From March 2019

Sometimes I Have to Give Up to Know I Still Have Things to Say

Despondency and resignation are old friends. It feels as if, now and then, I either have a million subjects to discuss or I can’t think of a single meaningful reason to write some things. Or draw them. And so I start to wonder if doing something else is more worthwhile to spend time on.

But the words never really run out. Every day, I find things to talk about with people around me, and something new occurs to me, or is shown to me, or I discover just by looking and listening to the things of the world.

Likewise the images are always potentially there to make, thoughts made into forms I can see. But to get back to this realization from despair—if you like—I have to let go and give up trying. In this way, I somehow gain access to the creative center, a trove filled with all those things I could and sometimes do say or think every day. The ideas don’t have to all be amazing. They just have to be there, and continuing to put them into the world means, eventually, some of them will be amazing.

Reid Miles, Brilliant Blue Note Album Cover Designer

Miles is an often overlooked part of the striking design of many Blue Note jazz albums, having designed hundreds of them during his time with the label.

He designed, sometimes photographed, occasionally drew, and exhibited a seemingly endless capacity for clever juxtapositions and flashy, effective, bold colors and typography.

The simplicity and contrast of image and color influenced design for years, maybe still does. Reid contributed an essential component of American culture that went hand-in-hand with the scintillating sonic brilliance of the music inside those wonderful covers.

Give Art, Give Blood, Both Are Life

Notwithstanding the problems some of us have giving blood (sexually active gay men are still prohibited), if you can, it will likely save someone’s life.

Art is the same. It can save, after it can also excite, enrich, and enliven the people you give it to.

The piece above is by one of my drawing professors, Siobhan McClure. The drawing was a gift to me, in thanks for a supplies donation I made to the School of Art when I left L.A. it was unexpected, and it delighted and humbled me.

Art is so very basic to our humanity. Giving it to each other is an act of acknowledgement and celebration of that essence. If you make art, don’t overlook its power as a gift to others.

Algorithmically Generated Coding Events and Personal Playlists

Keeping on the music tack, this article in Wired about “live-coding” parties is an amazing look at the pervasiveness of code and algorithms in our lives today. There’s a SoundCloud sample in the article for the music segment. It’s cool, I’d say not as good as a fully human-generated track or song, but an intriguing start, nonetheless. If you think the robots won’t come for your job eventually, you may be surprised sooner than you think. At least, there may be chunks of code that take over some of that job in relatively short order. There’s also a section outlining the visual art side of things and more links to artist pages.

As I wrote before about adopting Frank Chimero’s music organizing system, I make a monthly playlist to hold all the significant songs I remember or that impact my day which were released prior to the current year. March is nearly over and a short list, but February’s was rich, so here it is:
February 2019 Playlist

“Fixing a Hole” Juxtaposed With Contemporary Metal, on Streaming Services, Anyway

I’ve been working on a playlist for a coworker who’s not well-versed in the various metal genres, particularly the Euro-variety of symphonic metal, province of bands like Nightwish and Epica.

But along with that rabbit hole, I was sifting through a bunch of stuff online about John Lennon and his son, Julian. That led me to Sgt. Pepper’s, and the remastered “Fixing a Hole,” which I think still holds up in a contemporary context. It was a little jarring after so much distortion and vast seas of orchestration and voices, but I was surprised how easy I slipped back into the mode of a more stripped-down arrangement.

It’s eclectic and clever, with a typically monster hook in the major chorus to complement the minor verses. It could have been written today, really. Just a few changes in production would fix it in 2019 instead of 52 years ago.

Rabbit holes are the future. And past, apparently.

The Link Between Sky, Weather, and Serenity in Portland

Oregon, that is. I’ve always loved rain and cloudy skies. I didn’t get a lot of them growing up in Arizona and almost as few living in L.A. for 17 years. But since I visited Portland last year, I noticed there’s another aspect to the gray. In the middle of the day, rain clouds are, indeed, leaden.

But at dawn—and dusk—the cloudy turns positively cerulean. It’s beautiful, and full of portent, and it makes the other colors near the ground stand out, somehow. It’s a lovely combination of gloom and beauty, and the relative stillness of the early morning gives the day a zen quality that calms and gladdens me.

An Appreciation of the Small Aspects of Humanity, in Observed Sympathy

A few days ago, I was leaving work in a very light rain. The sidewalk slopes sharply down outside the parking lot of this particular strip mall, and I started to slip and fall. I caught myself, just barely avoiding falling or sitting down, hard, with a drink in one hand. A regular customer at my store, someone I’ve greeted and said goodbye to on a regular basis.

I turned, after catching myself, and caught his eye. I could see the concern on his face, then the relief, reflecting my own, that I hadn’t fallen completely.

This simple, very human connection seems to me the central concern of art. It’s essential to connecting the things I make to the people I want to see them (which, to be perfectly egotistically honest, is everyone). We can’t be creating things too far outside the relatable, because what makes art relevant is that connection to experience. Keep letting your thoughts run wild, but remember we’re making these things to express our common experience.

Vessel: Thomas Heatherwick’s New Point of Argument in the Art Sphere

There’s something exciting about art world controversy. Even in school, and getting angry about some sculpture or painting or exhibition I deemed “fake,” or “insincere,” or “pandering,” I still enjoyed the engagement those works provoked in me and in my fellow students.

So, anew, is the latest in back-and-forth arguments about the relative worth or meaning of a work. Heatherwick installed “Vessel,” a linked set of staircases, basically, in Manhattan, NYC.

For me, it most resembles one of those sets in sci-fi films where members of an alien tribunal gaze down on humans and condemn them to work in salt mines on some distant planet.

Andrew Russeth

ArtNews has a nice rundown on the thing.

Momentum Is Key to Getting Significant Amounts of Things Made

Now, whether getting a lot of art happening means any of it is stuff you like is another matter, but it does seem to hold true that if you make a lot, you get better and you end up with plenty of good stuff. I do apologize for using such generic language on the site. I’m trying to think of art in multimedia ways—not the 90s sense of web-based video and motion graphics presentations, but the literal multiple media—to include my friends who are musicians and writers, as well as visual artists.

But in reference to the title above, I’ve found starting things is almost always harder than continuing things. It’s much better to have a thing I worked on yesterday and can do a bit more of today than to think about planning, conceptualizing, choosing materials, and facing a blank canvas/screen/page. Like, ugh.

One more trick that has worked in the past, born of being handed projects in art school: starting another iron warming before you have to pull the first one out of the fire may be the low-anxiety method of choice.

Also, following up on yesterday’s post: more people than I’d have thought understand what a minor existential crisis contains. I appreciate those people more than they know.

Creating Your Way Through Your Own Recurring Existential Crises for Fun and Profit (but Mostly Fun)

It started to become clear to me earlier in the week that I was due for a downturn in demeanor, questioning the very idea of being and wallowing just a bit in the absurdity of human endeavor. These things come and they go, but it can be annoying and occasionally incapacitating.

I try to remember Camus and embrace the dumb doom, but there’s a new thing gettign in the way of despair, and that’s this blog. At some point the posting became a habit, and I have to write another thing and usually make a picture to go with it, disconnected though they are. It’s strange, but also nice to have such a thing to fall back on in moments when it seems things aren’t worth doing, or that I don’t have any motivation.

It’s a good time to revisit the value of a daily habit, then. Because as I go to bed, and when I get up the next day, I’ll have done a small act of creation, and absurd as that is in the face of a vast and uncaring and impossibly old universe, it feels good to push the rock up the hill just a little bit.