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.
“…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.
Recently I have moved my 11/1 interviews over to a new site:
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.
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.
Mama ko mama sa maka makossa mama ko mama sa maka makossa. Alright fine: I’ll be hypnotized. I’ll dance.
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?
I can dance to this anytime. I love Debra Hurd. Look at that jacket.
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.
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.
There is so much to learn about art, design, or music. Most of it deals with interaction: you present your work as close to your ideal as possible using whatever means or skills you either have, will have, or can afford.
If you focus on your handiwork you increase the chances that whatever you want to get across gets across. Hopefully it creates some conversation, internally and externally. Ideally it makes genuine contact with someone you might never meet. (You might not even live in the same country. Or in the same time in history.)
If, for example, you like to paint (I like to paint) you can learn about:
There is lots of fascinating stuff related to each area. Every time you learn something new that applies to your creative process you shorten the distance between what you experience and your ability to express it in the future. In fact, consciously changing the ways you express yourself will end up changing the things you say. It will, at least, make for a more nuanced statement.
When I’m focused on what I enjoy about art, design, and music (the engagement side of it), I’m making connections about how it relates to my life. I’m not much of a storyteller, other than the one I tell to myself between my own two ears, but we are naturally narrative animals. Our view of the world is really the story of ourselves.
A narrative has to start somewhere though. And the first bite, if it’s coming in through your nerves, is entirely perceptual. This is why “impressions” are so important. We have some “control” over some of our perceptions, like how culture plays a role in some illusions, but others seem to be totally neurological or due to how our eyeballs are built and work.
Basically: pre-cognitive awareness, the things you’re not conscious of that you’re seeing, is how we immediately start to evaluate what we’re observing.
As much as we can direct our attention to what we’re seeing (once we’ve seen it) our brains make a lot of calls about the quality and content of what we’re looking at before attention is even required. We all have emotional responses to things before we start thinking about why that is or what it means.
We know we can’t control how people respond to something, especially when we’re talking about content or experience, so thinking about illusions and perceptual stuff might seem like busywork. But there are a lot of “real life” examples where illusions of some kind have to be dealt with, like shoulder checking because of blind-spots when you’re driving. There is one due to mirrors and there is one in your eyes.
Driving without checking your blind spots is probably more dangerous than any of the illusions that occur within art, design, and music but there is a similarity in their effect: decisions you might not be aware of change the impression you have on others.
Having said all of that some illusions are fun for their novelty and inventiveness (who wouldn’t want to turn out a personal Escher once in awhile?) but the ones I am most interested in are the ones that we don’t notice.
- Which is the true square?
The one that I check the most is the horizontal-vertical thickness discrepancy. I don’t know a better name for it so I just call it 4Y.
You probably know that when you wear vertical stripes you’ll appear thinner than when you wear horizontal ones. This is absolutely true even when the lines intersect: we perceive vertical lines to be thinner than horizontal ones. (Probably won’t help you look skinny though.)
A 4% difference on the Y axis is about right: that’s why 4Y.
In Image 1 the square on the right, Square B, is the true square.
- Here Square B has been put under Square A so you can see the subtle difference between the two. Square A has a taller opening in the middle but the perimeters of both squares is the same.
Because we sense the horizontal lines are thicker, Square B feels heavier and more like an enclosed area. It is the true square but, if I needed a square, I’d probably use Square A.
Since I use Adobe programs 90% of the time I can just copy/paste either:
To the W/H values in your Transform box and get a rough idea if it’s worth it right away.
Does this matter?
I think in some cases. Especially when you need control of impressions at small sizes; like in logos. My rule of thumb is that if it’s perceived it’s probably worth at least toying with. And a 4% difference is visually notable in high contrast images.
Most of the time the easiest way to do this is optically since things like colors, gradients, and angles will skew your perception a bit. The best way to judge is your eyes: if you think something you’re making is feeling too heavy, especially top-down, thin out your horizontals a hair and see if it doesn’t “fit” better with itself that way.
So though 4% might not matter in terms of what you’re saying, it probably won’t change your content too much, it may change how your content is perceived. Our biology calls for a little subterfuge now and then.
Here is a really quick example that show, even with blocks and circles, you can get better feeling letters with a couple pixels.
- hot hot hot.
HOT SHIT RIGHT?!