The Real Andy Warhol(a)

March 13th, 2015
“Uncle Andy” is a documentary film about the iconic artist Andy Warhol told by the Warhola family. Produced by filmmakers Abby Warhola (Andy’s great-niece) and Jesse Best, the film captures stories told by Andy’s oldest brother Paul, along with the many nieces and nephews who grew up around the famous pop artist, revealing a side of Andy few have known before.

“Uncle Andy” is a documentary film about the iconic artist Andy Warhol told by the Warhola family. Produced by filmmakers Abby Warhola (Andy’s great-niece) and Jesse Best, the film captures stories told by Andy’s oldest brother Paul, along with the many nieces and nephews who grew up around the famous pop artist, revealing a side of Andy few have known before.

Having grown up near Pittsburgh, I’ve long known of Andy Warhol’s humble beginnings. Add to this the fact that I had the pleasure of growing up around the Warhola family; Andy’s nephew James Warhola and I are the best of friends and we were members of the same Tam O’Shanter arts program at Carnegie Museum that taught Andy (even having the same teacher as Andy, the legendary Joseph Fitzpatrick). So I can honestly say I thought I had heard all the stories and I knew all there was to know about the one-of-a-kind pop artist and cultural phenomenon that was Andy Warhol. Boy, was I wrong!

Since his untimely death in 1987, much has been written about Andy Warhol the artist. The Warhol Foundation was established and a museum which bears his name opened in his native Pittsburgh. Exhibits of his work have graced the walls of museums throughout the world and lectures about him have been given at major universities and art schools. Documentaries have primarily concentrated on his art, his studies and his impact on the very popular culture he satirized. But few if any have touched on his personal life, and none have deeply explored the man himself and, more importantly, the family and environment which cultivated his creativity and helped shape the person he would become.

In 2003 James Warhola introduced the world to the man he knew as Uncle Andy in his delightful reminiscence Uncle Andy’s, bringing Warhol and the colorful characters known as The Warholas (his family) to life in a children’s book for all ages which won the prestigious International Reading Association’s Award for Best Children’s Non-Fiction Picture Book. In 2007, the Warhola family created The Andy Warhola Family Album, an online showcase for rare photos and background on the artist, the family, and the restoration of the original Warhola family home on Dawson street in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Now those reminiscences and family treasures have formed the basis for a new documentary project, “Uncle Andy’s”, by Andy’s great-niece Abby Warhola and partner Jesse Best.

Launched as a Kickstarter project, the documentary promises to reveal a never-before-seen side of the artist, a look at the man born of working class roots in the steel town of Pittsburgh and the story of how his family watched his rise to fame and fortune, all the while remembering the humble Uncle Andy they knew and loved. Personal stories fill the film, including poignant insights from the late Paul Warhola, Andy’s oldest brother, providing a look at the human side of the man who became arguably the most influential artist of our time. Even the most ardent admirer and Warhol aficionado should be surprised by some of the behind-the-scenes stories of Uncle Andy before he became “the” Andy Warhol.

“Uncle Andy” is an independently created project by Abby Warhola and Jesse Best. They do not have any affiliation or financial support from The Andy Warhol Museum or his foundation, so the success of this project hinges on the support of Kickstarter backers. I heartily recommend it, and I urge even the most casual fan of art and popular culture to help this project reach its goal. Our reward should prove to be a one-of-a-kind look behind the curtain of an artist and a celebrity we only thought we already knew.

The End of an Era II*: The Beginning of Another?

November 5th, 2014

*Note: I’ve mentioned the print vs. digital debate in an earlier post so I promise not to cover the same ground this time around.

First off, a confession. I’m a print guy; always have been and probably always will be. From the first time I picked up a comic book as a kid to printing my own fanzine or publishing my own magazine to working on myriad projects ranging from magazines to catalogs to hardcover and softcover books for colleagues and clients alike, I just plain love the *feel* of paper and the smell of ink. I read it, collect it, enjoy it. And although I’ve seen a sea change in recent years in the industries I love, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

But does that make me a Luddite? Hell no! I love technology, and I have more than my share of electronic toys. Where once I exclusively used a pencil or pen to create I now more often than not use a tablet or laptop or both. When I read, I’m just as likely to do it online or on a handheld device like an iPad or even an iPhone (in a pinch; my eyes aren’t what they used to be) as I am a magazine or newspaper. I haven’t forsaken my beloved print for digital, I just make use of what’s at hand and “just works” for me at any given moment. But that doesn’t mean the digital revolution hasn’t drastically changed things for magazines and books on the delivery end just as the desktop revolution changed it for creatives.

Magazines are hard

Macworld ceased publication of its print edition with the November 2014 issue, this after producing a magazine devoted to Apple’s Macintosh computer since, well, the very inception of the Mac itself. From the time Steve Jobs himself graced the cover of the first issue in 1984 to unveil his new take on the personal computer to the rise and fall (and rise again) of Apple the company and its development of revolutionary devices like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Macworld was there to chronicle all things Apple every step of the way: Macworld, the death of print, and the digital revolution

The magazine survived even the Dark Days when it looked like Apple wouldn’t, and now it fades into the sunset as Apple continues an extraordinarily successful run as a high-profile, influential and extremely profitable company. (That the announcement came immediately after the Macworld crew returned from covering Apple’s iPhone 6 and Apple Watch announcements in Cupertino is either cruel or a final coup for those who lost their jobs in the process. But that’s another story.) Subscribers now get the digital edition in their choice of flavors, just as they had before. Except now digital is the only option. Mac|Life here in the states and several UK pubs remain the sole Mac-centric pubs left. All eyes will be on them in the coming months and years (hopefully) to see if they benefit from Macworld’s demise or follow it down the same path to oblivion.

Ironically, technology journalist Glenn Fleishman took to the “pages” of Macworld (online) to bemoan the end of his ground-breaking digital publication The Magazine in his essay How Newsstand failed The Magazine, and what Apple should do That such a beautifully written and produced digital product failed in the marketplace, regardless of the reasons (which apparently are many), speaks to the difficulty of publishing in general, digital AND print. The mortality rate for print magazines has always been high, and there’s no reason to believe digital publishers should have it any easier. Attracting readers and advertisers has always been hard and always will be.

The MagazineBut perhaps even more ironically, Fleishman has a crowdfunding campaign underway to fund production of a second annual anthology in hardcover. Yes, hardcover. As in printed book. This after a similar campaign last year to preserve the best of its inaugural year…in print. So even digital publishers recognize and appreciate the value of print.

Traditional print publishers, on the other hand, have struggled with their transitions to digital. While it’s easy to blame Apple and its oft-neglected Newsstand platform for the failure of The Magazine and the struggles of others, publishers themselves deserve part of the blame for either mishandling digital versions of their print publications or misunderstanding the differences (strengths and weaknesses) between the platforms, as this Talking New Media article is quick to point out.

The worm turns

CNET Magazine

Which brings us to tech industry pioneer CNET, which has covered technology (yes, even on cable TV in its infancy) for 20 years. To bring the print vs. digital debate full circle, CNET has announced plans for a magazine. A print magazine. The comments from the CNET faithful have ranged from supportive (the minority) to downright sarcastic (at best) or dismissive and mean-spirited (at worst). Read them for yourself, if you dare. Obviously the announcement has been met with rampant skepticism, but these days most any announcement regarding print – books or magazines – is met with the same reaction. Many would tell you that print is dead, but it that were true, what still keeps showing up in my driveway each morning, in my mailbox regularly or on the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble? And at least around these parts, comic shops are thriving… and not just on back issues and action figures either. Don’t get me wrong; the struggles are still there and the road is hard. But through it all, at least *some* magazines and *some* newspapers and *some* book publishers survive, even thrive, in spite of their supposed imminent extinction. To paraphrase Twain, ‘The report of their death was an exaggeration’.

So as the war wages between print and digital, I’m reminded of other classic battles: Republican vs. Democrat, DC vs. Marvel, PC vs. Mac, paper vs. plastic. And we all know how those have turned out, don’t we? Is there ever really a clear winner or best choice, or are we better off when we recognize the strengths of each and embrace the solutions which work the best for us in given circumstances? Going down the list, I’ve: voted for both, read and enjoyed both, computed with both and carried groceries home in both. Some were better than others at times, but not one was the hands-down winner in each and every instance. There are no absolutes; or at least there shouldn’t be.

Vive la difference!

Let’s do the Time Warp again…

January 8th, 2013


So much for “dreaming big.”

2012 came and went in a blur with nary a post since March. In that time we’ve seen triumph and tragedy, old things become new again, a contentious and costly election and definitive proof that the Mayans weren’t such great prognosticators after all. And through it all I didn’t stop once to stare out the window and reflect on what to say here (or anywhere else, for that matter). But hopefully that’s about to change.

With the “chance” the Mayans could be right and our time on this earth was even more finite than we’d ever dreamed, it was the perfect time to take stock of our lives and appreciate what a gift this world is – especially in light of the horror and sorrow we watched play out in places like Aurora and Sandy Hook and the waterlogged eastern seaboard. But did we? I didn’t, but I realize I should have, and I plan to on a regular basis from now on. And I hope you do too.

It may sound simplistic, but I’d just rather force myself to stop and smell the roses once in a while than spend my days worrying about when I’ll be pushing up daises.

The Future of Publishing…?

March 15th, 2012

Making history

Publishing history was made recently with the release of GRAPHIC DESIGNS 1, one of the first ever “creative compilations” produced exclusively as an eBook. Wilson-Lewis-Wilson Design is one of a small number of design firms from all over the world with work included in GRAPHIC DESIGNS 1, and we’re proud of it…although in a way it makes us feel like we’re “cheating on print.” (We have printer’s ink in our blood, you see.)

When introduced the Kindle reader in late 2007, the move to eBooks began. In less than four years, Amazon was selling more eBooks than hardcover and softcover books combined. Until very recently, all eBooks were black and white, type-only pubs with little to offer the reader visually. But with the overwhelming popularity of the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other tablet readers, the digital experience is improving rapidly. And now David E. Carter is producing full-color eBooks, loaded with hundreds of examples of outstanding creative work exclusively as digital editions.

Carter, who created over 110 “creative compilations” on logos, graphic design and advertising as ink-on-paper books, is the top-selling producer of books in the history of graphic design. Now, he has released eight new graphic design eBooks through his company, Bright Books. The full-color eBooks can be viewed on an iPad, Kindle Fire, other tablet devices, or on any computer. For Carter, the most exciting thing about eBooks is the economics of the new media. “My oid books used to cost $49.95. My new books are under $10,” he said. “This is a game changer for creative compilation books directed to creative people. They are now very affordable.”

Carter founded Bright Books in March of 2010, a month before Apple’s first-gen iPad was released. “Once the Kindle came out, it was inevitable that eBooks would eventually have color,” Carter said, “and I wanted to be the first mover in eBooks for the graphic design world.” He has realized that goal with his eight new books, which focus on logos, posters and graphic design. He will produce 13 more eBooks for the creative world by the end of 2012. The new books are available for instant purchase and download through The site also offers free 20-page sample downloads of each book.

We’re honored to have our work featured in David’s books. But I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss holding a big, fat, beautifully printed hardback in my hands. *sniff*

The End of an Era

And now comes word that the venerable Encyclopaedia Brittanica has decided to abandon print editions in favor of a digital-only strategy that, quite frankly, has been in the works for years. Their sales numbers had shrivelled to a fraction of their all-time high of 120,000 sets in 1990 and, after 244 years, it just didn’t make economic sense to continue their traditional publishing model. But it’s still a shame. Those mammoth volumes have served generations of scholars and school kids alike. A Google search may make research a breeze, but there’s still a lot to be said for exploring and discovering with the flip of a page.

Perhaps Marvel has the right idea. Their ReEvolution plan combines digital and print in a symbiotic relationship that makes the different media complementary, not competitive. To a self-described techno geek who still loves the smell of ink and the feel of paper, that’s music to my ears.