MICHAEL THOMPSON is an artist who was
born in the island of Jamaica and migrated to the United States about fifteen
years ago. He studied graphic design at The Jamaica School of Art, now renamed
Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. In Jamaica he worked in the advertising
business and later began making posters during the progressive years of (Michael Manley government 1970-1980s).
In that period his work comprised a collection of political and cultural
posters and paintings based on sociopolitical protests depicting the struggles
taking place locally and internationally; for example the political changes
that were taking place on the African continent including Angola, Zimbabwe and
South Africa. These struggles against oppression and for freedom in that region
were always a recurring topic for his art. The anti-Apartheid movement led by
the ANC and Nelson Mandela was very inspiring. It was during that period
Michael won two poster competitions that took him with the Jamaican delegation
to the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Havana Cuba in 1978 and
then to in Moscow in 1985. This was a huge opportunity and experience for
Michael as he was introduced to the beautiful Cuban poster designs created by
the ICAIC and OSPAAAL that represented a wide range of content and style.
Today, Michael designs and creates all his posters using Adobe
illustrator program. He takes advantage
of the clean two-dimensional vector style of illustrator that has come to
define his signature style. He continues to use the same crisp simple style as
if he is making a poster in the early years in Jamaica cutting stencil and
painting in acrylic by hand. The pivotal topics of his digital posters
demonstrate solidarity and protest with the many issues that he feels passionate
about, such as peace, justice, and the environment that are part of the global
movement for change. He also design posters celebrating Jamaican cultural and
musical experiences, Africa, and the plight of indigenous people around the
The goal of Michael’s
art is to address war, poverty, racism and the underlying threads of violence
and danger that underpin so many communities around the world, includes the
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the festering occupation of Palestine. His
political posters are designed to counter
“Cheap Lies” which has lead to
the demise of millions of humans throughout the ages. “These soothing falsities should never imprison our conscience.
must open our eyes and let our voices be heard loud above the deafening silence. As activist artists we should
just make beautiful art for others to admire, but also use our creativity to
make or inspire positive change. It is the only weapon we have,” Michael he
declares. He feels strongly that his poster’s art can make a difference and
stimulate awareness. Like the noncommercial mass Cuban posters from the
1960-1980s, the aesthetic of his posters are similar to the Cuban style. The
clear, crisp and a simple colorful designs are layered on powerful messages
that are easy to see and allows the viewer to stop and think.
posters were originally created for his Flickr AWARENESS POSTER PROJECT site.
However, he now makes prints as the request for his prints have increased. The
response he received online are tremendous, especially posters created to draw attention to what was
happening in the Gaza Strip during the attack on the territory in January 2009.
He could not sit back and watch what was happening to the innocent civilians so
he began posting posters to expose the “soothing
falsities” being told on corporate news media. All across the world people
responded to his posters on Gaza with positive support. His posters were
published on Code Pink and were used in the Gaza March for Freedom held in
Egypt to mark the first anniversary. Others were plastered on the streets of
London during the large demonstrations that were taking place at the time.
Michael has also contributed his poster art to THE HAITI POSTER PROJECT which
is a collaborative effort by the design community to help effect change through
their work for Haiti.
His most recent
posters have again pointed the finger closer to home, Jamaica. This time in
solidarity with the people of the poor inner-city community of Tivoli Gardens.
A poor housing estate located in the capital of Kinston, Jamaica. Collectively
punished and brutalized during the attack by the Jamaican security forces where
73 people were killed including women and children. The operation was to serve
a warrant on a local gang leader wanted by the United States. These posters are
demanding justice for the innocent residents and seek to expose the atrocities
which took place there.
Michael has many
things to say with posters and each one challenges the creative spirit and the
mind for positive awareness.
Michael is a Freelance Graphics Designer who
lives in the city of Easton, Pennsylvania.