Dutch illustrator Chuck Groenink really does make some excellent work. Currently he lives and works in Portland, Oregon where he creates enchanting worlds filled with wonderful creatures and characters. His work really reminds me of the kind of magical places we’d dream up as kids and Groenink realizes these place perfectly, filling them with vibrant textures and colors.
The top image on this post is particularly apt for this time of year and it comes from an excellent mini-zine which Groenink made to mark the Halloween season. Regrettably it’s now sold-out but it’s still worth checking out the pictures of it on Groenink’s Etsy page. It’s excellent stuff and the zine itself is filled with illustrations, a comic and a recipe for pumpkin cookies! If you really like the top image, the good news is that it’s still available to buy as a print online here. As Groenink himself puts it, it’s “something to celebrate the year’s most frighful holiday!”
Check out more of Chuck Groenink work online here.
I first started Internet-ing back in the late 90′s. My first computer was a Compaq with a dial-up connection. It was a different time, it’s kind of funny to think about it now. It was also an important time for me as I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I wanted to be the nebulous concept of an “artist”, not really knowing what my options were. Thankfully I was lucky enough to come across a site called Kaliber 10000, which billed itself as “The Designer’s Lunchbox”. Honestly, I didn’t even really know what a designer was, I hadn’t even thought of things being designed before, and that’s where K10K (as it’s affectionately called) came in to play.
It was a collection of links, of ideas, of events to go to, of people to know. Being 18 or 19 I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I knew I liked what they posted, that it spurred creative thoughts inside my head. Sadly, after nearly 10 years, the site has come down. Though it hadn’t been updated in a very long time, it’s still a bit sad to know that it’s gone, kind of like the ice cream shop in your home town closing up.
It was absolutely one of the biggest influences on me, on shaping who I wanted to be, on why I created this blog. If I can be a fraction as inspiring as K10K was I’d be extremely content. I have to give a big thanks to Toke, Michael and Per, the creators of K10K, and all the other contributors over the years who inspired me to do awesome things.
This is the Salt Point house, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. I can’t imagine how stunning it must look this time of year: the leafy surroundings blushing into the colors of Halloween candy and poisionous snakes. The house’s form is nothing fancy: just a rectangle with perforated screens extending along the face of the long sides and past the end of enclosed volume. The effect? The boundary of the house is slightly blurry, trees and their foliage blurring the lines (or at least soften the transition) between the ground and the sky, the perforated steel here is creating a gradient between the volume of the house and its surroundings. Yet, clearly the house isn’t trying to blend in; it’s a proud, sturdy volume that looks extremely resolved. Even the house’s screened-in porch, which seems like a stubborn program to try and refine, is executed consistently with the rest of the house and is probably the fanciest use of a bug screen you’re likely to see today.
When Dylan sang that The Times They Are a-Changin’ in ’64, his song echoed the sentiment of the unvoiced mass public. Today, technology and the media have created plenty of new outlets for the public to voice their ideas and opinions. Now that the times are a-changed, it feels overly simplistic to picture that a song could be the best way to give a voice to an era of change.
Philip Kennedy’s post last week reminded me of a dialog that seems to permeate the conversation place, namely, the role of music in modern culture and under what lens it is to be examined. It’s no secret that there is a link between the arts and socio-political events, and with such fast access to socio-political events (remember, we live in a world where data can be transferred thousands of miles in a fraction of a second) the reactionary status of the arts is in question. The victory in Libya last week has been spun into the defeat of today and slights the drama of right now. It feels impossible to write a soundtrack fast enough.
The video above, of Sam Cooke covering Bob Dylan in the early 1960′s, displays an idealistic and confrontational tone at the same time. Dylan’s poetic touch allowed his music to transcend musical genres, race, and age groups and to solidify an idea of the populace. Then again, this populace was much smaller. Back then you HAD to buy the record to join the club, there was no YouTube/Pandora/Spotify. For Sam Cooke to perform this Woody-Guthrie-by-way-of-NYC inspired song, live for a mixed audience, with funky, soaring vocals, was a huge statement. The music could be shared by every television viewer. It was a blending of culture, a statement for the future of not just America but progressive social change.
This moment – alongside several others – was a first impression. The genesis of folk/funk/rock activist music emerged as a new group of people who weren’t sold on the status quo. The media had no way of coping. Technology restricted social awareness. There had to be protest concerts because there were no online petitions. You couldn’t donate to the cause online but you could march to your town hall. Advertising – both political and economic – had to learn to sell to this mental shift.
To some extent, the idea of being able to place musical ideas next to political or cultural ones is a product of mass marketing. Selling music as a reactionary, incendiary force is no different than any other advertising lexicon. The idea of raising passion in the heart of people has always been one of the number one ways to make money. And nowadays music as a political cause is like an old hat you don’t want to wear. We’ve seen Bob Dylan perform, Bono talking about Africa and Live8 already. Hell, we’re even giving it away. Now, the finest pieces of music that incite change have to do so in subliminal, hidden ways. There is an interpretation that Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac- including the release and marketing – are desperate protests against political, advertising, and musical convention. The unrelenting ambition of the music made the music industry buckle, but did create a mental shift in us?
I think it has. As rebellion has been sold to the under-30′s crowd since before they got out of the womb (Kumbayah, Blowing in the Wind) it seems the only logical reaction has been the current wave of indifference. The safest view towards contemporary events is not accepting or even looking at it, it’s ignoring the problem completely and going down your own path, wherever that may lead you. My favorite example: The desolate, empty, vapid world of Drake’s Marvin’s Room. Accepting the solidarity of life, he realizes it is safer to accept spite, being used, using people, and inequality. It is a jaded, helpless attitude, removed from reality. It’s a first world retort to global problems. I think that’s why, several years ago, Rick Rolling was so popular. We needed something to be happy about. And joyful, cheesey, pop from 1987 was a quick fix.
Personally, I believe the most dangerous emotion in today’s society is hope. Optimism is something we are all afraid of, and I mean the optimism for the world you live in. In a world of dog-eat-dog corporations and endlessly addictive media, it takes work to cultivate actual optimism. Much in the way Soren Kierkegaard challenged our minds 150 years ago in Fear and Trembling, we must be bold in our decisions to do something good for this world. Carvaggio’s The Sacrifice of Isaac, displayed above, reveals the challenge of Abraham to do the right thing regardless of the momentary horror of killing his son. Hope takes sacrifice, effort, and challenging yourself. It isn’t just something you are born with. You must go through with it in your actions as well.
I would like to do my part to encourage hope. Hope doesn’t just have to be happy emotion – it can create a driving light into the future. This song exists in the epicenter of a civil war. Ibn Thabit, a Libyan rapper who prefers to remain anonymous, has been releasing anti-Gaddafi music for the past year. While I don’t speak Arabic, I don’t need to in order to get this music. The beat draws itself from the g-funk, west coast era of Dr. Dre and Snoop. Released 2 months after the start of the Libyan Civil War, this is a dialog about the Battle of Misrata. Thousands of civilians were injured in the battle as Gaddafi forces leveled the city. Five days after this track appeared on Youtube, Misrata was liberated by rebel forces. This really is music of a revolution.
I warn you that the video has fairly intense images of war and violent stuff so if you just wanna listen to it, that’s cool. But if you’re interested…
In the anonymity of Ibn Thabit, this music takes on a bellowing voice to the outside world. To answer Philip’s question, I think collected voices united behind a positive idea are our only hope. We can’t rely on iconic artists other than Dylan. That revolution has been marketed. If this music can be created in the middle of war, I would only ask that we be so bold to release our art with such similar ambition. It’s a challenge. I think it’s worth it.
Yesterday I came across a treasure trove of mixtapes from the folks over at oki-ni, hands down one of the finest boutiques in the world. It’s only been active for about 5 months now, but their Mix Series features some of the best new and emerging artists out there putting out great mixes of music for free. I’m shocked that they already have near 70 mixes in such a short amount of time, it’s pretty incredible. I’ve been listening to the mix above by the ladies from Puro Instinct called TRUEEMERALD, a mix of some really random pop/electro songs form the 80′s. I don’t know many of the artists on here and that’s the fun of it. Take a listen to the mix, and if you need more music, click here and check out the full list of mixes.