Illustrator Robert Blechman's tiny, distinctive drawings became a phenomenon in the 1960s.

Blechman graduated from college with virtually no artistic training and no portfolio except the work he had done for a college literary magazine. He later recalled,

Nothing could have been more impractical than becoming a professional illustrator. My style--such as it was-- had no precedents and therefore no clear outlets.
Blechman showed one of his school assignments, a hand sewn booklet ("got a B-") to the editor at Henry Holt, who asked if Blechman could make a similar book on a holiday theme. Blechman chose the medieval theme of The Juggler of Our Lady.

I set to work immediately. Clearing the kitchen table of everything but the white paper and Will Durant's Age of Faith as reference, I started the book that evening and finished it the same night. In the morning I took it to Holt, and it was accepted for publication. An epic event in my life.
His feeble, neurotic line, combined with a brilliant concept, caught on hmmediately and Blechman was launched on a long and profitable career doing books, cards, advertisements and television commercials in his distinctive style.

Blechman never raises his voice. His special talent lies in compelling huge audiences to stop and listen to his whisper. To achieve this result, he seems to follow a two step process: first, he gets people to pay attention by using empty backgrounds as boldly as his peers emphasized their main subjects. All that negative space surrounding Blechman's tiny little drawings drew more attention to them than a drum roll, a crash of cymbals and a spotlight.

Second, once he has the attention of the audience, he has to deliver a concept that makes it worth their while. Below, Blechman explains how he misunderstood, after his first, immediate success, that he would have to start all over again with something fresh and original:

When the Juggler of Our lady was published and met with great acclaim, I associated success with the book not with me, whom I considered undeserving. Convinced that success lay in producing other Jugglers, I set out to do more of them. Son of the Juggler, Grandson of the Juggler, Grand Nieces and Nephews of the Juggler....They were stillborn, all. In the meantime, the years went by, and, still desperately trying to produce offspring-- Cousin of the Juggler, Bastard of the Juggler-- I would not stop: I could not stop. I did not realize that I was changing from the 22 year old who had sat down at the kitchen table with a pad of paper, The Age of faith, and a vision. No longer the same person I could no longer produce the same work.
Once Blechman returned to wracking his brain to put fresh creativity and honest effort into each new concept, his success was assured. The following illustration from later in his career is only about four inches wide:

...yet Blechman still cared enough to make a microscopic adjustment to the length of a nose to make sure the drawing was as funny as possible:

That's how he became a success.

Slum Sans

Photo of some slum typography.

It's been nearly six months since I spent time in the Mathare Valley Slums located on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. My emotions are still raw when I think about that experience and it usually makes my eyes water.

At this time the post production of the documentary is in full swing and in good creative hands as well.

A common site in the slums is hand drawn typography used on signs. They are everywhere you look. For an upcoming collaborative project with Rule 29 I wanted to mimic this aesthetic so we could use it for titling in our project.

Slum Sans on light background.

As you've seen in previous posts the slums continue to be source of inspiration for me.

Slum Sans on dark background.

I drew out the whole set by hand pretty small so it wouldn't be crisp. Then I created a rough highlight you could add to the type to give it some pop. I even used a slum texture to degrade the letterforms as well.

Slum Sans complete set.

The whole set is just a simple vector file with the letterforms on one layer and the highlights on another. So you just compile what you need to create the word.

Slum Sans detailing.

I optimized the texturing as much as I could without loosing that nice authentic feel. The source file in the download below is a CS2 Adobe Illustrator file.

Update: A big thank you goes out to Brian Carroll who took my raw vector files and not only created a working font but also created the missing letter "I" that some how I over looked in the process? Brian is a multi-talented creative who is part of Studio Litchfield so check out their site.

Download Links

- Slum Sans - Vector Art (1.9MB)
- Slum Sans Font (217KB)

If you find this resource useful please consider donating to the work of Life in Abundance who works in African slums helping people improve their lives. Donate here. Thanks.

Mark Wallinger, 'Reckless'

Mark Wallinger, 'Reckless'

Thanks to Jed Butterfield and Bob Pain at Omni Colour www.omnicolour.com and Nicholas Penny at the National Gallery.

View image full size for print and download

Download the press release

Wet 'n' Wild

Grottaglie, Italy

I got back from Fame Festival in Southern Italy last week, after spending a few days making installations around the city. I made six in all, including a few that used miniature speakers and mp3 players to add sound. The one above had a speaker hidden in the drain that played sounds of screaming kids and splashing - check out the video below. I will be posting more soon, including a video showing the reactions of Grottaglie's residents to one of the sound installations. I will also be releasing a mini print from the festival in a week or so. In the mean time, check out more work from the festival here - as usual a bunch of great artists including Swoon, Blu and Boris Hoppek. The Fame Festival show opens it's doors on the 25th September.

The Local Authority

Grottaglie, Italy


When people talk about computer art, they usually focus on the "supply" side: artists using computers to create and distribute art.

But computers have major consequences for the "demand" side of the equation: what viewers want.

We have already witnessed the first primitive applications of computers to understanding what kind of art viewers like and why:

1. In 1994, artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid conducted a statistical analysis to calculate the ideal painting for U.S. audiences. They discovered that 60% of the population preferred paintings that are "realistic looking" while 88% preferred outdoor scenes featuring lakes or rivers. 53% preferred paintings to have visible brush strokes. Komar and Melamid "translated the numbers into paint on canvas." Their analysis produced the following picture:

2. Information technology is being used to rank the greatest artworks of the 20th century: Economist David Galenson has proposed quantitative methods to rank art, such as the number of times pictures appear in art history textbooks. Other economists, such as Michael Rushton and Charles Gray feel this approach shows great promise. Says Gray: "We all want to believe that there is something special about the arts but I don't buy that there is any difference between artistic and economic value."

3. Other computer scientists take a different approach, claiming that "with the use of mathematics, computers and massive data bases of attractive faces, we have been able to quantify facial attractiveness in a consistent mathematical computer model...."

Building on historical archetypes of beauty, companies now claim to have calculated the formula for beauty and attractiveness: "it is a mathematical ratio that seems to appear recurrently in nature as well as other things that are seen as Beautiful. The Golden ratio is a mathematical ratio of 1.6180339887:1, and the number 1.6180339887 is called phi." Using computer programs and a trademarked "golden grid," an artist might tailor an image to what viewers would find most attractive.

But these early, sometimes laughable efforts have given way to more sophisticated applications of information technology. Rather than gathering raw data through telephone surveys the way Komar and Melamid did in 1994, science has gained the ability to monitor brain, blood, skin and other biological reactions to art. Until now, these nascent technologies (especially electroencephalography and infrared optical tomography) have found uses in the gaming and neuromarketing industries:
[neuromarketing is] a new field of marketing which studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state (heart rate, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it.
Would a CGI picture evoke a better reaction if the hero's shirt was blue rather than red, or the heroine had longer hair? Would a CGI animated kiss come across as more passionate if it were five seconds longer or shorter?

Computers can identify the electrical activity in the brain that accompanies the thrill of seeing a good work of art. They monitor localized changes of oxy- and deoxy-hemoglobin concentrations in the brain in response to various images. With increasing precision, computers are likely to explain the pharmacological activity that accompanies a diverse range of artistic thrills.

From there, it will become much easier (and more efficient) to stimulate those same reactions by skipping over that obsolete middle man between the work of art and the audience: the artist, who struggled for centuries relying on nothing but highly fallible intuition.


Seymour Chwast

Some readers didn't like the traditional figure drawings in my previous post:
I can't believe such pointless work is still being appreciated today. Anyone can achieve the same thing in half a second with a camera...

My camera is capable of interpretations too, I can set it to add filters and thus alter the actual captured photons. After all, you can call every human drawing an interpretation...
Some scolded that to qualify as genuine Art, "The act of interpretation should be in service of something more" than merely "perceiving form" with pencil or charcoal.

But I can't help it, I'm a sucker for perceiving form.  For me, the melodies that arise from the perception of form can rival the most elaborate intellectual construct.

Take the most famous figure painting of the 20th century:

Picasso wasn't merely capturing a likeness of the human form.  He deconstructed the form, moving in stages from mere likeness to the jagged underside of reality.  But deconstructing a row of human figures is nothing new.  Rembrandt did the same thing 300 years earlier:

Rembrandt's intent differed from Picasso's-- Rembrandt abstracted his figures in the service of speed and design rather than to express a sociological concepts-- but the outcome is just as scary:

I am not deaf to the conceptual potential of figure drawing. There is probably no subject more ripe than the human figure for conveying "something more" than mere form.

John Cuneo explains "Why I Went to Art School" from his book, nEuROTIC

Kathe Kollwitz used human forms as icons to convey strong political messages.

But whether an artist is merely trying to achieve a likeness or to convey "something more," every considered line represents a choice and therefore has meaning.  Sometimes it's difficult to find a line that is not "in the service of something more." Consider this phantom figure drawing by Rembrandt:

The background contains ten thousand lines

...yet none of those lines attracts our attention the way these few stray wispy lines do:

Physically the lines are all similar, all made with the same etching needle, but psychologically some lines weigh more than others. Rembrandt couldn't avoid conceptual content if he tried. And even if he succeeded, the viewer would still perceive it (but that's OK).

So when I hear that "real" Art requires something more than perceiving form with a stick of charcoal, I just can't agree. I look at the torrent of figure of drawings produced over the years, from ancient Egyptian walls to the earnest labors of George Bridgeman's students, to today's artists posting their latest sketch on their blog, and it makes me happy-- even without a conceptual "something more."
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning.
...............................-- Gerard Manley Hopkins



The Provensens boldly transformed the figure for their wonderful illustrations of children's books

Robert Fawcett used a dry felt tip marker to search for the rhythm in the bodies of construction workers

Jeffrey Catherine Jones found style and grace in the human form

Arkady Roytman posts a new drawing each day

Ricoh Copies?

Keyboard Characters Set.

Four years ago I created a unique self-promotional product I called Keyboard Characters. It was a fun set to create and worked really well as a self promotion for my business.

I still give them out at speaking engagements even though Apple has changed the modus operandi on keyboards so you can't insert stuff like your use to be able too. And I still have about five boxes of them sitting in my closet at home. ;-P

"Pet Monster" Keyboard Character.

Since I have them posted on my web site I periodically get email from art directors or creative directors who request a set. When I get a request like this I always send them one and include a few tear sheets as well. So in that respect it's still serving as a promotional item for me.

Around September, 2008 I received a phone call from an ad agency in New York. The person asked if I could send them two sets of the Keyboard Characters. I did and included some tear sheets. Nothing ever came from it and soon I forgot all about that brief interaction.

Ricoh Ad showing artwork in question.

Around February, 2009 I received an email from another designer asking me:

"Did you do some illustration for Ricoh?"

I told them I hadn't and they responded "Well I saw this ad in a magazine and it looks just like your character."

When I saw this ad I got that sinking feeling in my stomach, you know the one that happens when you look in your rear view mirror and a police car is right on your bumper.

It turns out that the agency (I'm purposely not naming names) I had sent two sets of Keyboard Characters too was the same agency that handled the Ricoh campaign for the C900 in September, 2008.

They didn't simply copy (pardon my pun) my art and use it, that would be easy enough to deal with. What they did is borrow the concept and equity (segmented multi-colored monster) of my art and exploited it for their own work. And they didn't even do a good job at that.

Ricoh "Scary!" campaign for C900.

I've talked to my copyright attorney about this and he agrees that it was definitely derived from my work but I have no way to prove it. In other words if I would have sent the Keyboard Characters via UPS with a tracking number and receipt that would have sufficed to prove it.

Since I posted this I've been contacted by a lawyer explaining my opinions and I'm now pursuing that course of action. Thank you for helping me understand how I can address this through official circles, I appreciate it.

I think anyone with an ounce of common sense can discern the source however, so I'll leave it in the court of public opinion.

Hostage quality photo of Ricoh brochure.

This summer I got another email from someone containing this image of a Ricoh brochure showcasing this character art again. Every time I think about this it pisses me off. I know someone, some where had to reference my design in order to create their own B movie version of it.

I debated whether to even post about this or not. But over the last year I've had numerous other people email me who have seen the original ad and thought I had done the monster art. Its like having a scab that just begins to heal and than gets snagged on something and ripped off again exposing the original wound.

So I decided to post about it, and see what others thought.

Who we are

The Save the Arts campaign is organised by the London branch of the Turning Point Network, a national consortium of over 2,000 arts organisations and artists dedicated to working together and finding new ways to support the arts in the UK.

The aim of the Save the Arts campaign is to encourage people to sign a petition which will be sent to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. It points out that it has taken 50 years to create a vibrant arts culture in Britain that is the envy of the world and appeals to the government not to slash arts funding and risk destroying this long-term achievement and the social and economic benefits it brings to all.

Over a hundred leading artists including David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Anthony Caro, Howard Hodgkin, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin have joined the campaign to make the case against the proposed 25% cuts in government funding of the arts. The campaign acknowledges that reasonable cuts and efficiencies are necessary but that the 25% cuts being proposed will destroy much of what has been achieved and will have a particularly damaging impact on smaller scale arts organisations, as well as on national and regional museums and their collections.

The first stage of the campaign presents a new video animation by artist David Shrigley highlighting the effect of the funding cuts and a new work by Jeremy Deller with Scott King and William Morris. Each week, the work of a different artist will be released. Mark Wallinger will present the next project.
The costs of David Shrigley’s animation have been covered with a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. All artists engaged in this project have generously donated their time, talent and art.

The London branch of the Turning Point Network includes representatives from:
Acme Studios
British Film Institute
Camden Arts Centre
Cape Farewell
Central Saint Martin’s College
Greater London Authority
Hayward Gallery/ Southbank Centre
National Portrait Gallery
Photographers Gallery
Royal Academy
Serpentine Gallery
South London Gallery
The Whitechapel Gallery

Artists Supporting the Save the Arts campaign
Faisal Abduallah
David Austen
Charles Avery
Fiona Banner
Jordan Baseman
Becky Beasley
Zarina Bhimji
Karla Black
Martin Boyce
Anthony Caro
Jake & Dinos Chapman
Adam Chodzko
Steve Claydon
Nathan Coley
Matt Collishaw
Nigel Cooke
Tony Cragg
Michael Craig-Martin
Juan Cruz
Ian Davenport
Richard Deacon
Tacita Dean
Richard Deacon
Jeremy Deller
Willie Doherty
Peter Doig
Tracey Emin
Nogah Engler
Luke Fowler
Anya Gallaccio
Ryan Gander
Ori Gerscht
Liam Gillick
Andy Goldsworthy
Douglas Gordon
Antony Gormley
Brian Griffiths
Sunil Gupta
Maggi Hambling
Richard Hamilton
Mona Hatoum
Susan Hiller
Damien Hirst
David Hockney
Howard Hodgkin
Runa Islam
Alison Jackson
Chantal Joffe
Isaac Julien
Alan Kane
Anish Kapoor
Michael Landy
Mark Leckey
Hew Locke
Sarah Lucas
Steve McQueen
Malcolm Morley
Ron Mueck
David Nash
Rosalind Nashashibi
Mike Nelson
Tim Noble
Humphrey Ocean
Harold Offeh
Julian Opie
Cornelia Parker
Peter Peri
Grayson Perry
Susan Philipsz
Tom Phillips
Marc Quinn
Fiona Rae
Peter Randall-Page
Bridget Riley
Conrad Shawcross
Yinka Shonibare
David Shrigley
Bob and Roberta Smith
Terry Smith
Simon Starling
Sam Taylor-Wood
Jurgen Teller
Wolfgang Tillmans
Mark Titchner
Keith Tyson
Francis Upritchard
Jessica Voorsanger
Mark Wallinger
Rebecca Warren
Gillian Wearing
Sue Webster
Richard Wentworth
Rachel Whiteread
Cathy Wilkes
Jane and Louise Wilson
Bill Woodrow
Richard Wright
Carey Young
Toby Ziegler

Save the Arts

It has taken 50 years to create a vibrant arts culture in Britain that is the envy of the world.

We the undersigned appeal to the government not to slash arts funding and risk destroying this long-term achievement and the social and economic benefits it brings to all.

Sign the petition!

Follow us

We are on YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter and Facebook.

You can also sign our petition


Chumlee on Black.

My family and I enjoy watching a show on the History Channel called Pawn Stars. It's a reality show centered around Gold and Silver Pawnshop located in Las Vegas.

Our favorite personality on the show is a guy by the name of Chumlee. (Austin Russell) He's a lovable buffoon with just enough of a cool hipster vibe mixed in to surprise you at times and make you laugh the rest of the time. The old man is a close second.

Chumlee on White.

I've been inspired to do other pop culture centered artwork like Billy Mays and Twitter. BTW, you can follow Chumlee on Twitter here.

I think it's pretty cool when an average joe like Chumlee gets to enjoy the lime light for a while. Unlike the elite Hollywood centric stars that tend to irritate me more than they entertain me. So think of this creative exploration as my personal attempt to extend da Chum's 15 minutes of fame.

Go get 'em Chumlee! You can help expand the chum-centric universe by voting for this design on Threadless.

PDF Art Downloads
Chumlee on Black
Chumlee on White

This artwork is Copyright © Glitschka Studios. You can use these PDF files for personal viewing and to print out and hang in your work area. No other usage is granted.

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