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TOPYS

I did this design for TOPYS in China for a New Year’s money envelope. It’s the year of the dog coming up and the theme was “kiss”, which is what it says in gold. You can get it here (shop and site in Chinese).

They also did a short interview with me (translated into Chinese here) which I’ve pasted beneath. Wax poetic!

Thanks TOPYS, happy new year.

 

We visited your website and found some fantastic posts in your blog, for example, some interesting ideas from sandwiches. So we would like to invite you to share 6-8 kinds of food inspiration or funny food metaphors in your life and works.

Food can represent many facets of consumption and sustainability but I think it depicts people’s fears and desires best of all. Our experiences in life are taken in through our senses and food can describe or act as a metaphor for every human interaction.

Recently I started making fake condiments packets and other small items that combine different drugs with different foods. Just an exaggeration of how processed food works. Here are 6 ingredients, additives, or foods that keep my curiosity.

Vanilla – Spices can surprise your expectations and change the chemistry of your idea, if you’re willing to take the occasional risk. Balance requires experimentation and restraint. I think that holds true for most things: whatever you do is more about the small choices you make while doing it and less about your initial idea or the end product. You are the process and not the product, the result is just the end of the cycle.

Vanilla is a fruit pod from an orchid and the smell of vanilla is so successful that most of what we use is fake. The commercial food world is covered with this approximation of a plant part’s smell and taste. Possibly because of its similarity to mother’s milk. It’s a fascinating circumstance.

Mayonnaise – Some people don’t like mayonnaise but I think it improves a whole number of foods. I don’t see what’s not to like: it’s tangy fat. With french fries or fried chicken? It’s the best.

Fat is stored energy. If you’re adding fat you’re adding potential. That’s what people look for.

Vinegar – Rot is the most interesting thing. Even the foods we don’t think of as having rotten starts, processed cheese, breads, beers, chocolate, etc., came from the process of rot at some point. Not to mention soy sauce, yogurt, kimchi, wine… the list goes on.

White vinegar is the best thing to clean your house with and it’s also very good in some soups. Really opens the nose.

Cola – I have a book of short essays in which I use cola as a metaphor for the connection between mind and body. That the head of foam represents habitual thinking (bubbles of memories and projections colliding together) and sits on the substance that is the body (the vehicle for the head, the mysterious knowledge of the physical world). What I really love about cola is the combination of neroli, cinnamon, vanilla, lime, nutmeg, and coriander. I love Coca Cola so much I don’t drink it anymore because I can’t stop. The first sip is the best. It burns all the way down. It’s like a drinkable acid that strips your insides clean.

Honey – Lasts forever. Found in Egyptian tombs. Made by social insects. That are all dying. Clover honey is the best.

Chocolate – Chocolate is hard bean paste with sugar. Isn’t that weird? The history of chocolate is thick and complicated, just like how the taste is thick and complicated. It was a currency, ritual, religion, medicine, then a symbol of international trade and power, war, slavery, now a highly refined product whose raw material is outpacing the price of gold. All of that makes a candy.

I grew up watching my dad learn to work with chocolate, a long trial and error process of complicated variables, to become highly skilled. If you love it it’s worth doing–and that legacy is just a story. That’s what chocolate taught me.

1.What‘s your understanding of cool ?

At best: observational, honed, galvanizing, crisp, natural. At worst: detached, ineffective, egotistical, mushy, impulsive.

2.Use three words to describe your design style.

Flexible. Even. Bright.

3.Describe a typical work-day of you  and non-work day of you.

My work and non-work days are very similar these days: sketchbook, study, play, exploration, reprimands.

4.Share your own ways of collecting inspiration.

Friends and mentors, going to specialty grocery or kitchen supply stores, anything that’s been outside a long time, and birds.

5.What’s your favorite work conditions?

Evening time to late night: low noise and low light.

6.When it comes to designwho influence you the most? 

Shiro Yamada (my grandfather), Morris Louis, Shigeo Fukuda, Art Spiegelmen, Jack Davis…

7.Please recommend one of your favorite books, songs and movies.

Book: The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt. We use it so much it’s filthy.

Song: According to iTunes the song I’ve played the most is Your Gold Teeth by Steely Dan

Movie: Style Wars

8.Next, what do you want to try the most? 

Unfamiliar fruit.

Listening Post

Quattro Stagioni

I finished up this illustration for Luppolo Brewing’s new Quattro Stagioni membership program during the weekend and learned up to six Italian words. Turns out that Quattro Stagioni is more than just a species of pizza too.

I did think about pizza when sketching this out, with the year being sliced up into delicious quarters. Spent too long looking at pictures of the Malfa coast while trying to figure out how to distill it.

Listening Post

“…And gather sea shells and drift-wood And know the thrill of loneliness And lose all sense of time And be free.” I love this album.

11/1: new site and new interview

Recently I have moved my 11/1 interviews over to a new site:

11on1.com

Having enjoyed doing them so much I wanted to move them to their own home. I do wish I had a bit more time to dedicate to it, both to promote it and the artists interviewed as well as to send it to the endless supply of candidates I’d love to hear from. Growth issues really, which isn’t bad in and of itself provided it doesn’t truncate the magic of the thing while it attempts to extend itself.

In order to keep the tempo a little more chop-chop I’m no longing waxing poetic preceding the interviews. After all, I do have this forum to do that if I really want to, and the work and replies do speak for themselves.

This week it’s illustrator and designer Styles Munson, whose work is below. He’s developing a personal style and his sketches make me think about how I would handle similar things. They’re just great drawings and he’s got a sensitive methodology. I love it.

 

Blonde

A blonde has stopped six lanes of heavy traffic by casually jaywalking through it in the middle of day. People are stopped in their paths, in their cars and on the sidewalks, watching a situation that does not confine itself to traffic. Hence people’s attentions are spilling out over the street and things are, momentarily, not even crawling down the road. The blonde is a dog. Tada!

I’m at the intersection a block away–trapped by the lights–pacing the corner like it’s an enclosure. I’m watching this idiot waltz further and further away. My knees are starting to whimper since they hate running. Everything except my mind is thankful for this momentary rest.

This is not my dog. I don’t know the dog. It’s a neighbor’s dog that decided to jump off of a third story balcony when the owner went out. (I think.) I just walked into the situation when leaving my house. I didn’t see anything but the results.

“It’s around, it’s walking”. That’s good news I think. Maybe it’s in shock? Does anyone know its name? People are on phones calling Dog Catchers or whatever. Lots of incredulous faces, mine included. It’s not a short distance, not a small dog I hear.

I see the dog over someone’s shoulder going down the alley alone. It’s average sized, average weight, some breed with no tail. It’s moving smoothly, and with intent, so I lost sight of it quickly. “It’s down the alley! It’s moving towards the other mouth of the alley!”

Now I’m the only person I can see that is trying to catch this dog.

I don’t think catching an unknown dog with your hands is a great idea so I stop inside and grab a leash (I have a dog too) and bolt down the alley. I spot it a couple blocks later in the outside lane of a busy street. Running with traffic, like it’s a vehicle. Nearby drivers are slowing down in safety and my view isn’t great. I can only see it the dog in still images between the cars. I run to the intersection whistling Chariots of Fire.

I’m out of breath. The dog is wandering down the median and I squeeze the leash in my hand like a very flat, very flappy stress ball. I also squeeze my other hand, which is full of chihuahua-sized treats (I got those inside too), and now my hand is spicy and oily. This makes me extra worried for some reason.

I’m watching it turn a corner when the second light finally changes and I can go back to destroying my body with physical activity. I explode at the green and move as fast as possible but it now has a minutes worth of a head start and double the amount of legs I have.

I get to the corner and I can’t see anything except one choice in five directions. There are no clues, just driveways. I’m looking at people’s faces as my compass. Two or more heads facing in the same direction would be my new sense of true north. No one is looking around.

There is another busy street ahead, I run to the corner and nearly get run over by an elderly woman using very bright white knuckles under thick gold rings to drive her sedan. (One with a very spacious bright white welted leather interior.) I gather my senses and wonder how I’m standing in the parking lot of McDonald’s all of a sudden. The air smells fat and good; I guess that’s how.

A block away from me going north is a dog park. I head there thinking that, I don’t know, this dog is lost: it will head there for advice or something. This is, I think, a wrong choice. A human choice and not a dog’s choice. But it’s all I have so I go on so I take it. I consider what Cesar Millan might do. Unfortunately I don’t have his knowledge or experience.

The park is empty, save for a couple birds. I sit down and let my disappointment char the air with audible breathing. I’m scouring the horizon with my eyes my with increasingly small effort. Pelagic cormorants are diving. Seagulls pick at the lawn since they can’t irritate it any other way. My lungs hurt. I rub my knees. Cesar Millan’s teeth are soooo white. Just like the inside of that lady’s car. “Pack Leaders”, feh!

I walk back home with an empty leash realizing that I, too, don’t feel like I deserve any type of treat for services rendered. I smell like cured meat, which isn’t so bad. I think about the dog in traffic, the only thing in moving in a frozen, glinting seam of glass and metal, unhurried and invasive. No idea its freedom at that moment is the focal point for so much speculation and attention.

I don’t know what happened to the dog. I came home and washed my hands.

My knees want to know why I chased the dog. I have to tell them I don’t know. My knees are still upset.

Listening

Mama ko mama sa maka makossa mama ko mama sa maka makossa. Alright fine: I’ll be hypnotized. I’ll dance.

Almonds

I walked into the elevator today and it smelled a lot like someone was just moving large blocks of marzipan around. It’s what I imagine the spring air in Lubeck or Palermo must have smelled like if you happened to be strolling around during the 17th century.

I walked into a kind of cheap, beautiful ghost, basically. An impression of a person who was just there. And there I am: standing in the result of someone else’s choices. For better or worse I like it.

Inexpensive fragrances are elaborately built phenolic reproductions of luxury. Blank, basic drives of innocence and dewiness: vanillin, musk, benzoin, ylang ylang, and fruits. Sensual women for stalwart men. I think the smell of marzipan means approach.

In this case a hyper marzipan. Quasimarzipan. Peachier, woodier, creamier, sweeter.

I want to see the cheapest aldehydes you buy so I know what you long for. I want to know how you combine fragrance and money. I want to see your spice rack so I know who you are. I want to see the alchemy you’ve made between the inside and the outside. How do you combine or separate fragrance and experience?

I’m closing my eyes for a sec (I’m only going one floor here) and I think of almonds. Great Victorian table centerpieces and Swedish princess cakes. Life/death: the Biblical luz blooming with either early old age or long life depending on how you read it. March-pane and passover, marzipan and London Drugs. Marzipan as medicine. Sugar as a spice. Hanseatic Germany. Cyanide and Richard Kuklinski. Hungary and my grandfather and WWII.

Mostly I wonder about who brought this ghost into the elevator. Do they know who or what it could stand for at another place in time? Do they wear almonds for themselves or for someone else?

Did they know they were wearing it for me?

Listening:

I can dance to this anytime. I love Debra Hurd. Look at that jacket.

Inspiration

Inspiration is one of the most difficult things to write about–like anything creative–because there is very little consensus about what the word symbolises. It’s easy to talk about it casually, because we agree to same generalities, but if I use the same language on myself constantly I’m likely to get frustrated with lack of direction.

Most of the time “inspiration” is used casually as a stronger word for “interesting”* or a softer word for “motivation”. As in:

That movie was really inspiring.

Or,

I’m not feeling particularly inspired.

Since inspiration brings a sense of immediate interest and motivation it feels like the thing I want to encourage the most, there is a security around it. But I can’t really cultivate inspiration in a precise way.

I can choose to surround myself with things I admire, love, and study–and they can provide me with pleasure, reflection, and perspective–but there is no way I can know what will inspire me, and not just interest me next.

Scholastically and personally too, I can fill my head, shelves, and sketchbooks with ideologies and policies but there is no guarantee that those will remain relevant to me (let alone my gorgeously beautiful artworks) tomorrow. Every time I’ve been inspired (blindly and willingly enscripted to creative action with no thoughts as to its meaning, motivation, or purpose) it has come as a casual surprise.

There are realizations that come through the unconscious through prompting. When problem solving the solution could arrive through being hands-on, or through a dream. Either way there is an active dialogue. Intuition can be strengthened by observation. Risk mitigated by experience.

Building familiarity with all of those things allows you to make mistakes with more ease.

Inspiration feels like chance. For some reason an alignment happens and before you know it you’re quitting your budding career as a paralegal and moving to another city to open a vegan bakery that’s only open until 3pm. The bigger the inspiration, the bigger the chance, the more foolish it might seem to others.

At least: gleaning inspiration from the air probably takes into account more than we can calculate with our tiny psychologies.

If I am feeling stuck pinning down a lack of inspiration as a centre to pull the strings of my frustration around devalues my own efforts and potential**. The feeling becomes that, without outside inspiration, the creative block is formed around the gravity of myself. I feel I own what I do.

Ideas then get judged on whether they bring the right validation as well as interest and motivation now. Most ideas are incomplete fragments that require them to be laced to one another. It’s easy to ditch these when you’re focused on finding the “big picture” idea that puts your practice into quick focus.

It’s not fun.

It’s like, though I know inspiration is mysterious, imagining an additional level of irrationality to the mix will create the clarity I want. And as much as love the prosaic–especially when it comes to talking about art and music–I think even the plainest language is confusing enough.

 

If you can look at the language you use, and find out what you mean by it, you’re likely going to find double/triple/quadruple or more meanings to the things you say. It’s much easier when you know what emotion you’re really invoking in yourself when you use words like: art, creative, interest, love, hate, design, music, etc.

Where do you draw the line? What isn’t music to you? Why not? All of the things you believe when you use the word in a statement. Many of the writer’s blocks we face are about inconsistencies in the relationships we’ve established for ourselves. (And we can find the entrance and exit to some of those in our language.)

In the cases where “inspiration” means interest and motivation the cognitive dissonance (believing two opposing things) just doesn’t help. Having an interest and being motivated are internally generated states, which we feel. Inspiration means divine guidance, a realization/release, that happens to us.

I might not be able to force inspiration. But if I accept that I receive it (whether that spiritual or psychology or both or whatever) then I have to make room for it. Part of that might be about sitting still and being available to it (which I believe) and the other about working parallel to it–practicing, reading, technique, etc.

If I’m needing to renew the purpose behind my motivation, but hand it over to inspiration alone, I’m going to become frustrated. Frustration further dampens the sensitivity to life’s subtle influences which continues that problem.

My desire for motivation could be drowning out a distant call. Maybe my need to feel motivated is part of the problem. What happens when I day dream? What motivates that? What do I love? How does that motivate me? Am I thinking too much? (I am.) Am I just craving stimulation?

If I am feeling a lack of interest I can wait for inspiration but I might be waiting a long time. How can I encourage my own curiosity right now? Have I exposed myself to something new? Can I go back and reignite something old? A lack of interest could be a lack of focus. By which I mean: go look at something intently. Should I go to the aquarium/bird santuary/market?

In either case, the only thing I think I can do is follow my intuition and trust that inspiration will arrive when it’s ready. In the meantime: I can focus on other aspects with intent. I find this an empowering idea: that, while we’re at the mercy of divine bestowment, you prepare yourself for it.

Having a creative practice of any kind is an acknowledgment, whether you mean it to or not, that just beneath the surface of everything is a process we don’t understand.

Having a creative practice of any kind is an acknowledgment, whether you mean it to or not, that just beneath the surface of everything is a process we don’t understand. As human beings we seem to be the only ones who use it the way we do. It seems to be a fundamental part of our development as conscious creatures.

We have to live and work with a foot in the practical and a hand in the mystical. For some reason we’re just blind to basically every truth out there.

Right now: I’m interested and I’m motivated to write. Maybe when I get inspired I’ll start to actually enjoy it.

*Interesting is one of the most loaded words out there. I use it way too much.

**Which I do quite fine with by myself thank you very much.

Try it

Chris_von_Szombathy_artist_designer_musician

Click the album and try it.
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