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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Pencil Chit Chat with Jess Wilson and Liv Bargman

Whilst drawing on the walls of Concrete Hermit for the launch of Amelia's Anthology of Illustration Jess Wilson approached Liv Bargman with the idea of being illustration pen pals under the name Pencil Chit Chat. Here is what they do.

Written by Sally Mumby-Croft

For the December 2009 launch of Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration, treat Amelia invited the participating artists to draw on the walls of Concrete Hermit. During a day of creative scribbling, two of the participants: Liv Bargman and Jess Wilson noticed and appreciated each other’s hand drawn typography. Jess approached Liv with the idea of Pencil Chit Chat and the rest as they say is history! After 8 months of conversing via email Jess and Liv be will chatting through their pencils across the walls of the Front Room in Cambridge between the 16th and 20th of August 2010.

What were your first memories of each other?

Liv: It was at the drawing on the walls day at Concrete Hermit back in December. But I don’t think we had an extensive chat at all. We were getting into the scribble zones. I was really impressed with Jess’ wall, it looked so bold and vibrant

Jess: I remember Liv commented on my good use of type and I watched her slowly throughout the day and thought “wow”…

Explain Pencil Chit Chat please…

Jess: I had the idea for a while and was just waiting for the right person to come along. I thought Liv’s type was different enough in style to mine but still had hand rendered qualities which helps fuse the project together.

Liv: It was Jess’ idea. I was bowled over and really excited by her email asking me to take part and be the other shoe to walk along a meandering little journey into scribbledom.

How do your conversations start? Do you pick a word or a phrase at random and are there any rules with how you each have to respond to the previous illustration?

Liv: It all started with a ‘hello’ and we got to know one one another from there. Talking gibber jabber and making sense along the way.

Where do you see Pencil Chit Chat developing?

Liv: Into print and to keep going. The whole idea of the Chit Chat is personal work but not self-indulgent. Maybe other illustrators could do the same. It’s like the Slow food movement, pigeon post, back to the old writing desk days of yore.

Jess: Really I see it as a creative outlet where I can experiment and discover. I get many projects where people want a illustration which looks like a previous one. This is a chance for me to explore new techniques and avenues. Where do I see Pencil Chit Chat developing…….where it wants to really. Possibly I’d like a better website, but it would have to be idiot proof for Liv and I! We were thinking we’d like to publish the first year’s illustrations in a book by Christmas.

Liv: Make a wee book, possibly in time for Crimbletime. Make up more words and infiltrate them into society. I’d like to see it passed onto others designers. Illustrators possibly sometimes feel like doodle hermits cooped up in their sheds or ships.

How did you become involved in Front Room?

Liv: This was also through Jess. As you can tell she is the brainchild of the operation- and an extremely prolific and hardworking dude she is.

Jess: I came across there website whilst browsing on the internet. I got in touch! Originally I was going to do a solo exhibition. But I thought it be funnier and better with Liv.

How will the exhibition unfold? Will you take over the gallery walls again as at Concrete Hermit?

Jess: Pretty much! There are going to be two different conversations unfolding, so we are both working all the time like “busy bees”…

Liv: We will have two starting points i.e. two conversations will be underway, and we will swap over when one has finished their reply. It will be different I’m sure.

How will you start the conversation during the exhibition?

Liv: I think it will be good to bring in talking points like newspapers and books to add some weight to it, I want to steer it away from being anything like a self-indulgent display. This is because I think the idea of chit chat could be used by other designers, swapping ideas. That postage idea is a great one.

We will have a structure with two conversations/two starting points and we will swap over with a reply.

Do you send Pencil Chit Chat by post or by email and if by post – how was this decision made?

Liv: We do it by email, but it would be nice to carry on part of it by post- that’s actually a really good idea! I really believe in the slow food movement as a holistic view of how we should do everything in life. Whether it be setting up businesses, in the music industry (going back to the DIY approach), growing food or how we travel about. In reference to this, I really enjoyed Will Self’s radio 4 programme a few months back about Psychogeography.

It inspired me to write/draw a bit of the Pencil Chit Chat on it, as it explains this is a way to travel about and take in more as we walk and ponder about. Being cooped up in a metal tube hurtling about the skies to t’other side of the planet in 5 minutes isn’t exactly au naturelle.

What is it that interests you about type, particularly hand rendered typography?

Liv: It’s really cathartic to draw letters and take your time over something that people do everyday, scribbling a note on a napkin or by the side of a crossword. It’s pure communication and you can be witty or stupid. I like illustrations that educate you too. I was always pouring over my encyclopaedia when I was a younger.

Jess I like the expression and extra meaning you can give to a word when it’s hand rendered type. I have always done it so really it’s just natural.

What is your relationship between text and the illustration or is there no separation between the two?

Liv: Definitely the educational slant and informing an audience directly. I’d be more than happy to make versions in different languages, as that is a downside to hand rendered type if one doesn’t understand English. Maybe I should go and research in Japan..

I feel letterforms make my work look better! It’s an extra graphic detail, but it also has substance.

Jess: I see it as all part of my work. Sometimes the type can give extra meaning to the illustration.

How did you develop as an illustrator?

Jess: I always really enjoyed drawing and being creative and it just seemed a natural progression for me. I like working to a brief also which is something illustrators seem to do often.

Liv: I decided it was the path for me when I realized it was inbetween fine art and graphic design. I didn’t want to do either of those. Illustration is for the people (as is Comic Sans- that’s a font for the people, but that’s another story) as it bridges gaps between understanding and informing one of a text or an idea, rather than alienating and putting something on a pedestal.

Why is Comic Sans the font for the people?

Liv: Aha! This made me chuckle a lot! I’m an inverted snob I suppose and it’s a symbol of anti style and there’s a font snobbery surrounding it. Plus teachers have to use it on school reports- it’s compulsory apparently. To me, it’s comforting and reassuring and I quite like it- as is the same for a group of my fellow Falmouth uni illustration pals. We are Comic Sans Fans. See The G2 a few weeks back – awesome article about it (I think this is just an edited version).

My sister’s a graphic designer so I like to mock her too.

Favourite Illustrators?

Jess: Recently Cristina Guitian is doing brilliant stuff, and Adam Hayes. I really like the big shows that Le Gun put on. I saw their one at Pick Me Up and I thought it was ace.

Liv: Old cookery books- the kitsch photography is joyous. Ren and Stimpy and other fifties-esque cartoons. Dirty edges and bits you get out of photocopiers, collaging Victorian style, Blists Hill museum, music pumping into my earlugs- plenty of textures and bleeps. Books books and more books. The music video ‘The Tain’.

What is a lightbox and how does this work?

Liv: I hope this isn’t some new software everyone is in on. It’s a tracing cube with a switch and electricity, powered by a lemon battery used on the old spice ships to help sailors navigate in the lower decks. I think the Lumiere brothers invented it.

Jess: It’s a errrrrrrrr..(this is hard). Right!

It’s a box which you can draw on to copy the images underneath. So I draw all my roughs first, to get the alignments and proportions and then trace the images in color.

Finally… what are your thoughts on the alternative sustainable technologies illustrated for Amelia’s Anthology?

Jess: Kite ship – Why isn’t it being used!

Liv: The sea serpent, The Anaconda – what a beast. It stays tethered to the seabed and gathers the power of the waves in its rubber body. A fantastical piece of engineering I want to see in our high seas.

If you are in or near Cambridge on August 20th (why not take the trip from London, it’s not that far…) make time for the private view of Pencil Chit Chat at Front Room Gallery: 6.00 – 11.30pm..

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