January 20th, 2021
In the studio and working. Here is a glimpse of #10 in the Broken Bank Note series under construction.
January 20th, 2021
In the studio and working. Here is a glimpse of #10 in the Broken Bank Note series under construction.
January 20th, 2021
As a follow up to my New Years eve post about how I find inspiration, I found something new. I arrived home last week to find an example of music and art intertwined in glorious 12” fashion at my door. A pre order double LP set of Melody Gardot’s new release “Sunset In The pink” had been delivered. You may ask, “Brian, why this album to write about?”
17 Days Ago
Sometime around the 3rd of January, I was taking a break from my Sinatra film festival and saw a Tidal recommended album based on previous searches. Without even reading who the artist was, I said out loud, with no one else in the house, because I am going crazy, “That’s a Pat Steir!” In fact, I was right. The cover art was this big gorgeous work in orange and pink, with Pat’s signature drip. I immediately went and searched the album, and did a pre release special order on vinyl. Then I thought… maybe I should have listened to it before I bought it. “Nah- I know Melody’s work”, and I know of the players on the album. I knew what I was going to get. Plus … Pat Steir!
The Art Of Sound
The cover is a registered emboss on what appears to be a 4 color plus gloss hit print production. The inks are wonderful and vibrant. The actual album is a big 2 LP gatefold with an insert sleeve, printed with a hand written note by Pat. Inside this sleeve was a small print of the actual painting used for the cover art. When was the last time you saw this? A museum and curated, collected and coveted painter like Pat Steir, with six figure price tags being used in cover art? Who has cared about cover art in 20 years? No one. The last time record covers were a thing, Paula Scher was doing them.
The sound is glorious and focused, with wonderful frequency spectrum representation and delicate separation of instruments. Guitar passages are articulate and intimate, and Melody’s voice is present, if not slightly subdued. (Thats her thing though) Examples of separation are the delicate shaker frequencies balanced against the low bump of the kick drum. They both are at opposite ends of the spectrum and sit wonderfully in the sound field and mix on this vinyl. How does it compare to Tidal Masters? Thats tough. I use an ADCOM DAC for my Tidal streams and get great sound. Is the record better? In some ways. Before I go off the deep end, this comparison is not the point. Obviously, the vinyl presentation comes with far more “art” so …. For $30 it’s a “no brainer.”
Melody is a “torch singer”, although I wonder if she likes that label. This set of sessions is akin to Astrid and the sound of the Bossa nova 1960’s, but articulate and clean. Not sloppy. Melody’s voice doesn’t make you sad. Contemplative maybe, but sad… that’s Astrids realm. The arrangements are like a Sinatra album with big strings and recorded in the best studios in the world. But there is intimacy as well. The guitar passages and production are more akin to The LA Four sound at times and the playing is outstanding on every track.
Back In The Jacket
I found it interesting that just a couple of days after I wrote about how I find inspiration in sound, that such a glaringly obvious marriage was presented to me. I also find interesting that I purchased it with out even listing to the music. I felt the journey would be better that way. I have contended since my time at Berklee, that visual art and music are aligned in intrinsic and unexplainable ways. There is shape in sound. There is color in frequency. There is feeling in harmonics. Pat gets it. Melody gets it. Maybe if you look and listen, you might get it too. Look up Pat Steir if you dont know her work. Look up Melody Gardot as well. While you are at it look up Paula Scher. You will not be disappointed at the level of artistry and craft from any of them.
January 19th, 2021
Three weeks ago, I spent the New Year’s holiday weekend with old whisky, older movies and even older records. And I learned something.
Just A Moment.
In a conversation with Arthur, from the Pandemic videos, we were speaking about my open letter to senior colleagues in the design and advertising community, where I basically question everything I have ever done and the futility of the industry, while lamenting my early exile from a once promising career. Arthur called this my Jerry Maguire moment. I didn’t see it that way. I don’t believe it to be that moment at all. I wasn’t ushered out, looking for a new beginning, leaving on some high horse with a public speech and self righteous patter. I was quietly pushed into irrelevance, by a system that I could dissect, but will save for another time. What Arthur did elucidate for me, is that all of my accomplishments, outward validations and even financial successes, were just moments in time. A picture. Not a picture of when I got it right, that’s subjective. Just a moment, where my work and my life collided, at the right time for the industry to celebrate, in memorial and compensation. No more and no less.
Are We There Yet?
While spending the New Years, quarantined I went through my movie collection, looking for more obscure titles. I settled on late in career Frank Sinatra films. It soon became obvious. I was watching a legendary entertainer take risks, with late in life roles. They were at once, mesmerizing, embarrassing and somewhat profound. Gone were the days at Ciro’s. This was late in career Frank. Risky, post Hollywood code Frank. No Pal Joey or Oceans camp and not the same writing as From Here to Eternity. However there was something else. Dark. quiet, contemplative, and sort of complex. Dare I write that the roles had weight? Maybe that’s too far, but now I know I found the point.
The Work Won’t Save You.
It just doesn’t. All those times I fought for the best creative output and struggled to get my ideas and vision across at great sacrifice to my personal life and career ...that shit didn’t save me. The so called “pinnacles” of a career, are really ledges to fall from. I have been in books and magazines for my work. And in my 40’s those achievements, recent as some may be, are irrelevant. Financially and emotionally, it has to be about the totality of work and not the singular moment of expression. How many times have you tried to replicate a past success? Ever find yourself working from a point of expectations that are so high, you have no where to go but down? I know I have.
My past work and success has no bearing on today. And I am starting to suspect, neither does yours. But there is freedom in this place. Freedom to take the risks maybe you never did. Freedom to explore. Once you have managed expectations right of the face of the map, no one is waiting to hear from you. That's freedom.
We know every role won’t be “From Here To Eternity”. Frank did too. Every album won’t be “In the Wee, Small Hours of the Morning”. And we beter know by now, every painting can't be a "masterpiece". It just doesn’t work like that. Wouldn’t that create a banal existence, devoid of any struggle or self reflection on story and your role in telling that story? Probably so. Don't get me wrong. We need bar lines to measure against. We need those highs and lows, those tastes of success, so we can celebrate the efforts, and recognize the bad when we see it in our work. Lets face it. If you are doing it right, the highs, help you get through the lows.
Wrap It Up.
Worry less about the singular expression of the current effort and be okay with NOT creating a “masterpiece” every time you set foot in the studio. Look at achievements as moments in time and not new pinnacles to spring from. Use more humility in your creation. Understand that, if you once had great recognition for your work, you can also have complete and utter obscurity thrust upon you. Those swings are almost a certainty in a lifetime of work. You can’t live by your few successes, but you certainly can die by them. Make it about the body of work and go for the lifetime achievement. Or at least that's what I am going to do.
January 18th, 2021
Earlier in the afternoon, I shared why I left social media and I played some records. 3 minutes or so and to the point ...at least for me it is.
January 17th, 2021
Crippled Crown is installed for exhibit and sale at Shockboxx Hermosa Beach. Above is great example of the lantern like effect of display at night. Up for in person viewing until the 30th and available on their page and at the link below.
January 13th, 2021
Polska Drop, at sunset, as seen from Mainstreet on a recent afternoon. There is something quite nice about the interaction with the windows and outside world. But I like looking from the outside in. I like structures that create lantern like glows, marking physical space and providing a glimpse into another world. I might have more to post in the coming days. In the mean time, if you can't visit in person, there is a virtual exhibit online. I can be seen in the "Part Two" video, and Lobby 1 virtual tour. Up until February 13th for in person viewing.
January 11th, 2021
Now that Polska Drop is hung in Minneapolis, I thought I would take a deeper dive into the Broken Bank Note sereis, my thought process behind this particular piece and look closer at my rendering of letterforms. Technique, narratives, visual tropes and a deep dive into the totality of the Borken Bank Note concept are all subjects LA artist, Brian Drake touches on.
Brian also does not refer to himself in the third person in the video, so theres that.
January 8th, 2021
Early on, I decided I was going to use more video and there would be a lot less "writing". Different than my conversations with Arthur, these will be more candid videos, vertical in format, and out of the paint studio. My intention is to focus on what working artists grapple with on a daily basis, but this could morph over time.
In this first video, I ask about the emotional self and have suggestions for managing the swings artists can be held hostage to. And as it happens, apparently I'm at a "fine ass resort", 'cuz my hair looks ike a "fruit loops bird". Thanks pandemic. Less than 2 minutes in length and hopefully helpful.
January 7th, 2021
Once you become established and can actually support yourself as an artist, you begin to limit your creative potential. It's based on expectations and need and could be the beginning of the end. As it happens, with all of the trappings of “success” (however you want to define) comes a lot of pressure, both internal and external, to produce and generate more of that ...well ...“success”. We begin to lean on what got us to this point, using the studio as a microwave, re heating the same creative dish. And I get it. I have done it too. And sometimes, from an economic standpoint, especially if you are a working commercial artist or illustrator, there are limits to the creative boundaries in which you can push. That’s ok. I have a solution.
You Need To Suck.
It is no secret that one you have a mastery of a subject, it is tough to push to new outlets, because sucking ...well... sucks! But not for long. Because, if you are truly creative, your discipline and need for validation will drive you. If you are nodding your head, you know what I am writing about. All that time in the shed, studio, or wherever your practiced and honed your craft had purpose. The multiple hours a day, weeks turing into months that turn into years. You have muscle memory that will catapult you past that early study failure and you will realize some form of success sooner than you think.
In truth, there is a lot of value to doing something you are just not good at doing. Another creative avenue. Another place to express your ideas and vision. It's also a place to work from humility, and grace, remembering what it was like to use discipline and study to achieve results. I mean really challenge yourself. Not just some idle bullshit that can be mastered in days or weeks. But, something as challenging as your principal craft.
First and foremost, it becomes an outlet for all the pent up frustration you have in your own dedicated principal. It also begins to expand your mind and critical thinking abilities, letting you absorb the world with a different perspective. It teaches you humility through failure and imperfection. It humbles the ego. An interesting side effect: The more you do it the better your technique becomes. The better your story telling becomes. Eventually you have another discipline to create with. Imagine, all the times you have been “blocked” or frustrated or whatever term you use when your output is limited ...they all go away, when you can move to another discipline to tell your story. After exercising in this new medium, a return to your principal discipline is often is rewarded with fresh perspective, less constraints, more agility and a new purpose.
So, I know I can often read as lofty, ambiguous or some other term that I fail to articulate in the moment, so let me be clear. If you paint. Learn to write. Learn to use a camera. If you are a musician, get a paint brush. If you are a photographer, do anything else to get a better understating of how to document the world around you. If you knit, play piano. If you write, work with clay. If you work in digital, challenge yourself to make a square box out of solid material. In fact, for all creatives, the more physical you can be with your second discipline, the better. Get a saw and lumber and learn to cut a straight line. Reads ridiculous, I know ...but 6 years ago I could not build furniture to save my life. Now I can craft very luxurious case goods. Exotic veneers, lumber, good joinery ...all foreign to me until I saw The Poplar Shop's YouTube channel in a hotel room in SF, while working in advertising. That changed my life and gave me a needed push to learn a new skill set.
Instead of showing you how good I am at crafting luxe case goods... I thought I would show me struggling with something I know well, but not as well as I thought. In the above picture, I am practicing my 4x5 technique in the field. I have good studio chops, and can shoot nudes really well. Big surprise, I know. But frankly, shooting architecture and working with the crowds and the random nature of the city environment, really fucks with me. And guess what? My images suck too. If you know architecture and LF photography, the first thing you might ask, when seeing that picture, is “why the hell are you using the tripod head for tilts when you have a functioning view camera?” Good question. See, the whole point of using LF is to eradicate those perspective issues, but by using that head tilted like that I am just compounding it. To make matters worse thats a 90mm lens. Disaster. But, in the end, I learned. I keep learning. I don’t really even care for the subject matter, it is more akin to practice than anything else. You do it. And then you keep doing it. And then... you get good at it. It really is that simple.
Wrap It Up.
Do something different. And get good at it. Use the same discipline and study you used to master your primary creative and apply it to something new. You will begin to lose phrases from your vocabulary that block and limit you. You will feel more confident in your storytelling and have a new skill set. You will be able to use multiple mediums to communicate your ideas and will shed old constraints you placed on yourself based on ability. I promise, it works. It really works.
January 6th, 2021
In part four and what is the final episode from the November 30th conversation, Brian pours another drink and laments change and Arthur is as eloquent as ever. Growth in wolf’s clothing, life changes and stoping time are all on display as the pair dissect why Brian creates.
December 31st, 2020
I have been asked many times about inspiration. In an effort to be more frank and less flippant with my responses, here is the first of a few posts, that aim to address how I find creative energy and what fuels my passion for finding and telling a story.
The first and most important part
Do not look to your own craft for inspiration. I stole this from Dan Wieden two decades ago. It was true before me and it will be true long after. What ever your discipline, creatively speaking, looking at what others are doing as a source of your own inspiration will kill you. There are many other talking points, but on this New Years Eve, 2020, I thought I would share a very personal moment from my home and what I do to fuel my inspiration.
My night in
The pandemic in Los Angeles, as it is in many other places, is out of control and I will be spending this holiday alone and isolated. I decided a quiet trip to Japan via import vinyl, and Hibiki Harmony whiskey would work nicely. From Wayne Shorter, to Sonny Stitt, the needle drop will deliver fuzzy warm waves of inspiration in many forms. I see colors and shape when I hear sound. The conversation between soloists in this genre allows me to stretch my intellectual self to new heights. It’s a language I can speak and yet is wholly new to me every time I hear it. I live for nuance and conversation, and certainly this music is filled with just that.
I am not suggesting a turntable and vintage vinyl is a secret sauce. This is one of several things I do. This ritual slows me down and allows me to take part in a total creative story telling experience. The smell of the vinyl, the 60 year old jackets, the sonic bliss and the inability to easily change the program or song to fit my perceived mood, gives me the pleasure of letting another story teller take control. I am frozen in time, re imaging life and experience, told by a creative long gone form this planet. And that really inspires me to listen more, speak less and tell better stories in my own craft.
Have a happy New Year.
December 30, 2020
In the last hours of 2020, Los Angles artist Brian Drake (I have to stop referring to myself in the 3rd person) ponders detail choices, his playlist and finalizes the 9th painting in the Broken Bank Note series. Sister painting to the larger We 3 & The Ho Chi Me, this painting plays with obsolete currency, social values and challenges long standing narratives. In the video I'm just painting and talking. So ...theres that.
December 29, 2020
Something EVERY serious artist will have to deal with at some point in their career is shipping. For events, for clients, for galleries, on line sales, shipping is everything. Now that Polska Drop haas made it to Minneapolis, and The Hopkins Center For The Arts begins the process of installation, I thought it was time to share the 2nd part of getting a piece ready for an event: Shipping and crating. As for me and Minneapolis and what to do next ...That's a different video.
December 21, 2020
PT. 3 of a talk sereis between Broken Bank Note creator Brian Drake and advertising veteran, Arthur Milano, about life, art and everything in between. Done Pandemic style, becasuse ...the vaccine is gonna take a while.
Late December, 2020
Minneapolis was a plan I started working on seven months ago. And now that those actions from summer are coming to fruition, I am forced to ponder the decisions I made. You know ...given the givens. I had a whole story worked out, but in the final seconds of 2020, I don't have any more words on the subject and the story is no longer relevant.
December 19, 2020
I walk through a 4x5 photo shoot of the Broken Bank Note painting, Polska Drop, before my Minneapolis exhibition. Shot in my Los Angels studio, I discuss resolution and what I think is archival permanence.
December 14, 2020
PT. 2 of a talk sereis between Broken Bank Note creator Brian Drake and advertising veterean, Arthur Milano. Done Pandemic style, becasuse ...that's who we still are.