Artist Series #12 You Are What You Read

The latest edition of our periodic Artist Series and this year’s holiday greeting is a little accordion-style chapbook from the firm.  O+A always tries to come up with something unique to ring in the New Year, but we wanted to call special attention to this year’s offering as a kind of group portrait of our studio and an example of the talent that simmers beneath the surface of a designer’s commercial work.

The designer in this case is Sarah Hotchin, who joined O+A last summer. It’s indicative of Sarah’s enthusiasm that she plunged into the Artist Series without “new hire” reticence, and it’s no surprise her project was picked to be the company’s holiday card.

“I draw the feeling of what’s around me,” Sarah says of her sketching. “I don’t visually draw things, but I may go and sit in a park and I’ll draw the sounds. Or I’ll draw my thoughts.”

Participating Artists—Sarah Hotchin, Verda Alexander, Elizabeth Vereker, Al McKee

The only rule applied to the Artist Series is that the artwork be inspired by a recent O+A project. This time it was the library at the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, a remake of a space that had become chaotic and a rethink of the whole notion of a library as a place to store books. Sarah’s idea for the Artist Series was to rethink the rethink, to go back emphatically and lovingly to print.

Her initial idea was to canvas the students at Stevenson School about their favorite books—but the logistics of conducting such a survey in Pebble Beach, never mind getting the kids to respond to it, caused her to pull the project closer to home. Instead, she asked her new workmates at O+A to recall their favorite books from high school and invited them to share what about them they most loved. One happy consequence of that change was that the selection of titles across a range of generational and regional reading habits was far more varied than it would have been coming solely from Stevenson’s class of 2019.

“Sarah’s idea for the Artist Series was to rethink the rethink, to go back emphatically and lovingly to print.”

O+A’s staff jumped in with enthusiasm. Some wrote their impressions; some sketched them, but from Frankenstein to The Kite Runner to Travels with Charley every answer tapped into something deeply felt. And every answer gave Sarah new thoughts to draw. The result was a visual journey that replicates the experience of reading a novel. Pulling quotes that capture some essence of each book’s spirit, Sarah moved from title to title on a river of linework that was also a witty orchestration of emotions.

If you want to know the essence of O+A’s spirit this is probably as good an example as any: a rethink of old forms, an expansive embrace of different points of view, a design executed with passion and rigor, a visual representation laden with meaning. Oh, yeah—and good fun. Happy New Year, everybody!