Wednesday, June 30, 2010

artist spotlight: richard bailey

Whew, kind of late, I know, but well worth the wait, 'cause the GFT! Artist Spotlight for the month of June goes to Richard Bailey, though fans of his music know him by his Proem alias. You can say it's been Proem week at this blog, with featured videos, music and now art from Mr. Bailey, who is now a resident of Houston, Texas. It was a real pleasure having him take some time out to share some of his art and some insight into his work. Enjoy!

1. Q: Your visual work, much like your music, conveys a deep, atmospheric quality. Do you find any parallels between your visual and audio art and would you call them intentional or not?

A: There are parallels... intentional yes, but nowhere near deliberate. You could say I'm stuck in a little box of my own design. Its wooden, probably pine and usually buried under six feet of earth. It's a chore to dig myself out. I've tried for ages to claw my way out and back up to the surface. After years of digging with my bare hands,... cleaning out the dirt under my fingernails seems like more effort than its worth. Best to just carry on and make the best of it.

2. Q: What are some of your preferred mediums when working in the visual realm?

A: Even though a lot of the work I have online is either watercolors or digital, I have a love hate relationship with both. In the case of watercolors, they aren't the most comfortable medium for me to work in. I want to love them and master them but when thinking of the application of paint, my brain tends to think in dark to light rather than light to dark. Which is only a little ironic considering my subject matter. I do love the little details and random artifacts you can achieve using watercolors. That being said, there is nothing worse than spending a few hundred hours on a project only to have it rip in half when you are pulling the masking tape off. I tend to oversaturate the paper to the point of it bowing quite awfully. Thus I am no master of watercolors. I suppose that could really be more about confidence than skill at this point. A great deal of the watercolor work I've done more recently has been largely paint marker / watercolor pencil and very little water.

On the digital side I have a 3 step proces: 1) scan at 600dpi. 2) load into artrage, play around till something catches my eye 3) either finish the piece in photoshop/painter. I like to use the digital side of things as a fail safe and not a crutch. I try to quickly prototype ideas or color shifts run through the process and then go back with an idea or two that i wouldnt dare try without a plan of attack. I love the freedom of digital painting but hate the lack of tactile sensation,... even with a pen tablet nothing beats the feeling of bristles on a surface.

What I love working in is large scale acryllic on wood. The larger the scale the better.

3. Q: For lack of a better word, much of the subject matter in your art takes on a darker, almost nightmarish quality. Are you drawn to the spookier side of things?

A: Drawn, outlined, painted and screen printed that way. I dont think it makes me special or different either. Humans are the one true darkness. I'm fairly certain we invented the concept. Some of us just package it and sell it better.

4. Q: Any plans for future projects merging your visual with your audio work at all?

A: Well, I've always done the art and layout for all of my records.... I'd love to do an animation project or actually finish the graphic novel I've been working on for the last 4 years. But I cant seem to find the time or focus or extra talent it would take to pull either of those off.

5. Q: Whose art are you into these days? Any names we should know?

A: The short list of people I would cross the street to cut myself in front of are:
Ben Templesmith
James Jean
Eric Powell
Eric Lacombe
Emmanuel Malin
Brian Wood
Renee Lawter
Mike Mignola

And Yes before anyone says anything, most of them are comic artists. Which is where I think the only interesting figurative art is happening these days,... well since the cubist and surrealist movements. And not to get all art history on you but the Dadaists and absurdists really screwed things up for the art world...

Also, you know who's mind blowingly awesome? Jean Michel Basquiat. When the traveling Basquiat exhibit hit the Menil back in the mid 90's it just shattered the way I looked at art. All that hand written text and franticly painted imagery, the immediacy of the work, Mark Rothko is another one that just rocked my world. The first time I stepped into the Rothko chapel, i didn't make it any more than 10 steps in before I was moved to tears. It was the first time I felt there was a presence of a higher power.

6. Q: How about music? Who are you tuned into lately?

A: I am way into math core and death metal bands actually. To name a few:
carbomb (these guys are the most disjointed and complex metal ive ever heard)
the dillinger escape plan
ion dissonance
as for the electronic side of things:
ben frost
the new deceptikon record is fantastic (the art aint half bad either!)
squarepusher ( though i didnt care much for the last one)

7. Q: As a dad, web developer and musician, where or how do you make time for your personal visual artwork?

A: Like everyone else on the planet at the end of the day I wonder where all the hours went. It's either sleep less or relent to the clock. Either way someone or something takes the hit. The trick is to not let it be the same thing every time. I havent figured out how to do that just yet. I'm getting close. Mostly I go through cycles where I spend my freetime making music or I spend it painting and drawing. Though having children has rekindled a lot of the drawing and painting urges in me. It's way too much fun to draw in a little group than by yourself sometimes. Especially when that group hangs on your every word because you can draw a frog or a penguin or an octopus.

8. Q: How would you describe the art and music scene in Austin as of late?

A: I wouldn't know. I havent lived there in awhile. But I was never one for the "art scene". Not that I dont have truck loads of the pretense that permeates the art world... I find it tedious and difficult to play the "arthouse" game, and by that I mean actually being able to buy and sell paintings. Which is sort of important if you plan to truly support a scene. Artists have to eat too.

9. Q: As an artist, what do you find most frustrating or challenging perhaps?

A: All of the above.

10. Q: Godzilla or Gammera - if the two had to battle, who would come out on top?

A: I have three words for you. Giant. Robot. Lizard. Yea thats right I went there.

For more of Richard's work, please drop by these links!: - discography - design portfolio - ranting - work in progress / audio experiments - flickery things

Monday, June 28, 2010

proem: "i don't know how to tell"

Yesterday I featured a video for one of my favorite musicians, Proem. Today I'm featuring a song of his called "I Don't Know How to Tell", from his critically acclaimed, and my personal favorite Proem LP, "Socially Inept" (Merck 2004). Like yesterday's featured track, this one also kicks off the album. I guess I'm a sucker for album starters, and I definitely make time to listen to one the whole way through, from start to finish. How an album begins is always important, because it sets the tone for the rest of the "journey".

Sunday, June 27, 2010

proem: "blacker the berry"

For over ten years, Richard Bailey, aka Proem, has been making some of the most moving electronic music on the planet. Elements of hip hop, industrial, ambient, techno and classical all inform his American brand of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). The song featured here, "Blacker the Berry" is the first track to kick off Proem's 2007 release "A Permanent Solution". For several weeks after buying this CD in the summer of 2007, I'd start off my early morning commute with this song and LP. The music was the perfect soundtrack for my hour-long round trip through the country, to and from some classes I was teaching at the time. There is a great deal of emotion and suggestion of mood in Bailey's subtle compositions, many of them suggesting a time, place or landscape even. The video for this track is a fan-made vid, one that really captures the essence of the music and compliments the sounds well. In addition to being a prolific maker of music, Bailey is also a fantastic visual artist and graphic designer. As with much of the music I feature here, good headphones or speakers are strongly suggested.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

wood stork satellite tracking

The Wood Stork (or Wood Ibis) has always been a favorite bird of mine, with its massive, five foot wingspan and its ancient, almost prehistoric appearance. This once-prosperous and abundant bird, who resides mostly in North America, is now endangered due to rapid habitat destruction. Researchers have now begun using satellite tracking to monitor the bird's population and behavior.

*made for the Illustration Friday word prompt "satellite", watercolors and Pigma Micron pen in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 6/2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

from the archives ("bluelight")

About five years ago, when I first moved back to Leesburg, I used to go on lots of walks with my camera - far more than I do today. Many times I'd go out at night, especially in the summer, when things would cool down a little. I'd look for things I normally didn't pay much attention to - forms, shapes, lines or colors that struck me as interesting upon closer examination. Many times in nature, these things are more obvious, at least to me. In a more urban environment, I found I had to train my eye to look more at structures I'd normally pass on by. This photo was taken in a parking garage in Leesburg, at night. The blue light is what first grabbed my attention, followed by the surrounding pipes, etc. Framing it just the right way made for a good composition - one reminiscent of an abstract painting even. There was something mysterious about this, and maybe I'm applying outside information as to why - the time of day, the quiet, the location, my own personal mood at the time I took the photo, etc.

Monday, June 21, 2010

paisley of the sea

I drew these for the Illustration Friday prompt, paisley. I thought about things in nature that resembled the paisley, and one of the first things that stood out in my mind was the seahorse, whose bodies seem to look like little living, breathing, floating paisleys. I may have also been somewhat influenced by watching some of the "Science is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painleve" DVDs, which is a truly fascinating, eye-opening series of short nature films with a very surreal quality about them. The segments on seahorses, and octopi, alone are worth the watch. Definitely check this series out if you have an interest in nature and art.

*Pigma Micron pens and Koi watercolors in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 6/2010

midwest product: "duckpond"

Like a lot of people, I got into this young post-rock trio from Michigan pretty late in the game. They put several strong records out on Ghostly International, but after several years together, split. Their story almost parallels another amazing post rock group from their time (early 2000's), Tiki Obmar (Merck) , who I also started listening to long after they moved on. Featured here is an instrumental from Midwest Product's spellbinding EP, "World Series of Love". So much goodness is packed into this short, thirty-minute mini-album, it's so hard to pick or choose favorites. Not quite as jazzy as Tortoise, not as rocky as Trans Am, and not nearly as somber as Godspeed!youblackemperror, Midwest Product seem to have assimilated all of these bands into their sound in some way. On this song, "Duckpond", the trio reaches some dizzying heights a little over halfway in, and don't let go until the end. If only these guys would get back together again and make more music.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

morrissey: "every day is like sunday"

I've always had a healthy appreciation for both The Smiths and Morrissey, though was never even close to being a hardcore fan, like a good majority of his following. Maybe it's because I've never been too interested in rock music since I was a kid, however, stuff by "the Moz" and his former band The Smiths is some of the best type of rock and roll ever made, at least from my time. I remember listening obsessively to a very popular but short-lived "alternative rock" (always disliked that term) radio station called WXXP FM growing up in the Pittsburgh area. One of the most heavily-played songs in their regular rotation was Morrissey's "Every Day is Like Sunday", from his first solo recording, Viva Hate. While I never paid much attention to the lyrics of Morrissey or The Smiths, I do remember seeing this video and thinking how much I could relate with the young girl in many ways. It's also no surprise that The Moz himself is vegetarian and down with animal rights - something that made me all the more a fan of the guy and his music. The last decade was a comeback of sorts for Morrissey, seeing the release of three solid LPs after some years of silence. I was always a little bitter about his cancelation of both his stops in Pittsburgh, one of which I had tickets for, but I think he more than made up for it when he stopped by Northern Virginia several years ago, sounding as good as ever.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

from the archives ("lil' kris")

It's funny I even call this weekly series "from the archives" when most of the photos I've posted are probably no more than a few years old. In the context of digital photography however, we take so many more photos nowadays, that these "pics" from a few years ago seem almost ancient sometimes. This photo however was taken without a digital camera back when "pix" were developed on film. The photo itself is truly from the archives, from nearly three decades ago, and the subject is a little girl on a rocking horse on a tropical island far from Virginia. Who knew that this adorable little girl would later grow up to find herself leaving her sunny Caribbean home to live in the states and make a new life, with me? Who knew she would still, as an adult, be just as adorable and remain a kid at heart? I have my wife's mom to thank for sending me this priceless photo in the mail!

Monday, June 14, 2010

tycho: "adrift"

"Im going through hard times right now, & I'd just like to say that this song gives me hope. The power of raw music, no ego involved."

"If my dreams had a soundtrack it would sound like this."

Above are a couple of quotes from listeners, pertaining to this song, entitled "Adrift" by American electronic music maker Scott Hansen, known to his fans as Tycho. Scott is also an equally revered graphic designer - his design alias being ISO50, and the above image is one example of his work. Tycho's "Past Is Prologue" got some heavy rotation from me in 2006, - a CD I picked up from Merck recordings. Now that Merck is gone, Michigan-based Ghostly International holds the torch for releasing quality American and international electronic music, including this track put out as a single in 2008. With all the amazing LPs coming out this year and some of the best artists surfacing again after years of disappearance, it looks like 2010 is shaping up to be the year of top notch electronic music. "Adrift" is a great example of Tycho's style, obviously hailing from the Boards of Canada school of widescreen atmospherics and monolithic beats. Still, despite the obvious and overstated comparisons to BOC, Tycho does indeed possess a certain flavor of his own - perhaps residing a little more on a sunny California tip. Stop by Scott's music blog for some good insight into the making of, and progress of his new, soon-to-be released LP, slated for late 2010.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

new order: "world in motion"

While I don't claim to have World Cup fever, I am indeed a soccer fan - it's my favorite sport even, but as with many sports, I'd rather be playing than watching them. I grew up playing soccer and probably would have been pretty good if I stuck with it. Around the time I started losing interest in sports however, I got more and more into art and music. As a teen, New Order was one of my favorite bands, and still are to this day. One of their most interesting and most popular songs, "World in Motion" was their biggest hit, reaching number one in England, in 1990. I remember how popular it was even in Pittsburgh, when I went to high school. For more than a month, World in Motion was the number one requested song on independent radio station WYEP. Local DJ's Randy LeMasters , who ran the excellent, and now closed South Side record shop, Randy's Records, as well as DJ Harry The Wire played the song often on WYEP. The video itself cracks me up, seeing lead singer Bernard Sumner (as well as everyone else) lip synching completely out of synch the whole time, and the way keyboardist Gillian Gilbert keeps looking as if she can't wait for the shooting to end, is typical New Order fashion. Who would have thought a band who rose from the ashes of Joy Division, who made some of the darkest post punk of their time, would turn out making one of the most cheerful, uplifting, and biggest songs ever to come from the UK? If it wasn't for all the childish ego battles between band members, who went off and did more solo projects than I care to list, New Order could have been even more well known and respected than they already are today. Expect more New Order videos in the near future.

Friday, June 11, 2010

the ripple effect

I decided to make an ATC for the Illustration Friday topic "ripple". This week's topic was also inspired by The Ripple Blog, who Illo Friday is promoting at their blog (thanks for the heads up Penelope!). It's a pair of Caribbean manatees - a wonderful, intelligent mammalian species already facing extinction. As upset as I am with BP and Haliburton and their general lack of responsibility, we can't just point the finger and lay blame on one scapegoat. We all use oil in one way or another and we're all responsible. I'm so glad to see something like The Ripple Blog and their mission. A lot of folks like to stereotype artists as self-absorbed and uncaring, but that isn't always the case, and this is yet another excellent way for art to make a difference, as big or small as it may be. This card and post only took me a little over an hour to make - not much time out at all. If you draw, paint or want to contribute, check out Ripple now and give it a shot.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

from the archives ("twin hi-way drive-in")

Remember the drive-in theater? I grew up going to them as a kid. My very first movie-going experience was at the drive-in - Star Wars, to be exact. It was one of my most vivid and favorite childhood memories. Seeing those words appear on the big screen followed by two spaceships cruising into space, under the stars, outdoors, could only be described as awesome for a six-year-old boy. I saw many other great films at the drive-in as a kid as well, including Tron, the Fox and the Hound, and The Black Hole. There was no surround sound or 3-D (or 4-D for that matter), luxury seating, or air conditioning. In fact, what I did recall were crappy, steel speaker devices you had to put in your car, gnats and stinky bathrooms. But it was worth it, and that was only the downside to it. I miss the drive-in, perhaps because I grew up with them as a kid. As a teen, I quit going to the drive-ins. They were disappearing and weren't considered cool anymore. This one in particular - the Twin Hi-Way Drive-In is located on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA, and the photo was taken around the summer of 2006. Not too long after I posted it to Flickr, one guy commented on it, claiming that very drive-in was resurrected and back in business. Looks like there's some hope left for the drive-in after all.

Monday, June 7, 2010

oval: "do while"

"I saw this video back when MTV ran a show called "AMP." I was going to college in a rural area and would never have known about many artists that I love if this show hadn't existed. This Oval video was among my favorites and 10+ years later I still love the song & the visuals. Thank you for posting it!"

Above is a quote from a fan, posted on You Tube, referring to both the track and video "Do While" by German Electronic musician Markus Popp, better known to music heads as Oval. I can relate in some ways to this quote, and could not agree more. I found out about Oval by even more primitive means though, through American indie record label Thrill Jockey's mail order catalogue. It came along with a Trans Am CD I had purchased through them, and through verbal description alone, I ended up ordering Oval's first formal LP "Systemisch". The CD went on to be something of a milestone in electronic music's rich and varied history, spurring the "glitch" movement, later adopted by dozens of like-minded producers. His second LP, "94 Diskont" continued along in a similar vein as his first, embracing the little snaps, crackles and pops of damaged, skipping CDs, turning error and chance into sprawling, spiraling musical compositions. "Do While", featured here, is originally a twenty-four minute track on that record. Lately, Oval has gone in somewhat of a different direction, releasing his first recording in almost a decade, entitled "Oh". I was one of the lucky few to grab up this record, sold only as vinyl record through Thrill Jockey. All one-thousand copies sold out in less than a week, and fortunately for me, the record came with a high quality digital download. At only twenty-five minutes, "Oh" is a collection of short songs, containing live, improvised percussion over mostly treated, tweaked guitar textures. Despite the more tangible, organic, improvised sound, this is still indeed an Oval recording, and a beautiful one to boot. I look forward to the new seventy-track, double CD entitled "O" to be released by Oval this summer.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

machine drum: "jelly jelly"

In 2009, electronic music whiz Travis Stewart released an outstanding LP called Want to 1 2 under his Machine Drum alias. If I would have known about this one sooner, it would have easily made my top ten of 2009, but it wasn't until last January when word finally hit me. With everyone getting all worked up over newer artists like Hudson Mohawke, Nosaj Thing and Flying Lotus, Want to 1 2 didn't quite receive the attention or critical acclaim it rightly deserved, probably because it was available only as an MP3 release on his own Normrex label, and also in part because Machine Drum was no longer the flavor of the month. Whatever the case, Travis is an incredibly skilled producer who released a slew of LPs under different aliases on the now defunct Merck records label. His first LP, "Now You Know" was released at the young age of nineteen, though it sounded more like the work of a producer with at least a decade's worth of developed skill and knowledge. Needless to say, Now You Know is considered a classic among fans who prefer their electronics with a heavy dose of hip-hop bump n' snap. Coming from a young kid from North Carolina, fresh out of high school, makes this all the more intriguing. Relocating to Miami, and more recently NYC, all of Machine Drum's LPs have a perfect mix of hip-hop, deep bass, warm synths, curious movie and TV sound bytes, and fizzy, glitchy deconstruction to keep things interesting - something for the mind and booty, both in heavy doses. Ten years later, Want To 1 2 takes things up a notch and includes an impressive roster of guest vocalists and rappers - artists who collaborate as part of the Normrex collective. The singing and raps alienated some listeners expecting the same ol' same ol', but most fans got it and learned that the music wasn't compromised or watered down by any means. The result is the perfect urban pop recording - one that much of the mainstream world, still dragging its heels along with weak and tired formulas, isn't quite ready for unfortunately. Good news is, there's also plenty of stellar instrumental tracks packed into Want to 1 2, and perhaps my favorite is the next to last song on the album called "Jelly Jelly", which is reminiscent of his earlier work. One for the head-nod set!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

for rocky

I thought I'd do an Illo Friday piece for Drawing Day 2010, which is officially today, and dedicate it to an old friend. A few years ago while walking the W&OD Trail in Leesburg, VA, I saw an injured box turtle. He stood there at the side of the trail looking at me with one open eye, the other severly damaged. As speedy bikers whizzed on by oblivious to this small creature, I wondered what to do. A friend suggested I take it to the local animal hospital, which I ended up doing. They performed surgery on his eye, which he was now blind in. I wondered what had happened to the turtle, whose habitat was being rapidly destroyed and replaced by apartment buildings, shopping centers and storage spaces. I named him Rocky because he was a true fighter and his bloodied eye reminded me of Stallone in the first Rocky film. My wife wanted to keep him but I knew he wouldn't thrive in captivity, so after a week of care I released him into an area not far from where he was found, yet deep enough in the woods where he hopefully was protected. I hope Rocky's doing well today.

*watercolors, acrylics, Pigma Micron pens in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 6/2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

gas: "microscopic"

Back in 1995 Ambient and "Chill Out" music was big in the underground. Once again it is experiencing a notable resurgance among current electronic and experimental music makers. Somewhat of a fallout of early rave culture, Ambient's (a term coined by Brian Eno) intent was to be an immersive music, seving as both a backround and foreground audio experience for the listener, depending on the listener's choice of listening style. Some of the best recordings from that time period include releases like Global Communication's 76:14, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume 2, The Future Sound of London's Lifeforms and any early Orb output. Tons of compilations were released during that time period as well, some of which were cheezy and forgettable, while others were truly remarkable. One compilation, which falls in the latter category is the Emit 2000 release, distributed by the American electronic music label Instinct. There was an entire series of Emit compilations, known for their excellent international artist rosters, superior quality in sound and exquisite album sleeve art featuring various exotic wildlife photography. For many, Emit 2000 is the defining Ambient music compilation of the nineties. One track that stands out in my mind from this compilation is the one entitled "Microscopic" by Gas. While the video isn't exactly what I would have had in mind for this beautiful, expansive track, it works very well and will definitely appeal to the nerds. Turn off the lights and plug in those headphones.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

from the archives ("niiiice-icles")

Yes, cheezy title and not the most remarkable photo, but with the current heat-wave, it sure is nice to look at. I took this several years back when we had a pretty decent snow, though nothing quite as notable as the two storms from last winter. I wish I wasn't one to complain about the weather, and generally I'm not, unless the conditions are extreme. Today it was indeed extremely hot - "code orange" hot from what I was told, and as I sit here typing away, I hear the sounds of distant thunder while the sky gets increasingly gray. This is a good thing, and any relief from this heat will suffice. I feel very fortunate to have air conditioning, though we don't use it too much. On days like this, where you feel like you'll evaporate within minutes of stepping foot outdoors, it seems to be a necessity. OK, back to thinking cool, pleasant thoughts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

sketch dump: 5/2010

I know, in last month's dump I mentioned something about having no more Splotch Monsters at Go Flying Turtle!. Well, that's all I've been working on during May unfortunately, so they have returned once again. I thought I'd post my ten favorite here from May. The problem now is finding a balance between actual sketching and drawing, painting, and these. Sometimes I get on a kick and get a bit obsessed, but I've had the urge to work on other things as well lately. If anyone is looking to do a collab with me, simply print out any paint splotch (or, as I like to call them, "Splotch Form") from HERE and draw your own features on it. I've had an idea brewing for a while now, with these, and this month I'll finally be actively getting to work with that idea. In the meantime, here's to summer break's (hopefully) speedy arrival. Happy June folks!