Don’t ever say I don’t run
your illustrations large enough …

Preparing gigantic Skwish art

I have known Andrew Skwish for so many years, I lose track. I originally helped hire him at the St. Petersburg Times years ago to design the then-innovative (and widely imitated) kids section, Xpress. Giving him a long leash, he had fun with the dynamic features section, using photos, illustration, and type in creative (and mischievous) ways.

He went on to success as a page designer at the San Francisco Examiner (when it was still a broadsheet, and art directed by my friend Kelly Frankeny, and before I helped turn it into a tabloid), and at the Chicago Tribune. In addition, he has seen much success as a freelance illustrator, and today works at Crain’s Chicago Business (where I directed the redesign for Garcia Media a few years back) as a features page designer.

Now our working relationship moves to a new, weird, fun and unforeseen level as we prepare for the opening Friday night of his first art exhibition, “ASk/wish,” at my gallery for contemporary art and photography, within(Reason), in Chicago. It’s new territory me as well, as it marks my third official show in the experimental space, a part-time venture (and labor of love) out of my newspaper design HQ in the arty Pilsen neighborhood. (The first show, “Hope In a Hard Place,” featured my photos from Kenya as well as art I “curated” from some new friends in the Kibera slum, all made possible during time off from my consulting adventures there. Sales for charity resulted in more than $1,400 to go towards a kids club, arts training and a new library in the slum!)

In the photo above, you can see my assistant, Justin Santora, executing a Skwish illustration which will be 26 x 12 feet – undeniably the largest format ever exploited for Skwish art. As always, I perform an orchestrating role – coming up with the concept, viewing sketches, suggesting revisions, and putting production in motion. (Similar to working on redesigns!) Late in the game, I suggested a revision to the concept, to allow gallery visitors to position themselves in the frame and take photos if they like. (Hey! That’s interactive media, isn’t it?)

A very cool benefit of my gallery venture – made possible partly by the slower pace of my work each summer – is the chance to work with creative friends old and new. It helps my work on newspapers and news web sites immensely to take a step back and work on purely creative endeavors of a different sort.

Justin, a young art school grad, has a fresh eye of his own. His work includes playful and ironic enamels on skateboard decks, and you can view or purchase his work here. You can view or purchase Andrew Skwish’s fine art on my gallery artists page here, including whimsical illustrations done on pages torn from vintage typography catalogs, and on LPs, guitars, and other “old” media. Andrew’s newspaper page designs, illustrations, photos and videos can be viewed at his voluminous, and popular, site here.

Return to this blog or to the within(Reason) home page after Friday Aug. 8, 2008, for photos of the opening night!

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