LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

Who are you, where are you and what do you do?
My name is Matt Lyon, a freelance graphic artist / illustrator based in South London. I work under the moniker C86 and spend most of my time drawing and making images that occasionally end up on billboards, trains, t-shirts, posters, decals, greetings cards and the like. Aside from that, I drink tea and munch on peanut butter sandwiches, play video games from the 90’s and compile mixes of my favourite music.

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a big commission for a Saudi client, which is proving fun and keeping me busy. I’ve just finished designing some t-shirt designs for a Spring 2012 launch and am about to start on an exciting project creating an alphabet of letters for wall decals. I’m continuing to design album artwork for Tokyo Dawn Records with two new releases, and every evening I spend time updating my Daily Drawing project, which is generating and evolving my creative progress of ideas.

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

When did you come out and what was the story?
I came out to my parents in the late 80’s when I was 17 years old. I’d reached a point where I had to be honest to myself and my family, though at the time it was a difficult decision to make. Prior to this, I look back at my teenage years at school with fondness at a time where being gay wasn’t easy. Even though I wasn’t out, I was fortunate enough to have a strong circle of friends with me. My best friend at the time was fantastic. We shared the same taste in music, art, fashion, humour… pretty much everything. It later transpired that he came out as gay around the same time as me, though we were the last to formally tell each other. In hindsight, it was pretty obvious at school that we were gay.

We’d come in some days and discuss the same films that we’d seen at home the night before, and when they were the likes of Another Country and My Beautiful Launderette, it goes without saying why we’d watched them. Sadly though, many of those at school who didn’t know us assumed that we were a couple. As such, we often endured verbal and physical taunts, name-calling, being spat upon, etc. Had I suffered this alone, I don’t think that I would’ve been able to cope, but together my friend and I brought the best out in each other. We knew we were different, so we embraced it. We listened to The Smiths and Siouxsie & The Banshees; we dressed in black and customized our clothes. We chose not to fit in, and some people didn’t like that.

But while all of this was going on, I was struggling with my sexuality. I lived in a white, middle class, suburban town and was part of a Pentecostal church, one of many evangelical churches that dominated the area. At first, I thought that my sexuality was a phase, though as time went on I realized that my feelings weren’t changing. According to what I had been taught, I was destined for hell. The mid-80s were a grim time with the AIDS crisis fueling so much bigotry and hate, and to some this was proof that ‘you reap what you sow’. At church, we were told that being gay was ‘a choice’ and if you prayed hard enough you would be ‘cured’. I studied the Bible, and couldn’t reconcile what I was being taught with what I felt and believed in. After spending a week on summer retreat with my Church’s youth group, I returned home and came out to my parents and the church pastors.

During subsequent weeks, I was prayed over in church meetings, I was told to listen to cassette recordings of the Bible as I slept so that I wouldn’t have any impure thoughts, and I had more and more questions that my pastors couldn’t answer. It dawned on me that the Evangelical church was kind of like a kindergarten Christianity – simplistic, juvenile, and with a lack of depth and understanding of anything both theological and spiritual. In essence it was harming me, so I had to leave. Within a couple of years I moved to London to study at UCL, by which point I was finally ready to be myself.

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

How does being queer effect your work, if at all?
Being queer doesn’t directly influence my current work. When I was studying art at university, some of my art reflected my acceptance and openness having recently come out. I guess that there are occasional references to my sexuality in the work that I do now, be it a design quoting the likes of John Waters or Quentin Crisp, or reflecting gay icons such as James Dean, but little much else. My sexuality isn’t something that’s of importance to my work interests, and when I see art that’s branded ‘queer’, most of it appears to me either banal, clichéd or hold no interest to me as a gay man.

LGBT Creatives Series: Interview with Matt Lyon

In your mind, what should gay pride be and how would you celebrate it?
I’ve got mixed opinions on how gay pride is celebrated. Pride marches have significant political origins, and the increasingly open celebrations reflect the ongoing acceptance in the West of homosexuality. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure, but as a gay man I don’t feel a part of it in the least. I went on a couple of Pride marches back in the late 80s / early 90s, and even then I didn’t feel that I was particularly interested. All the usual gay clones and clichés were in full effect, and I felt that I was making up the numbers. Because I’m gay doesn’t mean that I automatically tune into cheesy pop or Hi-NRG, act camp or flamboyant, am clothes conscious or a body fascist, or am part of any number of gay cliques that seem to litter ‘the community’. My life’s far removed from glitter and rainbows, and that’s how I like it. I’m much more interested in where I historically fit in as a gay man. There’s a heritage to being gay, and that’s what’s most important for me to have pride in. Things have come a long way since my own experiences of the 80s and I feel pride in the changes of progress. Even so, the legacy of AIDs doesn’t allow me to be honest about my sexuality if I want to make a blood donation in the UK, and life in London still remains atypical to the experiences of many still facing acceptance for being gay. The journey continues…

Bobby Solomon

July 26, 2011 / By

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

The Intimate Paintings of Karel Funk

I came across one of Karel Funk’s paintings over on YMFY and I was immediately drawn to it. It was nothing more than a painting of man dressed in an oversized parka, but there was something about the way it was painted, the way the light hit the parka and the fact that the subject in the painting was looking away. As it turns out Karel Funk was inspired by the subways of New York, and the loss of personal space that occurs when you ride them. How many times have you been forced to stare at the back of someone’s head, or the fabric of someone’s coat? In his own words:

“I was fascinated by how this boundary of personal space completely disappeared on the subway,” “You could see details of somebody’s ear or neck that you’d never observe just socializing with friends because there’s this boundary we all keep.”

There’s also the fact that these are painted in a Renaissance style that make them so perfect seeming. The lighting on his subjects, especially seen in the third image, is something you’d see hanging in a museum. You should read this W Magazine article from last year which gives a bit more insight if you’re digging his work.

Found through W Magazine, via YMFY

Bobby

Bobby Solomon

July 26, 2011 / By

Street Art and Buildings: Herzog & de Meuron make Graffiti

Herzog de Meuron 40 Bond, Photos by Iwan Baan

Herzog de Meuron 40 Bond, Photos by Iwan Baan

Herzog de Meuron 40 Bond, Photos by Iwan Baan

Herzog de Meuron 40 Bond, Photos by Iwan Baan

Photos by Iwan Baan

In an architectural nod to the neighborhood, Herzog & de Meuron created this aluminum, graffiti-inspired gate for the entrance to 40 Bond, a residential building in Manhattan. All this twisting metal is not really graffiti or street art but rather this is art for the street inspired by graffiti, oozing with as much street cred as any architect can garner. But this graffiti gate keeps people out, like would-be taggers, and away from the surface of the building, which at street level is also covered with wiggly lines. The graffiti pattern continues to inside surfaces of the lobby, where wood becomes carved and mirrors become etched with the über graffiti lifted from the streets outside.

Alex

Alex Dent

July 26, 2011 / By

‘Endless Planets’ by Austin Peralta

'Endless Planets' by Austin Peralta

Austin Peralta
Photo by Ben Olsen

Jazz has emerged as the lost music of the 20th century. It has been out of the mainstream since the late 1960s. It requires more musicianship, more musicians, and more study than any other genre, which sucks, cause as musicians people are taking more shortcuts than ever. There are no shortcuts in jazz, not in studying it, playing it, or listening to it. Those of us who follow jazz might as well be anthropologists, examining the past and looking for dusty, forgotten relics that are worth their weight in aural gold.

The release of Austin Peralta’s Endless Planets on the Brainfeeder branch of Ninja Tune records comes as somewhat of a shock. Ninja Tune, known for its forays in jazz with releases from Cinematic Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist, and 9 Lazy 9 has allowed Brainfeeder to release a little known solo jazz pianist into the wild.

Then again, Peralta has already been in the wild. Still below drinking age, he has played with some of the greats (Chick Corea and Hank Jones), toured internationally at 16, and already played jazz festivals in Tokyo and Java. Outside of the jazz world, he has collaborated with greats like Flying Lotus and Erykah Badu. Youthful talent can be kickstarted by a day in the spotlight and a little bit of faith.

Released in February 2011, Endless Planets lacks the clumsiness or convention of a young musician. It touches on fifty years of jazz history with aplomb. Make no mistake: This is heavy music. Capricornus is an exercise of 60s free jazz, the jamming freedom tempered down for the record but bursting at the seams. Ode to Love allows the rest of his band to take the spotlight with multiple solos for the sax players. The 13 minute epic Algiers feels in place with the African rhythms of jazz that were popularized by Yusef Lateef and Randy Weston. The melodies careen across a thumping bassline, staccato piano notes tugging against seductive sax lines. The record fades into a blissful digital bubble bath provided by Strangeloop and the Cinematic Orchestra, electronic water to cool you off from forty minutes of fire.

If anything, this record is the sign of the times. Jazz is back and young again. Count us in the revolution.

Alec

Alec Rojas

July 26, 2011 / By

Washed Out Covers Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’

Washed Out Covers Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game'

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This was so fun that I had to post it. Washed Out, aka Ernest Greene, recently hit up one of Sirius’ XMU Sessions and decided to drop this cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and well, it’s pretty great. It’s not even that different, he just does a nice, modern version that’s rather pleasant to listen to. My favorite part though is the stupid, fake mural I made of Washed Out and Chris Isaak. I couldn’t have found two more perfect photos.

Found through Last Gas Station

Bobby

Bobby Solomon

July 25, 2011 / By

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Alphabet by Jack Hughes

Click images to enlarge

Sadly, the compressed images above don’t do justice to the alphabet Jack Hughes created. Jack is a South London illustrator and designer who created this inventive alphabet that deserves a second look. I don’t know how functional this would be as say, a font, but as individual art pieces they’re gorgeous. The way he augments each letter with an interesting illustration or photo is perfect, and the color palette he’s used seals the deal for me. You should click here to see the GIF he put together of all the images, and then click through to see the set. Don’t you think Jack needs to make prints of these?

Bobby

Bobby Solomon

July 25, 2011 / By

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

Before

Site Redesign: Giving TreeHugger A Breath of Fresh Air

After

Click images to enlarge

I thought I’d try my hand again at doing another unsolicited redesign of a site that I enjoy, but has fallen by the wayside over the years. Back when I first started Internet-ing in the late 90’s one of my favorite sites to visit was TreeHugger. At the time there was really nothing like it, exploring alternatives and helping to usher in a green mentality. Over the years though it’s started to fade, becoming a monster of banner features and skyscraper ads. Everything is currently screaming look at me and the features themselves seem to be of little to no importance. That’s why this is the perfect candidate for a redesign. To be clear, this wasn’t sanctioned, paid for, or endorsed by TreeHugger or the Discovery Channel, this is simply me having fun.

The Logo & Mark
The first thing I did was try a light handed redesign of the logo and mark. I don’t think either has changed in years, still maintaining the flavor of early 2000’s. The vibe of the site has always been a mix of environmentalism with a tech twist, but the pixelated tree and hard angled (but not) font wasn’t really working anymore. Neither is the ‘A Discovery Company’ lockup that’s way too tight, see how the A and D caress the first E in Treehugger? My idea was to simplify the Treehugger logo and refresh the mark… literally.

The mark is a simple combination of two things: The computer symbol for refresh and a leaf. I thought about using a recycling logo, but it felt contrived and bit too on the mark. I also feel like the idea of refreshing is more positive than recycling. A leaf is the most basic way to identify nature, and plays together well with the word treehugger. Together they embody the spirit of what the site has always been, nature meets tech.

For the logo I kept things simple, using the free font Miso by Omkrets Architects. The font is similar to the old one, but is a little bit softer and less trying to be tech related. The ‘A Discovery Company’ byline has been severely minimized and reduced down using Jason Kottke’s font Silkscreen. Together I think they form a nice combination and could also work easily on business cards, letterheads, etc.

The Website
When I started playing around with the design, the first thing I thought about was color. Okay, I get it, TreeHugger, it has to be green, right? All I see when I look at the current site is this deathly, moldy shade of green in the background that’s totally unappealing. So I decided to opt for a light blue instead, which I called a much needed breath of fresh air. When comparing the two side-by-side the results are… breath taking (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Another huge hurdle I faced was trying to figure out what was important on the site. Currently there’s zero hierarchy on the page, everything is competing to be seen and it’s a huge mess, the web equivalent of a hoarder. I decided to break the site down into three main parts: a featured section, a main column, and a side column. The featured area is just what it sounds like, a simple carousel displaying popular or important stories. I see that TreeHugger is quite dependent on ads, I counted 7 ad units on one page, so I decided to determine the height of the featured unit by the height of a search box and a med rec.

The main column, which features all of the articles, is simplified and made larger to give it the respect it deserves. Currently on the site the articles seem like passing thoughts, squeezed between two columns of ads and click-me-nows. They’re also inundated with every sharing tool possible as well as recommendations for other stories. It was all too much. There are a few more things like tags or an Outbrain style of related articles that I could have added, but let’s not ruin the magic.

The sidebar was the last hurdle to jump, and I thought he best way to handle it was to do what Cool Hunting has done. Basically, they have a few ads in the sidebar, as well as some of their own pertinent information that could entice a reader. The genius part is that they allow for about five posts to go by, lazy load more posts, and then lazy load the sidebar again. This allows them to get a ton of ad impressions, even though a user hasn’t click a single story. I tried to get the folks at Myspace to do this, but it never clicked (yet again, I can’t help myself).

Conclusion
Overall, I think the site is a thousand times better and more easy to digest. It’s amazing how much crap can pile up on an established website over time. I’m not really sure if TreeHugger has a design staff, but hopefully my redesign gets someone in the right place thinking about changing things up. It’s also worth mentioning that they could benefit from an improved footer as well, but that’s a can of worms I didn’t want to open.

I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback and what you think about my little experiment. All critical feedback is accepted, but please keep it polite. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself.

Bobby

Bobby Solomon

July 25, 2011 / By

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

Street Art and Buildings: Sequin Surfaces by Theresa Himmer

The relationship between street art and buildings isn’t always happy, sometimes resembling an unhappily-arranged marriage, with only a brief courtship occurring in the  middle of the night. But this week, I thought we could look at some happier unions between street art and buildings. The first examples are in Reykjavik, Iceland by artist Theresa Himmer, who has used a kind of sequins for buildings to makes images of glaciers and lava.  Instead of covering each entire facade with these tiny, shiny discs (like this Maison Martin Margiela store in downtown LA) much of the original wall’s surface is visible. These glittery additions are bright spots in the grey urban fabric and probably a god-send during the winter months when the capitol city gets just a few hours of daylight. So maybe a street artist working under the cover of dark would have more hours to work in Reykjavik, but the scale and technical construction that went into these hints at a longer and more symbiotic planning phase.

Alex

Alex Dent

July 25, 2011 / By

Google+