Friday, March 21, 2008

Cream City Conundrums

Hey, everyone!

Before I head off for a short vacation, I wanted to share a bit about a recent experience in an art class I'm teaching.

I don't know about you, but my grade school art classes were (for the most part) pretty well stocked with students interested in learning about... art. When I was younger I was completely unaware of the apparent fact there are lots of kids taking art classes out of duty rather than choice. I didn't take art for one half of the year and gym the second half. Gym was linked with home economics or something... art was another animal, altogether.

What happened? When did learning how to express yourself on a more personal level become an easy way to bring up your grade point average? Has this always been the case? Was I blinded to this due to my interest in art studies?

I'm worried about a society with no appreciation for self-expression. This becomes especially worrying when adverts are constantly bombarding us with the message of buying the next biggest, fastest, shiniest, multi-playingest toy in the bin... all in the name of 'fitting in'.

Hey, I'm an American... born and bred. I understand the consumer mindset. I'm not some guy living in a shed on some mountain in the North Pacific of the continent. But does all this hoarding of new societal gadgets need to equal forsaking the tools necessary for building society in the first place?

I've been to the mountaintop... and I see children, at the prime of the self-expression age, completely unable to pull an idea out of their heads without being connected to some sort of a machine.

"Can I look something up on the internet... real quick?"

"Do you have a drawing I can look at?"

"Comic books are stupid!"

"I'm sick of drawing!"

These are just some of the things I've heard come from the mouths of grade school art students. What's going on? Does this alarm you? It should. Written language would not have been possible had art not come first. But we don't need to go that deep. How many times have you heard a child voice an idea abut how they could improve a video game or an animated film? Yet, these children shut down when there is a blank page staring them in the face rather than a blinking screen.

Think about it. Get angry. Calm down. Come up with ways to strike back. And exercise those ideas.

We don't need to worry about whether or not web comics, manga, super heroes and/or illustrated diaries will take over the market... 'cos the kids aren't reading, writing or drawing anymore.

Oh! Pick up the latest issue of AdBusters.



Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cream City Conversations with Zeph Farmby

Hello again!

It's been a while since I promised you a proper introduction to this next artist. Orginally from the Windy City... now living in Cream City, Zeph is a new acquaintence and collaborator. From city walls to school halls, Zeph has been slinging his brand of urban flavor across the map. I'm fortunate to be working with him in a special studio project with A.W.E. and M.P.S.

This interview is another departure, of sorts, but that should be expected by now. The idea is to eliminate art barriers and expose art fans and artists alike to nex visual arts.


CCC: Your name and location for those who don't know.

Zeph Farmby aka Mr. I-Amaze-Eyez repping Chi-City

CCC: Do you most often work in a studio setting or solo? If you've worked in both settings, describe how each benefits and/or hinders you.

I work mostly in a solo studio setting. So it’s both when you think about it –ya know! I’ve worked in both settings and they both can be beneficial. One benefit in working in a solo setting is that it allows me to really zone out. Meaning I can act a fool while my music is BLASTING as loud as possible…sometimes I keep one of my favorite songs on repeat because that’s what I’m really feeling at that moment. The benefit in working in a studio with other artists is that it strokes the competitive side of me. I can observe fellow artists’ work and be inspired to make the piece I’m working on more detailed and take it somewhere no one has ever thought of. I’ll combine colors that others may be afraid to use and in the end, create a more noticeable, memorable piece. No matter what, wherever I am, I must have my music. So being in a studio space where there other near by artists might not like the sound of Hip-Hop blaring can cause issues. I’ve been notified plenty of times to “Turn It Down”. But the loud music helps me focus…I’m focused man! This may sound weird but artists will understand where I’m coming from. All in all, there’s no hindrance here – just positive energy…

CCC: How do you approach your process?

My approach to every painting or project is to start out with a rough sketch. Sketching out my thoughts first allows me time to make changes to the rough before starting the final stage. The medium that I want to work with will come to me while creating the rough draft, always keeping in mind the deadline. After I choose the medium, I then either scan in my sketch or, if it’s an oil painting, I move to starting the under painting. Let’s just use the oil painting for the example. After the under painting is complete, I drop in all of my colors. When working with oil paint, I begin with my dark colors. I layer each color, beginning with darks and ending with the highlights. The final stage of my process is no turning back (well sometimes I make additional changes-LOL!) so I can complete the project either to meet a deadline or be ready for an art show.

CCC: Your tools of the trade?

My tools of the trade are Graffiti, Murals, Illustration, Installations, Graphic Design, Oil, Acrylic, Charcoal, Apparel Designs, T-shirt designs, Web lay-out, Web design. There’s more…shall I continue?

CCC: How often do you sit and sketch? How are your sketches used in your process?

I sketch daily to keep my skills fresh but also to keep up on my commissions - LOL!! I sketch to begin each process. The sketched designed acts as the proof that clients “ok” for me to move forward and complete the final work. Sticking to this process helps a lot.

CCC: How do you approach finishing a piece?

How do I know when it's complete? It’s really just a feeling I get while finishing up.
Creative influences? Music, other arts, other artists etc?

Most of my creative influences/inspiration comes from within, first, because I strive to be the best at everything I touch. I’m also inspired by seeing my last finished piece and trying to take the next one a step further. It also comes from music I listen to, books I read and/or seeing a movie, photos etc. I get inspiration from other artists whose work I like as well as seeing other graffiti artists’ work. I’m greatly inspired by older artists like Ernie Barnes. Even just remembering the painting, “Sugar Shack”, or early works of “Futura 2000”, and the artist “Seen” or others from my community, makes me want to go paint!

CCC: What are some things you think should be avoided in the creative process?
One thing in particular you should avoid in the creative process is “DON’T BITE OTHER ARTISTS’ WORK!!”

CCC: List some great creative resources?

One of my best creative resources is a bookstore. Visit your local bookstore (Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc). Go to the Art Museum to study the artists that are considered to be “Great”. I will also sometimes watch movies related to my craft like “Beat Street” and “Style Wars”.

CCC: Could take us through some of your past, present and future projects?

Definitely, Some of my past projects have been really interesting. One that sticks out the most is a mural I did in a salon. The project had to be completed in 3 days. The size of the mural was 7’ X 64’. I got it done in 2 days (2 of the longest and hardest days of my career –LOL!). I’ve also worked on some ads for Barack Obama to encourage a younger demographic to register to vote. A current project that I’m involved with is completing a poster for a new cartoon that’ll be out in the near future. I also have a painting titled “The R” inside the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago. My future projects are really big (but I can’t speak on those just yet... some industry stuff). I’m working on updating my website and creating a product line for my company (I-Amaze-Eyez). You will be able to see/purchase products such as: T-shirts, stickers, posters, DVDs, Mix-tapes and more [I want to give more details on the products but I don’t want anyone to bite my idea before I can actually do it, ya know!]. Also a very important project for me will be completing my book, “Misunderstood”. It will be available to purchase in stores and online.

CCC: What are some of those past and present experiences like?

My experiences have been a real rollercoaster ride because even though I speak on my projects like they come easy, IT’S REALLY HARD!! Going through bad deals with clients and trying to maintain and make a name for myself is tough! Not tough enough to make me quit, but after a while you get a tougher outer layer of skin to help with dealing with issues that come with being in this business. Being self-employed is a lot harder than what people with regular 9 to 5 think (No dis to people who work the 9 to 5). It’s just not working for 8 hours then come back tomorrow and start over again. Being a self-employed artist is a 24/7 life. It’s not a job anymore it becomes your life.

CCC: Are you active in your community (art or otherwise)?

Yes, most definitely.

CCC: If so, why is it important to work in/for the community?

It’s important to be active in the community because we have to reflect back on our future generations. Being from where I am from, people don’t believe having a career in art can really happen. How many artists does the average person know, or better yet see on TV? NONE! If people don’t see it on TV or even hear about it on a regular basis it doesn’t exist in their mind. Well, I won’t say it doesn’t exist but sometimes art isn’t given enough credit. Artists really are the ones who control the minds of others (That’s something to dwell on –LOL!).

CCC: Share any other parting words of advice or encouragement with us?

You just do you….Umma do me! LOL!!

Thanks, Zeph!



Monday, March 10, 2008

Heavee Underground: 2nd Review!

Thanks to the folks at BadLit, my new graphic novel has received another shining review.

You never know what to expect when you're putting one of these things together. I mean, one of these little buggers can easily take weeks, months or years out of your life. Once you send them out for a review... into the hands of someone you know is reading and reviewing dozens of books a month... they are no longer yours alone.

Anyway, read the review... when you have the chance. Let me know what you think and, if you've read the book, feel free to let me know what you've taken from the experience.

Happy reading.