Tuesday, March 15, 2016

#iTOMB Season IV: A love story

Alex: Free thought
(#Québec) 10.25.14
Quik. Name the first organization you can think of that exists solely to encourage, freedom of expression. 

Not so easy is it? And in America, a country who's founders felt so strongly about the idea that it became the First Amendment to our constitution, we now find ourselves not teaching it in schools - as arts and music programs disappear in the face of budget shortfalls - leaving the concept an obtuse philosophical theory with little or no practical application. And whilst the United Nations and NGOs like George Soros' Open Society Foundation expound at length on this fundamental human right through any number of societal and diplomatic channels, these programs are aimed primarily at developing countries and nations under siege from oppressive dictatorships or worse, mired in armed conflicts with the right to speak freely becoming a matter of life or death. 

David Everitt- Carlson at Occupy Wall Street 10.07.11
Photo: Bryan Derballa for 
The Wall Street Journal
But here, in America at least, with frightening billions of dollars spent on defense of our supposed freedoms, we seem to have conveniently forgotten about this one. As free as air, or water should be - now relegated to the basement of first world consciousness because - maybe we don't need it. Or maybe we need it more than we ever have since it was written into our national psyche, our raison d'ĂȘtre.

Towers of Gold 09.16.14
That's where #iThinkOutsideMyBox came in, as a protest communication vehicle at Occupy Wall Street, standing (or sitting in my case) in the line of fire as thousands of armed police, police in tactical riot gear, even police on horseback arrested over 3500 of us, many violently, for exercising our human rights, our constitutional rights, to speak our peace to what we believed was becoming a tyrannical government. It was an electric time and in the midst of all that, a simple cardboard box became a metaphor for me, in one sense a shelter and in another, a kind of soapbox for me to graphically air our collective grievances by painting slogans on a box. "The phrase "I Think Outside My Box" symbolized the thought of trying to come up with better ideas for a society that had become systematically disenfranchised from the bailing out of financial institutions without regard to human cost.

"It needs to be, just so" 01.31.16
As a casualty, but not wanting to play the victim, I put words and art into action and next, I was in the Wall Street Journal. First, for calling out Wall Street, and second, for being a very interesting photo, a guy who looks like he could be working on Wall Street, sitting in that box. Activist performance art. But after becoming an Internet meme for a week, a funny thing started to happen; people began to ask me if they could paint too. An there, the public studio was born. A place where anyone could paint and express themselves in public - something defiantly peaceful and fun.

Katie 10.19.14
Fast forward to the High Line park one year later in the fall of 2012 and fun had become the operative term. The offer of Feel free to paint℠ was attractive to many in a place where birds chirped high above the bustling streets of one of the most exciting cities in the world. Who wouldn't? And paint they did. "I stumbled upon a great thing. A man is letting people of all ages paint what they feel and either let the world see it or keep it. Magic." By the fall of 2015, three years later, our collection numbers over 20,000 from visitors from over 100 countries  and this collectivist collection of expressions has become not only my full-time work but my passion and creative love. In short, my job.

Michael Moore's, "Where to Invade Next?"
In Michael' Moore's new film, "Where to Invade Next?" he invades Finland to capture an idea that made their public education system the best in the world.

"Let the students express themselves. Cut the hours, eliminate homework, re-introduce music and the arts and do away with standardized tests - an effort to grow better people instead of just better students. Let them be kids. And it was found, that having the arts in their curriculum, increased their scores in math and science - not to mention expanding their entire worldview.

Schools: that's one way I see us interacting with the community - as a plug in creative module for school festivals, summer camps or regular class sessions. 
Cartoon: Hugh MacLeod @ gapingvoid.com

We're currently booked for two educational sessions this season, a three day college creative festival in New Jersey in June and one day on the High Line in April with a large High School group.

Contact me to add #iThinkOutsideMyBox to your school program this coming season.

"I was just passing through then saw a man painting, and that he was definitely enjoying what he was doing caught my eye. David: 'Wanna paint?' Me: 'How do you know what you want to paint?' David: 'It doesn't have to be an apple'. So here we are." 

"Create a Life You Love"
#iTOMB welcomes Season IV: This winter has proven to be most unusual with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, often enough, that we've maintained a presence in the park and it's caused people to remark, that if I didn't love what I do, I wouldn't be out there in the middle of February. And it's true. This is the winter I found the work I was meant to do.

In the beginning I thought it was something to keep me busy and bring in a little income as I looked to find my way back to the advertising business. But now I realize that it is much more than that. It is a chance to do what artist Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid.com laments above might not ever be a possibility for anyone working in corporate America. It's a chance to change the world, for the better, just a little each day. By letting you change the world, just a little each day, with a new idea, remembered as a painting.

Me and Tia 07.15.15
One supporter, Diane, says this,"I think of David as the Pied Piper of the High Line! Facilitating and adorning the High Line with the creative self-expressions of thousands of people." And that to me, sounds as much like a real job as anything. Following are a number of extensions of the concept currently in process:

Grants: I am actively applying for arts and community grants for the project. If you are aware of any I should be applying to, please let me know.

Media: Please pass us along to your favorite media contact for stories.

Book: I have a proposal for a book that would be a cube of printed cardboard paintings, with descriptions on the back of each one,  3"X3"X3" called "#iThinkOutsideMyBox - Every Picture Tells a Story".  Please talk to me if you know publishers or agents who might be interested in it.

#iThinkOutsideMyBox #TheNewWhitney 10.15.15

Museums: Our sculptural display of paintings, 2014 - 2016 is now available as a museum exhibit, along with supporting artwork from the project, and the ability to execute live interactive performance. If you are a curator or educator with museums involved in design, sustainability, art or social change, or know someone who is, please introduce yourself. We'd love to collaborate.

Galleries: This season I am actively soliciting galleries to mount a summer fundraising benefit to encourage, protect, promote and practice freedom of speech. With over 20,000 paintings to choose from we have the ability to fill a gallery and offer on-demand prints of any works in an interactive, press worthy exhibition. Please talk to us if you are or know a gallery or gallerist who might be interested.

Corporate: With a background as a career advertising creative director, I am available for corporate presentations, retreats, team building and creative motivational exercises. Contact me to discuss adaptations of the activity and scheduling.

Fundraising: Later this year I'll be mounting a fundraising campaign for financing our 501(c)3 application, book publishing, website redesign, mobile app and other growth opportunities. Should you like to support us otherwise, prints of anything on the website may be ordered at any time. $100, framed on acid-free paper and perfect for gifts or souvenirs.

Thank You: I thank you all for your support of #iThinkOutsideMyBox and look forward to the coming year. I feel fortunate to be able to do something I love, and see that it is loved and nurtured by all of you in return.


Friday, March 6, 2015

"You talkin' to me?" A new/old MTA/PSA campaign begs that exact question

"If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they'd punch you in the face", observes Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid.com, a cartoonist friend of mine who's work focuses on the more honest side of business conversations – and if he had written that in regard to the new MTA public service work, he wouldn't have been wrong at all.

The subject matter, tone and general treatment of their clients as cretins pits the MTA squarely against New York straphangers, who pay the bills, in what comes off more as a dysfunctional parent/teacher relationship than a business arrangement that should encourage both parties to play nice with each other.

And for the MTA, who's fare increases far outpace inflation and who's service could be improved more from internal stocktaking than through blaming their passengers for the vagaries of the world's largest metro system, there should be little or no room for calling anyone else discourteous or foolish. Or, God forbid, a statistic.

MTA Public Service Advertising 2015. Agency: MTA Corporate Communications/Korey Kay and Partners

Exhibit A: An old-school-marmish admonishment revisited, tells readers (the one pictured apparently drunk) not to get hit by trains, as if anyone really wanted that – but in reality, for the year 2011, just more than half those deaths were indeed intentional. Suicides as it were.

Knowing this, were the writers and the people who approved the ad really talking to the majority of their own potential fatalities, their clients, or just the inebriated suicidal ones who were probably not in a reading mood to begin with?

Again, blaming the victims makes no sense (or friends) and renders the message either patently insensitive to all or at least insulting to the few who might survive their brush with death off the rails.

Melbourne Metro, Australia. Agency: McCann
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe down-under at the Melbourne Metro in Australia, the same subject is dealt with playfully and engagingly by not showing the literal problem but by illustrating what other mistakes could be fatal like "Taking your HELMET off in outer space" and ending with the suggestion that being safe around trains was a lifesaving and worthwhile idea as well. 

So fucking cool.

Smart and treating the audience with respect by inferring that nobody would be dumb enough to do any of the foolish things imagined, the campaign embraced social sharing with a charmingly disquieting video, song and eventually an online game that made, Dumb Ways to Die, the most awarded campaign ever at the Cannes Advertising Festival, 2013 – and more importantly, impressed hundreds of millions of people worldwide to be safe around trains by collecting online interactive safety pledges from them in exchange for fun customer-centric media.

Melbourne Metro, Australia. Agency: McCann
Meanwhile, just over a year ago the MTA announced the appointment of a new agency partnership, leaving their old communications partner of 22 years. Korey Kay and Partners, well known for their authorship of the "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign – which unfortunately, 13 years in, had begun to sound more like a post-Snowdenian invitation from big brother to be a snitch rather than an ernest partner in the war on terrorism. 

Oh, how we all are so tired of more than a decade of terrorist alert level purple. Or was it orange?
But it doesn't look like the Korey Kay agency in a swan song, nor the new agency paring of Pulsar Advertising and the Arcade Creative Group had anything to do with the latest cadre of consumer alienating work. That seems to have come out of the MTA's in-house corporate communications team. 

Hopefully their last.

With the MTA's decision on their new communications partners it was stated they felt their millions of riders who traveled by train and bus each day were "looking for information in new ways". "You talkin' to me?" And although a look at the work of either Pulsar or Arcade Creative won't yield anything as inspired or communally grounded as the Melbourne Metro "Dumb Ways to Die" initiative, we can only hope that seeing their public in  'new ways' means treating them as stakeholders, instead of terrorists. 

MTA Public Service Advertising 2015. Agency: MTA Corporate Communications

Monday, January 12, 2015


#JeSuisCharlie, for Anna, 01.11.15
With deepest respect for the writers and artists at Charlie Hebdo, we see the world as you did. This company and the #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ project were founded on the concept of freedom of expression and will continue #EngagingThePublicInPublicArt℠ so long as we remain alive on this planet to do so. Long live Charlie Hebdo!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox™ Project

Annual Report cover pen and ink drawing

One of the most frequently asked questions of visitors to #iThinkOutsideMyBox regards whether all the small paintings have been done by me, and the answer of course is 'no', but I do tell people that the signage is mine and that brings into question the fonts, styles, and execution of such. The drawing above is an original font in mid rendering but much tighter than any of the work on cardboard seen on the iTOMB exhibit. And the reasons for that come in translating hand painted work to hand lettered typography for printing, something that is done primarily by computer these days.

I began as a self taught hand letterer in my teens and eventually found my way into the professional sign painting business by the time I was in college, working for established sign companies and learning from the masters, painters who learned how to 'letter' with brushes as opposed to 'caligraph' with pens and quills. Eventually I graduated in graphic design, but have always had a love of fine typography over the many other 'crafts' of the design world.

Annual Report cover pencil drawing

A sample layout
made with Adobe
Illustrator from my
pencil drawing
Of course today, 99.9% of this work is done in Photoshop and Illustrator, but not always necessarily well if the person doing the work has never learned it by hand in the first place. 

As I was once told, as an apprentice sign painter, "The letterform was originated by the human hand - but then the machine took over, Gutenberg and all that. Now that you are taking mechanical forms of what were once products of the hand, you must put the hand 'back' into the form - for there's no point in doing it by hand if you are just imitating something made by a machine."

And to this day, that continues to be my philosophy in font design. Above was inspired by my more free sign work - quickly sketched out in thumbnail form, then tightened in pencil and pen in a drafting form, and finally tweaked (not twerked) in illustrator. Yet it maintains the personality of the hand in that you couldn't make the design inset from a convention al font - or if you did, it would be a relatively painful process. Sometimes, at least in art, less tech is better.

The work here was commissioned by a graphic designer for his client, a non-profit working in healthcare and I was asked specifically to provide typographical solutions for the project. Should you be in need of hand lettering in any form, from simple sign design on cardboard, to painted permanently on buildings or items, to typography and font design, please feel free to contact me. It's one of the many things I do that's well outside the #iThinkOutsideMyBox project.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Reality of Global Warming: Avaaz MTA Poster Contest Entry

DEC Communications Avaaz.org People's Climate March poster contest entry (comp layout)

A conversation with a gentleman this week told me that the whole world is not yet sold on the idea that the earth is warming at an alarming rate. "We've had the ice age - these things are normal", he said. 

And maybe so, but according to Avaaz (meaning: Voice), an online activist network dedicated to global issues, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have happened in this century and whether that's a blip in the overall picture of the planet or a continuing trend, the reality is that you and your children are living through it and what you choose to do or not do is up to you.

To gain awareness for climate change issues Avaaz has organized a People's Climate March on September 21st in New York and other cities around the world and will publicize the event with a one month long MTA Subway poster campaign promoting this direct action and a contest to decide the winning poster. Our entry is above. To vote on finalists click here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#iThinkOutsideMyBox: Seaon II

"I find the Respondent is not a vendor within the meaning of 56 RCNY 1-05, since he does not sell, offer for sale, hire or lease or let anything and does not expressly provide services in exchange for any donation".

Slideshow by Sedef and Zesty Moments

If we considered the fall of 2012 our pilot year, and 2013 our first season we have now moved into Season II in 2014, right along with Madmen and the start of the baseball season. And what a start it has been. Thanks to Sedef of Zesty Moments for the slideshow above and nice review below.

"David Everitt-Carlson is a one man activity center/activist who provides anyone interested in participating with paints and a 3x3 cardboard square to create whatever they are inspired to do. His project, iThinkOutsideMyBox is a community engagement art activity that should be in museums! He has over 10,000 paintings that have been created by visitors since 2012.  It is such an phenomenal project that all I can say is 'You have to see it for yourself!'" Cont...

#iTOMB Gallery.Sedef. 04.26.14

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Art in Advertising

MADMEN Final Season – Designer: Milton Glaser

Art has always been part of advertising. In fact, it's exactly what got me into it when I was just a teenager – the album covers, done by so many a great graphic designer, to arguably "sell" us the music inside. But none of it was ever about the selling to me – more just the ephemeral being a part of our daily lives, sitting around decorating our houses – or bird cages. Milton Glaser, designer of those days and above, still these days, sums it up this way:

"Stop thinking of art as an activity totally separate from the human activity; but rather as a part of being human and part of life that is intrinsic, not as a separate event."

Milton Glaser would also be known as the man who designed the INY logo – something else that is more just a part of our lives, not really a piece of advertising. You can read more about him here.