In response to the crisis, seven creatives draw rainbows to signify “this storm will pass”
Pictures of rainbows have been springing up as a reminder that we are still united, even in isolation. We asked seven of our fave creatives to contribute to this trend by producing an artwork featuring this new symbol of hope.
Isolation. It ain’t fun, and it ain’t pretty. One thing it also ain’t is forever.
It’s this sentiment that many of us have found ourselves clinging onto during this unusual period of social distancing, looking towards a time when we will be able to see our friends and family IRL, and not through a screen. A time of pubs, restaurants, parks, festivals and actual contact.
While it’s easy to focus on what is happening right now, and see it through a gloomy haze of despair and grievance, a trend (some might even call it a movement) has been sweeping the country reminding us of the hope that exists, and of the future we can look forward to. Started by the children of the UK, drawings of rainbows have been popping up in windows up and down the country (and the world), they’ve been graffitied on pavements in chalk and shared on social media. Even Peter Blake has been getting in on the action, producing a piece which ran in the Evening Standard.
The idea is simple: while we cannot gather, we can still communicate with one another, to lift each other up and remind each other that this won’t last forever.
It’s a project which captured our imagination here at It’s Nice That, being the fans of a little positivity that we are. It feels like the perfect way to encapsulate how we feel about the current situation: we cannot ignore the storm, but we should acknowledge that it will pass. To do so, we reached out to seven of our favourite creatives, each coming from a different discipline and a different part of the world, and asked them to create their own image featuring a rainbow. Hopefully, if nothing else, they’ll at least make you smile.
Each piece was produced in isolation from whatever form of home studio they’ve currently got set up. Below we find out a little bit about the thinking that went into the joyful work Alec Doherty, Crystal Zapata, Kris Andrew Small, Shuhua Xiong, Nicole Chui, Philotheus Nisch and Yonk have created.
Illustrator Alec Doherty, London, UK
Alec is an upbeat creative and someone who’s humour and work never fails to put a smile on our faces – usually with the big grin on his. His response to the brief features that signature grin, sitting below a hand-drawn rainbow. These are “strange days, I think we’re all struggling a bit indoors,” he says. Emblazoned on his piece are the words “All things must pass” a “little mantra” Alec finds helpful in lots of different situations. It’s taken from the track All things must pass, “a great record by me fav Beatle and a good way to look at life.” He concludes: “Make the most of the good times, and when times are hard, remember they too will pass. If you want to pass a little time indoors right now, George Harrison’s film Living in the Material World is a cracker. Stay safe and sound.”
Graphic designer and artist, Crystal Zapata, Chicago, USA
Crystal is a graphic designer who utilises a diverse array of disciplines to approach her design practice, often producing posters for music venues and gigs. While she makes use of several techniques to produce such varied visuals, one thing that is unrivalled throughout her portfolio is her use of colour to inject vibrancy and life into her still imagery. For her contribution, Crystal found inspiration from her experience in the music world, looking towards a time when clubs and gig venues will reopen. “I’ve been meditating on the idea of intimacy during this period of widespread isolation,” she says. “How can we be intimate with one another when we’re unable to gather? Until we’re able to dance in the same crowded room, we can try dancing to the same songs.”
Graphic designer and illustrator Kris Andrew Small, Paddington, Australia
On the other side of world, but facing many of same daily struggles as we are is Kris Andrew Small. Kris’ work often takes societal issues and channels them through loud, abstract and typographic visuals. That’s not to say his work is heavy, though, in fact, his portfolio is one of utter exuberance. In true fashion, Kris, therefore, took this situation and put his positive take on it: “While it’s sad that it often takes a tragedy to bring humans together, it is still beautiful when it happens. I wanted to make a piece that reminded people that together, no matter what race, gender, age, sexual orientation or anything else, the only way we can get through this is together. I really hope that the planet takes this opportunity to realise we are all a lot more alike than we think, with a simple goal of surviving life together.”
Artist and designer Nicole Chui, London, UK
Nicole is an artist with a unique practice; she uses thread, sewn directly onto photographs or existing imagery. Her use of hand embroidery is, she describes, “messy, brash and disruptive” and often aims to provide a platform for underrepresented communities. In response to this brief though, Nicole looked inwards, embroidering a rainbow on a portrait of her sister taken a while back. In turn, she’s physically transformed the often dark subject of loneliness through her colourful use of thread – “spinning that into ‘independence’,” she adds. “Throughout my life, colour has always brought me joy, so I love the fact that the rainbow is a symbol of hope and unity. We may all be isolated, but it doesn’t mean we have to let the darkness overcome us. It is up to us to take ownership of our situation, no matter what!”
Photographer Philotheus Nisch, Leipzig, Germany
We’ve long marvelled at how German photographer Philotheus turns the most mundane of objects into hyper-realistic still life images. So we were eager to see what he could do from the comfort of his own home, and Philotheus didn’t disappoint.
A recurring element in Philotheus’ images are clouds – they manifest as actual plumes of vapour or as backdrops. “I’m attracted by their fluffy and ever-changing appearance,” he tells us. “But I can’t really pin down why I like them, they seem likeable but also embody the possibility to change and turn into storms. And vice versa. For some, this cloud might puke a rainbow, for others not. Some might be distracted by the object that is actually a desk lamp generating rainbow-coloured beams of light.” There’s a level of uncertainty to Philotheus’ images – you’re never quite sure what is going on, or what is going to come next – and this, he adds, is akin to the current situation for many people. “However, showing this sculpture between flowers seemed to make sense to point out that the world is still turning. Even though the complexity of things is so present for us at the moment, things will continue to grow and flourish.”
Illustrator Shuhua Xiong, New York City, USA
Originally from Shanghai but now based in NYC, Shuhua’s work has innate calm to it – an emotion we’ve been searching and longing for over the past weeks. Amid chaos and confusion, the muted tones of the illustrator’s work provide a safe haven for us all, and for her, it seems: “For me, the pandemic brings a lot of existential anxiety. You feel like nothing matters and the world is ending. But as cliche as it sounds, love is always the answer. It helps you to see what’s real. Love your families, love your partner, love your animals, love your community workers, love your friends, love our planet, especially love yourself. Love is the light, follow the light.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
3D and animation duo, Yonk, The Hague, The Netherlands
Comprised of Niels van der Donk and Victoria Louise Young, Yonk is a duo we’ve been eagerly following for a while now – and we’re continually baffled by its output of VR-sculpted static and moving images. Entirely maximalist and experimental, Niels and Victoria’s works are spontaneous, fun and downright odd. So we were intrigued to see how this duo would choose to respond to the current crisis. What they came back with is a sentiment we know everyone can get behind: they miss their friends. Having considered what the rainbows in windows actually represent, it got them thinking about life post-corona. “Our main conversation topic was about how much we miss our friends and how we appreciate their positivity and online company during these times,” the pair says. “These Rainbow people are representative of them, our friends, and our driving force to sit and have a beer with them once more. May we all be reunited with our loved ones soon."
Kris Andrew Small
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.