Universal Principles of Art: Conceptual Art

We all really enjoyed our series on the 10 Rules of Color that ended last month. So, we got to thinking of the next series and decides that we’d like to take a peek into the upcoming book, The Universal Principles of Art by art writer John A. Parks. 

Conceptual Art - IDEAS AS ART.

An artwork can be simply an idea or something generated totally by an idea, an approach known as Conceptual Art. Although examples of such artworks go back at least to the readymades of Marcel Duchamp in the early twentieth century, Conceptual Art emerged as an identifiable movement only in the 1960s. In Art Forum, in 1967, American artist Sol Lewitt wrote, “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

 Art Language No Secret Painting XI, 2007 universal principles of art john a parks graphic design artist education art ed

Art & Language No Secret Painting XI, 2007, Painting and text: Part 1 (painting) 2 × 21/16 in (5.1 × 5.2 cm); Part 2 (text) 357/16 × 25/8 in (90.0 × 6.7 cm) © the artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London


Imaginary Works
The artist supplies a description of something that would be impossible or very difficult to fabricate. The audience engages the work through imaginative contemplation.

Philosophical Examination
The artist gives up the task of making objects in favor of a philosophical examination of the nature of art and art practice. This approach is favored by the English group Art and Language. They published magazines and articles from the late 1960s onward in which they applied the methods of linguistic philosophy to pursue a semantic investigation of art.

Instruction List
The artist invents the artwork as a concept and provides a list of instructions whereby anyone can fabricate it. In this approach, the art object is demystified; it is no longer imbued with the aura of uniqueness that is traditionally associated with a work of art. For instance, Sol Lewitt (1928-2007) made many wall drawings that exist as lists of instructions. They continue to be executed after the artist’s death.

The artist designates an object or occurrence in the world as an artwork. For example, in 1960, Dutch artist Stanley Broun declared that all the shoe stores in Amsterdam constituted his art object.

An event, object, or activity is documented, and the documentation is then exhibited as evidence of an artwork that can be contemplated but which may no longer exist.

Political/Social Statement
The artist employs the forum of the art exhibit in order to focus attention on a political or social issue. In 1971, artist Hans Haacke presented Real Time Social System, an investigation into the real estate holdings and commercial practices of a wealthy New York family, as an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. The museum abruptly cancelled the exhibition.

We’ll be sharing more from this book in the next few weeks, but there’s far more concepts to discover in the pages of this book. Grab yourself a copy today.

Eric Gjerde’s Origami Tessellations

Eric Gjerde’s love of paper turned into geometric masterpieces. Playing with Paper shares the history of the paper artist and shows you some of his amazing designs.


Aztec Twist, 2007 Elephant hide paper, 77⁄8” × 77⁄8” (20 × 20 cm) 

When asked by his parents what he wanted to be when he grew up, Eric Gjerde replied, “A paperologist.” Throughout his childhood and adolescence, he enjoyed paper crafts and origami—a frequent birthday gift was stacks of paper and rolls of tape. After preparing for a technology career, Gjerde kept looking for an artistic outlet to balance his creative side with his professional life. He returned to his childhood love of paper and became fascinated by the transformation of flat sheets of paper, manipulated only with his hands, into patterns of complexity and beauty. This form of alchemy never ceases to amaze him, and it provides a continual source of inspiration. These days, Gjerde works out of his studio in Strasbourg, France, focusing on the geometric art of origami tessellations. 


Water Bomb, 2006 Elephant Hide Paper 7 7⁄8” × 7 7⁄8 (20× 20 cm) 


Pinwheels, 2007 Japanese unryu paper, 10" × 10" (25 × 25 cm) 


Tiled Hexagons, 2006 Elephant hide paper, 7 7⁄8 ” × 7 7⁄8 ” ( 20 × 20 cm ) 


Flowers, 2006 Metallic wrapping paper, 1 1 3⁄4 ” × 1 1 3⁄4 ” ( 30 × 30 cm ) 


Design: Portfolio

 Admittedly, the notion of “portfolio” has shifted dramatically in a very brief period of time. Portfolio as object, a case that houses physical samples of work, has seemingly been replaced by portfolio as content, an ever-malleable set of digital samples of work that can morph and adapt at a moment’s notice to all manner of media. The making of a design portfolio had typically been a very laborious task that involved tedious, time-consuming, and often expensive reproduction methods. Crafting a collection of one’s design work required adept use of craft knives and metal straightedges, and a well-ventilated area in which to use spray adhesive. However, as less expensive, short-run, digital printing has gained increasing acceptance and PDF files, websites, blogs, and social media have provided near-immediate updating of a designer’s most recent work, the time and monetary investments in showcasing one’s work have shifted. Nonetheless, as evidenced by this book’s content, the most critical elements in creating successful and memorable design portfolios and self-promotions still hold true, regardless of the media employed: Thoughtful creativity and an unrelenting commitment to details are the core elements of design that arrest attention and compel action. At a time when designers are more often thinking of personal branding and their individuality, it’s reassuring to see a book, such as this one, take its place in the world. It reminds us that designers are part of a larger community and that there is lasting value in the physical presence of design. 

There’s a subtle distinction between self-promotional work and self-initiated work. The former is explicitly produced for the purpose of promoting yourself—that’s the only reason it exists. It might be a book detailing your best projects or a mailer talking about your company approach. Self-initiated projects are different. They’re ideas you pursue yourself, without the involvement of a client, but that have a purpose beyond self-promotion. For me, this is an interesting seam to explore. It might be a book of poetry rearranging the words on corporate websites or inventing the language equivalent of the Pantone® color-matching system. If you pursue an idea you find interesting, there’s a good chance other people will too. Of course, self-promotion is a useful side effect when these projects go well. But the same is true of client work. Do a great job for a client and it won’t just be good for them. Your firm’s reputation grows by association, among your peer group and other potential clients. In that sense, all work is self-promotional. You just have to make sure the world knows about it. 

Design Ranch

C&G Partners

The Allotment

Excerpted from Design: Portfolio by Craig Walsh

What Classic Would You Reimagine? Enter Our Giveaway!

Do you have fond memories of reading the Great Illustrated Classics as a youngster? Yeah, they were great, weren’t they? Simple, fun, black and white engravings, large print… they were perfect for a young you looking to get lost in an adventure…sigh.

You may even have created some art based on your favorite story. Am I right? You did, didn’t you? What story inspired you?

If you could go back, with your fostered talent as a designer and artist, what would you create? 

I attempted an image using fun typography to recreate a classic image for Alice in Wonderland:

In the case of Yann Legendre, he was able to delve into the world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales:

Or for Olimpia Zagnoli, Oz is brand new and shiny:

So I ask again, what would you create from your favorite stories?

In fact, if you post your re-illustrations of classic tales and use the hashtag #ClassicsReimagined, we’ll choose a winner to receive a copy of both books! Giveaway ends September 20!

Draw on Your Walk Home

Sometimes you need a new exercise to get your creative juices flowing. This one, from Playing with Sketches, has you drawing what you pass by on your way home. You just may find some really great inspiration on your every day journeys!

Designer and educator Mark Sanders encourages his students to try this exercise in each of his classes. The goal is to make detailed observations from your walk home or from your current surroundings, and then elaborate on it in a drawing. From this experience, a single shape is repeated to form patterns or abstractions.


Mimi Rojanasakul, a graduate of the Pratt communication design MFA program, is driven by concept, as is evident in these drawings she calls Subjective Cartography. She says of her drawings, “symbols for topographies and graphs are stripped down to reveal archetypal structures that connect man-made systems back to nature.”

To begin, reduce an object, a gesture, or a detail you’ve observed into lines or shapes that can be repeated. Once you’ve deter- mined a module, rotate it, mirror it, alter its size, and so on to create variety and interest. For geometric patterns, draw on graph paper. Organic patterns can be achieved with a blank sheet.


Tanya Heidrich is an undergraduate design major at Mica. She describes her textural doodles this way: “My starting points vary, but often they do emerge from objects in my surroundings. They are also often variations of similar shapes/patterns/ relationships that i’ve used in the past.” 

The starting point for Sanders’s exercise may be a thought or a found form, but once it is determined, the drawer should stop thinking and get lost in the act of making marks intuitively. 


Whitney Sherman - As an assignment for the New York Times, the author was asked by then-art director Leanne Shapton to observe a water fountain at a specified hour of the day. Sherman says, “I was to draw the fountain and make observations about the drinkers at the fountain—what they acted like, what they wore,and so on. these sketches were of a fountain I passed on my regular walk. Unfortunately,no one came to the fountain while i was there, but i did make three completely different drawing approaches in less than the hour I sat observing, including one with real grass collaged on to it. I did a second set observing a water fountain in a mall. There was much more activity, but the fountain was not as attractive as this one.” 


Jorge Colombo - In a less formal setting than the classroom, the Portuguese illustrator has used hisw alks home as a way to keep his eyes open to his surroundings. Colombo says his iPhone drawings Katz’s[a] and Empire Diner[b],used as coversfor The New Yorker, “represent me having fun with the brightest, fastest, lightest, cleanest paintbox/sketchpad I ever played with. You lose the tactile aspect,but you can work in the dark and don’t have brushes to wash,” he explains. He notes that Katz’s was only his second touch-screen drawing 



Burning Man: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes of Woodstock,

Happy Birthday, Woodstock. It’s been 45 years since the festival of peace and music. It seems like just yesterday, and yet, may still be happening.

Tens of thousands of people will be heading to the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada at the end of this month for Burning Man, an incredible art event. It’s all about celebrating self-expression and amazing art, like these photos from previous Burning Man festivals from Burning Man: Art on Fire.

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Dana Albany, The Bone Tree, 1999. Bones, steel, moss. This piece was pulled around the Man for the 1999 Burn which was themed “The Wheel of Time.” 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Rob Buckhholz, Wish, 2010. Steel, metal, nylon mesh. 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Mike Ross, Big Rig Jig, 2007. eighteen- wheeler tanker trucks, steel.

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Kate Raudenbush, Altered State, 2008. Powder-coated steel, plexiglass, rope. 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Kate Raudenbush, Star Seed, 2012. Powder-coated steel, steel cable. 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Michael Christian, Key Note, 2009. Mixed metal locks and keys, steel. 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Marco Cochrane, Truth is Beauty, 2013. Steel, mesh, lighting. 

burning man art on fire black rock desert

Jon Sarriugarte, The Golden Mean, 2011. Copper, steel. 


burning man art on fire black rock desert

Every August, tens of thousands of participants gather to celebrate artistic expression in Nevada’s barren Black Rock Desert. This vastly inhospitable location, called the playa, is the site of Burning Man, where, within a 9-mile fence, artists called Burners create a temporary city devoted to art and participation. Braving extreme elements, over two hundred wildly ambitious works of art are created and intended to delight, provoke, involve, or amaze. In 2013, over 68,000 people attended - the highest number ever allowed on the playa. As Burning Man has created new context, new categories of art have emerged since its inception, including Art to Ride, Collaborative Art, and of course, Art to Burn. Burning Man: Art on Fire is an authorized collection of some of the most stunning examples of Burning Man art. Experience the amazing sculptures, art, stories, and interviews from the world’s greatest gathering of artists. Get lost in a rich gallery of images showcasing the best examples of playa art with 170 photos. Interviews with the artists reveal not only their motivation to create art specifically for Burning Man, but they also illuminate the dramatic efforts it took to create their pieces. Featuring the incredible photography of long-time Burning Man photographers, Sidney Erthal andScott London, an introduction from Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, and a foreword from Will Chase, this stunning gift book allows Burners and enthusiasts alike to have a piece of Burning Man with them all year around.

The Best Practices for Graphic Designers: Packaging

Package design is perhaps the most evolutionary corner of the entire design industry. While most disciplines swing to the ebb and flow of trending color, type, styles, etc., package design has a literal and figurative z-axis that is the physical form itself. Combined with rapid advancements in materials, and a greater understanding of the psychology of purchasing, we could argue that packaging is the most engaging and challenging work out there for designers. Studies show that if you can motivate someone to pick up the product, purchasing conversions increase dramatically. But what can you do to encourage this? While every product category is different, there are two major components that time and time again seem to influence behavior: Typography and Texture. Most of us, having spent years setting type for different industries, recognize how to make something appear expensive, cheap, humorous, or even rebellious, using only type. Remember the typeface Crackhouse? We wish we didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t convey “crazy and irreverent” for thousands of packages. Usually Halloween costumes. The same urgency can be applied to packaging that either has its own tactility or leverages the distinct qualities of the product it contains. It is for this reason alone that Koosh Balls have little more than some cardboard for brand messaging and rack merchandising. The texture begs you to touch, if not pick it up, and picking up a product is one giant leap toward purchasing.

Super Goop design packaging inc., USA


Butter! Better! yeongkeun jeong, USA

Cargill empyreal 75 Wine Bailey Lauerman, USA

Excerpted from Best Practices for Graphic Designers: Packaging by Grip

High-res One of our favorite books this season has been Paper Cut by Owen Gildersleeve. The artistry found within the pages is nothing short of breathtaking. And now, Owen and theproudarchivist will be exhibiting works from some of the best papercraft artists around! If you’re in or around London, make sure you hit up this show.
More info:

Over the past few months I have been busy organising an exhibition for my book Paper Cut which will launch later this month! Here’s some info about the show. Hopefully see you down there!Paper Cut: The Exhibition 28th August - 25th September 2014
The Proud Archivist Gallery, Regents Canal, LondonShowcasing works by 25 of the world’s most critically acclaimed papercraft artists and illustrators. With original artworks and prints for sale throughout the show, as well as a whole host of curated talks, workshops and events.RSVP to the opening night now! 

One of our favorite books this season has been Paper Cut by Owen Gildersleeve. The artistry found within the pages is nothing short of breathtaking. And now, Owen and theproudarchivist will be exhibiting works from some of the best papercraft artists around! If you’re in or around London, make sure you hit up this show.

More info:


Over the past few months I have been busy organising an exhibition for my book Paper Cut which will launch later this month! Here’s some info about the show. Hopefully see you down there!

Paper Cut: The Exhibition 

28th August - 25th September 2014

The Proud Archivist Gallery, Regents Canal, London

Showcasing works by 25 of the world’s most critically acclaimed papercraft artists and illustrators. With original artworks and prints for sale throughout the show, as well as a whole host of curated talks, workshops and events.

RSVP to the opening night now! 

Let it Pour

Give your brushes a break and try this fun, abstract technique from Paint Lab, inspired by artist Helen Frankenthaler!

Petals, poured acrylic with limited palette 

Of all the abstract expressionists, Helen Frankenthaler has always been one of my favorites. Like the abstract expressionists, she was process based, yet plugged in her unique style of pouring thinned-out washes of oil paint (eventually acrylic) directly onto the canvas. 


  • fluid acrylics

  • fluid acrylic medium

  • multiple cups for thinning and pouring paints

  • prepared paper or canvas surface 


It is a good idea to start with a light color and progressively get darker with the colors as the layers are built, but this is not a steadfast rule. 

1. Choose a palette that is limited to three to fifive colors and be conscious of how they will mix once poured and inter- mingling. You can do some experimen- tation with this on a scrap surface before starting.

2. Mix your cups of individual colors with a ratio of 1:1 paint and medium, and then mix this paint mixture with water with a ratio of 1:5. Emulsify and blend completely. You can even put a lid on the paint cup and agitate it gently to ensure this.

3. Let the paint pour over your canvas or prepared surface. You can also tilt the surface to encourage the color to flow in desired directions.

4. Let the layers dry one by one if you want distinct veils of color and delineated forms. Also experiment with pouring the paint before the previous layer has dried to experience the interesting effects of wet-on-wet mixing. 

Helen Frankenthaler at work 

Frankenthaler created delicate and layered veils of chroma that ultimately created luminous color fields. Her ability to let the paint just be its drippy liquid self, connected her work to the magic of chance and the element of surprise. Sometimes letting go of controlling your medium can yield liberating results, and for Frankenthaler, this is her legacy. She wrote, “One is closest to one’s self when one is closest to one’s work, dreams and hopes, and making our own magic.” 


Sneak Peek at Olimpia Zagnoli’s View Into Oz

It matters not how professional or how seasoned a designer you are; when you see something designed really well, your inner-nerd squees like a child.

This happened to us when we saw our advanced copies of Olimpia Zagnoli's Classics Reimagined, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Olimpia’s recognizable simplistic illustrations add so much whimsy to Dorothy’s adventure through the land of Oz.

This is just a sampling of the unique and imaginative illustrations found in this book. Just like the new version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Yann Legendre, this is a must-have on your bookshelf.

You can enter to WIN your copy of this book on Goodreads right here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Classics Reimagined, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Classics Reimagined, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

by L. Frank Baum

Giveaway ends August 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Pre-order your copy now and lock in the inexpensive price: