Sketch Reed

Sarah Allen Reed known as ‘Sketch’ rocks. She is a TriDsiciplinarian of the first order. She roosts in the self described ‘reclusive cartoonist’ domain AND ALSO records music! Given she does comics she writes them, rounding out the Tri in TriDsiciplinary.

Her website is very classy with a hand drawn splash page that is a very nice touch, introducing and promoting the work within.

Thoughtful, snarky, cynical and observant, the comics often don’t occupy more than a page. (There is possibly a reductive tendency to TriDsiplinarians.) The comics slice the situational and make a sandwich out of sub-culture. Her ‘FunHouse’ series is quite good. ‘Two English Dandies and a Time Machine‘ are a personal favorite.

Her music sometimes has spoken word over it but is often synth compositions that work as little evocative stories themselves. Heavy on rhythm and mood they center quite heavily on melody and loops. This is quite successful. They illicit visuals and setting quite well. ‘Living the the Dream‘s ‘It’s not the Medication, So It Must Be How I Really Feel (I Want To Kick Your Face In)’ Is a personal favorite. The album covers offer visuals but it seems almost secondary to the imagery the music itself evokes in the mind.

Her short story writing is unrequited longing in text form and almost too personal. I find more facets and less pain when it is paired with illustration. It is certainly more confident. It however does lay raw feelings of loneliness that seem engrained and necessary structure from which the art is built.

All in all this is great stuff. Check it out.

-NSH

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Time Spent with DavidShrigley.com

DavidShrigley.com

Screenshot of the website under

Work>>Drawing and Painting

This guy is fun. He is a TriDisciplinarian based out of the UK with a penchant for mischievous pairings of phrase and drawing. He also does odd, little, short-phrase audio collaborations, occasionally with well known indie bands. It is unclear how involved he is in the making of the audio that is paired with his phrase irony but there is certain, concerted linkage. The key to the success of the work is it’s puns, clever humor and reduced formats.

The photo that greets a websurfer is of a 9 or 10 meter stone slab engraved with a rather ordinary shopping list erected at the entrance to a park. People are mostly ignoring the object in the photo which is fitting the clever but sardonic humor in his work.

David Shrigley is currently 49 years old. His visual work is very simple, childlike and innocent. It consists of line drawings, presumably in paint or ink on canvas or paper with solid color filled in on occasion. The media seems secondary but I imagine the pieces themselves are quite enjoyable in simple surfaces. That is where the medium ends for the most part. An awkwardly simple outline of the back of figure with a hand holding a rustic tattoo needle reminds one of the wishes of a young boy to be cool in receiving his ‘FIRST TATTOO’, printed at the bottom of the illustration. Where as ‘BLACK POLISH’ has a scrawled sketch of a single, white shoe with a hand holding a brush with the title and ‘WHITE SHOE’ written above it on horizontal black lines. It is innocently naughty the thought of black-shining a white shoe. Something a son might do to their father’s wingtips.

I am currently listening to ‘Late Night Tales Presents Shirley Forced to Speak to Others’. It contains titles such as Rock Festival , Eggs, Loathsome, I am Good, Snowman… These are literally what the song is about; short and ironic riffs on silly, simple themes that are quite drole and awkward puns that are slight and darkly comical.

The visual work kindof sits there staring you in the face making obscene little gestures under the desk. And I feel innocently naughty after finishing the album as if I were scolded by an approving rebel parent or read outloud a a Shel Silverstein poem by a best friend while being ejected from a school play.

Shrigley has 2-D, Spoken word collaborations and a slew of other projects on his website as well as a store to purchase albums and prints. His other projects range from a skate park adorned with his large scale drawings to photos of ‘A restaurant with artwork and tableware by DS’.

I love the work. Some of the better feelings of being a kid are evoked. For someone with difficult memories or not, the act of innocent mischief makes everything better.

-NSH

The Future of Album Cover Art (part 3 of 3)

(Part 2)

The near future of album covers is not a simple thing to divine. Streaming is currently king of music delivery, though vinyl and cassettes have been on the rise once again. So what role does the artwork, or ‘visuals’ as many industry professionals refer to them, play in the experience of music. Surprisingly a lot, for the same reasons I described before, group aesthetic, communication and money, but also for the future in the form of VR and cryptocurrency.

Primarily, artists thinking about the culture they want create around their music, and at their shows, are rooted in merchandising and profit, but not always. They are often trying to build their ‘brands’. Honestly though the aspect of money in art makes me cringe. After Warhol and the introduction of mass produced or commercial art made its way into fine art, there has been this commodity centric view of art that has done real damage to the communication of non slick and higher minded thoughts and feeling in favor of eye candy and market driven products. Sadly it seems as though the real aim of thumbnail artwork in most streaming music playlists is primary a way to be noticed. This has always been the driving force but for a time we moved beyond that with LP covers.

Group aesthetic consist of fashion and visual identity as well as the shared identity of being a fan. Communication is the higher aspiration of communicating ideas and feelings.

So what of this streaming phenomenon? Where for a monthly fee you get access to almost all the music you could ever want and more recently the lyrics. Album art is of course included as well (be it only as large as the device you are using to stream the music). Is it an after thought? Bands are using visual identity in the form of fashion and lighting and ‘visuals’ at live shows but how much are they concerned with the actual album covers that become thumbnails on these devices. Surprisingly a a lot it seems. Attention grabs, as I have mentioned above, are key but more than that they they are the identifiers of the music. We use them as reference. Little tags that we catalogue and use to find music in the crowded scrolling of endless streaming. More than ever we are looking at the visual identity of the bands.

VR is probably the next step in the evolution of music. Virtual experiences of being at recorded 360degree concerts. A deeping of a solid connection to the bands and lived experience. Virtual reality is becoming more common and music looks to be really promising not only as way to see live concerts in a more realistic way but also to offer the fictional and immersive experience much akin to music videos of the past. Virtual reality could spur and new way to hook in to a band’s identity that is fantastical or even profound. Music could tap into our virtual identities and even allow us to experience virtual concerts as cosplayers or animals or whatnot. The audio may be as good as the audiophilic delivery systems of today or better.

Musicians need to make a living. Cryptocurrency and a future technologies like cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin offer a truly interesting way in which musicians are compensated. The idea goes that we as listeners would buy stock or ‘coins’ in a particular band. That stock would be divided automatically between parties involved in it’s production. Writers would get their cut and producers and visual artists as well theirs but the artists themselves would retain the largest cut. Then as the band increased in popularity the ‘stock’ would increase in value due to a limited quantity of coins being created and coins being then traded and bought as fractions. Should you have been an early fan of the band you would then retain a stake in that band’s popularity and thus would be more likely to bet on a bands success.

Virtual reality and cryptocurrencies seem to me as the most interesting of the pipeline technologies we may see adopted by musicians in the near future. But keep your eyes peeled because the new paths for music consumption (i hate that phrase btw) are coming fast and how album cover design has and will evolve promises to be exciting.

-NSH

Pushing Limits: Time Spent with TedGiffin.com

Ted Giffin of http://tedgiffin.com fame was the first of the wordpress TriDisciplinarians I came across today. He is an artist and musician primarily, though he does, as I very much enjoy, write and perform his own very personal song lyrics .(A personal favorite is ‘On Hold‘).

He structures his efforts as illustrated song-covers that collectively link feelings of proud isolation with an intense, male gaze.

He is impressively prolific in his visual art which consist primarily of mixed media drawing/paintings in colored pencil, ink, oil crayon, wax crayon and recently also acrylic paint. His imagery consists of luscious and racy female figures in the acts of dance, allure and impending sex. They do become a chronicle of a seemingly consumptive sexuality, legitimated and proudly celebrated through his choice of media. They are quite nice in their execution, vibrancy, and prurient, luscious appeal. (‘Reminiscence #2‘ is quite good)

His music is perhaps equally prolific. He learns and sings with the aid of an accoustic guitar,  ‘Live at Ted’s’, which charmingly seems to be in his room. He conveys urgency in his guitar playing except when performing his own songwriting. He takes a bit more care with these. His singing is quite good and can mimic many musicians effortlessly while other songs seem rushed. This, however, becomes a part of the flurry of production and illustrates a well known economic and commercial truth, that of overextension and unchecked urgency, i.e. being spread too thin. That is until you realize the breadth of his creativity.

It is a massive undertaking of psychic will to produce this much.

What I find so cool is just how dedicated he is to something that takes a very wide-angle-lens to fully appreciate. It is selfless and is presumably often a thankless compulsion. The world is however better for it.

-NSH

Album Art: The Genre Phenomenon (part 2/3)

(Part 1)

The artwork that accompanies recorded music follows a rich lineage of iconic images that, for many, define time, place and feelings rivaled only by the music itself.

Most of the many iconic record album covers and concert posters from the last 50 years are highly fetishistic images. A few defining examples:

Andy Warhol was a legend.

Kurt Cobain couldn’t have built his legend on stronger art.

A Hypgnosis original after Syd Barrett asked for something smarter than their last album’s art and got this out of a textbook. Physics and light are hugely important to Pink Floyd’s live shows and this gets a bit chicken an egg.

Sam Shere’s iconic Hindenburg photograph used by Led Zeppelin and when discussing their debut album Keith Moon describes it as perhaps going over like a ‘lead balloon’, and John Entwistle says “yeah like a Led Zeppelin”. Fetishistic and nihilistic.

So Hitler, Jesus and Ghandi almost made appearances in this line-up. No better way to convey belonging than DIY collage.

Another Warhol with working zipper. It’s homoerotic. No-one is certain who the models were for Andy’s polaroids but it follows on the Velvet Underground theme.

Clearly the backshot of Sticky Fingers for Springsteen’s Born in the USA. Fetishizing the flag and blue collar denim.

Precursor to Banksy’s Dismaland Bemusement Park no doubt and the worship of female beauty at the behest of the little people. Centerfold as fetish in a decaying suburban wasteland.

Some of the more successful selling images have been random or seemingly so totally unrelated to the music as to be farcical if not totally market driven. Interestingly they still remain fixed in popular consciousness as representational of the shared musical experience.

These images create an identity to the temporal and thus fleeting, immediate experience of being at a live show and mix into the memories and feelings felt there long after the show has ended. They create a shared locus and totem to the idolatry of musical showmanship. And for those unable to go out on Saturday nights, buying and collecting fulfilled the longing to be there in person.

Quite often design houses and star artists would swap bands to design for, creating shared stylistic identities for those bands within their own sphere of influence. This became quite effective in creating the notion of genre. Warhol, Stanley Mouse Miller, R. Crumb were notable examples of this sharing.

Early on design offices and artists worked for the music labels themselves. This is not to say that the music itself didn’t fall within certain genres as well, they simply evolved concurrently. As a community of like minded individuals, these fans began getting their own differentiated sections in music shops and concerts and shows featuring similar artists booked together. Artists were as instrumental in creating the face of these scenes as the fashion and aura of the musicians themselves. The art was the most static element in this mix and thusly operated as unchanging locus far into our shared collective memory.

Think Grateful Dead and their skeleton and roses by Stanley Mouse:

(Part 3/3 ‘The Future’)

A Brief History of Album Cover Art (part 1/3)

The earliest known recorded music is Sumerian. The hymn to Nikkal from 2,000 BCE:

Music has been recorded in a myriad of ways from ancient Korea, India, Greece and China BCE and even as Coptic Egyptian perhaps using colors as pitch, in 5th to 7th century CE.

This article http://illustrationchronicles.com/music/ describes many of the early ways in which music co-evolved since the 1400s ‘written’ and ‘illuminated’, as repeatable hymns sung in churches as devotion.

Jacobellus of Salerno’s 1270 CE Manuscript from The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

Sheet music through moveable type and the letterpress then started almost concurrently with Gutenberg and his press in Germany.

This gave way to lithography and the sheet music available for popular music 400 years later in the early nineteenth century.

Here is an example of Victorian sheet music illustration from 1875:

“Arry and Arriet” Lancers on Albert Chevalier’s Songs by John Crook

The first lithograph of notation was Gleissner’s Feldmarsch der Churpfalzbayer Truppen in 1796.

(This article http://parlorsongs.com/insearch/printing/printing.php goes into greater depth about the history of lithography and music.)

After actual, physical and phonic recordings came into style finally with phonographic records in the 1880s, the traditions of decorating musical pieces remained rather dormant for about 50 years in favor of simple, brown-paper sleeves with text.

Then in 1938, Columbia Records hired Alex Steinweiss as its first art director. He is credited with inventing the concept of album art with this gem :

1939, Rodgers and Hart.

What follows is a vibrant explosion of accompaniment of art and music that ranges from the stylized illustrations of early covers through the use of photography. Themes range from the simple headshot or drawing of the band to the totally absurd.

(part 2/3 ‘The Genre Phenomenon’)