Somerset House in the Strand in London have this week been showing the graphic arts fair, Pick Me Up, for the third year running. This year there was a huge amount of publicity and hype in the design media and so expectations were high.

The great thing about Pick Me Up is that it is contemporary. In fact it can be painfully trendy! But the fact that lots of young artists and designers are forming co-operatives and producing print products, like posters, cards and graphic novels can only be good. The Pick Me Up vibe is one of frantic creativity and fun. Being able to try out some activities, talk to letterpress printers and illustrators and get involved in portfolio panels is also really positive.

This year there was a range of up-and-coming illustrators on show in the lower area and these ranged from the fantastic to the rather less awe-inspiring. Promoting the fact that illustration does not need da Vinci-like drawing skills is fine and, indeed, democratic. Stylised imagery is friendly and has appropriateness in many illustrative contexts. But Pick Me Up seems to have so much same-old same-old cartoony, comic book stuff that by the end you feel the need to see something that might act as a benchmark of difference for the many students of art and design there.

YCN and SOMA were very good and illustrator Tim McDonagh’s gothicy inking technique was very popular. The show celebrates the hands-on, have-a-go exciting side of the graphic arts. It says, “you can do this!” and that can only be a good thing.  The crowd there loved it. And anyway, whatever I personally might feel about some of the stuff on show, I would not miss this show simply for the being on-trend, participatory and fun side of it. Looking forward to next year’s event!

Images used here are courtesy of Pick Me Up and are from top to bottom:

Anthony Burrill Pick Me Up identity, 2012

Peskimo Croc Monsieur

Marcus Walters Spirited Away

Zim & Zou Back to Basics 2 Camera A, 2011

More info at http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/pick-me-up-2012