|Annie on Bag #1 of 6|
With the launch of the Acme Annie collectible bag series finally going active, I thought that I might as well just go ahead and interview myself as if real media had done so because the story behind my collaboration with Acme Fresh Foods is more than just a pretty picture on a reusable plastic bag. It is a foray into bringing art to the masses whether they like it or not. By interviewing myself, I can't get blindsided by a rogue question or be taken out of context. (As Editor in Chief and Publisher, I get to supervise the quality control!)
I am not allowed to reveal too much here because the legalese is rather complicated, but I can elaborate on the process and purpose of the series named "Annie's Love Story". Okay, so maybe the overall title isn't your thing, but I did not pick it, I only developed the overall concept and I named the character because all jk paintings have names. The powers that be and myself met several times and tossed around ideas. I provided sketches, they provided feedback and we eventually settled on telling a story. Because my work tends to tell a story, I like that aspect, it keeps me entertained. But more importantly. this series is something that has never tried before. Read that again...NEVER tried before. Every bag you will see in all the myriad of locations that sell them now are what I call "one and done" images. Even if the same artist is doing several of them, the images are independent and some no more than reprinted patterns. Each one is as is.....one picture. The Annie series is meant to be more like a visual chapter book.
So if I were being interviewed for an article perhaps it would sound something like this.........
Not Me: So jk, how did you get hooked up with AFM for this gig?
jk: I get asked that often and if I told you, others might try it and then I would be out of a job, but I will give all the credit to MJ Albacete at the CMA. He has known me for 20 years, knows my work, my work ethic, my flexibility and my dedication to making art understandable and accessible to all people. We had a few conversations and I let him take the lead.
Not Me: Give us an overall, one line synopsis of the storyline.
jk: Annie's bags will tell a story, about her, about life, about marriage and about motherhood along with some food, art and fashion references and all within the confines of a grocery store. Of course this story comes with my typical humor added to the mix.
Not Me: What was your intent behind building a story rather than a "one and done" as you call it?
jk: Actually the first bag, which is now the last bag or an extra bag, was a "one and done" design based entirely on art, artists and famous imagery then given the jk twist. It will be a dynamic bag for sure, but was deemed too overpowering for the storyline itself even though the images on the Annie bags are a direct result of that first design. I call it the inspirational bag X. Now that it comes out later, it will almost serve as a wrap up image if people have been paying attention.
Not Me: What do you mean by "paying attention"?
jk: The series is not just about the character and the different situations within the AFM store, but I take imagery from each bag and work it into the next one, and then the next one and so forth so by the time bag 6 comes out....people will be able to find references to all sorts of things depicted on all 5 previous bags before it. Consider it a sophisticated game of where's waldo if you will. I found it fun and challenging to keep reinventing and incorporating imagery.
Not Me: What was the production process?
jk: At first, I was given sheets of paper the actual sizes of the finished bag and directed to paint on those for production purposes. I tried. I could not do what I wanted to do in that confined of a space. So I got them to allow me to paint on canvases somewhat to proportional scale that we then photographed and resized. The original front panels are on 30" x 36" canvases and the sides are on 12" x 16" canvases. Each one took a month to complete. The actual making of the bags in China from start to shipment arrival is about 20 weeks so this project has been underway for 18 months.
Not Me: Why so long for the actual painting process for each canvas?
jk: Because not only did I have to work in quite a few details, but I had to age the same character over the course of about 40 years keeping her facial structure intact while adding some wrinkles and different expressions. A male character also shows up three times and I had to age him too. I don't paint many males so that was difficult. A third character was introduced who has to look like a combination of those two so being true to the image took a bit of time as well.
Not Me: How did each bag's concept get decided?
jk: Collaboration. I was given a department in the store and a title for the bag. The side panels were also laid out for me. I then could build the scenes, the poses, the expressions, the action, the layout and the colors all as I saw fit. I worked on all 6 canvases at one time so I could keep Annie in my head and in my muscle memory as I painted her face.
Not Me: So what advice do you give people?
jk: Buy the first one even if it is not your type of picture. You are investing in a story. The subsequent bags get more complicated and involved so if you miss the first one, there may be no chance to go back and get it...at least as far as I know, that is out of my hands.
Not ME: Besides as paintings, how does art really fit in here?
jk: The level of detail will be beyond any "one and done" bag I have ever seen, photography ones excluded. This is art 101 with color, composition and elements of basic design all coming together. It was all done by brush work, no photos, grid layouts, or any other type of crutch process. They have not been touched up at any production level either. I shot the final pieces and AFM added their logo.
Not Me: So what does Canton get out of this since AFM is basically an Akron institution?
jk: It brings a big player to our end of the of highway. Acme is building a new store in Green, we have the North Canton and Whipple Road stores as well and the collaboration with the Canton Museum of Art will benefit them as well in multiple ways. Also, my photographer, Cindy Nichols is getting her name out there too as she is credited with the official PR photo and she is now a Canton business.
Not Me: So what does this mean for you?
jk: Well....I can't go out in public without my makeup on anymore....and I get my face on a moving billboard next to the Amber Alert kid and the wanted fugitive of the week. So please get out there and buy Bag 1! Bag 2 comes out in December and the original paintings will be on view at my studio on First Fridays.