Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

midsummer night

Here's a photo I took on my i-phone around eight or so last night. While the original is far different looking than this one, it is equally beautiful. Still, for Illustration Friday, I wanted to go for a more dreamlike, nocturnal feel. That's where a simple filter through Instagram came in, followed by some careful altering of color and contrast via Picnik. All of this makes me think of what is it that determines a photograph, as opposed to art, and art as opposed to an illustration, and can they all converge on occasion as one and the same?

Monday, June 27, 2011

tim koch: "lull", "korgo" ,"seven ate nine", & "lighter tonight (remix)"

Australian electronic musician Tim Koch is one of my favorite artists to come from the Merck Records roster with the release of the album "Faena" in 2006. More concerned with creating a music full of melody, harmony and texture, than sonic trickery, I'm reminded of early Black Dog Productions and Plaid recordings, though Tim's work has a sound of it's own. I was extremely happy to have recently found one of his earlier albums, "Shorts in Alaska", from 2001, from The CD Cellar, and couldn't believe how fresh it still sounds ten years later, even though it's not as "mature" or developed sounding as "Faena". Some things you'll be sure to find in his material are a deep, almost three-dimensional sound, with submersive basslines throughout, often anchoring optimistic melodies and strong, steady breakbeats. It's a sound both exotic and familiar, unique and exquisite as the wildlife native to his home country. Recently he's been putting out new material for Ghostly International, and you can download one of his EPs, "Elk Meadow" for free at Last FM. The tracks above are from "Shorts..." "VA: Intelligent Toys" (awesome FREE compilation), "Faena", and "Elk Meadow". Enjoy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

sunday morning walk

Early today I went on a stroll around town, something I'm trying to do on a daily basis now, in the morning instead of at night.  Where I live is not far from a charming historic area, housing architecture and trees nearly two-hundred years old. It's a beautiful town, worthy of photographs, and has been photographed, drawn and painted many times by many people. Still I tend to notice the more seemingly mundane things - things I sometimes pass on by without much notice at all. Much of it reminds me of abstract paintings, sculptures and installation works you might see in a gallery or in a museum. Once again, these shots were taken through Instagram on the i-phone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Go flying coyote!

* 10" x 8" mixed media on watercolor paper, made for the Illustration Friday topic "launch", 6/2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

bruce haack megapost

When most people think of the origins of great electronic music, they think of Germany, England and Russia. However, if one man put Canada on the map, it's without a doubt Bruce Haack. Starting out making songs and records, mostly for children and educational purposes, Haack would later go on to explore social commentary regarding war, religion, spirituality, education and technology in his music. Towards the end of his life, Haack was embraced by the then fertile hip hop community,  creating the vocoder-sung club hit "Party Machine".  Above are video and song snippets from some of the various phases in his musical career.

When I first heard Bruce Haack's music, it was while listening to a college radio station back in Pittsburgh. It struck me as both kind of corny yet ridiculously cool. I later tracked down an excellent compilation of some of his earlier work, then shortly after saw (and later bought) the documentary on the man and his music, put out several years ago. You can see a little bit about that in a snippet above, featuring a brief interview with the film's director.

Haack was a brilliant musical genius, creating many of his own electronic musical instruments. No matter what style Haack pursued, there was always a lively, glowing warmth in his sound, and countless musicians in all fields and genres of music cite Haack as an influence. Still, Bruce Haack's legacy isn't recognized enough, and I could only imagine what he'd be doing now with his music if he was still alive. For more on Bruce Haack, check out this excellent website dedicated to him, as well as the documentary. More than anything, go and buy some of his music.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

return of the ugly fish

Finally, it's my first official day of summer break. I'll be starting back, teaching art classes to older kids in about a week, but at least I have some time in between to get caught up on some things beyond work. I ended up taking on the monumental task of thoroughly cleaning out my art classroom, the storage space being the biggest challenge. After a decade of teaching in the same school, you tend to accumulate many things you don't need as an art teacher. I had enough of running out of space and not being able to find things anymore, so things either went to other people, to the recycle bins, or to the trash. On top of that, mice seemed to have had a field day throughout my storage space, so that was an altogether different task. That said, the room looks almost like it did when I first began teaching ten years ago, and I look forward to returning in August with a fresh, renewed perspective. Us artist-types tend to be pack rats, keeping everything and never using most of it, so it'll be a welcome challenge to keep things simple and organized. If ever I feel the urge to take or hold onto something I think I could use, but know in the back of my mind I won't, I'll just think of the week I spent cleaning like a madman.

In the meantime, I was able to get some pics of a project I particularly enjoyed working on with my fourth graders, before they took them home.  I call 'em "ugly fish", for obvious reasons, but that's exactly the charm. The kids all start with a single slab of clay, which they have to get flattened to roughly a quarter of an inch thick. Afterwards, they have to cut it into a rectangle shape, keeping the excess clay for eyes, fins, etc. They then fold the clay in half very carefully, sealing the top by gently pinching the edge, as well as sealing one side, where the tail will be, keeping the mouth portion open. This tends to be the most difficult part for my students, and sometimes it takes a couple of attempts until they get it right. Finally, they get to have fun and attach eyes and side fins, etc. I let them have fun with this part, as long as both edges are scored well when attaching any part. If they forget to score an edge, parts are guaranteed to fall off as soon as it dries out in a couple of weeks. They also get to experiment with texture, using some clay tools to create what looks like scales or gills even. After a couple of weeks of drying out, all the fish go into the kiln.  The final phase is glazing, and if time permits, I let the kids have two class periods for this so they can cover their sculptures more thoroughly and get some nice layers of color as well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

instagram sky show

With the weather getting so hot, I've been trying to get my evening walks in later, when things cool down. I usually walk around my town, Leesburg, VA for a little over an hour, getting about four miles in each time. It's my main form of exercise, and it definitely beats going to any gym. I've been trying to get my wife to come along with me, but for her, it wakes her up before her bedtime, which makes perfect sense, since the blood gets going again and the heart rate rises. For me though, I find it as a way to unwind and not think about all the things I have to do, etc. I think we think too much sometimes, or we do things to blunt our thinking, like watch lots of TV or drink too much. So, in a way, these walks are kind of like self-therapy. The bonus is when you get a good sky in the evening. A couple of days ago I got caught in a heavy rain but was lucky to find shelter under a nearby gazebo. Like most of the rain storms we get this way, they fall hard, then after about ten minutes or so, they're done. Usually the aftermath is a spectacular sky. After last week's rainfall, we got a couple of rainbows over Leesburg that started out very faint then got real bright and vivid, almost electric-looking. It reminded me of a visit to Trinidad a couple of years ago around Christmas, where almost every day, usually in the morning, if you got up early enough, you would see a rainbow or two. The ones over Leesburg didn't last long however, one of which came and went within about a minute, while the other for about ten, fading into the expanding, multiplying clouds above. Once again I was glad I had my i-phone to capture some of it, and then present it through the Instagram app, through several different filters. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

blue hawaii: "blue gowns (live)" & "dream electrixra"

Blue Hawaii are a fairly new and young duo from Montreal, Canada. According to their Last FM bio: "Blue Hawaii tells the story of a lush paradise. The way begins ambient and uncertain, but beautiful white shell beaches and carefree sunshine parties await and nourish those travelers with love in their hearts; their peace thus raised above the arguments found along the rocky road. The duo consists of Raph (Braids) and Agor; they use voice, guitars, synths, drum machines, and other electronics to create a kind of tropical-pop with love ache melodies and experimental club rhythms."

Included here are two of my favorite songs from their 2010 release, "Blooming Summer", an album I wish I had found out about earlier, but am so glad I even found out about at all.  I'm reminded a little bit of some of Cocteau Twins best moments, when listening to some of Blue Hawaii's stuff, though the band are definitely in a place of their own, as their bio above, so eloquently describes. When you get a chance, please check out this great interview with the band. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

imaginary animal species sculptures

It's nice having an i-phone to document some of my student art work. While the 2-D work didn't show so good when shot from the phone, I had lots of luck with the sculptures. Above are some sculptures by my soon-to-be former fifth-grade art students. We spent a while creating imaginary animals based on the skulls of actual animal species. It's been a unit I've taught for a while now, but with each year it changes some more. The sculpture part is the final phase of the lesson, if they even get to that point in the unit. I'm really pleased with how some of them turned out this year.