Thursday, 12 March 2009

guest lecture: Otto Dettmer

The big Dettmer; prolific commercially, does a lot of books. Mostly works with screenprinting which he started doing in 1995 during an MA at Kingston. Had this cool mailout which was a sheet which unfolded featuring lots of pieces he’d done for a regular column in (I think) The Guardian. A lot of his work, on screen, looked abysmal, like full on the worst I’d ever seen, but when it was printed, in the context of the paper, it looked fantastic. I wonder if he was conscious of this, if it comes from years of experience.

Showed us prints dealing with graphic symbols, ideas of negative space, objects cut out of objects.

His old work featured lots of space, they’re spot illustrations, fix or six to a page, tiny, dotted around. One is literally just a blue blob.

He talks about Polish and Russian work from back in the day. The artists would do the text and all the visuals.

He left college obsessed with self promotion. It would detract from the quality of his work he was obsessed so. He says doing a job well is the best promotion.

He observes in England you get jobs based on merit, business and leisure are kept very separate. On the continent you get less jobs from scratch, people don’t just give you a chance, you have to be introduced to people, know people.

He has been reusing a lot of illustration. He keeps the copyright, says everyone should. He has 20 years of illustration built up; sometimes reusing old ideas or layouts is essential.

He says art directors sometimes have good ideas.

He talks about a piece he did for a column in the guardian where someone described a partner as an old cardigan.
When gives then, he says, why try to be clever? The image was in that description.

There is massive Russian Constructivist style to the layouts in his books.

Advertising – the money is amazing, pays for the studio for 4-5 years, but unbelievably stressful. Worth it, apparently.

Advertising clients are weird people, says Dettmer. The offices are designed to instil respect, but the clients themselves often have no idea what they’re doing, but massive budgets.

Showed us his website, said most commissions come from his work in papers, not site, but that this may have changed in ten years time.

Had these stock illustrations he’d done, vaguely generic but there were damn tons of them, all recognisably in his style. Interesting concept. Cheap and numerous pieces an art director can rummage through and pick out for purchase. Future of illustration? Maybe not.

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