was, in a time when Carnival was being described as a form of mindless and immoral behavior, a type of masquerade that attained a sublime in its art form. Minshall’s artistic ambitions were not recognized this time, however, it opened opportunities for him such as being commissioned to create the opening presentation of the Pan-American Games in Indianapolis in 1987, and of course the 1992 Barcelona Olympics , 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 1994 FIFA World Cup, and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics for which he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety or Music Program.[15]

Barcelona Olympics-photographer unknown to writer
Barcelona Olympics-photographer unknown to writer

Throughout his career, Minshall has stayed true to the core meaning of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. He has used characters and storylines and made them into yearly productions of Mas. His work defines the meaning of Carnival production in that he doesn’t simply create a Carnival Band; he creates a production of color, costume, sculpture, and music, where the participants also serve as the performers and the characters in his story.

The artist- photo by Trinidad Newsday
The artist- photo by Trinidad Newsday

[1] Mendes, John, “Cote ci Cote la, Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary,” (Port-of-Spain, Medianet Ltd, 1986.)

[2] Narine, Dalton, “Mas Man- The Complete Work, DVD (King Carnival Productions, 2012.)

[3] Ganase, Pat, “Lord of the Dance: Peter Minshall,” (Caribbean Beat Magazine, September/ October 1992.)

[4] Laughlin, Nicholas, “Masman: Peter Minshall,” (Caribbean Beat Magazine, May/ June 2006.)

[5] Mendes, John, “Cote ci Cote la, Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary,” (Port-of-Spain, Medianet Ltd, 1986.)

[6] Trinidad & Tobago National Library and Information System Authority, “Mama Dis is Mas” Accessed October 31st, 2012 http://www2.nalis.gov.tt/Research/SubjectGuide/Carnival/tabid/105/Default.aspx?PageContentMode=1

[7] Ganase, Pat, “Lord of the Dance: Peter Minshall,” (Caribbean Beat Magazine, September/ October 1992.)

[8] Nunley, John, “Peter Minshall- The Good, the Bad, and the Old in Trinidad Carnival,” Imagery & Creativity: Ethnoaesthetcics and Art Worlds in the Americas/ edited by Whitten, Dorothy S. and Whitten, Norman E. (The University of Arizona Press, 1993), 289-307.

[9] Nunley, John, “Peter Minshall- The Good, the Bad, and the Old in Trinidad Carnival,” Imagery & Creativity: Ethnoaesthetcics and Art Worlds in the Americas/ edited by Whitten, Dorothy S. and Whitten, Norman E. (The University of Arizona Press, 1993), 289-307.

[10] Ganase, Pat, “Lord of the Dance: Peter Minshall,” (Caribbean Beat Magazine, September/ October 1992.)

[11] Mendes, John, “Cote ci Cote la, Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary,” (Port-of-Spain, Medianet Ltd, 1986.)

[12] Nunley, John, “Peter Minshall- The Good, the Bad, and the Old in Trinidad Carnival,” Imagery & Creativity: Ethnoaesthetcics and Art Worlds in the Americas/ edited by Whitten, Dorothy S. and Whitten, Norman E. (The University of Arizona Press, 1993), 289-307.

[13] Nunley, John, “Peter Minshall- The Good, the Bad, and the Old in Trinidad Carnival,” Imagery & Creativity: Ethnoaesthetcics and Art Worlds in the Americas/ edited by Whitten, Dorothy S. and Whitten, Norman E. (The University of Arizona Press, 1993), 289-307.

[14] Laughlin, Nicholas, “Masman: Peter Minshall,” (Caribbean Beat Magazine, May/ June 2006.)

[15] Narine, Dalton, “Mas Man- The Complete Work, DVD (King Carnival Productions, 2012.)

Joseph Kosuth and the Idea of Art

“The 'value' of particular artists after Duchamp can be weighed according to how much they questioned the nature of art.”― Joseph Kosuth, Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writings, 1966-1990

Joseph Kosuth is an American Conceptual artist whose work focuses on exploring the nature of art and creating artwork that is about the meaning, not necessarily on producing work that we typically view as fine art. Kosuth, who draws from both his studies in anthropology and philosophy, is one of the pioneers of the conceptual art movement that came about in the 1960’s.

Conceptual art was defined based on the grounds established by the artists themselves and was conceived of entirely by the artists. The art of Kosuth was idea driven. He rejected the idea that art should be based on aesthetics, and states that in the past, art’s function was its value as decoration. He believes that art’s only claim is for art; that art is the definition of art.

“Art as Idea as Idea” is a series of work by Joseph Kosuth that involves texts through which he probed the condition of art. He went about the series by using the idea that art is a set of formal problems. He had a shift in what he thought and understood was the context of his work. The creative process to him was in changing the idea of art itself. Without larger meaning, art was reduced to decorative, formalist works.

His most renowned work in this series is “One and Three Chairs.” The 1965 work consists of a chair, an image mounted on the wall of the chair in actual size, and a print of the dictionary definition of the word “chair.” It also comes with instruction for the realization of the piece. In each location the work is set up, it will be different aesthetically yet it will keep the same idea. The goal of “One and Three Chairs” is to show that a work of art can embody an idea that doesn’t change, despite constant changes to its elements. It can be set up anyhow, by any one, with any chair, yet keep the same core idea that Kosuth intends behind the work.

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“One and Three Chairs” looks at the relationship of language and a narrative in works of art. It attempts to solve the problems associated with art by making the artwork interchangeable, and substitutable. Because you can essentially create the artwork anywhere once you follow the instructions, the work can be created anywhere by anyone. It was the idea of the work that constituted the work, rather than the formal artistic elements.

It is very interesting that Kosuth values the idea behind the piece more so than simply what you saw. To him, the most important thing in his piece is the idea. Every work of art to Kosuth is tautological, and it describes only itself.

In one of his works (Leaning Glass, 1965), he has 4 square panels of glass leaning against a wall. Each glass has a different word that is factual and descriptive of the glass pane. The words are “glass,” “square,” “leaning” and “clear.” His work makes the viewer consider what is art, and he uses his philosophical learnings in order to define what art is.

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Kosuth says that he chose glass as the medium due to the fact that it was clear, and there were no compositional problems as far as choice or location or color. He first started the process of the work by figuring out the presentation of the glass. He tried smashing it, stacking it, but this led him to try using language in the work. With his first glass piece he leaned it against the wall, with a lable next to it reading “Any Five Foot Sheet of Glass to Lean Against any Wall.” The work was neither a sculpture on the floor nor a painting hung on the wall, and as glass had no form or composition.

His neon signs also explore the tautology in art. He creates neon signs of text that state exactly what it is. “Five words in orange neon” is a work of Kosuth’s done in orange neon. It is exactly what is written, five words in orange neon. Or similarly, "four colors four words."  It looks at the semiotics in the art and how the word relates the way it is portrayed. Joseph Kosuth focuses on the meaning of the art, and not simply the fashioning of forms and colors. The making of meaning is what he believes art to be. He states that artwork must involve a test and that art that doesn’t work within this context consists of illustrations of what art might be.

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Joseph Kosuth is a very important figure in the last 50 years and he has helped to better define art. His work is similar to Duchamp in that if someone says it is art, then it’s art. One of his inspirations is Ad Reinhardt who painted black squares. He believes that what made Reinhardt an artist is not the fact that he paints black squares, it’s the meaning behind what he is doing, and this is just what Kosuth wants in his work, for the meaning to be the important thing and to come through.

The Artist

Art, Design & Music

Who doesn't love good music, and good art? I was inspired to write this post after seeing the album art for Logic's album "Under Pressure." It was illustrated and designed by fellow SCAD grad, and the always amazing, Sam Spratt. It got me thinking how important the relationship between art and music is. The album art is of course the face of the music that is on the album and represents what the musician has spent their time producing. The album art for Under Pressure depicts a scene that was common for Logic when he was an up and coming rapper; sitting in the basement of his friend's home reading lyrics off his phone while his friends listen. logicalbum

The most memorable album covers throughout time are ingrained into our minds and of course the designer plays a role in ensuring this. Some albums have remained a part of culture years after being released. Two of my favourite album covers of all time are The Beatles' Abbey Road & Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. The designer for Abbey Road, John Kosh, famously said "we didn't need to write the band's name on the cover ... They were the most famous band in the world." The album art for The Dark Side of the Moon was designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie under the instruction to come up with something "smarter, neater- more classy."

beatlesDark_Side_of_the_Moon

As a fan of minimal design, it always intrigues me to see just how minimal album art can go, while still achieving something that is memorable. Another Beatles classic that has come to be known as The White Album (1968), designed by Richard Hamilton, consisted of a simple white sleeve embossed with the name of the band, and each with a unique serial number.  This was perhaps as minimal as possible an album art can get...right? Well Kanye West proved that to be wrong with his 2013 release of Yeezus, with the packaging that Kanye designed himself. The album had no album art, and consisted of a simple CD encasing  with a red sticker affixed to the front, and the CD within the case (also blank in terms of artwork) showing through.

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Despite the minimal nature of these two albums, I am sure that they will continue to stand the test of time and remain an important part of our design culture. In a world where we are visually bombarded on a daily basis, the designer (along with the musician) must figure out how to solve the problem of not getting lost to the consumer, and it is truly amazing to see just how they continue to solve this problem.

Below are some examples of album covers that I think have been successfully designed. Enjoy!

bob_marley_the_wailers-exodus2 coverparadise.to californicationthe-chronic-4ea687eb81068think_cd_cover_biglondon-callingbollocksslv25joy-division-unkown-pleasures

 

And here's the first album cover I ever designed for the Trinidadian band jointpop :

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Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival Branding Review

1604813_10152125338402171_893755625_n With the 2014 edition of the trinidad+tobago film festival around the corner, I decided to do a write up on what I think is a very successful brand.

Here is a description of the film festival taken from their website, "Founded in 2006, the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff) is an annual celebration of films from and about Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and its diaspora."

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Usually when things are branded as "Trinidad & Tobago..." there is a trend to have it red, white and black, and to include some sort of local logo cliche, such as a humming bird, a steel pan, or something else that screams "TRINIDAD & TOBAGO." Thankfully the film festival logo did not go down this route and instead chose to use more understated nods to the T&T flag that may not be seen at first glance. Firstly it must be noted that the logo is very clean, with the subtle reference to the T&T flag both in the shape that the words are placed on, as well as the thin strokes that pass through the words.

The typography is transparent and shows a glimpse of the background it is placed on (as can be seen in the images below), and the colour of the block is interchangeable; this adds to the versatility of the branding. The colours used are vibrant and represent well the hues found throughout T&T. The only small issue I had with the logo was the fact that the typography is right aligned and perhaps a left alignment may have made it a little more successful based on the shape that the type sits on. Overall a very good logo that is used successfully throughout all the media that it rendered on.

trinidad-tobago-film-festival

The application of the logo by the film festival is very uniformed across the board, and the logo, as well as use of colour, makes it instantly recognizable as to what it is. I particularly like the transparent lettering that allows each image to create a unique representation of the typography in the logo.

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Both the cover of the 2014 guide and the website home page keep up the same quality branding and the colour choices for the typography are on point. All of the design elements are thoughtfully executed and makes for a successful and enjoyable experience for the user. The trinidad+tobago film festival definitely has a high standard when it comes to their branding and I am personally excited to be a patron this year.

The trailer for the film festival can be found here.

Update- Abovegroup rebranded the film festival in 2009 and Melanie Archer, the art director for the festival has been responsible for the application and development over the years, under Abovegroup's guidance in 2010, and then solo since.

Nick.

Photographing the Mundane

  Artists see the world through different eyes to most people; they see the beauty in things that may be considered boring or mundane, and there are no photographers who capture this beauty as well as William Eggleston. Eggleston is a pioneering photographer and is credited with introducing colour to art photography in the late 1960s. To understand how avant-garde this was, it must be acknowledged that most art photography at the time was shot in black and white, and colour was considered to be ugly; no serious photographer would photograph in colour.

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The reason behind art photographers shooting in black and white is summed up best by John Szarkowski, writing in the introduction to the book "William Eggleston's Guide."

He stated, "For the photographer who demanded formal rigor from his pictures, color was an enormous complication of a problem already cruelly difficult. And not merely a complication, for the new medium meant that the syntax the photographer had learned - the pattern of his educated intuitions - was perhaps worse than useless, for it led him toward the discovery of black-and-white photographs. Most serious photographers, after a period of frustrating experimentation, decided that since black and white had been good enough for David Octavius Hill, Brady, and Stieglitz, it was good enough for them. Professionals used color when they were paid to, doing their very best, without quite knowing what they meant by that."

Below is a photograph by Eggleston, taken before he started shooting in colour.

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Eggleston was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and it is here that he has done the majority of his work. According to his wife Rosa, when he was first getting started in photography he told his friend that in Memphis everything was ugly and he didn't know what to photograph; his friend responded "well, photograph the ugly stuff." So this is exactly what he did. He began photographing otherwise unremarkable subjects yet achieving remarkable results.

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He has been said to photograph democratically, where he treats everything he sees equally and produces pictures out of nothing.

His subject matter could be described as banal, boring, mundane and everyday, however he shoots it with such beauty, and what at first seems simple turns out to show quite a complex message where nothing in the frame can be taken for granted. His wife has said, “One thing that I will never forget in my mind what Bill did say to me earlier on when he was talking to me, ‘Now you must not take anything for granted when you are looking at a picture. Never do that. Every single little tiny space on that page works and counts.”

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Eggleston has gone on to achieve great recognition, however, in the beginning of his career he had a show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City and one art critic deemed it "the most hated exhibition of the year." There were a lot of negative reviews by critics who simply did not get what it was he was doing. Another critic stated that it was "totally boring and perfectly banal" which is ironically the intention of the exhibition, and something that he went on to become recognised for.

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In the documentary "William Eggleston-Imagine," he said in response to his critics at his MoMA show, "“I think it was wonderful having a first major show at MOMA, of all places. It got tremendous recognition, great amount of it—-negative. I really felt sorry for them, because it was so obvious –-it was like they had the wrong time. They didn’t understand what they were looking at. And their job was to understand it. Modern art, it is the museum of modern art. And, they wrote pretty stupid things. Then it became known all over the world, so, the critics who wrote all that stuff later apologized [laughed] that they were wrong.”

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Eggleston is truly great at what he does and his photographs are a joy to look at. What might be considered as mundane by some, his images transport us to a time where we are stuck in the moment that each photograph was taken. Despite living in an "ugly & boring" place, he has transformed it through his photography, and he is truly a master of his art.

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To conclude, here is a great quote by Eudora Wetley that perfectly sums up the work of Eggleston, "The extraordinary, compelling, honest, beautiful and unsparing photographs all have to do with the quality of our lives in the ongoing world: they succeed in showing us the grain of the present, like the cross-section of a tree. The photographs have cut it straight through the center. They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world!”

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All images are © Eggleston Artist Trust. All rights reserved.

You can see more of his work at the Eggleston Artist Trust website.