While the lone wolf artist has long been romanticized for his or her singular innate genius, the collaborative duo has also, many times over, recast the shape, innovation, and creative magic of art. Think Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
“Working solo, you can get stuck in a rut,” Ellen Schofield says. “You’re in this comfort zone of ‘Okay, I know I’m good at this, I know how to do this.’ But when you bring someone on, you feed off of each other’s excitement, talents, ideas, and energy, and the final piece feels exponentially better than if doing it alone.”
Ellen, 34, and David, 37, both graphic design professors at Minnesota State University, Mankato, had admired each other’s individual work—Ellen, with her brightly colorful, precise, and vector-based designs, and David, who has a knack for typography and “the systematic, yet expressive” side of art, as he describes it. “Obviously, we work together, but we share a lot of interests,” Ellen says. “And the best part is that we’re friends,” David pipes in. “From there, we just knew we wanted to do something together.”
The result of their budding partnership was a daunting series called “Paper State Flowers.” Every state in the U.S. has an official state flower—the pink and white lady’s slipper blooms with Minnesota pride, just like the saguaro cactus blossom in Arizona and the trumpet-shaped yellow jessamine in South Carolina. Using a bright palette of cover weight paper, Ellen created the geometric-based flowers, while David designed the state’s abbreviated letterforms. Throughout the process, the duo experimented with modern laser cutting technology, as well as more traditional hand-cutting techniques to showcase how paper can transform into a design medium itself as a dimensional illustration.
Together, they produced 50 multi-dimensional, multi-textural, multi-layered compositions after over a year’s worth of work, which was exhibited at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts in October 2016.
From left to right, North Carolina of “Paper State Flowers” by Ellen and David, “June 5” by David, and Ellen and David’s Oregon piece in the “Paper State Flower” series // Artworks by Ellen Schofield and David Rogers
“For our first project, that was a big one,” David says with a chuckle. “But you know what? Collaboration, no matter what it is, is fun.”
Together, they have amassed a clientele list including UnitedHealthcare and Goods, a Bay Area electronic instrumentalist. Ellen herself has worked with Minnesota United FC, The Loft Literary Center, and Papyrus, the stationery and greeting card company. David is currently designing visuals for Mankato-based, indie rock group Good Night Gold Dust.
Readers, as you’ll see in this “Ideas” issue of The Growler, ideas are everywhere. There are people, organizations, and businesses that are looking at the current state of affairs, and as a result, motivated to imagine something better. To imagine new possibilities and unlock creative riches.
“You know, with the articles in this issue, something is motivating an entrepreneurial spirit in these people,” David says. “Something that did not exist before. And similarly, when we work together, you start with a concept—a nugget of an idea. You nurture it and see where it leads to. You see it succeed. That experience is just intoxicating.”