There are just some things more important than money. That may be a heresy in America, but its truth…
Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org ):
A while back I wrote about ‘fake psych’ (or as i like to call it, “hallmark psychedelia”). It’s what happens when corporate money making interests tried to cash in on what they saw ‘the kids up to’ back during the hippie era. It resulted in an odd style that is subtly, yet distinctly, different than REAL psych.
This August 23, 1967, issue of Sports Illustrated is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It doesn’t get much more mainstream and corporate than Sports Illustrated. So, who were they trying to ‘speak’ to when this cover was crafted? I assume the hip young fans as they imagined them. And all ‘the kids’ were into this hippie shit – “it’s the happening thing, baby!”
So, their art director looked at a bunch of portfolios from his reps and found a hip young professional illustrator guy who said he could do ‘that youth look.’ The result is this cover. It’s basically some professionally trained commercial illustrator/artist trying to look like a hippie psychedelic artist. You have to admit, if you don’t know anything about psych art, this actually sorta looks like it. It’s just like those paint-by-number landscapes look just like a Gainsborough to the amateur eye. But, it sure ain’t.
It’s pretty easy to spot fake psych. It’s unnatural looking. All the edges are crisp and mechanically rendered. It actually has a structural plan that is visible (aka – a ‘layout’). It looks like something that was done by a machine. It’s ‘industrial’. even the letterforms are clearly readable. That’s because the creators of this fake version of the psych style couldn’t excape it’s function – it was trying to convey a message LITERALLY first and foremost. “it ain’t nothing if you can’t read it” was the mantra of advertising of the time.
REAL psych was amateurish and organic. It was freehand and loose. It was actually trying to scare away straight people from the events because they were a drag on the proceedings. Part of the ethos of a subculture is ‘like talking to like’. So, when you posted a ‘community’ meeting (a concert or be-in) you wanted to attract YOUR people, not strangers. So, the basic idea of the visual form was to speak in the language that only other stoned hippies could read. In fact, they didn’t even want the posters to be legible by straights. If they can’t read it, they won’t come. Psych posters were ANTI-graphics (just like punk posters with xeroxed dead babies on them).