I have been touched by the number of graphic designers, many I know and a lot I don’t, who have helped me with a very special personal project. But I still need help and I hope you will read this and chip in, no matter how small. Grab a coffee and read on.
Dear Graphic friends
This is very unusual for me so, I apologise in advance.
In 2001, I wrote an article about a graphic designer called Keith Cunningham. Link here, should you wish to read it.
He died in 2014 and spent a large part of his life teaching at the London College of Printing. Michael Peters, Dave King, John Hegarty, Fernando Gutiérrez and many others passed through his hands.
But he had an alternative life as a painter. He worked alongside his contemporaries and friends, Joe Tilson, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff as a student at the RCA in the early 1950’s. He received a First and a travelling scholarship.
During his RCA period, he exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, the Beaux Arts Gallery and, for two consecutive years, the prestigious London Group show; this culminated in Cunningham being asked to submit work for full membership to the group – he declined.
He then made the extraordinary decision to withdraw completely from any further public exhibition of his paintings. He continued to paint until 1960 and then locked away some 200 paintings in a warehouse where they remained unseen for 50 years.
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, Cunningham’s wife Bobby Hillson (she ran the MA fashion course at St Martins shepherding John Galliano, Rifat Özbek and Alexander McQueen to success) now 89 she wants to exhibit a selection of Keith’s paintings.
She made contact with me, and to cut a long story short, I am donating my time and supporting her in helping to make things happen.
Unlike many of their talented students, they never earned very much but always privately celebrated in the success of their students. But staging this show is eating into Bobby’s meagre savings but she is determined to do it because she believed in Keith.
It occurred to me that many of us in the design world owe a debt to those who have encouraged, guided and inspired us. As it happens, I never went to art school But, I was very affected by this book cover designed by Keith Cunningham..
I first saw it in 1963 at my local library. I stole it. (Keep that to yourself).
Sometimes it just takes a little thing to make a big change, the cover did it for me. But I feel sure that many of you did attend art school and maybe never said thank you to those unsung heroes, the tutors.
I have always tried to view everything as a creative opportunity, and if you have read this far, I’m now going to get to the point. Would you consider donating £50 or £100 to help with the considerable expense of this show?
See it as a thank you to those who helped you along the way, but you didn’t get the chance to thank. You will be invited to the private view and have your name printed in the catalogue. Not a lot I know but you will make an 89-year-old very proud.
So, if you are in mood please contact me as soon as possible and I will explain where you can send your contribution, no matter how small.
And if you got all the way to the end thank you.