Supporting Artists

This will be more of a rant in response to the news that the third book of a trilogy by my favourite author, Steven Erikson, being delayed. Because of low sales of the first two novels, he’s focusing on a new series, presumably for these new books to gain momentum and drive interest back to the other trilogy. This is frustrating not only because the first book of the delayed trilogy might be my favourite book of Erikson’s, but also because it’s part of a bigger problem of fans not supporting artists.

I’ve heard many huge fans of Erikson explain why they didn’t enjoy the first two books of this trilogy as much as the main ten-book series and I can understand that (for reasons I don’t need to get into here) – the books definitely aren’t for everyone. But I’ve also heard many other fans say they’ve been waiting for the third book to come out so they can read the entire trilogy at once. Now I’m no publishing expert but it would make sense that if the first two books of a trilogy aren’t selling, then the publishing company isn’t going to be very eager to spend money on marketing the third book, since they won’t get enough of a return. And if there isn’t already a three-book deal signed, then they may not even move forward with publishing the final book at all. It’s clear that a reader choosing not to invest in a series before it’s finished affects the finished series itself. So to those waiting fans: if you know you’re going to read all three books anyways, there’s nothing to lose by buying the books as they come out – no one is forcing you to read a book the second you buy it. Or think of it this way: you’re spreading out the purchase of the trilogy over three years instead of paying it all at once.

That advice is fine for fans willing to pay for art. But there’s another camp of fans who most likely haven’t given a single dollar towards authors and artists they love. Buying used books, borrowing from friends, or downloading movies and music have their place – sometimes money is an issue and sharing art is important (and most major Hollywood blockbusters don’t need your few dollars). But if you really love the art someone makes – books, music or movies – you shouldn’t feel entitled to receive it for free. The money you give these artists allows them to continue making that art. And I don’t know about you, but I think art is worth a small investment. So consider buying that new book from that author you like or buying merch from that band you only ever stream on Spotify – I guarantee it will make a difference to the artist.

Album Review: Dissolve - Tusks

I’ve been following the music UK singer/songwriter Emily Underhill has been releasing under the name Tusks for a few years now and finally her full-length debut is out – and my only complaint is that it just isn’t long enough. But luckily this is a classic case of quality over quantity.

The ten tracks of Dissolve are an emotional journey of love, loss and growth – told over chilling, atmospheric soundscapes and within epic, wall-of-sound guitars. With how deeply personal these lyrics are it makes sense that Tusks’ vocals are either far back in the mix, hidden shyly in reverb or up close and intimate, in a fragile, baring-her-soul kind of way. Either technique sounds haunting, tying to the texture of the music seamlessly.

“Cinematic” is the word that keeps coming to mind when trying to describe the music. Like a film score, it’s epic when it needs to be – with crashing drums and larger-than-life guitars – and soft and calming when it needs to be – with electronic atmospheres and haunting pianos. It’s the type of album that’s best listened to with headphones on and eyes closed, letting the music take you somewhere else.

The title track is a perfect example of Tusks’ creative mixture of epic and intimate:

Another standout is the closing track, a cover of Foals’ London Thunder:

Past is Prologue

My sister is getting married later this year and, with her and her fiancé being just as much book nerds as I am, are going with a vintage book theme for their wedding. With some connections to Dutch family members, they’ve been collecting some vintage Dutch books to use as decor for the big event (which they gave me permission to keep afterwards). The oldest book I found was printed in 1908 and the most recent from 1929. Take a look:

This cover features some pretty intricate linen patterning.

This cover features some pretty intricate linen patterning.

Translation: “Death and the Afterlife” (I told my sister this one might not be wedding-appropriate).

Translation: “Death and the Afterlife” (I told my sister this one might not be wedding-appropriate).


Moonlight and the Magic of Movies

What I love about film is that more than any art form, it allows you to take an intimate look into the lives and experiences of people you’d otherwise never know about. You can walk a mile in the shoes of someone you’ve never met, see places you’ve never seen or explore completely fictional, fantastic worlds. But most of all, film can help you understand and empathize with other people’s trials and struggles. Some movies do this better than others but one that does this extremely well is 2017’s Best Picture winner Moonlight.

Moonlight tells the life story of a young black man named Chiron in three distinct “episodes”: him as a boy, as a teenager and as an adult. Beautifully filmed and flawlessly acted, the film explores themes of identity, race and sexuality. As a boy Chiron is bullied at school for not being tough enough, strong enough, or masculine enough and comes home to the same abuse from his drug-addicted mother. He doesn’t fit inside the mould he’s told to or belong inside his own community and culture. The only companionship he finds is in Juan, a drug dealer who takes him in while hiding from bullies and tells him he needs to find his own path in life. For how briefly he’s in the movie, Juan makes a huge impact, both on Chiron and the audience. In movies and media we’ve been shown what people who happen to sell drugs should be like, but Juan’s character shatters those stereotypes.

The rest of the film shows Chiron finding his path, be it standing up to his bullies or coming to terms with his sexuality. I won’t spoil anything further because everyone should see this movie.

We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. – Roger Ebert

Though I may not be able to directly relate to Chiron’s personal struggles, the movie certainly helped me understand him – and others like him. It reminded me that we’re all human and that black or white, straight or gay, we all want to be comfortable with and accepted for who we are. For just a few hours I was able to step away from my own life, experience and learn from someone else’s then return to my own with a new perspective. And that’s the magic of movies.

Deified (Palindrome Poem)

Taste and see, brother – my downfall.

I am both broken and whole,
break to rebuild.
I feel I fear this: as above, so below,
as all we are.

Breath illuminated;
as blooming seeds grow trees,
your love of tatters and shreds
fears these sinking dreams.

“I have fallen, haven’t I?”

Calling me to climb further, a
start to ending – perfectly reflecting ourselves.
For aren’t we?

Again and again:

We aren’t for
ourselves, reflecting perfectly – ending to start
a further climb to me, calling:

“I haven’t fallen, have I?”

Dreams sinking these fears,
shreds and tatters of love. Your
trees grow seeds, blooming as
illuminated breath.

Are we all as
below, so above? As this fear I feel: I
rebuild to break.
Whole and broken, both am I.

Fall down, my brother – see and taste.

Fall's Last Stand

that first white’s fallen
while the last red leaves
her neck and limbs stripped,
she sways and grieves

omens in the whispering wind –
autumn’s shiver
piercing summer gardens
left to whither

let it go to hold it together
and stand with the fall
blinding white and fading light
she endures it all

Creatively Unsatisfied

Every once in a while, I hear the phrase “creatively satisfied” – usually an interview asking an artist if they’re satisfied creatively. And that phrase has always rubbed me the wrong way. Because as a creative person, I feel like it’s my very nature never to be satisfied with my work. The kerning in a logo could be tweaked until my eyes bleed, an article could be rewritten endlessly until I run out of words in the English language. Everything could always be better.

But is it a bad thing that I’m never 100% satisfied with my work? Of course not – what point would there be in doing anything at all once you’ve created the perfect thing – whatever that may be? I would never want to create a “perfect” piece of art. “Perfect” is bullshit.

And maybe “satisfaction” is bullshit too… at least as far as it relates to creativity. Creativity by its very definition is producing something new and original – and creative people look for new, unique solutions to ordinary problems. If there’s any satisfaction in that, it’s fleeting because something can’t be “new” and “original” forever. “New” is only truly new until the next new thing. And that new thing is only new until the next new thing, and so on.

I may be proud of my creative work, but I’ll never be satisfied with it. It may function perfectly. It may connect with people and satisfy them – but I won’t be satisfied. I’ll always think of how it could be better or how I can push myself further next time.

I’ll always be unsatisfied. But I’ll be unsatisfied as creatively as I can be.


Hollywood Film Awards

While working at Riordon Design, I've had the chance to work on some truly unique projects – but the one that takes the cake is designing a physical award for Oscars runner-up the Hollywood Film Awards. Even though the client didn't end up using our proposals (for timeline and production realities), it still makes a great portfolio piece, right?

One of the most iconic visuals from the classic Hollywood era is the vintage film countdown. There's the shaking film, the dust and scratches, the spinning line – one can almost hear the projector hum and know they're about to watch something classic.

The countdown also applies to the Hollywood Film Awards – "the first stop of awards season", setting the pace and leading the countdown towards the Oscars.

Using the countdown as my visual base, I also incorporated elements from the classic film studio spotlight. I saw a similar overall structure as well as the same interweaving linear shapes. The countdown itself is represented as a three-dimensional object, a smooth, frosted glass sphere with gold etching and cut-outs. It's held like a spotlight, over its base within a circular support. The base is made of white marble to enhance the "classic Hollywood" aesthetic.

Along with the award itself, I also created a website we used to present our work to the client, where you can see the other concepts.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

10. Peripheral Vision - Turnover

9. The Youth to Become - Stories

8. Vitals - MuteMath

7. How Big How Blue How Beautiful - Florence + The Machine

6. Delirium - Ellie Goulding

5. New Bermuda - Deafheaven

4. Emotion - Carly Rae Jepson

3. Deep in the Iris - Braids

2. Art Angels - Grimes

1. To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar