To show that Pride never stops, Fredde Andersson creates Zoom backdrops for remote celebrations
To kick off Converse’s All Stars Series, we collaborated with the London-based illustrator to produce eight artworks for various LGBTQIA+ communities to use during this year’s socially distanced parties.
This summer, we’ve partnered with Converse to produce a series of articles and creative commissions to inspire and encourage everyone to get creating, even through the lockdown. This week, to launch the series and to celebrate Pride month, we’ve worked with the London-based illustrator Fredde Andersson on a series of Zoom backdrops for any upcoming socially distanced celebrations. Here’s the background on the backgrounds.
For illustrator Fredde Andersson, lockdown came with a high level of anxiety. Ordinarily a “very restless person”, he says he used to spend his days pre-Covid working across a variety of things, from his youth group, Queer Youth Art Collective (QYAC), to The Outside Project (the UK’s first LGBTQIA+ shelter and community centre), as well as his illustration practice. Much of this work involved meeting young people face-to-face, so the thought of being stuck inside was particularly worrying.
“I think that moments of crisis are very formative for most people, but my fear over finances and my restlessness kinda shot me into one of the more productive periods of my life since university,” says the illustrator, who also goes by FreddeLanka. As a result, he decided to keep QYAC going but as an online platform; he began selling portraits of people via Instagram; and then Queer House Party started.
Queer House Party
Queer House Party is a party streamed every Friday night throughout lockdown, live into living rooms around the world. It ensures that there are still queer spaces, even in the new digital reality, and it also allows revellers to donate to the artists behind it. It was launched by by two of Fredde’s friends, Harry Gay and Liv Wynter, who also work at The Outside Project. “Club culture is a major part of Queer life, in London and the entire world,” says Fredde, who has been creating art for the party since it began. “It is deeply embedded in our history. So, when our community lost those spaces when lockdown was put in place, Harry and their flatmates decided to act and adapt, creating this new queer space for people to go.”
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Updated Philadelphia Pride Flag
For Fredde, this is illustrative of the strength of the community. “Obviously, Queer people suffer a lot of discrimination and a lack of support for a variety of reasons,” he says. “This has made us even more resilient and capable of creating our own solutions, and I think QHP and The Outside Project is a great example of how we take responsibility for our own community and look after each other.”
It was for this reason that we immediately thought of Fredde, when we were asked by Converse to help create a project to reflect how Pride will continue to be celebrated this month, despite many cities worldwide still being under a form of lockdown. This year, Converse is marking its five-year anniversary for celebrating Pride and has, during that time, donated more than $1 million in support of LGBTQIA+ organisations around the world.
For 2020, the brand is introducing its 2020 Pride collection, inspired by the “More Color, More Pride” flag, also known as the Philly flag, which was first designed and popularised by social justice advocate Amber Hikes. The design sees two additional stripes – one black and one brown – added to the traditional six-colour rainbow layout to represent and highlight Black and brown members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and to acknowledge their contributions to activism over the decades. The Converse 2020 Pride collection is inspired by this flag and proceeds from the collection go towards LGBTQIA+ charities and organisations around the world, including It Gets Better Project, Ali Forney Center, BAGLY, and OUT MetroWest.
The central idea that we landed on with Fredde was to create a series of video-call backgrounds for people to use during their Pride celebrations, even if they are stuck at home. The illustrator decided to create Zoom backgrounds for different communities, but it was important that none of the pieces he created for this project felt like he was speaking for anyone in these communities. “This is why I scrapped the idea of having people in the drawings, as the people who might use these will become the characters in these so-called sets,” says Fredde, who as it turned out actually started his career in set design for film and television in Stockholm. His main focus, he continues, “was to create something fun, colourful (using the colours of each community’s flag as inspiration) to make a festive and celebratory environment for them to place themselves into, if they would want to.”
The breadth and diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community was something he particularly wanted to reflect with these backgrounds. “White gays in a country like the UK have achieved so many rights and a certain level of respect that a lot of our minority groups have not, looking at racism in the queer community, transphobia, Bi erasure etc,” he explains. “So when I get asked to make work about Pride, my goal is to make something for the minority instead of the already-acknowledged part of our community. Especially since the only reason why white gays have their comfort today is thanks to the Black and Trans people who paved the way for us.”
The video-call backgrounds are immediately recognisable as Fredde’s work. His characteristic style is produced by using the lasso and paint bucket tools in Procreate to make simple shapes. “I don’t sketch in the classical sense,” he says. “Making these shapes and puzzling them together is my way of sketching, eventually locking in and adding more details, facial expressions, patterns.” This project, however, required an extra level of care for source material and thought to the impact of the work, he explains: “This is extremely important when working with a community like the LGBTQIA+. I build my images the same way as before, but there is a lot of research that feeds into it, reading, listening and actually meeting people and having conversations.”
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Nonbinary Pride Background
If you want to see in more detail how Fredde created these backgrounds, and if you want to have a go at making your own using his starting point, he has kindly shared with us an open Photoshop file that you can download here and work straight into. If you do have a go at creating your own Zoom backdrops for Pride, go ahead and share them on Instagram, including the hashtag #AllStars.
Fredde also made an Instagram filter for anyone who has had their fill of video conferencing for the next decade. With the filter, the backgrounds and his work more generally, colour plays a central role. “I have always loved bold colours and playing around with clashing schemes or more soothing palettes, and how they give an image a particular mood,” he says. Explaining his working process a bit more, he goes on to say: “Nowadays I have a set colour scheme set up on my Procreate app that I slowly change over time, because I don’t ever want to feel that I am locking myself in too much. I do love a good compromise in colour choices, as they usually lead me into a direction I had not thought of before.”
Looking at the final backgrounds he created, he says he’s pleased with how well they sit together as a series, despite them displaying such different colour schemes – “a nice metaphor,” he says, “for what I think LGBTQIA+ community means to me”.
For this community, this year’s Pride represents something completely unprecedented, with most public celebrations worldwide cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic. Yet Fredde is confident that the community will find a way through. “We as a community are amazing at finding new ways to express ourselves, whether it be online or through some form of social-distancing event. I have full confidence that the community will pull through. When Pride was started, we lived in a time when people like ourselves were prosecuted and violently abused. And somehow we still managed to rise up and take space and make ourselves heard.”
This project represents the first in a series of activations this summer created by It’s Nice That in collaboration with Converse. Keep an eye out for more articles and creative commissions over the next few weeks, each one designed to inspire and encourage everyone to get creating, even through the lockdown. Until the next time, enjoy your Pride celebrations!