Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Christmas Card for Max & Mia

The studio has been active this holiday and I thought I would show you one of the new pieces. The color is unexpected for a holiday card but somehow it all worked. This card is for a clothing line called Max & Mia.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sagittarius - A Seeker of the Truth

Sagittarius © Taylor Barnes 2010

Sagittarius is an interesting sign to welcome us into winter. They respect truth above all else and avidly seek independent thinking. In the cold darkness of winter truth is obvious - there is no time to be languid about the decisions we make. In ancient times winter was dangerous and carried the threat of death. Only in the light and warmth of spring did we experience rebirth and celebration of another year. So is it any wonder that Sagittarius is a sign that seeks truth and ideas? It is internal and self-motivated. Between now and spring we are dominated by signs like Capricorn - that make rules, Aquarius - who dream big dreams, and Pisces - who invent the future through their psychic connection to humanity. Sagittarius is an extension of the winter pattern of internal thinking and psychic exploration that begins with Scorpio. But unlike Scorpio, Sagittarius does not tolerate secrets or deception, they want facts and truth.

Sagittarius is a fire sign and concerned with creativity and expression of ideas. Aries and Leo are fire signs also but each one expresses their energy along the lines of tkarmic evolution through the signs of the zodiac - Sagittarius being the most evolved. The more evolved Sagittarius focuses on high ideals and expressing the truest good of humanity - the less evolved will be self-righteous and concerned with their individual idea of the truest good of humanity.

All of this exploration into astrology does have some bearing upon how human beings have adapted to survive our environment. As we gain control  over our environment we have less connection to or threat from nature, resulting in a loss of our sense of rhythm with nature. The blood in our veins and the chemicals in our brains still respond to the changes in nature just as it was for our ancestors, so it would behoove us all to pay attention to where we evolved from. 

How often you have spent a vacation far from the city and experienced the awe of a truly black night only lit by stars? Or felt the calmness that descends upon your body as you sit on a beach and listen to the waves beat upon the shore. That is who we are and as we move away from that connection some of our humanity is being lost too. 

When I examine the signs of the zodiac it is not so much from a belief in astrology but more from a curiosity about the mindset of ancient man and what they were observing in nature. I can gain a glimpse into the mind of ancient man from observing history, philosophy and science. I try to remain open - not naive - but analytical. I have not bought the "technology is God" idea. I wish to believe that some day the laws of nature and the laws of technology will meet in the middle and truly improve the quality of life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fantastic Machines

I had an interesting conversation with another "pre-digital era" human being today and it felt like I was part of an exclusive club. But that conversation did get me to ponder the two worlds I straddle – digital and analog.

I have watched people from my generation embrace technology as the new God but others are frightened and confused by it. I am somewhere in-between. However I think we need to watch how we embrace these changes with caution. We are very confident in our abilities to create and manipulate this digital world but as we focus so heavily on our virtual reality are we loosing touch with REALity?

People that are growing up in a completely electronic age may be loosing the ability to communicate with human beings face to face as they text, blog, and live their lives online. It is a very good time for the emotionally dysfunctional – they never need to show their faces in the real world. But what about the subtleties of reading human expression and body language? I think the current generation may be more awkward with these skills that mine but I would have to test that theory further.

What makes us human is in direct opposition to the digital age. Human is using instinct instead of logic, its being creative and taking an out-of-the-box approach to a problem, its hearing all the sounds in the music as one, it is "knowing" without proof that there is a higher power. I have to wonder how are we going to integrate our humanity and our current love affair with technology?

Nature is suffering because of our disconnect from our need for nature. We can't connect the idea that the food we eat needs to be grown, or raised, or slaughtered, or watered. We can't seem to connect the idea that the water we drink has to come from the clouds first before everything else. We are not fully understanding that technology will not grow our food, build our houses, create water, or life. It can only assist.

So I have to ask... are we in danger of destroying ourselves for worshiping this false God? Maybe it wasn't so bad when I had use my finger to arduously dial that rotary phone or I only had three TV channels. With all this information has come misinformation and a responsibility to think more about the truth. Am I am willing to watch the fall of humanity rather than give up my MAC laptop and my Blackberry? Hmmmm…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halloween - an artist's favorite holiday

I love October - I love Halloween. The light changes, softens and grows darker as we head towards winter. The air smells different. By the time October 31st rolls around the mood has been set by Mother Nature and we are ready to prowl the streets at night.

I discovered that there are many websites that have attempted to interpret the spiritual and ghoulish aspects of Halloween into online applications (you can find them in the Halloween book pictured above at One site was an online Quija board – or "talking board" as they called it. This is an interesting interpretation considering that it is the spiritual energy that supposedly moves the pointer to answer questions. How does spiritual energy work online? You can be the judge.

Halloween is a version of so many ancient rituals that were meant to ready human beings for the rigors of winter. Is it any wonder that it is a celebration of moving on, death and the mysteries that surround it? The imagery of Halloween is rich and ready to be plundered by any artist. It is just too tempting – skeletons, ghouls, vampires, jack-o-lanterns, bats and on and on. The color palette – lots of black and orange, iconic. As a designer you have to be careful when pairing black and orange any other time of year because it is instantly perceived as associated with Halloween.

The connection to the afterlife is the most fascinating aspect of this holiday. In witchcraft "All Hallows Eve" is supposedly the night the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest, which allows the ghosts to cross over and speak to the world of the living (and vice versa.) It is the new year in Wicca and other cultures. In Mexico, on November 2nd (in conjunction with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day) El Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead is celebrated. A day when family members honor their loved ones who have passed. Once again all the great symbolism of the afterlife is dressed up in Mexican finery.

Dia de los Muertos in Oxaca, Mexico

I will always be fascinated by Halloween. The costumes, the rituals, the dark side. It is a moment when we all stretch our imaginations and for one night reinvent ourselves. The reinvention is our being reborn into another year of possibilities. Halloween is so much more than what we were taught as children.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Libra the Balancing Act

Libra design available on (©Taylor Barnes 2010)

Today was the autumnal equinox and the beginning of the astrological sign of Libra. The equinox is one of two times in the year when the day and the night are of equal length and Libra represents the sign of balance. So it seems fitting to reflect at this moment on balance in design and life.

As artists we strive for balance in our work. We try to create a visual that is weighted equally between many elements (type, illustration, color, etc.) and allow the viewer to take in the whole message without distraction. But there is the opposite end of the spectrum – that rare designer that can take chaos and orchestrate it so artfully that it is a delight to feel "off-balance."

But if you dig deeper the working artist also needs balance in the home and studio. Emotional distraction (such as my daughter just now walking into the room to yell "hi" to me as I am writing this blog post) or financial imbalance can retard the creative process. 

I once knew an artist who taught me this lesson (ironically he was born under the sign of Libra.) I noticed that although he worked a full time job he was very productive in the studio and always showing his work. I asked him what his secret was and he said that he had simplified every other area of his life so that the most complicated thinking happened when he was making art. He had five white button down shirts, five pairs of jeans, he ate the same lunch every day, and kept to this routine no matter how boring it might seem. But he produced a lot of work and seemed very happy.

I tried this for myself and found I did get more done. I have also discovered that whenever I give in to my caprices and let go of structure I get nothing done creatively. I end up "giving away" my creativity to my teaching, my child or my clients. In the end I am disappointed, out of whack and want to get back to center artistically. My survival instinct as a creative will kick in and cause me to do something to correct the situation but that causes a new imbalance as well.

Balance – the equinox of ebb and flow of ideas, money, love and harmony in one's life. That is the goal. However... that being said, it is the chaotic times that have produced some of the greatest inspiration in my life. Being human is not easy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate...

The above illustration is from an insightful academic paper, "Mapping the Unmappable:Visual Representations of the Internet as Social Constructions," by Adam B. King, University of Indiana. This illustration – the tin can network.

I have been very busy in the studio, with my nose tightly to the grindstone, creating the holiday line for L'Image Graphics. While I work, I think about the people I want to benefit from these images and where I would like to donate money at the end of the year. The tag line for my company is "creating change one image at a time," and with every card I design that is the vision I hold.

Something is threatening the entrepreneurial spirit of this venture and the potential charitable benefits- Google, Verizon, or AT&T (among other.) Take your pick. They want to change the way free enterprise is executed on the Internet. Call me crazy but in such precarious economic times, it seems like an exercise in foolishness to change the way people access the Internet. 

I personally have seen the Internet become an immediate and gratifying way to connect with clients and consumers. After years of manufacturing my products the old-fashioned way with printers, warehouses, employees, employee taxes, shipping and billing this new way of doing business is a breath of fresh air. For artists the ability to print-on-demand has been a career changing development. As a culture, we have only just begun to see the influence artists will be able to have through the Internet.

Marketing was always a mystery, something you had to find the dollars for or else. Now if you can network yourself via facebook, twitter, google, blogger, and anything else you can think of you will be seen very quickly. Many people have found ebay and etsy to market their wares. Or they build their own small business websites. The best part… as small business owners on the web we have the world as our market. That was not easily achieved ten years ago.

So I have to ask–if we adopt too many guidelines and change the way we access the Internet what impact will that have in a borderline depression economy? 

As I work on my new line of products, I reflect on the looming possibility that the very business model I have built my re-emergence upon may disappear. If you would like to examine the issues for yourself visit Save the Internet for one side. Google has change their position on net neutrality since 2006 and Google's 2010 position are worth reviewing. If ever, there was a moment to be informed this would be it. 

The conversation is ongoing and it is important that we become knowledgeable about all sides of this important issue because it very well might represent a turning point in how we communicate with each other in the future.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Look and A New Attitude!

                         Virgo by Taylor Barnes © 2010

A redesign is a good but unnerving thing to undertake. I approached this one with so many possible ideas but one criteria – I wanted things to lighten up. I am fond of saying, "white space is your friend" yet I wasn't practicing what I was preaching. Hence, the redesign.

I am happy with the cleaner look and you may have noticed the new logo in the header for L'Image Graphics. My primary focus as a designer is to resurrect the brand that I developed several years ago. I had not planned to walk this road until a few months ago when three completely random emails requesting to buy my products sparked an idea. It seemed to me that if, after all this time, people were interested enough to track me down then maybe I should be interested enough to produce that product again.

But once again that brings me to the subject of 'redesign.' Of course I couldn't put out the same product I did several years ago -times have changed. But what parts to keep and which to change are the difficult challenges we face as designers. A brand has to be respected but it can't get stuck either.

So with all that in mind welcome to the new and improved L'Image Graphics. If you are interested to see the new work you can find it at


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rhythm in Design - the music behind the art

Rhythm is the synchronicity that happens in good design when all the elements come together harmoniously. Your eye moves around the piece from point-to-point only to end up at the beginning again. Rhythm takes you on a guided tour of what should be noticed in the art.

How do you establish rhythm in design? It is similar to music - there is a visual "beat" to how you look at something. The beat could be color, color, TYPE, or PICTURE, picture, picture, LINE. Think of the design elements like counting beats in music, 1,2,3 or 1,2,3,4. There are half notes (pieces that are equally strong in color and type, for example.) And there are long notes, four full beats of a full page photo or just type. The "full beat" design is calculated to have you hang on the entire image and let it impact you. A good example is the think different Apple ad campaign (one example is the Yoko Ono and John Lennon ad below.)


Design is music in visual form. Whenever I am struck by the balance of a work I feel the 'music' behind the design. The rhythm creates the bones of the work to help guide the viewer. The Man with the Golden Arm poster, circa 1955, by the great designer Saul Bass is a wonderful example of "visual music." The pieces of the design dance on the page causing a vibration that varies from bold and sharp, to a light "melody" created by the type floating above the solid black elements.

I would love to ask various designers to show their work and see if they can remember what type of music they may have been listening to during the process of creating it (if any.) I think it would be an interesting experiment to see how the music may have influenced the visual rhythm of their work.

The next time you look at a great book cover, billboard or movie poster see if you can "hear" the design.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nothing up my sleeve...

I have been having fun in the studio for the last few days. The process of creating and exploring new ideas is positively magical. I entered full of angst and worry, and I emerged…well I emerged!

Below is a new design I did for a t-shirt. The message is my friend's but I think it is so appropriate for the times. I am about to put the finishing touches on my new line of products and what is driving me is my belief in myself. To everyone who has a dream –

copyright Taylor Barnes © 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Covert Affairs of Helvetica...

She is smart, sexy, blond, a CIA agent and her code name is "Helvetica?” During an episode of the new TV show, Covert Affairs, the lead character was given the code name "Helvetica." I was taken aback by the use of this font for something so dramatic and well… covert. Helvetica is anything but covert, as a matter of fact it is everywhere in our daily lives. Thanks to the wonderful documentary, Helvetica, the font now seems to be in the fashionable lexicon of hip words as well.

If you have not had the opportunity to watch this documentary, you can download it through iTunes and make an evening of it! To the uninitiated, a movie about a typeface may not sound too exciting but once you watch the film you will understand how much Helvetica is a part of your everyday life. Due to its newfound celebrity, Helvetica is even sexy enough to be the code name for a gorgeous, CIA agent. 

 I showed Helvetica the movie to my graphic design students who proceeded to go out into the world and send me photos of Helvetica in their everyday lives. The examples were endless. Perhaps my favorite tribute was the student that chose to dress as Helvetica for Halloween - a plain white t-shirt with the word 'Helvetica' on the front - written in Helvetica, non-italic, regular.

The power of the visual media in action once again. By shining a light on the unique qualities of what was once a very industrial font, Helvetica has become a typography star. This font now trumps all others in the common person’s vocabulary (maybe with the exception of Arial - a Helvetica clone I might add.) What of the gorgeous Garamond and the conservative Copperplate fonts of the world? Will they ever get their day? My suspicion is only one font can carry a movie and Helvetica was the lucky one.

Friday, August 6, 2010

There is a revolution going on...

Inception, released July 16, 2010, from Warner Bros. and directed by Christopher Nolan

If a shift in cultural thinking can be judged by the current art of our times then the new movie, Inception, starring Leonardo diCaprio, is a good barometer for the current shift in modern consciousness. Just as the cold war, LSD and cable TV made an impact on our culture, currently we have a society of virtual and corporal reality.

It seems that the 'gamer' mentality has finally been interpreted into a mass media event after MANY false starts. What is interesting about Inception is the generational divide it has caused among viewers. This has been covered liberally in the media recently but it was apparent to me before I read a word of it in the press. People over forty would tell me they could barely stay awake during the film anyone under thirty would say it was the most brilliant work they have seen on a movie screen.

The difference in opinion seems to stem from the fact that kids are comfortable with multiple levels of visual reality and a constantly changing landscape due to their orientation to playing video games. People that have never had that experience can feel lost and unnerved by the constantly shifting point of view in Inception.

I think we have reached another crossroads in the development of art in our culture. It will be awhile before this is fully interpreted and assimilated but there is the possibility that art and science are going to overlap more than they have in the recent past.

The United States as a culture has not valued the contribution of the arts in recent years and while the economy has plummeted that has become more the rule than the exception. Perhaps art will find its way back into cultural importance through the back door of science and computer programming. For now I am content to watch Inception and speculate on where this is all headed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On Being Brain Dead...

It is self-indulgent, egotistical and boring to write about your inability to come up with an idea to write but that is exactly what I am doing. 'Brain Dead' is the feeling I have when I search my brain for signs of life and nothing is there.

My focus is off - I am thinking about crafting with pictures, not words. But it could be that this blog post has been particularly difficult to write because I am sitting in the midst of my classroom, full of students who are antsy and ready to move on to some summer leisure. They are throwing comments with spitfire speed, and random associating ideas to the point that my head spins.

Which brings me to the point of this post - if you can't train yourself to hold one thought, and let it ferment with all of the other random knowledge in your mind, you will end up like me - right now - Brain Dead.

Focus - in a society that lauds multi-tasking, instant gratification and lightening speed communication, focus is in short supply. If I could market it I would be a millionaire! We are not going to slow down so I have to wonder how we are going to preserve artistry and craftsmanship? Will it become the loss of our technological age?

Lately I have been fascinated by the retro sci-fi look of shows such as Firefly and Warehouse 13 and the whole Steampunk movement. I love the "H.G. Wells meets our present society" concept. It seems that we have a desire to embrace the beauty of what we have created in the past and blend it with our future.

I have faith that we will get through this crush of technology and fashion a livable model where we maintain our humanity and use the tools of technology for "good and not evil."

Hmmmm - it seems I wasn't so Brain Dead after all. I guess I will have to re-title this post.

The photo above was taken from an article in Time Magazine about the Steampunk movement.

An image with a distinct Steampunk influence on the show Warehouse 13 on the SciFi channel.

Firefly is a short-lived, but classic sci-fi show by Joss Whedon - you can find it on Netflix.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Muffins as Art

Visit Muffin Films by Amy Winfrey to watch all of these dark and witty little animations.

I am including one of my favorite websites to visit for a little humor. The site is old (2000) and the flash animation is simplistic but it is the IDEAS behind these little films that are so engaging.

In the classic fashion of Eward Gorey's cartoons (1925-2000), or the Addams Family by Charles Addams (1938-1998), Muffin Films perpetuates the innocent images of muffins in a very sinister manner.

The muffin seems be to the stepchild of the currently more popular cupcake (see the MadFadder.) But maybe Muffin Films can help reprise the popularity of the lowly muffin! That can be the power of art in popular culture.

I hope you are intrigued - one more note - once you watch these films you may think twice before you bite into a big delicious muffin!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mad for Mad Men

Here I am with the Mad Men gang - if you would like to make a scene with yourself in it you can Mad Men Yourself on the AMC website. My face is different because I did a little adjusting in adobe illustrator but you can still fritter away a good amount of time playing with the options they offer.

Yes it is that time again - Mad Men premiers on Sunday and I am very excited! The show is brilliant and so different from anything else on the air! Beyond the wonderful scripting and character development lets talk about set design and costuming.

As a designer I cannot get enough of this show. The subtle changes is style and the merge into the rebellious 60s from the conservative post-war 50s are fascinating to watch. The original use of mid-century design and the overall color palette of the show are inspirational.

I am sitting on the edge of my vintage Eames chair waiting for the premier!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bruce Lee - an artist

This is a very rare interview with Bruce Lee - a brilliant actor, philosopher and founder of the founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts movement. He died too soon and today marks 37 years since his passing. If you don't know who he is start by watching "Enter the Dragon," the movie he is probably most famous for in America. He influenced an entire generation of Chinese action heroes and still none of them could quite capture his humor, intelligence and sheer force.

Why am I devoting a post to a man who practiced Kung Fu on a blog about design? Bruce Lee illustrates that art has no boundries in its expression. Kung Fu was his art and he practiced it with the same grace and devotion as a painter or a musician. To watch him in action is to be inspired to do better with your own work. To strive a little harder.

Bruce Lee was known to be very dedicated to the training of his body. His body was his canvas. When you watch this video pay attention to how fast his hands and legs move. The camera can not catch the motion - it is a blur. In the 60s and 70s his artistry inspired boys (and some girls) all over the world to take up Chinese martial arts.

He was a brilliant flash on earth but his legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1853 - 1890
“Men succeed when they realize that their failures are the preparation for their victories.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Failure - to fail, the act of failing, to royally mess up! Why are we so afraid of making a mistake? I wrote the title "Fail U R" to demonstrate, in type, how personal failure is when you are making a creative effort in a public arena. I did not say "Fail I M" because to fail as a designer is usually very public. We are judged first by our own standards, then by our client's and finally by the customer/public.

Within this process our egos as designers tangle with our need to creatively experiment. Without experimentation we lose the opportunity to benefit from the happy accident.

I illustrated this post with two paintings by Vincent van Gogh because during his lifetime he sold only one painting and that was to his brother. He was unappreciated and probably considered a failure. Despite this he never stopped producing art that was important to him. In the end his work succeeded brilliantly - how do you analyze the irony of such success?

I once had a painting professor who taught me to not value the part of the painting that I found perfect. He said that if I found one area too precious I would paint around it and not respect the work as a whole. I learned technique from painting that one small part perfectly but I learned far more from painting over it and retaining the memory of painting it perfectly. I gained confidence every time I destroyed my "perfect" work that I would be able to paint that way again and again. It was one of the cornerstone's of my artistic evolution.

"Fail U R" means you are only a failure if you allow other people to define you as a failure. Failing is part of the process that helps us grow - if we learn from it. How we define failure is subjective, one person's failure is another's personal best. If the standards are so arbitrary why do they matter?

Why?... because in the end we do the work because it makes us happy and doing the work to the best of our abilities makes us even happier!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Staring at the white page...

White Three Panel Painting, Robert Rauschenberg 1951

Here I am again – staring at the white page. The white page, or the blank white posting box, is possibly the most unnerving thing an artist or writer can face. Perhaps the abstract expressionist painters, such as Robert Rauschenberg, had the right idea - see the beauty in the white space.

When I begin a project I have very noble aspirations but my first mark on the page reveals the long journey of creation that is before me. Over the years I have developed a bag-of-tricks to help me get through this initial launch of an idea. I make lists, lots and lots of lists. I research my list ideas and then I make new lists. But at some point I have to stop because what was once a productive activity has become a huge time waster.

What next? Clean the house of course! Do the dishes, catch up on the laundry... you get the idea. It is painful to dive into the creative abyss. And then I do...

Once I dive in I wonder why I waited so long. I get in the flow, my mind starts to hum and I go into that space where the work is no longer about me but about the process and whatever it is that I am trying to channel.

Maybe this post was a little boring but I had to fill the white page with something.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Emotion + Design

Emotion is an essential component to any design. It is this subtle element that binds the visual together. Sometimes emotion is not so subtle - such as the work of designer, Tibor Kalman for Colors Magazine. He was a rule breaker and creator of wild, emotional conversations through design. His visuals were controversial and inspirational. Such as the Colors cover below...

Issue No. 7, Colors Magazine, 1997

Typography can convey an emotion with its shape and carefully chosen juxtaposition to the word it is rendering. Consider the following examples and how the mood shifts from word to word. Once all the emotional words come together they create a comprehensive mood along with the individual tone.

Finally, words and images together create the total emotional impact. "A picture is worth a thousand words," or perhaps one emotion. Add a word to that picture and it becomes either trite or moving, depending on the sensitivity and artistry of the designer. Consider the next illustration which I designed to portray one of the seven deadly sins, Wrath. This word and the illustration were full of emotion and it was my responsibility to pick the words, images and colors that conveyed the proper emotional meaning of wrath. You tell me if I succeeded or failed...

From the "Mona Lisa" to Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" eliciting emotion is one of the primary vehicles every artist must use to connect with the viewer.

How well you manipulate this element will determine the success or failure of the work as much as the execution and design. I will sign off before I become too emotional about this topic.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Surreal Life

I have been teaching "magical realism" or surrealism in my summer school class this week and I have to admit that this exercise does open your imagination to new perceptions in reality.

The bride piece evolved 'organically' in my mind but the deeper levels of meaning to my own life are so varied it astounds me! Experimenting with this type of symbolism cannot help but become an outlet for the artist's subconscious mind.