Few things in life can be so rejuvenating as when one throws all common sense aside and surrenders to natures way of cleansing and starting fresh. (Ok, before this gets any sappier and starts to sound like Readers Digest babble, we will get to the (a) point.) You see there is a connection between walks in the rain and great music.
We stumbled upon this revelation in the romantic old section of Quebec City. That trip was special for two reasons. The first being one of the several times we enjoyed a walk in the rain, while the second being the first time we heard the sonic canvas of Lhasa. Her luscious and moody first album, La Llorona. Can you see the connection forming?
You see just as all voluntary walks in the rain are unforgettable experiences, permanently etched in your brain, the same is true with all great musical discoveries. We all have these memories as if they were yesterday. We remember not only when and where we were, but also how we felt at that moment.
Is this not a wonderfully subjective way to determine what is great music. If you can remember clearly the day when you first heard it, then for you it must be great music. Forget all the top ten lists and music reviews that are as numerous as drops of rain, and trust your own musical experiences.
Great music and walks in the rain do not follow common sense. Both should be personally experienced and passionately romanticized.
So if your last great musical encounter was long ago, then isn’t time to have another? Perhaps its also time you went for a walk in the rain, preferably with someone you love. Stay original… it’s more romantic that way.
Trends. Fashion trends, music trends, movie trends, art trends, car trends… etcetera, etcetera. Are they so bad? Are they really evil? Yes, in fact they are. They are like theme parks. They seem fun and innocent for a while, until you get home and wonder what on earth motivated you to pay $7 for a soggy hotdog, and $4 for a watery coke. (That is way more scary then the scariest ride.)
Trend followers are like thrill seekers. There are never satisfied. Just like the theme park rides, they all start and end, and then go around, again and again. Trends come and go, unlike good taste. Trends are have nothing to do with what is new and original, its just about going around and around. That is until you have enough, get sick and then get off.
Trends are bad for true innovation and creativity. It is all about buying and selling, strap people in and keep that roller coaster moving faster and faster. While you are upside down on the new roller coaster trend, your money is falling out of our pockets.
Do you think real innovators like Tom Waits read People magazine or pay attention to music, movie and book charts?
Isn’t it time already to just get off the roller coaster before we all get sick? Stay original… it may even become trendy.
Mark Sandman wrote: “I am like a mirror, I am nothing till you look at me.” Words for deep thought at 2 a.m. when you can’t sleep.
Lets apply this to art. Does art have value if it is never appreciated? I suppose that is why we have museums of art. Art is also one the few things that can achieve the priceless status. However if a priceless painting is locked away behind 6 inches of steel and never to be seen, can we say still say it has value? Sure it has monetary value but art is not about money. If no one can ever see it or appreciate it, then what value does it have? Yes, it seems that Mark makes a valid point.
Most things inherently human are interactive in nature. They must be seen or heard in order for their value to become more apparent. (That is also why in the end, artists reluctantly part with their precious art. That and of course not wanting to be a literal starving artist.) The artist is only part of the equation. The audience is another. Both are needed for art to have value.
Original art is also like a mirror in one other aspect. Each time you peer into a mirror, you see something new and unique. You will never see the same image twice. That is why original art is so special. You own something unique. (Which is becoming increasingly rare in this world of artificial clones and cheap knock-offs.) More than 6.5 billion people cannot have what you have. Each piece is unique. Even more so with original oil paintings, as with time they also interact with the environment (light, humidity, temperature, dirt etc.) creating subtle and hopefully positive changes. There are almost countless variables in this graceful aging process.
That is why art really is priceless and one of the greatest values in our modern society. So the next time you peer into the mirror, take a moment to think about individuality, interactivity, originality and art. Stay original… its priceless.
“If one was too wise, one would never had left England,” replied Miss Honeychurch when questioned on if it was wise for a single female tourist to walk the streets of Florence alone.
This is a quote from E.M. Forester’s classic novel, on which the wonderfully romantic film, A Room with a View, is based.
The lesson of course is that one must be brave in order to discover. We need to take chances in order to experience new things, expand and broaden our tastes. It’s far too easy to settle for what is comfortable.
In order to expand your musical horizons, why not listen to listener supported and funded radio like CKUA (which fuels our studio). You can listen though local frequencies, through satellite, or through the web. Or search for your local alternative. Stations like CKUA introduce you to a whole new world of music waiting to be discovered.
Be sure to also check out Pandora where you enter in a band you like, and it will stream Internet radio stations that feature similar music. It’s interactive, so you can fine tune it and find such what you like.
Support community projects like Art Walks, Shakespeare in the park, Jazz and Folk festivals. Every city has free, or donation supported ways to enjoy the arts. A recent revival is outdoor Cinemas which play classic or independent films. All you do is bring a lawn chair or a blanket and a small donation.
Miss Honeychurch is telling us is to be brave, get out the rut, rent less movies, listen to less commercial radio, kill your TV (or at least sentence it to more solitary confinement), go for walks, try new Cafes, discover something new. Never pass by art without taking the time to appreciate it. Even if its not your taste, you can still appreciate it for it’s contribution to culture.
Be brave, don’t settle, discover. The little things make the difference. Stay original… discover.
Bob Geldof wrote in the song Room 19: “When I woke up I was freezing… I was stuck up on a shelf with the other guys in room 19. Tchaikovsky played the music, Pasternak wrote the poetry, Lenin never shut up talking, and every talk became a speech.”
The idea that all the brains of these great Russian thinkers and artists preserved in glass jars and on a shelf in room 19 waiting to be studied is an interesting one. It begets the question: What makes great thinkers, leaders and artists? Does it really have to do with the brain and intellect? Do these people really have superior brains? Perhaps it has less to do with the brain and more to do with the heart. (Although this view could be simply be a result of our diminished brainpower. But please read on…
From the earliest of man’s history, the heart has being used in a figurative sense referring to the inner man. “Among the Semites . . . all that was peculiar to man, in the category of feelings as well as intellect and will, was attributed to the heart. It is the sum total of the interior man as opposed to the flesh, which is the exterior and tangible man.”The Metaphorical Use of the Names of Parts of the Body in Hebrew and in Akkadian, by E. Dhorme, Paris, 1963, pp. 113, 114, 128 (in French).
For example, history tells us that Napoleon Bonaparte once ordered his own army to stand still while he rode ahead to face the opposing army of 6,000. He dismounted and walked up to the barrier of men and their guns. Their commander ordered them to fire, but in awe of the man standing before them, not one shot was fired. There is no question that Napoleon Bonaparte was a bold and courageous man, and whether for the good or bad he changed the course of human history.
Was he great because of his superior brainpower and intellect? No one can say for sure, but at least in this one instant we can say that what he did was just plain stupid. One single shot could have ended his return to power in France. We can say with great certainty however that he had heart. He had a purpose that he believed in with all of his heart. (To bring the Holy Roman Empire to it’s end. Which in fact did happen in 1806. Just in case you care.)
If we were to extend this investigation to other great men and women of history, we would most likely find that all the great thinkers and artists of all time, from Da Vinci, Einstein and Stephen Hawking (well at least he had the moral integrity to admit he was wrong), to Mozart, Liszt (there is a only a handful of people in the world that can play his original pieces, and yet he loved the subtle music of his friend Chopin) and Chopin, to Renoir, Monet, and Rembrandt, all had the same thing in common, they all had heart. (Some were probably a little loopy as well, that always helps.) They had a purpose that went far beyond intellect. Something so intangible as this can only be attributed to the heart. The sum total of the interior man. Stay original… have heart.
Substance. There is a serious lack of it in modern day popular culture. The commercial powers that be, have almost banished artistic integrity from our vocabulary. Wonder bread art rules. It feeds the mouths of the majority but sadly it lacks substance.
The over commercialization of mainstream media, music, film and literature is ruining the artistic appetites of each new generation with fluffy white bread, that has little if any real artistic value. When Mark Eitzel faced the accusation that many people find the songs of American Music Club depressing, he responded by saying that he finds the likes of (we are too nice to say who it is, but just insert the current talent-less propaganda poster girl or boy here) depressing. We agree.
That is why the role that original art plays is more and more valuable in modern society. Artistic integrity IS still alive. It is just that we need to look a little harder and a little deeper to find it. But when we do find it, whether in the form of an inspiring independent film, some brilliant and virtually unknown musical group, or in some obscure author, it is so worth it.
Take for example espresso. (You did not see that one coming, did you?) If you have a decent espresso machine, please don’t settle for the convenience of mass marketed espresso. Rather seek out a good artisan espresso that has substance. We are very passionate about Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso Blend which fuels our studio. If you live in Canada you can have it shipped direct to your door from Caffe Tech based in Edmonton. Better yet, if you are in Edmonton drop by and visit their Italian inspired Cafe.
When we make little choices based on substance instead of advertising, we find nourishment and preserve artistic creativity and integrity. Stay original… choose substance.
The other day someone asked Eva (the greater half of the Underground Art Project) where she gets the inspiration to keep painting. My thoughts immediately turned to the often repeated remark attributed to Brian Eno, that while the Velvet Underground’s first album in 1967 sold only a few thousand copies, every person who bought it formed a band and made more music.
That is the great thing about art. It fuels itself. That is why art in all its forms continue to evolve. Take tango music for example. It all began in Buenos Aires with Carlos Gardel in the 30′s. Now more than 70 years later we see new artists still redefining tango. There is neo tango like the electronic beats of the Gotan Project and the Bajo Fondo Tango Club. Then there is the tango fusion of Tango Crash who fuse neo tango with experimental jazz and Otros Aires who mix tango with the milonga of Barcelona.
The question of course is, who inspired the likes of Carlos Gardel or the VU? I do not know, but of this we can be certain, it was art in some form. Art fuels art. Whether you listen to great music, read a captivating book, fall in love with a beautiful oil painting, savor a perfect shot of espresso (yes, it is art, why you even have latte art, but that is for a future blog), or get lost in the complex aromas and flavors of a hand-crafted, hand-pulled cask-conditioned India pale ale, you are fueling your artistic creativity. All forms of art converge into inspiration, motivating us, fueling us to produce more art.
The music we play in our studio affects the way we paint that particular day, what we write about or how much kerning I want to apply to my favorite font. Art inspires us all to be artists in some way. Artists will continue to redefine and reinvent their art and other people’s art. That is why art has, is, and will always stay original. Stay original… fuel up.
What is art? How do you define it? These are difficult questions to answer and probably better left unanswered. Of course you know we are not going to let that stop us. Right? So, here is our take and hopefully it will get you thinking about YOUR OWN answers.
Andy Warhol showed us that art was inseparable from style. As Lou Reed and John Cale pointed out in the song, Style It Takes from the album, Songs For Drella (a good-by to Andy) where the average person saw simply a Brillo box, Andy saw art. Warhol had the style it took to dictate what art was (and is to this day). I heard once that Steve Jobs (Apple) had a BMW motorcycle in his living room as a piece of art.
Only now do I make the connection to an interesting acquaintance from my younger days. He was restoring an old 50′s American classic for the sole purpose of taking a road trip to California. From our brief conversation I remember so clearly how he was also looking for a unique piece of art to put in his old apartment in the Mission district. One carefully chosen piece of art, he said with real conviction, would be all that was needed to transform the mundane into something inspiring. Those seemingly inconsequential words briefly made in passing have not only stayed with me but have also inspired me down to this day.
It seems that Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs, and that (now very consequential) person from my youth, all followed the same creed; that style dictates art. In vain we keep trying to group and classify art of every sort into different styles, yet these styles continue expanding and defying such grouping. Why? Because there is always another artist who has the style it takes to dictate what is art or what art is. The avant-garde impressionists of more then a hundred years ago defined their own style just as Warhol defined pop art in the 60′s and 70′s.
Who are redesigning art today? Well, that is an easy question. Those who have the style it takes. For style + art = originality. In that case, the real question is not HOW do you define art, but rather how do YOU define art? Stay original… have the style it takes.
Wow, for minimalists we sure make a lot of noise. Search the web and you find all kinds of minimalists spouting off about the virtues of “less is more” and how “form follows function.” Why even big corporations are putting out minimalist adds in the big glossy rags.
So why, do you ask, do we need another blog on the subject? Because, we minimalists have nothing left in our houses and have driven off all our friends, so we have nothing else to do but extol the virtues of minimalism. No really, the real reason is because of something profound that happened to us recently.
We were talking to some twenty-something year old friends about minimalist music, art and design. (Actually that’s not really true, we were talking about something completely different, but we always look for ways to change the theme of any conversation to minimalist design.) Then I mentioned something about Andy Warhol. Well, when we saw the blank look of confusion on their faces, we realized that these poor under privileged girls had no idea of whom we were talking about. It was even worse then we initially thought.
We mentioned other names to see if any brain synapses were connecting: The Velvet Underground… nothing, American Music Club… zip, The Feelies… nope, Mies Van Der Rohe, Jennifer Sterling… oh my, this is bad, the Latin Playboys… nada. What do they teach in schools these days? Ok, we could see that we had our work cut out for us. So, how do you go about helping a couple of young impressionable minds to appreciate the virtues of minimalist design?
Hand bags. Yes, you read correctly, handbags and other women’s accessories. You see, I recently stumbled upon the website of designer Marc Jacobs, which is a beautiful presentation of minimalist web design, OK granted, too much Flash (no, not the glittery kind, go ask a computer nerd then come back…) but oh so very clean. (Also, not very functional, but who cares, he’s rich and famous.) We just happened to be at a coffee house in Paraguay called Havanna who have Wi-fi and even a couple Apple Macs (Hmm… do we see a connection forming here..) for customer use. As soon as I brought up the Marc Jacobs website, I could see the blank looks disappear followed by instant recognition, and a lot of shouting: “I love Marc Jacobs, they make such cool hand bags.” Mission accomplished.
The moral of the story is the following: minimalism is best appreciated through the simple things in life. Are not the simplest words the most meaningful and powerful: love, home, family, friends, and iPod. (Just kidding.) The point is: everyone is minimalist at heart; they just don’t know it yet. Perhaps there is too much clutter in their lives for them to see it. You see, that’s why we minimalists have to make so much noise. Stay original… be minimal.
Mark Eitzel from the venerable American Music Club (whose CD jackets by the way contain brilliant art and who many believe is one of the best songwriters of all time) once said he writes “pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing.” If only all artists could be as honest about their work.
You may have noticed that the underground art project does not have an artist statement. It is not because we could not think of some lofty, pretentious things to say about nothing, or babble about some metaphysical junk, but rather because we feel the whole idea of an artist statement is, well, to be honest, is just down right SILLY. Do you really care what some artist has to say about what his work is about or what it SHOULD be about? Can you not tell these things from simply viewing his work? Why is art so pretentious? Why are artists so pretentious?
Art is completely subjective (unless of course you are an art dealer, then in that case ‘subjective’ is a bad word) and is one of the purest forms of expression that eliminates the need for explanations or commentaries. If you like a painting then that’s great, if you don’t then that’s great to. If you can’t decide, then that’s not great, and you should be forced to read endless artists statements until you have an opinion.
If for any other reason you really want to read some poor misguided artist’s pretentious words, the art galleries and the web are full of them (knock yourself out), we however would much rather you listen to Mark Eitzel’s pretentious little songs of quiet self-loathing. After which, you might even be inspired to pick up the brush and start painting.
Stay original… not pretentious.