For almost two decades the award-winning artist and graphic designer Walter Bernard has been doing posters—and hats and shirts and programs—for the annual Artists and Writers Charity Softball Game in East Hampton.
He captures the upbeat spirit of this celebrity event with innovative designs. Bernard, who shares WBMG Studio space in New York with Milton Glaser (“I Love New York”), Mirko Ilic and Tom Bentkowski, once again steps up to the plate. This time he “strikes” with a comic-book-like cloudburst of art, writing and baseball symbols and a scalloped-edge sky shape that dovetails into green hills extending over home plate. Pow! That little gold “vs” imprinted onto the bold red capital letters announcing the event unites the computer-generated design while reminding viewers that the game is for real—a contest—though not one that overrides the sense of community that unites artists and writers who come together each year to raise money for charities.
Bernard usually hangs in there on second base for an inning or two, a happy if challenged participant in a sport that he traces to childhood and to weekend games in Sag Harbor. His affection for the game as well as his wit in referencing emblems of art and writing are obvious.
Over the years you’ve been creating posters for Artists and Writers that involve figures, but not this year. What were your thoughts for 2015?
I wanted to change everything to focus on the idea of conflict. Each year I do something different. Some people even asked me why I didn’t do the poster this year, not recognizing that this comic-book design was mine. I’ve done a lot of covers for the game, usually watercolor and pastel. This one is computer generated. I started with a black and white sketch, then scanned it. I wanted an old-fashioned cartoon effect. I’ve done many covers for Artists and Writers over the years and watched it go from being just a fun game to being a great fundraiser for five charities—and still fun. It has hardly any expenses and everyone involved works for nothing, contributes time and work because of the cause.
In May, as part of an WBMG initiative, you designed a new magazine for the organization Human Rights Watch “to help “highlight the courage [of writers and journalists] needed to report on injustice.” Was the prompt to do this a response to the attacks at Charlie Hebdo in January?
The principle of Human Rights is to gather and monitor information on human rights concerns and bring it to the attention of governments. It’s not in the publication business, though it did come out with a magazine testifying to child abuse in Africa and children forced into the military. This new issue, and no one knows if it’s a one-off or how often it may come out, targets the oppression of writers and journalists, and Wendy Keys [the documentary film maker] got me and Milton Glaser involved.
You’ve noted previously that readers of books, magazines and newspapers now gravitate to electronic media. How has this shift affected you professionally and personally?
I used to be immersed in the magazine business, on my own and with Glaser. Now that business has changed. I’m getting to a certain age and I’m looking forward to doing more watercolors. I still attend the Wednesday Night Painting Group in the city, working from live models, the group started by David Levine [the late great American caricaturist] and [portrait artist and illustrator] Aaron Shikler. I’m also looking forward to spending more time in Bridgehampton.
Walter Bernard’s work can be seen at walterbernardesign.com.