Renowned designer James Victore explained that he titled the AIGA event, held at F.I.T., with a ‘How To’ because that draws people to attend. He probably should realize that people would attend without the ‘How To’ anyway, since he is, after all, James Victore. A tall, commanding man with a mustache.
As a volunteer, I was given the task of passing out programs standing here at one of the bottom entrances:
Settling into our reserved back row seats, the other volunteers and I were treated, along with 280 other attendees, to the thoughts, profanities, and silly little insights into the man who has created some of the most thought-provoking posters of our time.
James said, ‘Young designers … you really want to get into museums because you can get so much action.’ At which point he showed the slide below, and said that when your work is up at the museum like this, girls will come up to you, giggling, wanting to take photographs.
Yet all the action aside, James explained that his work had been exhibited in museums worldwide for some years, but that recognition always comes last at home. Last fall, his work was accepted by the MOMA, and they gave him a call to inform him of the happy news. Excited, he asked, ‘Will there be a party?’ The guy replied, ‘No.’ ‘Will there be an announcement of some kind?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do I get like a plaque or something?’ ‘No.’ ‘… Do I get a formal letter telling me that my work has been accepted by the MOMA?’ ‘No.’ Finally, he asked, ‘Can I at least get a letter for my mom? She’d be so proud.’ And he showed us this slide below, a photograph of a letter addressed to ‘James Victore’s Mom’ that arrived the next day or so, and is now on his mother’s refrigerator (click to enlarge):
It’s always fun to hear designers mention other designers, and James constantly brought up Paul Sahre, with whom he is great friends. From driving out to Long Island to buy blank surfboards to paint on (James said that he painted on four of them within weeks, and Paul produced one in two years — ‘I’m too impatient,’ he said. ‘Why do you think my work looks the way it does?’) to Paul designing James’s monograph, the two are a duo that makes you go ‘aww.’ Paul was supposed to be in attendance, but had twins over the weekend (James added, ‘His wife helped, too.’), so was occupied.
Some fun things James said that he does to keep himself constantly thinking and enjoying downtime are Coffee Notes and Picture Wars. Coffee Notes is something James and his wife do every morning. The idea is that whoever makes coffee that day writes a note for the other person. He showed us examples of the notes covering one of the walls in his kitchen, and they were many and varied — collages, simple text (‘We think too much about coffee’ or something to that extent), drawings of one another (‘Apparently it’s very easy to draw me — you just draw a mustache’), and so forth. And once in awhile his kids will join in, too.
Picture Wars, he said, has caught on with those around him, and Paul couldn’t wait to have a son to continue the Picture Wars tradition. Picture Wars take place when you’re sitting at a restaurant, waiting for service, and you whip out a pen to draw on napkins your dining partners in compromising positions. One example came from a day when Paul was feeling ruthless and mean, and he drew James’s 12-year-old son, Luca, with his pants halfway down, and somebody exclaiming, ‘Luca wears Hannah Montana underwear!’ James said that this really hurt his son, who never gets hurt, and so in retaliation, James drew a picture of the Dalai Lama (spelled ‘Dali Lama’ in the picture) saying, ‘Paul is being a jerk.’
The event was a special one, because also in attendance were students from New York City’s High School of Art and Design, who were mentored by James through the AIGA/NY Mentoring Program. Their work, part of a project called ‘I Have a Voice,’ was exhibited in the lobby, but I couldn’t get a photo before some of them were cleared away by their owners.
All in all, though the man can swear like a pirate and ooze a good dose of cockiness, I’d recommend seeing James Victore speak. His great work ethic and passion for design and creating meaning are pretty darn inspiring.