Jon Contino works with his hands. That might seem a simple matter of course given his chosen trade of commercial illustration. But in a field swiftly tilting towards the digital, a significant number of contemporary illustrators have dispensed with the traditional tools of the trade, swapping out their pens and pads for stylus and screen. At a time when the worlds of design and the visual arts have been upended and rethought in the wake of the advent of the computer, Contino is committed to doing as much of his work as he can with good old-fashioned pens and paper. In a world where everything from acne to misplaced lines can be whitewashed in Photoshop—a world in which we no longer trust our eyes—the ability to draw well is as rare as ever.
In addition to the Americana-themed bent much of his portfolio takes, Contino is best known for his hand-lettering. He creates fonts and scripts with the appearance of age; washed out phrases and words that look like they could have been pulled from an 18th century broadsheet or a ratty photocopier in some young punk’s basement. The demand for his services speaks to the creativity and ingenuity of his work, and to a vague yet persistent hunger for the tactile in modern American culture.
Contino imbues his hand-crafted alphabets, often seen accenting images from a canon of time-honored American symbols (boxing gloves, eagles, anchors), with a gritty, worn-out feeling; a ragged aesthetic that has struck a chord with a public fast developing a fetishistic relationship with physical objects. The less necessary physical objects become, the more we esteem them and those who can create them. Or, in Contino’s case, those who can render them in such a way as to make them seem grounded in the beautifully imperfect realities of the physical world.Read More