Back in September, we announced that Adobe was challenging the creative community to work with its newly-digitised Keith Haring-inspired brushes, which are still available to download now. The new, free to download library saw Adobe take Haring’s iconic tools such as spray paint and chalk, and put them into the hands of creatives across the globe. The task: to “draw a line for good” by creating an artwork promoting positive change.
Today, we’re chatting to five of the winners, each of whom was chosen for their artwork’s “creativity, originality, artistic composition and overall design,” Adobe explains. Based across Europe (there are also three more winners based outside the continent) including Juliette Mary and Ange Mercuri from France, Maru Rz from Spain, Sunkyeong Oh from the UK and Sarah Matuszewski from Germany.
The artworks range impressively in style and tackle different themes. The one thing that binds them all together though, is an homage to Keith Haring, whether that’s his aesthetics, ethics or methods.
Juliette Mary, for example, has “always been fascinated by the play of lines and textures he used in his work,” something she discovered during university where she studied design. Using the “felt tip small” and “chalk square” brushes, she’s depicted a figure falling through the air, a trail of Post-it Notes with insults cascading after them. “Keith Haring was a very committed artist on the themes of his time (racism, homophobia and discrimination in general),” Juliette says. “Our problems today are practically similar, which is why I found it interesting to be able to raise awareness through a work of art in order to reach people, as he was able to do in his time.”
It’s for this reason that she chose to illustrate discrimination in the form of harassment via social media. “Like Keith Haring, through my work, I wanted to raise awareness about the importance of words and judgments that we choose to send on social networks and the impact they can have on others,” she adds.
Ange Mercuri was also inspired by Keith Haring’s ability to spread a message through his work, citing how the contrast between the artist’s open-mindedness and today’s cultural context has inspired him greatly. “Today, art is an extremely practical and valuable communication tool to give people hope,” he says, remarking how Haring’s art made the world more “pleasant, colourful and dreamlike,” which was exactly his goal when working with the new brushes too.
Working with the “marker” and “semi” brushes because they are “precise and dynamic”, Ange allowed these tools to guide his composition, a long line of people holding hands and dancing with the words “open the world” above them. “I think that in the current context, Keith Haring would have liked to continue to advocate creativity based on the exchange of cultures and the creativity of each person,” he remarks on his reasoning for this message. “Always based on the human, his compositions breathe the movement of bodies in space and his accumulations are very eye-catching. I wanted to get closer to his thought by using a free line and by this crowd formed of characters with cultures from all around the world.”
In the centre of Maru Rz’s work sits the words “hope over fear”, a phrase surrounded by pencils, flames, cats and other motifs, all set in pink, blue and orange. She created it using the three “spray paint” brushes, almost all of the “drips”, the “chalk”, “chalk on cardboard” and “felt tip small”. They were tools which felt natural to Maru because of her background in graffiti and it’s also this background which has made her a fan of Keith Haring’s work for so long. It’s, for this reason, she found it easy to be inspired to take part in the brief “using urban forms and metaphors that represent the whole world of street art and the current world issues.”
What Maru has produced “talks about fear and how to face it in a positive way, and always learn about it so that it makes us stronger.” All of her work, she continues, “talks about life, death, the speed of time, and now we are currently living in a time where more than ever, we must have hope and come together to make real changes in our environment, both on a social and environmental level, like Keith, since he was a political and vindictive person in his works.”
While both Juliette and Maru chose to depict a universal message, Sunkyeong Oh chose to look closer to home. “Artists have continued creating art despite the ongoing situation we find ourselves in,” she explains, when beginning to talk about the starting point of her artwork which sees an artist surrounded by their tools. “We are all having a hard time, but remember, ‘you do you’ – nothing is as difficult as refusing to be yourself.” There is, of course, a wider message in the artwork, Sunkyeong continues, telling us that she, like Haring, understands the importance of art as a tool to bring people together and make a better world. “Artists must not stop working to make the world we live in a more beautiful place,” she adds on the underlying message of her work.
It’s a piece Sunkyeong created using the “vinyl scraper” and “marker square” brushes which are “effective in destroying and recreating shapes and repeating the process,” she tells us. Both allowed her to eliminate unnecessary visual elements and cut to the core of her message. In fact, she was drawn to the entire library of brushes due to the fact they “looked like suitable tools to express intuitive and abstract aspects of my work.”
Finally, Sarah Matuszewski explains that she was inspired to create her artwork as she is someone who constantly likes to develop new techniques and push herself out of her comfort zone. “Keith Haring’s bold lines and iconic art which he expressed with different tools impress me. So, I was curious about how these new brushes affect my artwork,” she says.
Using the “felt tip”, “drip 1”, “chalk square” and “round detailer”, she experimented with her usual style, drawing parallels between “loose character, the simple lines and the playful storytelling” in her own practice and that of Keith Haring. Thematically, what she’s chosen to depict is that, despite the many issues in the world right now, “we are in it together and everyone has the possibility to do something about it.” She continues: “It doesn‘t matter if you do more or less, if you are more into saving nature, creating a better society, helping other people or stand up against racism. Everything counts to make this world a better place. We only have this one. The time for change is now.”
Alongside the three other winners, Juliette, Ange, Maru, Sunkyeong and Sarah will each receive their local equivalent of $5,000, a year’s subscription to Creative Cloud and their work was shown at 2020’s Adobe MAX to a worldwide audience.
Adobe x Keith Haring (Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation, 2020)