On 16th July, we welcomed illustrator Noma Bar to YCN for the second in our summer-long series of talks and events.
Noma gave an inspiring presentation to an audience of YCN members, in which he shared the stories behind some of his most iconic illustrations.
Following a stint in the Israeli Navy, Noma studied Graphic & Type Design at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design before making the move to London. After a few unsuccessful visits to studios and agencies with a portfolio full of Hebrew typography, he decided to turn his hand to image making. As a child, he spent a lot of time in a shelter during the Gulf War, and recalled how he passed the time by drawing around a radiation symbol to create a portrait of Saddam Hussein. A more polished version of this very portrait was reproduced some years later, put on postcards, and sent out to creative companies across London.
This led to his first commercial job for UKTV, in which he was asked to create a series of portraits inspired by some of the network’s most popular programmes. Having to depict such national treasures as Jamie Oliver and Basil Fawlty required Noma to immerse himself in British comedy and culture, watching series upon series of shows in the name of research.
Noma then presented several of his subsequent portraits, created for a whole host of clients including BAFTA and The New York Times. We learned how he avoids looking at photographs for reference, instead opting to understand the character of his subject. He will then blend this likeness with an idea to tell a story in a single image. Around 80 of his portraits were collected in his first book, Guess Who?, published in 2007.
He discussed how often he is asked to tackle heavy subjects in his editorial illustration. His simple visual language offer a kind of “pain relief” to the stories, making them more digestible and engaging to the reader. A number of these illustrations, dealing with such weighty topics as the recession and arson, were collected in his second book, Negative Space.
We were then shown some of the work featured in Noma’s first solo exhibition Bitter Sweet, which included a number of large scale, sculptural pieces constructed from wood and metal. Following this, he introduced an ongoing campaign he has worked on for IBM with Ogilvy & Mather, designed to increase awareness of the organisation and the role their systems play in our everyday lives.
Noma’s next exhibition, Cut it Out, saw him design a huge, image-making machine which used a die-cutting technique to replicate his designs on a piece of pre-signed paper. This approach means an endless edition of one-off prints can be created from a whole host of materials, also allowing every visitor to own an original piece of Noma Bar art.
Another new approach to image making came when Noma was commissioned to create several covers for Wallpaper* magazine. Being asked to showcase a number of products from different countries around the world resulted in an arresting series of images, created by housing the objects themselves within a physical painted set.
We were then given an inside look at how Noma’s series of Yellow Pencil-winning Don DeLillo book covers, produced with INT Works for Picador, came together. We were treated to a peek inside his sketchbook, where ideas are born, sketched and fleshed out before being scanned and finished off in the computer.
Noma rounded off his talk with a recent series of three covers for TimeOut London, including a cheeky cover for the sex issue, which at the last minute was pulled due to complaints from an unhappy advertiser.
A Q&A session followed, in which Noma elaborated on how he tests the effectiveness of his visual puns (he will always show his images to people not from a design background to see if they work) as well as the other artists and designers he admires.
We would like to say thank you to Noma for his insightful presentation, and to everyone who came along to the event. Join YCN today to find out more about other talks and events we will be hosting in the future.
Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:16th July, 2013 at 6:30pm
End:16th July, 2013 at 8:00pm