Back in 1996 I qualified as a graphic designer. I had ideas of becoming a comic artist, being a big fan of comics like 200AD, the plethora of underground comics and artists like Ralph Steadman and Robert Crumb (who I was lucky to see at a presentation in the Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh circa 1985).
Leaflet for a presentation by Robert Crumb (front)
Leaflet for a presentation by Robert Crumb (back)
Unfortunately I was never that good, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the whole process of creating my own art. Taking an idea or thought and putting it to paper can be very self satisfying. Of course it is natural that we want to show what we have accomplished to our friends and to a wider audience even if it is only some acknowledgement from your peers to your achievement whether they like it or not (constructive criticism always being more truthful than gratuitous compliments).
But my career in graphic design morphed when the advent of the internet and building websites took my graphic skills into web design and on into coding. When I became a father there seemed little time for the luxuries of spending hours dawdling with ink and paint and illusions of grandeur in the world of art.
But once our children became adults more time seemed to offer itself to return to my love for putting ideas down into illustrations. That punk ethos of individuality, questioning and challenging attitudes had never gone and my head was filled with thoughts of the world we live in, the narrow mindeness that surrounds us and the conspiracy of government and corporations to define the laws and rules based on their greed and power.
Holidays in the Sun graphic design for t-shirt
I watched on the tv, like many others, as the news beamed images of English holiday seekers queing bumper to bumper in their attempts to get to France for their vacations, along with miles and miles of lorries, some packed with cargo and food. This was the perfect example of the results of the Brexit they had voted for. Now I'm no lover of Brexit. I think it was the daftest idea based on romantic thoughts of returning to the days of Rule Britannia when the UK really was a superpower. The world changed and, for some, it was either difficult to accept or there was money to be made. Either way, a large swathe of the electorate in England lapped it up, though not in Scotland.
In the hot, humid temperatures that were more common in the Middle East, families dehydrated and lorry drivers pissed on the motorway embankments, I thought of that classic Sex Pistols song 'Holidays In The Sun'. Here we had a movement of people Moses would have been proud to have, escaping the heat to get to the heat caught in The Land of Limbo. I wondered if these people realised how stupid they looked. Talk about lemmings.
Merging the classic 'ransom' lettering with the imagery of vehicles crammed with the finishing line in sight slashed with the blood that would acompany the 'sweat and tears' was simple in it's construct and direct in it's message.
Holidays In The Sun t-shirt
Graphic design doesn't have to be clever or complicated. It just needs to project the message and here, the message is simple. "You wanted everything. You wanted 'sovereignty' (whatever that is in this day and age). You wanted all the perceived good bits (no immigrants, set your own rules and laws, the colour of your passport, cheap imports and those all-important holidays in the sun) and none of the bad bits (compromise with other EU members and those nasty immigrants from all over Europe). It all seemed so simple. This is the UK. We're so important that Europe needs us. Then the penny dropped.
People wearing the Holidays in the Sun t-shirt
You can find this t-shirt here.
The Clash were a phenomenal band who had a big influence on my thinking. Their lyrics hit a nerve and they raised my awareness of the political and societal wrongs perpetrated by successive UK governments that were becoming more authoritarian, divisive, nepotistic and greedy, aided and abetted by authorities and governing bodies (HMRC, police, Ofgem etc) willing to turn a blind eye to the activities of the rich, the privileged and the corporates while hitting down hard on the individual. Like a bully picking on the easy target, they're not so keen to tackle those with power and influence.
Graphic Design for Police and Thieves t-shirt
Originally sung by Junior Murvin in 1976, The Clash created their own blistering reggae version, reputedly disliked by Murvin (who went on to work with them) about gang war and police brutality. For me, 'Police and Thieves' represented successive UK governments and the police, stealing our freedoms and opportunities while the privileged get an easy run and the rest of us pick up the scraps. The class sytems still lives and breathes.
We are all that lone person fighting against the system. For those of us that are lucky to have good jobs and a nice home, it is easy to dismiss the struggles that others bear. It is easy for governments and authorities to label the rest as 'undeserving', after all (they would argue) they had the same opportunities as everyone else, but life is not so black and white. Where a government should be there to care and protect, instead they fill their own pockets while the number of foodbanks grow in numbers to become an acceptable part of society.
Graphic design for Police and Thieves t-shirt
The graphics were digitally painted and kept to a simple monotone. I didn't feel this needed splashes of colour. I wanted to keep the impact direct. The lettering is rough to reflect the confrontational effect of the design.
People wearing the Police and Thieves t-shirt
You can find this t-shirt available here.
Visit my website at www.hereandback.co.uk
All the best