Another hand-drawn animation experiment that harks back to my previous design career at the Mercury newspaper in Hobart.
I’ve always loved animations and cartoons. I have dabbled with a few little things over the years, but have recently been studying a few more techniques and processes online. This is an early effort with a hand-drawn animation that is based upon drawings by Preston Blair. It’s a very challenging art form, but tremendously rewarding and interesting.
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Australian decimal currency banknotes have a fascinating design history. A 1968 Penrose Annual article by renowned graphic designer Alistair Morrison provides a detailed account of the working methods of the team of graphic designers who collaborated on Australia’s first decimal currency banknotes.
In early 1963 the Commonwealth Government announced that a new decimal currency system was going to be developed to replace the imperial system of pounds, shillings and pence, and accordingly new bank notes were to be designed and begin circulation by February, 1966.
The design committee
The Reserve Bank of Australia was responsible for the design and printing of the new notes, and assembled a team of seven leading Australian graphic designers to ensure that the design was of the highest possible standard. The seven designers were: Gordon Andrews, Douglas Annand, Richard Beck, Max Forbes, George Hamori, Hal Missingham and Alistair Morrison. The design team’s ambitions were very high and Morrison wrote:
We wanted the notes to be better designed than any in the world; we wanted to justify the bank’s confidence in us; and we wanted everyone to see that this was the way things should be done – that if creative people are consulted early enough and given a free hand they will produce infinitely better work than if they are asked merely to be the executives of decisions already made.”
How the committee worked together
Annand, Missingham and Morrison assumed advisory roles to lead designers Andrews, Beck, Forbes and Hamori. The full committee, together with Russell (‘Tass’) Drysdale, the Reserve Bank’s artistic adviser, met regularly to review the developing ideas and designs. Therefore the design process became partly competitive and partly collaborative, and when each designer submitted ideas, he had the benefit of the knowledge, skills and experience of six other designers. As Morrison explained:
Each designer’s work from the first preliminary doodles to the finished designs … was submitted to the full committee, and we all said what we thought and made suggestions. Some of the criticism was ruthless, but it was all constructive. The designer was free to accept or reject it, but he could hardly ignore it, and it was fascinating … to see how the work of each designer was improved by this treatment. Each of us had some knowledge, or skill, or had had some experience, which the others lacked; so each designer, without having to spend days in perhaps fruitless research, could draw on this sum of knowledge and advice. One of us would see something; some subtle misplacement of an element of the design, or some minor imbalance of tone or colour, which the others had not noticed; particularly the designer himself, who is always so close to his own work.”
The design proposals of Andrews, Beck, Forbes and Hamori were all submitted to the Reserve Bank in March, 1964. Four sets of designs were delivered, one by each of the four designers. Each set was a series of eight designs – both sides of each of the four denominations required: one, two, ten and twenty dollar notes. Whilst all the designs were thought to be highly commendable, the Reserve Bank Committee selected Gordon Andrews’ designs as the best. To gain a greater appreciation of the quality of the entire teams’ efforts, some of the beautiful work by the other designers can be seen here.
The committee successfully delivered four sets of designs to the Reserve Bank, one by each of the four designers. Each set was a series of eight designs – both sides of each of the four denominations required: one, two, ten and twenty dollar notes.
Gordon Andrews was then commissioned to proceed with the working drawings and to supervise the production of the new bank notes. The Reserve Bank website has more information, and explains that during 1965 the Bank’s Note Printing Branch produced close to 153 million new decimal currency bank notes, and that these were joined by new decimal coins that had been designed by Stuart Devlin.
Monday, February 14, 1966 became known as ‘C-Day’ (Conversion Day), with a prominent education campaign running during the lead-up to prepare the public for the introduction of the new currency.
I have a real interest in design history and I often find inspiration from early styles of graphic art. I recently acquired another copy of The Penrose Annual from a second-hand book store and as usual it contains a treasure trove of images and designs.
I love this old advertisement for Kodak in the style of an ancient map. It’s a fun, imaginative way of illustrating the problems and technical issues that are found in colour print reproduction. From the Jungle of Technical Difficulties, the Abyss of Exposure and the Development Deeps, we are carried on an wild adventure through the Labyrinth of Lost Time, the Sandstorms of Dusty Chemicals and the Quicksands of Dimensional Instability to finally arrive safely at the City of Satisfied Customers.
The map was designed and drawn in Kodak’s own art department, using a 1575 lithographic map of Christopher Saxton’s map of Somerset as reference. It was reproduced and printed in six colours by Colour Reproductions Ltd of Billericay, Essex, using Kodak materials exclusively.
The finished artwork as it appears in the Penrose pages is gorgeous, especially when one is able to feel the texture and quality of the paper onto which it is printed (Penrose Annuals always included many different weights and types of paper and card bound seamlessly into the one volume).
The astronaut/space theme that I have adopted for my website is a fun way of expressing a number of related ideas. I was born in 1965 – halfway through the decade that culminated with Neil Armstrong’s first “small step” upon the Moon.
I have many early childhood memories of watching the first televised images of rocket launches, the Earth from deep space, and of astronauts walking on the lunar surface. This all sparked my childhood imagination and led to the creation of many space-themed drawings.
Many years later, I discovered the drawings, plans and artwork for many of NASA’s rockets and spacecraft, and these inspired me to create my own rocket in which to explore the creative cosmos.
What’s this button for?
As a graphic artist and designer there are many computer programs, interfaces and production systems to master, and driving my computer with its myriad of switches and buttons often feels like working the complex controls of spacecraft. While working I’m on a creative mission to pilot an idea from an initial concept to a successful, finished conclusion — it helps to know which buttons to press and how to work the controls!
Adrift in space
Art, literature, music and creativity in general free us to new ways of seeing and thinking. Personally, when my imagination is stirred, or when I find the solution to a creative problem, I feel an opening of possibilities and a freedom from the gravity of tired thinking. In this weightless state new ideas can be born, explored and developed. A 1941 poem titled High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr that has been well-loved by both aviators and astronauts seems to encapsulate this feeling:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
A fresh perspective
At first, my space theme may seem far-removed from my other creative interests, particularly my work as a natural history and wildlife illustrator, but to me it all ties together neatly. Living in such a beautiful place as Tasmania has made me realise the critical importance of environmental conservation on a global scale, and the photographs of Earth taken from deep space by the Apollo astronauts famously emphasise the fragile nature of this shining jewel that hangs suspended in emptiness.