Back in August, as some of you may remember, I wrote a post on a Kickstarter campaign that had just been launched by a new venture called Art & Hue. At the time, Art & Hue was aiming to raise the funding for a collection of graphic pop art, and the successful campaign was followed by the launch of a striking website and a wide range of art prints.
Art & Hue use a distinctive halftone technique – an age-old technique that uses dots to create the printed image, similar to newspapers – and the images are printed on thick 310gsm fine art archival paper. I have three of these prints, including the Las Vegas print customized for my home town of Edinburgh, and I have to say this technique looks great in the flesh, as does the print quality.
You can chose between in-house studio prints that range in themes from Americana and royalty to glamour, and bespoke art prints where an existing image is given the Art & Hue treatment. This could be a landscape or an interiors photo; it could be a portrait or a pet – I have two prints of my dachshund Harris. The options are endless, and the prints are available in A4, A3 and A2 sizes. Just think of all those Instagram images you have stored on your phone.
And the range has also expanded since the launch with the likes of Smart Pets and Pet Detectives, and with the Sussex Pair – a personal favourite – showing the Seven Sisters cliffs at Cuckmere Haven plus Beachy Head in Sussex with its iconic red and white lighthouse.
I caught up with Art & Hue’s founder, Odysseas Constantine, to ask about the inspiration behind this venture, and the all-important question: why pop art?
What gave you the idea to launch Art & Hue?
My background is in the fashion industry where I’ve been working freelance for many years on branding and design projects for small to large companies. Working on design projects to a specific brief can be highly rewarding but I have always felt the need to have a side project on the go where I can create freely without limitations set by a client. I’ve been toying with halftone pop art since 2007, and have even sneaked it in to some of the design projects I’ve worked on. This year I decided to see if there was a broader appetite for my creative outlet so I decided to officially launch Art & Hue as a new design-led interiors art brand producing in-house studio prints, as well as bespoke pop art prints, in what has become my signature style.
Where did your love of pop art come from?
I suppose it comes from childhood when I first discovered Andy Warhol. I remember buying a postcard book of Warhol prints with my pocket money and being drawn to his work. From the delicate illustrated shoes, to the bright and bold portraits and supermarket products, it was a new way of looking at people and everyday objects that spoke to me. There’s something about the 1960s that is so visually appealing – a real sense of modernity, style, and fun – and it must have been a great decade to live through.
How did you choose the name?
The name had to embody what Art & Hue created so I kept it super-simple by referring to Art, the image, and Hue, the blocks of colour that are applied to the art prints. I quite like the fact that is sounds like two boys names as well (Arthur & Huw) but that’s incidental. Also, I feel it’s important to have a consistent username across all social networks and, along with ArtAndHue.com, I was able to snap up ArtAndHue at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vimeo, Pinterest, etc.
What led you to choose the half tone technique for the prints? What is it about this technique that makes it so visually interesting?
The pop art prints are informed by my fascination with halftone, an age-old technique that uses dots to make up the printed image, similar to typeset newspapers of the Fleet Street era. I love how images are stripped back to their basic elements, dots, to get to the simplest expression of an art print. After applying blocks of colour, different images can take on the feeling of a screenprint, vintage poster, or Early to Mid-Century book-plate, depending on the subject matter.
There’s something about the Art & Hue treatment that lends iconic status to any image such as the Mid-Century office prints, for example; rather than a flat photograph or illustration of a telephone, lamp, or typewriter, the Art & Hue treatment seems to transform them into important objects worthy of inspection and appreciation.
How did you go about designing the capsule collection of prints and where did you take your inspiration from?
With the starting point of creating halftone pop art, I was naturally drawn to retro Americana, which strangely gets updated and looks contemporary by applying the Art & Hue treatment. I also wanted to include iconic subjects that appeal to me such as the Queen and accompanying London icons, Ancient Egyptian subjects, as well as pure glamour through the Beauty prints of lips, eyes, and faces. With style as paramount, and a sense of fun where appropriate, many of Art & Hue’s graphic pop art can be ordered in a selection of colours and some can be customised with surnames or place names such as the Las Vegas and Motel signs.
How did you decide on the colour palette?
It came together very quickly and just seemed “right”! I wanted to use a pure red that’s vital for a pop art feel, and the shades got built up around that. A vintage yellow, a verdigris green (similar to the colour of ‘60s telephones and classic cars), a Hockney pool-coloured aqua, etc – essentially, hues that work beautifully with black & white. The basic signature palette is black on white with pops of aqua and red or yellow, and sometimes all three, such as on the Phone Caller pop art print.
The collection has evolved since the initial launch with the likes of Pet Detectives, Smart Pets, and the Sussex Pair – how did these collections come about?
Initially I wanted to use the cats and dogs as an example to demonstrate how a bespoke pet portrait would look like, but I got carried away and dressed them in glasses and bow ties, for no other reason than I thought they looked adorable and fun.
There’s been a great response to Smart Pets so, to raise funds for Movember, instead of growing a moustache, I applied moustaches to the animals and they needed hats to complete them, which made them look like detectives. I’ve been working on the Sussex Pair of prints for a while to try to capture my neck of the woods, the Sussex coastline, and decided that the cliffs of Beachy Head and Seven Sisters at Cuckmere Haven looked softer without black. They were recently included in an article next to Eric Ravilious, Paul Nash, and Eric Slater, which was a huge honour to be even named alongside such great modernist artists from Sussex’ past.
What led you to include the option for bespoke prints?
Creating gifts for friends and family showed me the joy that a bespoke print can evoke so I had to include the option for people to be able to order custom pop art prints. It’s great to see the pleasure that transforming a photograph into an art print brings, and as the prints are bespoke, there’s a choice of colours to make sure they co-ordinate with the room they’re destined to be displayed in.
Are there artists or illustrators, or perhaps other print companies that really inspire you?
I suppose I particularly admire designers and companies that produce work that speaks to me yet isn’t something I would create myself. Artists and designers with work that’s unique to them doesn’t necessarily inspire my work or art prints but inspires me to see what is capable when building a business by applying good design with hard work! Mini Moderns, for example, have a fabulous contemporary take on Mid-Century modernism that’s unique to them, and Eloise Renouf’s hand-drawn art that is then converted to graphic prints is identifiably her work. Both are inspiring in that they’ve built successful design companies through producing work that’s unique to them, that obviously satisfies them creatively, and with a signature style.
If you could choose any artwork by any artist to have at home, what would you choose?
I would have to say an original Warhol, any one would be lovely! Just to own and be able to scrutinize the print would be amazing, but with originals changing hands for $100 million, I’ll need to become a Russian oligarch before I start planning where to hang it. At the time, Warhol was sneered at for using screenprinting to create his art but it’s become a standard medium now. I’m sure he’d be using computers and giclée printing if he was around today and embracing new technological advances.
Since the success of the Kickstarter campaign and launching the new business, what have been the key challenges?
Rather than diving straight in and setting up the print studio with equipment, the Kickstarter campaign was a great way to gauge if there was a public appetite for the style of pop art prints by Art & Hue. It’s great that there was, with the funding target being surpassed, but then the real work began, namely letting people know you exist. There are so many voices online, all posting and tweeting about their work, that getting noticed is the key challenge for a new business. That’s why great independent blogs and sites such as yours, that feature new work like Art & Hue, are so important, and amazing, to help spread the word.
And the highlights?
I’ll never get tired of seeing a bit of press about Art & Hue. I was probably more excited than I should have been to see your article about Art & Hue, just seeing the art on a website other than my own was exhilarating! And seeing your adorable wire-haired dachshund inspecting the bespoke pop art prints of himself on Instagram was priceless.
How do you see Art & Hue evolving in 2015? Do you have other print ideas lined up or are you thinking about different ways of using print?
Yes. And yes! There are numerous themes I’m continuously researching and experimenting with that will be released when I’m happy with them, or when I’ve compiled a group or pair. I like to offer more than one print on a theme for people who might want to create a gallery wall or a group of thematically-linked art.
I’m investigating the possibility of applying Art & Hue pop art to other product groups such as ceramics and textiles but it’s early days and, ideally, I’d like to find British manufacturers who can work in small quantities to apply bespoke art (which is proving difficult!). If there are any out these reading this, do get in touch.
With thanks to Odysseas Constantine.
All images from Art & Hue.