Pick Me Up 2015
We are always on the look out to learn and see amazing things. They are made even better when these experiences are shared. So we have resolved to update here with more of the things we find and learn. 'Pick Me Up' provides the prefect starting point for this resolution!
'Pick Me Up' is a festival of graphic design and illustration that takes place at Somerset House. It focuses on more 'tactile' work - favouring mostly screen-printing, risograph and letterpress. It takes place over a fortnight in April/May, and this year was it's 6th year. We feel fortunate to have been going since the very first one, so it's been great to reflect between them. As we went on the last day, we've had quite a few friends go and let us know what they thought. Most have them have been going for the last 3 or so years. The general consensus was that this one was a step up from the last few years. So we were really looking forward to it.
So first up (and as per the usual show layout), it's the 'Pick Me Up Selects'. The 'Selects' are 12 up and coming illustrators/graphic artists. They all either graduated in the past 7 years, or started a studio in that time. They are put forward by the industry experts that form the judging committee, who then whittle the nominations down to the final 12 selects.
This year's selects were Gaurab Thakali, Thomas Lamadieu, Laura Callaghan, Peter Judson, Luke Evans, Hattie Newman, Jack Cunningham, Laura Jouan, Rop van Mielo, Sara Andreasson, Jennifer Argo and Zoë Taylor.
We were really excited to hear that Hattie Newman was exhibiting. We've seen her animated paper craft cityscapes, which are really astounding with their level of detail. After falling in love with Zim and Zou's work at the 2012 festival, we were looking forward to see how these larger pieces of work would be curated. Sadly there wasn't much of Newman's actual pieces, it was more prints of her work. It was a great way to see the diversity of her work, but it would have been amazing and more impactful to see more of the actual pieces.
Thomas Lamadieu's wonderful illustrations, drawing into the spaces in-between buildings, created some really interesting characters. We also loved the vibrancy and sheer detail of both Laura Callaghan, and Peter Judson's retro illustrations sets. Judson's cityscape illustration was even more stunning in its sheer scale. Whilst the minute details on Callaghan's work really worked well with such a patterned era.
We also loved the ingenuity of Luke Evan's, electric-made work creating some stunning illustrations. As well as the intricate pencil lines for Jennifer Argo's geological-based work. Plus the addition of tools, sketchbooks and works in progress from each of the 'Selects' was a great addition to the exhibition.
Laura Callaghan and Hattie Newman
Rop van Mierlo
Overall the 'Selects' collection was pretty strong this year. There are past year participants that are more memorable than many that we saw this year. But that's likely impacted by what we know they have done since. But that's the brilliant thing about the selects. It's great to see where they go from here. Definitely worth a social media follow at least!
The rest of the festival was split into two levels as usual. The back rooms have in some past years been the strongest part of the festival with their inventive use of space. This year they did disappoint a little. We have seen some really interesting pieces in the past and great ideas for items to buy. Many of the rooms felt a little empty even through we were there on a busy day. The brilliant Blink Art really stood out for us, with one of the most inventive interactive activities that we have seen throughout the years at Pick Me Up. For us this level of interaction seems so important. It's really something special to feel involved, so Blink Art's scratch art competition was a brilliant idea. All the work on show was focused towards the theme. We felt that a bit more diversity wouldn't have hurt but we loved how it brought the whole room together and really got visitors involved by making their own mini pieces to enter into a print winning contest on instagram (we of course had a go). Next door the room for Niki Best was diverse but well curated. We loved the big 'S', and a few pieces like Danny Sagra's 'Birds & Bananas' screen prints really appealed.
Two of our teams entry to Blink Art's scratch art competition
These 'back rooms' seemed few in number this year, but it maybe just how they were utilised. It was great to see Hato Press in a big space at Pick Me Up, especially as we loved using them to produce work like our 'Festival of Birds' prints. However their room seemed very focused on the new set of classes they have created - 'Today I Learnt'. It would have been nice to have seen more work created by those in their studio.
The main space in these back rooms was given to the series of talks running through out the festival. The talks in previous years often had separate tickets, so having these included was a great idea and really brought the festival together. We could have happily come to see speakers we've seen before like the amazing Studio Myerscough, as well as new speakers. In a sense it was a shame it felt like there were less activities intermingled with the festival as they have been on previous years. But maybe we just came on the wrong day. Although it was the last day, considering it was a busy Bank Holiday, we were surprised more events weren't being held. However the talks space was definitely ones of the best ways to present the talks (although we loved when Rob Ryan covered the space in his paper cut outs in the first festival). We were happily able to see a speaker we have seen numerous times before - Noel Douglas, with his talk in tandem with Occupy Design - Points of Contention: Resist Revolt Design.
Douglas always gives some inspiring and very thought-provoking talks. It was really refreshing to see him invited to an event such as Pick Me Up. Douglas' talk was quite diverse with his eagerness to cover as much as possible of 'the whole picture'. Maybe a bit fast in places. But glancing at the audience around us, his talk certainly had their attention. Douglas is an activist as well as a designer. He feels that both roles not only work hand in hand, but with many designer/illustrators output conveying messages such as buying unnecessary luxuries, mean we hold a level of responsibility. Conveying messages after all is the point of the subject matter. He's not alone in pointing out that designers can and should use their abilities to convey messages other than the anticipated forms like advertising. In doing so, he opens the question of how designers can apply their skills to confront issues that need attention and understanding.
For Douglas, using his skills with political and environmental issues have seen him create a deck of cards of those responsible for the Iraq war, to powerful posters used in a number of circumstances including protests he's participated in. Most of Douglas' talk uses the work of others, including a diverse medium of methods from the performance of gifting a wind turbine piece as artwork to the Tate Modern, to memes, to messages from the public being projected across a World Economics meeting in Davos. It was a powerful talk and one that got everyone there thinking.
Noel Douglas - Resist Revolt Design
The main room of the festival had some great collectives and studios participating. We were really happy to see the similar Australian event - 'Supergraph' with a stand. They brought with them a number of brilliant prints and an interesting design tarot card set (they also gave design tarot readings). Risotto - a risograph print and design studio - had some beautiful stationary in collaboration with G. F. Smith. There were the usual different kinds of prints that could be done by yourself, or whilst you were there. As mentioned before it felt less interactive, but this may have been due to being the last day (we still think it's an odd decision for the Bank Holiday Monday). Overall we really enjoyed the festival this year. It was better than it has been over the last few years, but still not quite as exciting as the first few years. Maybe it's memories being warped over time, but most people we have discussed the festival with agree with us on that point. But maybe it's just the fact it's now an annual event rather than being new and novel. This year really had the chance to stand out, but decisions like the lack of the actual models for Hattie Newman made the whole festival feel not quite as exciting as it has before. But there have been some definite improvements like the free talks. We miss spaces being covered and colour everywhere. Some rooms for the studios, collectives and agencies almost had this but with work similar to previous years, so they lost their impact. For us we just want more excitement, colour and new showcased work along with more diverse and greater opportunities for interaction. But if this year is anything to go by, next year will be even better!