30 December 2018
Watercolor woodblock print (moku hanga)
17 x 11 inches (43 x 28 cm)
Made from 1 block, 4 hand-rubbed applications of color
Edition of 8 on Yukimi paper
I could barely believe my good fortune when, just as I began researching images of coral for my next print, Pantone Inc. announced their new color for 2019: "Living Coral." The Pantone web site describes Living Coral as "sociable and spirited," encouraging "lighthearted activity, symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits" and a "source of emotional nourishment." Oy. Maybe it's just me, but the name Living Coral instantly conjures up the opposite in my mind—dead and bleached coral. In the Great Barrier Reef alone, one 2016 bleaching event killed almost 30 percent of shallow-water corals such as the brush coral I've depicted here. How could Pantone think that invoking the living variety of a thing that could be entirely dead within this century due to our own greed and stubbornness would be a good thing? Well, anyway, I obviously had to add a little Pantone chip to my picture of a sample of (dead) brush coral.
This all is sad, and it makes me sad at a personal level, too, because most of my adult money-earning career has been in graphic design, so I've been in a relationship with Pantone Inc. for many years. My career has also ridden the waves of several boom and bust cycles. In the late 90s and early 00s I was drawing diagrams for tech startups, then just as the tech bubble burst I started making infographics for the financial industry and when the bottom fell out of that one in 2008 I began making maps for high-end tour companies, which visit many fragile and threatened places across this beautiful planet. So as much as I want to make fun of Pantone for being out of touch, I know that I can't stand outside of their milieu. None of us can, really. We're all complicit in the lifestyle that now threatens our very existence.
May this new year, 2019, bring out the best in us. May our relationships to each other, to all the beings we share this world with, and to the planet itself come into some kind of balance and alignment. Happy new year.