With over 25 years’ experience in the design industry Graham Black specialises in art directing editorial publications for some of the biggest and most respected brands in publishing, including The FT, The Economist and The Observer. Previously his agency experience focused on the music industry, designing record sleeves, advertising and marketing campaigns for Virgin, EMI, Sony and the Mercury Music Prize amongst others. With a strong track record in both launching and redesigning magazines and newspapers he also oversees the extension of brands through special supplements and one-off promotions. Most recently, this has included migrating print publications into new digital incarnations for the web and mobile devices. Particular areas of expertise are in the arts, culture, sport, literature and current affairs. His design approach is to employ powerful, sophisticated and striking typography, photography and illustration that reflect the brand values of a publication or organisation and its position in the marketplace. After many years of commissioning he has built up a contact book that includes many of the finest reportage, portrait, sport, fashion and travel photographers in the world, and also many of the best illustrators.
Graham recently relocated to St.Buryan near Penzance in Cornwall to develop his printmaking practice. His affinity with West Penwith’s rugged coastal landscape motivates and underpins much of his work. Abstract images of the rocks and pebbles discovered on his daily walks, surfs and bike rides around Land’s End are a major influence, as are the twisted, distorted Monterey pine trees that inform his Japanese-woodblock-inspired prints. He works predominantly with silkscreen printmaking but increasingly eschews the traditional mechanical approach to this process by deliberately painting pigment directly onto the screen to create spontaneous inking effects, rendering each of his prints unique.
As digital technology has developed and become the norm so fine artists and graphic designers have once again embraced the process for its “old school” feel and the potential for unexpected and unpredictable outcomes. Graham has become increasingly interested in creating textural fields in multiple overlays which give depth and resonance to his prints and have a more ‘hand-crafted’ aesthetic. In earlier works this manifested itself by painting a resist directly onto screens, but was ultimately quite clumsy and not very refined. He then explored more photographic treatments which gave much finer textures but was almost too controlled. He then discovered a textured transparent film onto which you can draw, paint and create random textures which can then be exposed directly onto a screen without requiring an interim photographic process, and this is the technique used to try and mimic how the pebbles shine and reflect when covered in seawater.
For his Monterey Pine Tree series, Graham was heavily influenced by a love of Japanese woodblock printing and the landscapes of West Penwith. "I travel Far West Cornwall on my bike and whenever I come across a nicely twisted and distorted pine tree I will take a snap on my i-phone along with it’s location and return with my DSLR camera to take a high-res image. From this I create a photographic stencil of the tree and then combine this with hand-cut paper stencils. I have now developed a process whereby I paint ink directly onto the screen at random so that each pull of the squeegee produces variable colour merges rendering each print within an edition unique."