Friday morning around 7am I was sitting in a quiet lonely room atop Standard Press whilst waiting to be called down for a press check. While siting there I noticed a stack of Print magazines. Unfortunately, out of the 30 or 40 magazines, not a single one was newer than 2007. I’m not sure of the date, but I think it was from 2007ish, and the issues itself was entitled “The Consumption Issue.” That’s actually what convinced me to pick it up. In this issue was a great short article about James Harvey and Andy Warhol. I know what you’re thinking… Who is Andy Warhol?! Like probably 99% of the population I had never heard of James Harvey, and that was the point of the article.
The gist of article is this… James Harvey and Andy Warhol seemed to live almost parallel lives. Both were artist. James Harvey was an abstract expressionist painter, and Warhol a pop artist. Both were using commercial art to pay the bills while struggling to make their way as an artist. Although, it was easy to see from the article that Warhol was quite a bit more successful at this then Harvey. And here’s where the article really hit its point. Warhol created a name for himself with his recreation of the Brillo boxes and displaying the replicas during a show in which Harvey was in attendance. The kicker is that James Harvey was actually the commercial artist that designed the actual Brillo boxes that were out on the market at the time, and he was completely taken by surprise when he saw them. Personally, I would’ve loved to have seen the reaction on Harvey’s face when he first saw them.
One of the differences between the two men, the article pointed out, was that Harvey was a commercial artist when at work and completely removed from commercial art when in his own studio painting. However, as we all know, Warhol was the antithesis. I guess where this article struck me, and why I think it’s relevant is I struggle with this on in my own life. I’m not saying that famous artist are out copying my work and selling them for far greater than what their worth. It’s the struggle with being a commercial artist who works and works and works endlessly on a campaign or a package design that at the end of the day is overlooked by the majority of the population and will eventually end up in a landfill somewhere. I know, that sounds oh so dismal.
I think the greatest part of the article when the author mentioned that he had one of Harvey’s original Brillo boxes. One of the ones that actually was out in circulation. It’s not worth anything; especially compared to the Warhol replica. However, he prefers knowing that he has a piece of commercial art history by having one of these mass produced pieces. I guess that what makes it at the end of the day for me now. This article made me realize that sure… we put in countless numbers of hours as designers, but it is worth it in the end. We probably won’t get much recognition or much more than a high five, but there is someone out there who does appreciate it. And who knows… maybe one day one of our pieces may be recreated by an up and coming pop artist and sold for 100s more than what it’s actually worth.