Art, Work, & Artwork
longtime graphic designers collaborate on exhibit
John Qualheim and Paul Cyr have lived in the Chippewa Valley their whole lives: John is a self-declared townie and North High School/UW-Eau Claire graduate while Paul was born and raised in Chippewa Falls and relocated to Eau Claire in 1982. The two have been friends since their college days at UWEC where they both studied art and design. But more importantly, after graduation the pair spent more than 25 years working together at Greendoor Graphics & Advertising in Eau Claire until John’s retirement about three and a half years ago. Since the two friends have been working and creating together for so long, it only makes sense that their work is featured together in an exhibit at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library entitled John, Paul & Art. The shows includes John’s illustrations and Paul’s paintings, sculptures, and drawings.
“My profession as a graphic designer is based on clearly and concisely communicating an idea or message. Hopefully my art is more open to each viewer’s personal interpretation.” – Paul Cyr, on his collaborative exhibit with John Qualheim
John and Paul have both been creating art for as long as they can remember. Paul recalls one of his earliest memories of making art around the age of six or seven: “I talked my older brother into creating a bird book and, as I recall, we finished the cardinal and robin, then found something more interesting to do outside and never completed anything more.” He adds that art is still special and exciting for him today because he is always trying new approaches and techniques, including watercolor, colored pencil, sculpture, paint, etc. Paul says he doesn’t really have a favorite medium, and he is always willing to experiment with whatever will accomplish what he is working on. This adds to the self-described “eclectic” style of his pieces that graphic design elements and influence unavoidably spill over into as well.
John’s outlook on his artwork is a bit different. He says he was satisfied with his design work until he followed an interest in illustration only after retirement. “I’ve always enjoyed making art,” he explains, “but once I began working as a graphic designer, my need or desire to make art – and I’m not sure I have a need to make art – was probably satisfied by my work as a designer. I didn’t begin to work on the illustrations in this show until I retired.” John’s work follows the influence of his career as a graphic designer and often references the commercial signage he has encountered on his travels. He describes some of his illustrations this way: “They are roadside images that captured my attention for a variety of reasons, but mostly for their visual impact as advertising. They incorporate many of the elements I worked with on a daily basis as a graphic designer: the impact and relationships of color; the interaction of shapes; the attention to proportions; and especially the power and personality of typography.”
John’s hope is that his illustrations give new life to roadside relics, while Paul hopes that the show overall allows viewers to find something fun, humorous, enjoyable, or playful when they see it and reminds them not to take things too seriously: “My profession as a graphic designer is based on clearly and concisely communicating an idea or message. Hopefully my art is more open to each viewer’s personal interpretation.”
John, Paul & Art is the duo’s first show together and they are obviously thrilled to be working together once again. John’s enthusiasm is pretty evident: “I am very honored to be a part of a show with my friend Paul, who once observed that I had ‘the color sensitivity of an otter.’ You’ll need to ask him exactly what that meant.”
John, Paul, & Art, featuring work by Paul Cyr and John Qualheim • through Tuesday, May 27 • opening reception 7pm Thursday, April 17 • L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St. • FREE • (715) 839-5004 • www.ecpubliclibrary.info