Saturday, December 01, 2007


David Lance Goines started out as a student of classical languages, reading ancient texts in the original Greek and Latin. After being arrested and expelled from his university for participating in student protests in the 1960s, Goines found work as an apprentice with a nearby printer. Soon, Goines was combining his classical background with his own good taste to design posters that were both beautiful and interesting.

Goines also drew upon his classical studies in a series of witty essays (on subjects ranging from miniature golf to the Italian Renaissance artist, architect and philosopher Filippo di Ser Brunellesco).

Despite Goines' brilliance and erudition (or perhaps because of it) he had a completely unpretentious view of art, which I love. He described his work as follows:

I find it useful, when asked what I do for a living, to say that I am a printer and graphic designer, and leave it up to the questioner to decide whether or not I qualify as an artist.

* * * *

A plumber would not dare to call himself a plumber unless he were qualified in the opinion of others to do plumbing, and had experience and credentials to prove it, and actually got paid good money for his work. The same is true of an automobile mechanic, elementary school teacher or newspaper reporter. You can't just call yourself a college professor or medical doctor and expect anyone to take you seriously. You need to have something to back it up. The term "artist," unlike "electrician," or "dog trainer," neither conveys qualification, nor is it specific enough to shed much light on what a person may actually do.

* * * *

I am a competent technician. I give value for value. I am an honest workman, and I do not want people to think that I am a con-man.... therefore I do not call myself an artist. I create flat, representational objects---books, illustrations, posters, stained glass windows, greeting cards, wedding invitations, wine labels--in return for money. I'm glad that people like what I do, because that means that I can go on doing it. I like what I do, and consider it a privilege to be able to make my living doing it. But, I am not, at least in twenty-first century terms, an artist. I'll leave that to those who have no idea at all of what they do, or who they are, or where they are going, and must, for want of any other word, call themselves artists.

Goines did have his own views about the merit of different kinds of art. Here is his funny take on the "seven deadly arts:"

Just as there are Virtues and Sins; just as the Letter killeth and the Spirit giveth life, so are there Arts that prosper humanity and arts that are a pain in the neck. The Seven Deadly Arts are:

Science Fiction Poetry
Performance Art
Bell Ringing
Liturgical Dance
Experimental Film and


Bubs McCall said...

Thanks for another wonderful post David. Previous to this morning, I'd never seen Goines work. Its all feels very west coast to me. . . I imagine that the prolific graphic designer Michael Schwab may site Goines as one of his influences. I can see alot of DLG in his work, especially the last piece.

Gaz said...

The only art I have a decent shot at producing with any skill at the very last of the 7 deadly ones. Woe am I!

Peter said...

Fascinating: he is brilliant and all wet at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I like Goines attitude--to a point. You want to be humble enough to work hard and keep an honest perspective. But really great artists also want to show-off some and push their limits--you know, test their mettle.

lotusgreen said...

that last list is a riot

Paul Schmid said...

I've liked Goines work for years. Glad to see him getting some notice.

Didn't know he was such a funny guy too, although his intelligence shows up in his work.

Josh (musarter) said...

Giones is great. I have seen some of his pieces but could never place the name. His musing are very interesting also; Fine Artists sometimes talk down to Graphic Designers, it is fun to see the tables turned, so to speak.
Thank you for the insperation.

monty said...

Thanks for posting on Goines. I made the mistake of not collecting him in the 70s when I first noticed his work. He seemed to be the first contemporary to get in touch with the Arts & Crafts movement.

Very underrated today.

Do you have resources, particularly about his lastest work?

Lindsay Preston said...

I love this art nouveau style of work. Thanks for the post.

Catherine A. Moore said...

Thanks for introducing me to Goines' excellent art (the India Ink poster is one of the cleverest combination of images I've seen recently) and his affirming quotes. The plumber quote sums up a large portion of why I'm going for an M.A. in illustration.

Heh, decoupage...