Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yeah, But Is It Art? - Pt. 2

Welcome to the second part of my exhaustive explanation of myself and the art I make. Or at least I hope what I'm doing here is considered "art." If not, my apologies.

As you may recall from Part 1 of my previous (and admittedly lengthy blog entry), I make both mix CDs and the collage art covers to go along with them. I spend time constructing these covers using materials such as clip art, Sharpie pens, peeled-off stickers, Whiteout, correction tape, and any odds-n-ends that look the least bit interesting to me. As an expression of one's creativity goes, making these mix CD covers is, highly enjoyable (and at the very least, a meditative experience).

Most of my mixes can be found on my page, and I've attached links here to some of those mixes you'll find there. Feel free to give them a listen. It doesn't cost you a thing, and you just might discover a band or two you'll want to hear more songs from.

So, without further ado, here is the second part of evaluating if what I do constitutes art:

Rollin' Smoke
Clip art, paper bag, correction tape, ink, typewriter, printer cartridge pull-tab, and glue.

This compilation is an example of a mix I really liked, but wasn't all that keen on the finished cover. I made this mix for my friend, author/graphic artist/illustrator/tattoo artist Levi Greenacres. This mix features music from Talking Heads, T. Rex, David Bowie, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, MC5, Tom Waits, Black Sabbath, Roky Erickson, ELO, They Might Be Giants, The Dead Milkmen, and on and on it goes (so, yeah: an absolutely badass mix, pretty much). The base of this mix is comprised of a recycled paper bag (meta!), and features an image of a woman holding a tea cup I had been wanting to use for the longest time, with correction tape lines and star bursts encircling her. I typed the title directly onto the finished piece, which is why the type is all wonky and uneven. The printer cartridge pull-tab was added simply because I was swapping out an old one for a new one in my printer and thought the tab just looked too cool to throw away. Like I said, this cover isn't absolutely stellar to me, but it was made with care for a friend and artist I hold in high esteem, so there's that.

Photocopy paper wrapper and paint pen.

Every once in a while, as a mixtape maker, you'll construct something that (in your oh so humble opinion) is simply perfect. This is one such mix. 'S Wonderful is just eclectic enough, but not too much as to be inaccessible to passive ears. It features Serge Gainsbourg, Tindersticks, MF Doom, Lilys, Aaron Neville, The Yardbirds, and more, with each song flowing effortlessly from one pop gem to the next (if I do say so myself). Ironically enough, the song "S'wonderful" does not appear on this mix. The cover was made using a discarded photocopy paper wrapper I found in a trash can one day while at work. I'm not sure of the name of the company that manufactures this paper, but I loved these haphazard off-orange and over-crimson blocks enough to sift them out from under a spent coffee filter. The lettering was applied using a white paint pen. As I soon discovered while writing out the title, this paper sopped-up the paint like a sponge, so I had to go over it three or four times. Still, I like how the letters have a vintage, spotty look to them. Good times. Good... Times.

Up The Cuts
Spent sticker sheet, clip art, stickers, and glue.

"Porch rock." That's the only way I can describe this mix CD. It just has a woodsy feel to it, featuring songs by Sonny Sixkiller, Diane Linkletter Experience, Seapony, Teenage Fanclub, etc. The cover came about due to several things my wife was simply tossing in the garbage (the spent hearts sticker sheet and the glittery puffy letters). "You actually want those?!?" she said to me, surprised, as I fished both out of the waste basket under our computer desk. Hell yeah, woman! I had this clip art of old painted wood panels I found in a magazine a couple of years ago, and knew they'd be perfect for the cover of this compilation. But they needed something more, and that's where the heart-holed sticker sheet and glitter letters came into play. Viola! The title is in reference to a bit of mid-Aughts slang this girl I used to know was really trying to make work. "The Cuts" was allegedly a reference to someplace "out in the sticks," but it never really sat right as slang, sounding all forced, weird and too kool for its own good. As a compilation title, however, it sounds kind of sexually suggestive - which wasn't the intention, but what can you do?

Clip art, typewriter and glue.

I've never been to Rockaway, New York. But I like the name, regardless, so I decided to use it as the title for a compilation featuring a bit of 90's alt-rock nostalgia (Overwhelming Colorfast, The Posies, R.E.M., Grant Lee Buffalo, Uncle Tupelo, Gumball, etc.) I had some of those painted wood panels left over from the Up The Cuts compilation, along with a vintage map of ol' New York. I added the girl because she's cute and this piece needed just one more element to it. This mix was made before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. My sister and her family live in New Jersey, and it was a pretty nerve racking and anxiety-inducing experience being 3000 miles away from loved ones in potential peril. Thankfully, the hurricane barely missed them. Miracles, am I right?

Whatever Forever
Clip art, stickers, ink, and glue.

I made this for a friend of mine who had never heard of Guided By Voices, Pavement, Yo La Tengo, and a host of other indie-rock luminaries. Unacceptable! I indignantly made this 16-song compilation for her, featuring rarities and B-sides as a sort of primer ("If you like these songs, you'll pretty much like anything these bands have released.") This cover came about out of the sheer need to create something with a bit of humor and whimsy to it. Once I found that wincing water rafting kid, I knew I had to marry him to the licking giraffe I found a couple of days earlier. The backdrop is, of course, a vintage photograph of New York City, and the stickers came from a day planner calendar for events I could never see myself actually taking part in (fishing, prayer, meetings, etc.) The "W4F" stickers should have read "W4E," but I ran out of an "e" sticker and decided, "Oh, fuck it." So yes, the "f" stands for "fuck." Go figure.

Clip art, Pop-Tarts wrapper, postage stamp, Scotch tape, ink, paint pen, and glue.

The title of this mix is a play on the Boards of Canada album, The Campfire Headphase. It was made specifically for my friend Donna, as I knew it contained music by bands she'd like (Cat Power, Outrageous Cherry, Pinback, The Jamboree, etc.) Old vintage magazine clip art is a rarely obtained commodity for me for some reason, so when I get my hands on some, it's cause for celebration. Such is the case with this old airport scene for some now-defunct airline or another. The top section is from a picture of a modern airport runway in China. My favorite part of this cover is how the kid in the bike helmet's arm and shoulder line-up perfectly with the shoulders of the women below him. Over in the corner is the color proof dots from a package of Pop-Tarts, whose colors don't actually appear in any on the images it shares space with (take that, Pantone Color Guide!) The golden bird in the middle came from a stamp, and I like how it looks like he's swooping in under the radar of everyone around him.

Clip art, ink, photocopy and glue.

Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold was one of my favorite records from last year due in no small part to the collection of manic and abrasive lo-fi punk rock gems contained within. As good as the album is, though, it was lead singer Andrew Savage's cover art that initially attracted me to this album. In an interview for the currently on-hiatus offshoot, Nothing Major, Savage reveals that he works on his album covers not on a drafting table proper, but rather a plain old cramped desk in the corner of his apartment. What I like most about Savage's style is that he has incorporated his handwriting (often times scribbled-out or written as misleading song titles) as an integral part of of his artwork. This comp is an homage/blatant rip-off of Savage's Light Up Gold cover art, complete with off-center clipart, all-caps phrases, circle loops, etc. You know what they say: "Imitation is the sincerest form of lovingly stealing someone else's much better ideas." (With apologies to Andrew Savage.)

Laser Flavored Memory Muzak
Clip art, stickers and glue.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder (O.C.D.), and my predilection to organize everything in my life even extends to my iTunes library. One day as I was hunting down a song, I realized I had all of these random songs by bands such as Isidore, Ombre, The Sheepdogs, Cat Party, TEEN, etc. with no proper file folder home to call their own. So I simply threw them onto this mix. Ta-da! The top portion clip art comes from one of the surf wear catalogs I described in my previous post and the lower portion from an issue of Newsweek. I admit that I got kind of lazy with this one, just stacking two pictures one on top of the other, but I really like how they look together (sometimes it's best not to labor too long on a piece). Instead of writing out the title, I just used those sparkly stickers to abbreviate it instead. Yeah, yeah... Like I said: lazy.

Ad Infinitum
Windowed CD sleeve, clip art, electrical tape, stickers, vinyl lettering, ink, and glue.

This mix came about for much of the same reason the previous mix listed above did: several songs that, as per my O.C.D., absolutely needed a home. This one, however, is made up of almost half slow, languid instrumental songs. in essence, it plays like a sort of movie soundtrack. The cover came about in a kind of roundabout way, as I used to be part of a mix CD exchange-type club. I received a mix in this yellow windowed CD sleeves with the picture of the Lagos market place and green electrical tape on it. While I wasn't wild about the mix, I did like the elements of the cover. So I rearranged the photo and tape, added some stickers and handwriting to it. I colored in the background to make the rough edges of the yellow more noticeable. The phrase "From Our Living Room To Yours" is the title of one of my favorite records of all time: second album by The American Analog Set. I like the utterly anarchistic and janky look of this one. It's admittedly ugly, but in an endearing way.

Good Times Forever After
Clip art, construction paper, vinyl lettering, photocopy, ink, and glue.

A year or so ago, a friend of mine in New York put out a call for new music recommendations via Facebook. I told her I could do her one better and send her a mix CD of new music. "A mix CD?" she responded "How old school. I haven't received one of those in years!" Quite. Really, the idea of making a compilation of music and formatting it onto a nearly outdated delivery platform like a CD-R is pretty quaint. I mean, I do have an account; I could have just as easily sent her a mix of new music from there instantly. Ever since this exchange, I've admittedly began doubting the viability of making any future mix CDs. Perhaps that era is over. I dunno. In any case, I set about to make what I consider one final definitive mix CD comprised solely of the 20 indie bands I enjoy the most (Lilys, Guided By Voices, Elliott Smith, Yo La Tengo, Built To Spill, Neutral Milk Hotel, Pixies, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, etc.) If this is to be my last mix CD ever, it will at least be a banger. The cover is yet another cluster-splash of images and miscellany, sourced mostly from Life magazine, a bicycling safety manual, and National Geographic. I added the vinyl lettering, stickers and handwriting with zero regard for spacial reasoning (why start now?) The title comes from a line in my favorite Pavement song, "Father to a Sister of Thought," which is, of course, included on this mix.

So, I ask you again, dear reader: Is this art?