What do you do when the artist you love is, well, kind of a jerk? I always tell people that it's important to separate the art from the artist. I mean, if I had to like the personality of every musician, painter or designer as well as their art—I'd be in trouble (Woody Allen anyone?). So when I sat down to write this post about incredibly talented graphic design/calligrapher, Marian Bantjes, it's funny that I, myself, struggled with this very issue. I almost decided I couldn't talk up a person with such irritating self congratulation and general arrogance (as evidenced in the gobs of text she's written about herself on her website, the shameless namedropping as well as a presentation I saw her give at a conference). But the gals in the office reminded me that I had JUST told them to separate a particular artist from her art. And so here I bring you the talent that is Marian Bantjes.
For designers, the work of Bantjes is beloved for its organic, intricate and primarily typographic content. She has carved out a visual space that is uniquely hers and in which any imposters can be clearly spotted. While her main admirers seem to be designers (although she's done some mainstream campaigns for companies like—get ready for eye rolling—Saks Fifth Avenue), I'm certain that the warmth and intricacy of her work is something that people from any professional background could appreciate.
Typography (the art and technique of arranging type, type design, and modifying type glyphs), is definitely getting more and more appreciation by non-designers—just check what comes up with a search for 'typographic' over at 'the people's art shop' etsy.com or half the options at popular t-shirt website Threadless. What makes Bantjes' type so special is that fact that she creates what almost amount to landscapes of type and pattern, interweaving the two so that there's no separation. Sure, she does digital work like all designers, but she gets away from her computer plenty, working with colored pencils, ball point pens, lace,—even sugar!
While the phrases she illustrates are often sweet or humorous, I do sometimes wish there was a little more meaning behind her work in general—especially since it seems much of it is self initiated (ie: not for commercial clients like the above-mentioned Saks Fifth Ave)—or at least that she has a goal to do more self initiated work. She does mention on her website that she is working on only one project right now and that it will take her a year to complete. Perhaps this is foray in to more substantive content? Designers don't often have the ability to choose their projects, but for Bantjes, who is a certifed graphic design rockstar (she makes this clear in her FAQ in which the question 'How do get your clients is answered: 'They come to me'), there's no doubt to me that she could lend her services to some amazing nonprofit groups or causes (this is, of course coming from a designer who adores working for Bitch magazine and takes on many nonprofit clients who can't pay what the big businesses can, but who I can feel really good about work for and with).
Whether she does start making more content-driven work or whether or not she takes on a more modest attitude, the fact remains that I love looking at, parsing and just getting lost in her work. That said, how to do YOU feel about separating art from the artist? TAKE THE QUIZ BELOW: