The queue was out of the door and spilling onto the Victoria Embankment for the Pick Me Up Contemporary Graphic Art Fair, which had returned for its hugely successful third year running. I was with a group of peers that included graphic designers, a videographer, a fashion designer and a chef – all creative in our own ways. Luckily we had got there early to make sure we were some of the first to experience the best new work from the UK and around the world.
The first few rooms were showcasing young talent from illustrators to graphic designers, painters to graphic novelists, and everything in between. Huge canvasses with grizzly bears looking down at you, to teeny-tiny pencil illustrations of bicycles.
As we circulated upwards through Somerset House, we came across exhibition stands featuring creative collectives, many of whom were producing live work – screen printing, letterpressing, drawing, doodling, runs and runs of work using a risograph – not a computer in sight.
Peepshow Collective, who focus on illustration, animation and art direction, were screen printing bespoke designs by hand for their Museum of Objects and Origins. All the prints created were then photographed and uploaded to their online gallery. A great way to marry hands-on production with a digital way of exhibiting.
There was also a chance to design your own triangular pattern to be letterpressed at the event, using a simple grid system and making sure to colour in between the lines; the best of the patterns were chosen to be printed. I was lucky enough to have mine chosen to be printed and they tweeted me the result the next day.
The highlight of the day for me was the chance to make a model with Jim Parkyn from Aardman. The workshop was free and all the materials provided to make your very own, take home and keep, model of Gromit. Great fun for all ages (we were competing heavily with the under 5s for best in show!), and a fantastic keepsake for the day.
Later on that day, like a canine cult, we walked over Waterloo Bridge and made the valiant decision to leave our Gromit pups with a note to encourage them to go to a good home and a Twitter address for the new owners to send us photos. We weren’t sure if we’d hear a peep of the tourists that probably nicked our masterpieces but we were pleasantly surprised when we were tweeted later that day. One of our Gromit’s was taken to Canteen for lunch, one was taken to the Philharmonic Orchestra evening performance, one was taken home on the dashboard of a car and one now sits proudly in a bar in Camden.
And so I come to the point of this anecdote: not only is Pick Me Up a fantastic graphic art fair full of rising stars and innovative ways of working, it is also an incredibly important example of how these traditional methods of print making are not dying out, even in these digitally obsessed times.
Social networking has become a part of our daily lives and the uprising of Twitter has brought the public closer to the information they find interesting. Yes, Twitter can offer significant opportunities for brands to engage with their consumers, but it can also pull together like-minded people in smaller communities.
As a graphic designer, I find that Twitter can keep me up-to-date with other creatives whether they are working in print, paint, plasticine or are a dab hand at this digital revolution.