Making the ‘Negative Beats Positive’ piece for (RED)

A little back story first as this project gave me the chance to work with one of my personal heroes… I first came across the work of Ian Wright around ten years ago in the book ‘Pen and Mouse‘ which was one of my favourite look books at the time.

A few years later, his well known (and often imitated) crayon head illustration was featured on the cover of Creative Review and in 2006 I bought the first Volume of If You Could – Alex and Will’s then embryonic project – to find it also featured his work. Ian was one of their tutors at Brighton Uni as it turned out. In 2007 I was lucky enough to have one of my pieces chosen for inclusion in Volume 2 of IYC – Ian this time created the cover for the book and his Jimmi Hendrix beads illustration. I was at the opening for the show but, this being such an anonymous industry, wasn’t really aware of who was there… Our paths crossed again when we both took part in IYC Vol. 4 but after relocating to NY I was unable to attend the opening.

Then, finally and weirdly we finally ended up meeting before the summer at HelloVon‘s birthday drinks here in NY. We chewed the fat for an hour or so – I’d met Chuck Close a few nights prior, one of Ian’s heroes so we had plenty to talk about – and I learned he too had recently moved over here for a change of scenery. I then recommended him to a friend on the board at the AIGA to give a Small Talk and afterwards we all went for a drink. It was there, inebriated, that I finally got to proposition him about working together.

I had nothing in mind at that time – literally – but then I was approached a week or two later about getting involved with the 2015 campaign for (RED) – the AIDS awareness charity. With such an open brief and for such  good cause, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to knock heads.

Our initial ideas were about the passing of time. RED’s goal of ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015 is by no means an overnight feat. We played with the idea of arranging candles to spell out one word and have their drips form another word below so that it would take time to reveal. Unfortunately, running red wax and drips began to look a lot like a horror film.

The thought we eventually ran with was one of a collective effort and a journey, and of a coming together. We wanted to convey this in an abstract fashion by using threads and weaving them together creating visual harmony out of chaos. Initially we planned on working to a grid – as per the visuals – and pulling through threads of rope and string and braiding them together. The rope was proving hard to come by however and hard to pull apart. At some point in the process, over a tuna sandwich at Eisenberg’s Deli, Ian produced, from his portable bag of tricks, a length of raffia which he’d been playing with on another piece. Suddenly we had a readily available, cheap and easily malleable material that didn’t look like someone had killed themselves.

When the day of the shoot came I had sketched out how the type should be arranged and we began creating the words from the raffia, taking it int turns to supply the other with knotted and braided lengths with the other tacking it to the board.

The team at Picturefarm did a great job of documenting it – check the video above or at http://ht.ly/3hSKx – and Bill Wadman was the man behind the lens who lit and took the final shot for the ads.

It was a pretty quick turnaround considering Ian and I have very different ways of working and had no idea of what was expected, but I think I can say that we both really enjoyed the process and, better still, I think I made a new friend out of it…

I hope you like the work and make sure you check out the other artists pieces for the project. You can find more details on (RED) at http://www.joinred.com

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