Jc

James started out as an intern in 2011 and came back in summer of 2012 to work online and latterly as Print Editor, before leaving in May 2015.

jc@itsnicethat.com@jdmcartwright

1442 articles
  1. List

    Carl Kleiner is a man whose reputation precedes him. He’s known internationally for his extraordinary still-life photography and has spawned countless imitators over his career. But his new book (out later this year) is unlike the Carl Kleiner most of us know. For starters this six book archive displays nothing of the pristine, polished studio environment with which we usually associate him, and secondly he’s swapped digital for analogue, using a second-hand Rolleflex and Portra film to capture his photographs.

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    The term “ruin porn” gets thrown around a lot to describe images of abandoned buildings and architectural forms that have fallen into disrepair. The Atlantic have published essays on the psychological reasons we’re incapable of tearing our eyes from it, and Detroit has become the poster city for this captivating genre of destructive, bleak photography – in fact it seems to be a genre that’s almost exclusively American.

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    Just before Christmas an excitable Jane Stockdale came bounding into the studio with even more energy than usual to tell us about a graphic designer she’d just met in Barcelona. We hastened to check out his website, flicked through a bunch of projects and quickly realised that Jane’s enthusiasm was totally justified – Arnau is indeed a man of many talents.

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    Sometimes I confess I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of young photographers plying their trade out there in the world – there’s bloody loads of them. The inevitable crossover of subjects and styles, techniques and typologies means it’s sometimes tricky to distinguish a great talent from an accomplished amateur. But poring over the portfolio of Swiss photographer Lukas Wassmann there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of the really (and I mean REALLY) good ones.

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    Chilean creative Mario Felipe spends his days working in commercial design at a studio called Salvaje, or Wild in English. That’s all well and good – he’s obviously a talented designer – but today we’re more concerned with the solo, fine art practice with which he fills his evenings. Mario’s a painter and mixed media collage artist who works his own abstract ideas on top of found imagery and texts. No surface is off limits, from scraps of cardboard and old family photographs to the yellowed pages of unbound works of fiction. The results are simple yet satisfying; iconic works of both geometric and organic abstract that feel playful and accessible.

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    Swedish illustrator Kilian Eng is the natural heir to the Moebius throne of staggering sci-fi artwork. In his relatively short career he’s imagined bewilderingly complex intergalactic landscapes, the architecture of numerous hypothetical civilisations, reinvigorated countless movie franchises with his reimagining of their theatre posters and worked on any number of extraordinary commercial projects too.

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    New year, new projects from the irrepressible Pentagram, this time in the form of some striking 3D work for the recently renovated and reopened Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York. Pentagram’s Michael Gericke and Eddie Opara have announced their graphic identity for the newly-expanded space, developing a physical word mark that works hard with the limitations of the listed building that houses the collection.

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    Photographer’s agents Horton-Stephens are in the habit of producing an annual publication to celebrate and promote the work of their fine stable of talent. Last year they interspersed the work of their photographers with interviews with some of the biggest names in advertising, adding insight to the relationship between image-makers and the ad world.

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    Illustration, more than any other discipline we cover on It’s Nice That, teaches us an awful lot about our audience when aggregated into a top ten list of articles. You’re a weird bunch, it has to be said; dirty-minded and deviant. How else do we explain the creepy comics of Joan Cornella, Laura Callaghan’s tales of Tinder cannibalism and Nimura Daisuke’s gratuitous GIFs? Granted there’s some stunning vintage advertising, an archive of emoji and some wonderfully diverse editorial illustration in there too, but for the most part it’s just smut and violence. Merry Christmas!

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    Unlike most music-based list features this selection of the best records of 2014 has nothing at all to do with the tunes. It’s simply a list of some of my favourite sleeves to appear on the site, based purely on their aesthetics. In some cases the music etched into the vinyl is straight-up terrible, but cast your acoustic prejudices to one side for the time being and get ready to appreciate some seriously slick sleeve design.

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    This year feels like it was over before it even began – which is a total cliché but it’s God’s honest truth. It feels like just yesterday I was launched blinking and hungover into the first days of 2014 and now I couldn’t really tell you what I got up to. Anyway, it was a whirlwind, a rollercoaster ride full of emotional ups and downs, physical highs and lows, triumphs of spirit and ingestions of spirits. Yeah 2014, you were alright, I liked you, though at times you were a bit of a t**t.

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    Last week features editor Liv Siddall put out a call to arms to the illustration community, inviting practitioners young and old to push their discipline further and keep their work exciting and fresh. She cited in particular the regurgitation of the same established names at illustration fairs and events as a cynical way to flog tickets and boost sales instead of creating a platform for new, innovative work.

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    Wilfred van der Weide was once part of Dutch design duo wilfredtimo, whose work we’ve been admirers of since we came across these superheroic graphics in 2012. After several years in each other’s pockets they’ve gone their separate ways, but unlike most break-ups, some of the results have been beautiful.

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    Among the plethora of independent erotic titles all shimmying for our attention on the newsstands, Odiseo is one that shimmies a little more seductively. Not only has it adopted an altogether more sophisticated case-bound format, it’s constantly seeking to reevaluate what an erotic title should be. Like the golden age of Playboy each issue is packed with great imagery as well as inventive and engaging writing – something often left as an afterthought in new titles.

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    For the cover of Printed Pages Winter 2015 we wanted something super-seasonal to mark the end of the year and conjure up some festive wonderment on the newsstands. Of course we didn’t want it just to be any old festive tat, it had to be a little ambiguous, a touch surreal, but also familiar too. So we called in the help of still-life photographer extraordinaire John Short to help realise our ambitions.

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    Dutch designer Roosje Klap recently set up an international initiative known as The Design Displacement Group with the intention of approaching modern design in new and unusual ways. Their intention is to “form a group together which creates work as seen from the future. Yes! We time-travel 20 years and look back on today, to understand the discourse of graphic design as it is happening today – with different eyes and speculative future categories.

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    Belgian designer Corbin Mahieu learned his craft at the prestigious Sint Lucas School of Arts in Ghent, following in the footsteps of a legion of other respected Belgian designers and illustrators. His work is academic in style; specifically focussed on arts projects for the local creative community in Ghent. Although he’s recently completed an internship in London at Zak Group, presumably developing into further spheres of design in the process. Pictured is a beautifully realised catalogue for his alma mater, exploring the facilities and faculty in detail.We’d say he’s definitely one to watch, and hopefully he’s sticking around in London a little longer.

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    We’ve a certain bias towards French creative studio Bonsoir Paris. We’ve collaborated with them on projects in Milan, been stunned by their window displays at Selfridges at the start of the year and then they shot the cover of the Autumn issue of Printed Pages, firmly cementing our love for them forever more. It’s their restless experimentation that makes them so interesting; for a group of three guys their ability to push materials in new and exciting directions is unparalleled and they bring fresh perspectives to materials we’ve seen used a thousand times before.

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    Furniture, typefaces, identities and posters, websites, limited edition fashion lines, music packaging and abstract works all exist within the broad practice of Berlin-based designer Till Wiedeck. Under the moniker of HelloMe, he’s been a constant creative force on the contemporary graphic design scene for the past six years, accumulating big-name clients like The New York Times, COS and Warp Records among others. This recent work for German/French art fund Perspektive, is characteristic of Till’s holistic approach to his process, with print collateral, web and all other elements of the identity created by the studio, all united by a bespoke typeface.

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    “Give me more digital gifts!” I always exclaim at Christmas. “Pack my stocking full of new and inventive coding experiments with a festive twist!” This year Ronai David, Damien Mortini and Aurelien Gantier heard my cry and put together Christmas Experiments, a digital advent calendar that reveals a new web-based treat every day throughout December. Each one is the product of a different developer and offers a unique take on Yuletide cheer. In one you’re invited to navigate a wayward orphan through a dormitory, avoiding the flash of fairy lights as you go. In another you’re Santa, tasked with navigating a gang of feckless elves through a complex floating maze where danger lurks around each corner.

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    Over two and a half years have passed since Robert Fresson graduated from the Royal College of Art with his Masters in visual communication. Two and a half years of moving out of London, buying himself a barge in Bath, taking up teaching on the illustration BA at Plymouth and of course busting his nuts creating a plethora of new work – or “illustrating his socks off” as he’d most likely put it. I’ve always been envious of Rob’s work (we did art foundation together so it’s a lasting envy) for its masterful approach to traditional techniques, colour processes and wonderful use of line, which goes from strength to strength as the years go by. He also has the work ethic of a single-minded shire horse, capable of subjecting himself to unfathomable hours of dedicated labour on a project that particularly excites him. And that’s why he’s so bloody good!

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    When Andrew Diprose has a new issue of The Ride in his hands he talks quickly and excitedly, about the contributors, collaborators and stories he’s uncovered; about his continuing evolution of the journal’s design and about the big plans he’s got once the first ten issues are in the bag. His enthusiasm for this magnificent side-project is infectious. But that’s understandable when you get into the meat of the thing, because all his contributors share that same enthusiasm.

  23. New-list

    Jay Cover is one third of the Nous Vous gang; one of three cogs in their art and design machine; the back left wheel on the creative tricycle; the front leg of their three-legged illustration stool. Speaking of stools (seamless!) he’s just finished work on Flat, an illustrated book that pays homage to iconic pieces of furniture design by the likes of Johanna Dehio, Martino Gamper, Gonçalo Campos and Studio Gorm. Fret not though, it’s much more exciting than that sounds! There are bears, sloths and toucans horsing around among the exquisitely-crafted tables and chairs and a cast of characters interacting with them in the most unusual ways – the staring contest between a parrot and a man in a green jumper is perhaps my favourite. All told it’s a lovely bit of printed matter, Risographed and published by Hato Press and now available to buy in their shop. Very tasty indeed!

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    Grant Cornett is an effing (no swearing here, thank you) good photographer. Really EFFING good. The Brooklyn-based image-maker has been plying his trade in New York for just over a decade, creating work that’s incredibly broad. Within his vast portfolio lives immaculate food photography, still-life fashion shoots, a plethora of punchy magazine covers and some stellar portraiture. It’s too much to hope to encapsulate in a single post so for the meantime feast your eyes on these portraits of faces – some famous, some not so – all given the Grant Cornett treatment and exquisitely immortalised.

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    John Short’s cover shoot of an intriguing pair of reverse footprints sets the tone for the Winter issue of Printed Pages – riddled with intrigue and demanding closer inspection. Inside we discuss art, fame and Desert Island Discs with Jeremy Deller, explore Kenzo’s dynamic culture of creative collaboration and go treasure hunting with filmmaker Tomas Leach. Raymond Briggs reflects on growing old and what home means to him, Studio Swine discuss their innovative way of looking at the world and we pick out some of the highlights from counterculture bible The Whole Earth Catalog.

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    In April this year Josh McKenna was still a student, working his way through third year illustration down in Falmouth. Since then graduation’s taken place, he’s traded the peaceful coastal town for the incessant throb of London and he’s found himself producing a fair bit of lovely commercial work. When last we met Josh’s work was all poolsides and exotic colour palettes, but his subject matter reflects his move to the metropolis – huge red buses, commuter cyclists and smart phones now dominate, but there’s still that characteristic sense of fun in there too, as a personal project on bums reflects. It seems like Josh has moved up in the world, and his image-making shows that off beautifully.

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    The name Jeremy Deller conjures up all manner of conflicting images in my mind’s eye; of frivolous inflatable sculptures and brass bands playing acid house; of turbulent clashes between miners and police and the rusted bodies of motor vehicles. He’s got a real knack for uniting ideas that feel inherently opposite. So his latest show at Modern Art Oxford shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise in its bringing together of two figures who seem very much at odds with each other.

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    Sometimes it’s possible to let a method or technique define a creative’s practice when in fact they have versatile skills. With someone like Magnus Voll Mathiassen, whose name is synonymous with a pristine form of digital illustration, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he can draw perfectly well without his computer in front of him. But recently he went full analogue for a show in Bergen, Norway, churning out 20 beautiful ink drawings in under six hours; framing them, hanging them and exhibiting them that same day. The original drawings are monochromatic, varying between the figurative and abstract. Stylistically it’s recognisably Magnus but with the added charm of fluid, decisive mark-making in brush and ink.

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    Friend of Leif Podhajsky, wearer of a waxed moustache and creator of some seriously trippy artwork, Nick Stewart Hoyle – or Signalstarr as he likes to be known – is a creative we should all be paying attention to. His signature style is one of retro-futuristic wizardry; a merging of Hollywood’s 1980s visions of the future and ancient mythology; Sun Ra meets Man Ray, and any number of other anachronistic parallels. Whether, like me, you’ve always had a penchant for Iron Maiden’s Powerslave cover or you just enjoy the occasional bit of psychedelia in your life, the arresting power of Nick’s work is undeniable. He’s here to take us to the stars, ideally in an electrified floating pyramid.

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    One of the nice things about going to magazine launches is running into talented folks while you’re queuing for a sponsored-vodka-based drink. I can’t take credit for the meeting myself – I was too focussed on jumping the queue – but our art director Jamie got chatting to Gabriel Finotti through a mutual friend and it turned out the Brazilian designer’s work was pretty damn slick.

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    I make no bones about being a die-hard fan of German publishing house Lubok Verlag. Their luxurious block-printed publications have my unconditional admiration for their wonderful tactility, skilful printing and beautiful content. Right now though, they’ve surpassed their own high standards, having just released two new books by a couple of my favourite artists.

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    Benjamin Kivikoski and Philipp Staege are Bureau Progressiv, a Stuttgart-based design studio with an already impressive portfolio to their name. The German designers are both graduates of the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts, where they’ve honed their typographic skills and become expert practitioners of publishing projects, branding and identity creation – and even the odd bit of web design too. Their passion lies in print though and books like Willisau and All That Jazz (pictured) show off an affinity for ink on paper that’s evident throughout their portfolio. Sadly we can’t show you the whole thing, so recommend at least a good half-hour spent perusing their various projects.

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    Texan artist Mark Lovejoy produces work that’s a bit of of a head scratcher. What at first looks like a complex digital render could also just be photographs of thickly-painted palettes. In fact Mark’s images are a hybrid of both; myriad individual photographs of paints, pigments waxes and resins, shot and reshot, manipulated and then retouched some more until the surface textures take a pleasing aesthetic form, but retain their ambiguous genesis.

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    French illustrator Baptiste Virot is a seriously exciting new talent in the comics world. He’s a man skilled in the art of wavy lines, surreal characters and traditional print processes; his portfolio is stuffed with hand-screened prints, risographed zines and bits of bizarre commercial illustration. In the age-old tradition of fanzine culture he’s just as comfortable working in stark black and white as he is creating colour separations for the manufacture of vibrant prints. Want to see some ugly people riding a giant neon dog? Today’s your lucky day pal!

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    It’s customary at the annual Swedish design awards, Design S, for a three-dimensional S to be awarded to the finest of Scandinavian practitioners; and it’s always made from traditional Swedish materials. Previous years have seen it crafted from finest Swedish wood, but this year’s award by BVD is folded from Swedish paper, fashioned into a giant origami letterform. We hadn’t a clue how they’d done it, but pleasingly there’s an accompanying video that shows you how to make your own.

  36. Updated

    It’s pretty rare that I give two hoots about dubstep/trap/beats as a musical genre – my dancing sucks and I’m never anything but awkward in a club. But – and this is a big but – stick some slamming bass over sci-fi visuals and I can’t get enough of that stuff. Daniel Swan and David Rudnick’s latest collaboration is exactly that; a brutal mix of intense beats, wailing synth and some incredibly futuristic wartime visuals. There’s a swarm of stealth jets, laser-equipped helicopters and a seriously badass tank. It’s like being in the thick of the best computer game you’ve not yet had the chance to play. Nice!

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    Time and again Amy Woodside gets in touch to let us know about new projects she’s cooked up and time and again we’re powerless to resist them. The New York-based artist is focussed to a fault on her fine art practice where iconic letterforms emerge from meticulously registered screen printing and frantic flourishes of spray paint. Where first she caught our eye with multicoloured wordplay, the constant reduction and refinement of her process has resulted in a new series’ of totemic words like ‘Hero’, ‘Cash’, ‘Hoax’ and ‘Like’, pre-loaded with cultural context and double meaning, writ large on the canvas. What’s the meaning behind them? The interpretation is up to you, but Amy always seems to be critiquing pop culture with its own visual vernacular and playing fast and loose with our ambiguous use of language.

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    In April this year UsTwo ruined a gig I was at by letting me trial a new game due to be released the following week. I was supposed to be seeing one of my favourite bands but instead spent two hours tapping away trying to navigate a little princess through a geometrically impossible world. A couple of weeks later everyone was obsessing over that same princess.

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    Having only once covered the work of Californian architect Michael Jantzen on the site, it seems about time we provided a little more context to his work and showed off one of his seminal pieces. The M-House is a portable modular system through which multiple iterations of a structure can be made. It consists of a series of rectangular panels, attached by hinges to a gridded frame, that can be moved and manipulated to serve a variety of functions, both structural and decorative. Each new structure can be built to unique specifications so that no M-House needs to look the same. Michael’s intention was that these buildings could serve as a holiday home or as an impressive complex of modular retreats in a single resort. So why hasn’t anyone built this resort yet? Better than Butlins.

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    Way back in 2011 when we first posted the work of Frank Magnotta It’s Nice That was a very different beast – we’d only give you one image to check out and the rest was up to you. So when I stumbled across Frank’s work again this week it seemed essential that we show you a whole lot more. To be honest there have been few updates to his site in the past three years but the work is breathtaking, pulling together pop culture references, architectural precision and some serious Americana and combining it into stark surrealist landscapes. At times grotesque but always engaging, Frank’s graphite artworks are still some of the finest around.