Currently residing in east London, Ross Paul McEwan moved down south from his home town of Warrington seven years ago and has been working as a print designer, predominantly within the fashion industry, ever since. However, at the beginning of 2018, he started experimenting with more personal work and now boasts a portfolio packed full of expressive and emotive designs.
“I get inspiration from a lot of music from the late 1970s and 80s,” Ross tells It’s Nice That, “a lot of the stuff I like is uplifting and makes me want to dance.” With an understanding that “it was a tough time for a lot of artists from that era,” it’s the notion of escapism that Ross now channels into his work. “No matter how bad your day is, music can always make you feel good about yourself,” he continues.
Ross is a print designer through-and-through, his imagery always materialising in some form, whether it be on paper, as a sticker, a t-shirt or even knitted into scarves. Scanning this work back into the computer is then always the finishing touch. “That way,” Ross explains, “visually you can see that the artwork exists outside of the computer, it’s become a real thing and isn’t just made up in Photoshop.”
These designs are graphically bold, often comprised of several elements which combine tonal and strong typography. The content, on the other hand, reflects Ross’ personal expressions; “usually about a release or a feeling of well-being which I find through music or getting together with good people.”
Take his recent work Dancing to a Higher Place, for example. In an attempt to counteract the “odd stuff going on, strange politicians, privacy issues, a lack of unity,” Ross captured a sense of joy and positive spirit within a design. “I used a few different renaissance paintings depicting groups of people dancing, drinking and expressing themselves. Escaping through the arts and music is something we’ve been doing for centuries, so it’s a celebration of that experience,” he describes.
Rushes, on the other hand, visualises “that feeling you get when the sun comes out and you’re on your way to a party or even on your way to work.” Featuring an 18th-century painting by French artist Louis Janet of five women holding hand and dancing in a circle, the graphic represents how “in Britain, getting these glimpses of sunshine uplifts you and brings people together,” Ross explains. “A few weeks ago,” he adds, “it felt hopeful and like things were going to get better so I tried to put that on paper.”
Despite producing visuals that can, at first glance, appear bold or even harsh, Ross’ work perfectly counteracts this through his balance of colour and the imagery he uses to work with. By channelling his own experiences and emotions into these designs, his output feels altogether different to a lot of graphic design, injecting expression into a medium which can, at times, feel more detached.
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