Monday, August 6, 2012

Keep Calm and Do What?!

The image above shows the front and back of a vintage style paper tag designed with a new take on the popular " Keep Calm and Carry On" slogan.  This student artist used small stencils to letter the front with an ultra-fine sharpie.  She added a magazine image of the cat, she drew musical notes with the sharpie and filled in the rest with colored pencils.  

If you're anything like me, you have probably seen a variety of merchandise cropping up featuring humorous spin-offs on the traditional British slogan, "Keep Calm and Carry on." Tee shirts, coffee cups, magnets and stationary are being sold with all sorts of variations on this theme.  Dog lovers can appreciate "Keep Calm and Carry Treats", while teens get a kick out of " Keep Calm and Hug a Zombie".   I learned that the original slogan was printed on propaganda posters by the British government in an effort to calm fears about the possibility of invasion during the second World War. The posters were not widely distributed and are quite valuable today.  Below is a photo of one of only a handful of original posters.  This one is located at Barter Books in England. I think is is really cool how you can see the texture and wrinkles in it although it is framed to keep it safe and protected.

The poster has such a strong graphic message due in large part to the bold lettering and the simple image of the crown.  My students and I discussed the concept of expanding on this theme to create a new (often humorous) version inspired by the original poster.  They began by brainstorming a list of possibilities, then sketching a simple image that could visually illustrate their words.  This was a challenging task, mostly because of the small size of the paper tags.  I asked that they include an image to step up the degree of difficulty and to add more art skills to the assignment.  The image could be drawn or they could collage onto the back of the tag.  The lettering looked more uniform and graphic when we used plastic letter stencils or small rubber stamps pressed onto a black ink pad, so I discouraged hand drawn lettering for this assignment. We tried to add words so the letters were justified through the center just like the original.  I am including several examples so you can get a feel for the broad range of slogans and images created by these talented 8th graders. Let me know what you think!

 I especially like the extra effort Nicole M. put into this lovely colored pencil illustration. It fills up the entire back of her tag with vibrant color and a sense of movement!

The images on this tag clearly correspond to the slogan on the front right down to the inclusion of the tiny polka-dot bikini and the use of a bright sunny yellow background. The tiny scene is made entirely of magazine collage that is carefully composed and glued in place.

Sometimes we were frustrated with the tiny stamps because the ink would create a small halo of extra black areas around certain letters. You can see it around the "e's" above. This was the primary reason why some students opted to use the stencils instead. Still, this tag "cracks" me up...Yes, I know it's a bad "egg" joke but I couldn't resist!

I made this one just for fun while working with a group of students.  I drew the little Great White on the front, and used magazine collage and drawing for the image on the back.  Note the way that it is fun to change to wording in the middle of the phrase if necessary; Using "I" instead of "and" changes the the meaning slightly and keeps it fresh for the viewer.

I wish she had added a different color to the cute arms and hands on the front of the tag, but the cheeky expression on the hand-drawn monkey makes up for it!  The background is a magazine picture of long blonde hair...

This tag is simple but very effective.  Man, does that roller coaster have some dips and loops!

This student told me that she likes to write stories and is is an avid reader.  I thought it was very cool that she used the lettering stamps to fill in the back of the tag and further emphasize the idea of typewriter letters.  She added an image of an old-fashioned typewriter and found a different image of an arm to overlap with it.  What a great way to use the space!

That's all for now!  I still have one lesson to write to complete posting every lesson I taught at Aldrich for the 2011-2012 school year.  After that, I will share lessons from the two Summer classes I just finished teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).  Be sure to check back soon and leave feedback or ask questions because I love to hear form you!

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