The art of making two into one
Sometimes a partnership between two can create something far beyond the simple sum of one plus one. The combination produces something completely different from what the individuals involved would create as individuals. Think Laurel and Hardy, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Scorsese and De Niro. It can even add magic when the couple are creating separate works, like Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, or one half is providing inspiration, guidance or criticism, as was the case with Francis Bacon and George Dyer.
We decided to explore the subject by talking to creative couples who we know personally or have admired from afar. We were curious about how they sparked one another’s creativity, whether their relationship predated their work. And whether they believed that the whole is always greater than the sum of its two parts, or just something different.
Craig & Karl
Craig & Karl’s bold, colourful art is always immediately distinctive and recognisable, whether it appears as illustrations, packaging or installations. While they originally met and started working together in Queensland, Australia, today they live on opposite sides of the Atlantic – Craig in New York and Karl in London. We spoke to Karl about their creative partnership and how it works with an ocean in the way.
How did the two of you meet?
We met in our first semester of art college, studying graphic design.
How quickly did you find yourselves working together?
A lecturer put us together for one of our first university projects. We hit it off, became friends and continued to work together as often as we could from then on.
Do you still work as individuals now as well as your collaborative work?
We do work individually, of course, but it all exists under the banner of Craig & Karl.
How long have your worked together?
Twenty plus years now.
Do you work together physically in the same space?
No, we did do for many years. But since 2007 we’ve been in separate countries, with Craig in New York and Karl in London. Craig won a green card on the internet and had to move to the US within three months or forego it, so we suddenly found ourselves on opposite sides of the world and figured it out.
What’s your day-to-day working process?
We get the benefit of an overlapping workday, so whenever one of us wakes up, there’s something new to look at and pick up. We overlap for a handful of hours and use that time to work out anything that needs working out – there’s a never-ending chat going on.
What’s the division of labour between the two of you?
It’s an even split across the board.
Do you have distinctly defined roles when working?
No, it might be smarter if we did, but we each do the same thing.
Do you always see eye-to-eye on everything or does work come from more of a sense of competitiveness or argument?
Pretty much. If we disagree, we tend to find an alternate route. We’re generally on the same page, though.
Do you have a strong personal relationship outside of your professional one?
We do. We’re each other’s oldest friend. Working together for so long naturally changes the dynamic somewhat. It’s a brotherly sort of relationship.
Could you imagine working any other way now?
No. It’s not necessarily something you could engineer, but it works for us.
You can find more work by Craig & Karl in their Breed portfolio or on their website.