A Blue Note: Sketched In The Raw

Blue Note: Sketched In The Raw

In the land of Daisuke Maki, everything around him could be a seed that may develop roots into a project. Working in the field of graphic design is for him the opportunity to “make things better both visually and functionally.” Unbeknownst to me, I’ve stumbled into his Lower Nob Hill apartment this Wednesday October 10th, on his birthday. Apparently, because it’s a weekday, he has kept it under wraps, planning to celebrate with friends over the weekend. Not wasting any time, we crack open a pair of ales and set to some question and answer as city life continues on the streets only a few stories below his opened window.

* BACKGROUND *

Moments of Truth ~ How would you describe the creative medium(s) you focus in?

Daisuke Maki ~ Graphic design. It starts from sketching with pens and paper. Then after making rough sketches, I’ll go on the computer and execute my idea. I used to be a fine artist before. . . or at least I wanted to be a fine artist before. After studying fine art for two years, I spent the majority of my life wanting to become a painter – since I was little even – until I met a guy in Japan who did graphic design. He showed me his stuff and it clicked, “oh shit, this can be my job!” I didn’t know how successful a focus on fine arts would be, so that’s the time I switched to graphic design.

DMD ~ IN ART WE TRUST

MOT ~ Would you like to get back to what might be considered “fine arts” work in the future?

DM ~ Yea, definitely. [In regards to what I do now,] graphic design is about having the subject first and our job is to make it better and more appreciable. Let’s say there’s a cell phone, there are so many cell phones around, and you want to make a better cell phone. That became an icon. Our job is to make things better both visually and functionally.

Graphic design is based on business more, always money related before you start doing the job. Also, you have to think about the target audience, budget, among other elements. It’s more challenging Continue reading

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Stacked & Finished?

Stacked & Finished?

After watching the months of August and September melt away into shorter days, autumn colors, and impending winter weather it does not take much to know it is time to hit the road. Another Portland night, summers usual pleasant humid stickiness has turned to a crisp fall coolness. Still not completely secure in what items to pack and what to leave, I throw my hands up in frustration, not wanting to begin yet also wanting to set sail. Inevitably, I force myself out the door making some calls over the weekend to schedule appointments for the coming Monday September 17th; one in Salem and a couple in Eugene.

Well, being the laggard that I can be, come Monday, I’m still debating what items to leave in and what to leave out until I just bite the bullet and cram in what fits. In my anxious state, caught up in my thoughts and potential adventures that lay ahead, I start out in the wrong direction wasting at least a half hour road time. By the time I make it to the first location, paths have already been crossed and the meeting has to be postponed until the return trip. It’s straight on to Eugene to sit down with painter John Holdway.

John Holdway,
http://www.johnholdway.blogspot.com

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Background:

“Mainly I do painting, in oils, but sometimes acrylics. Maybe lean a little into sculpture, especially when I’m working on some paintings in still life because I might build my own props. Sometimes I do think of my paintings more like sculpture, objects. I also do printmaking, block print, monotype.”

MOT ~ What do you think it is that draws you toward painting?

JH ~ It’s hard to say, I’ve been painting for a long time, it becomes somewhat habitual. It’s a little weird that way, so I find it hard to think about it, why do I do it. Why can’t I stop doing it might be a better question.

There are a lot of practical things that are nice about painting. If you have paintings, you can hang them on your own wall. In college I did some steel sculpture, but there are problems with that. You need lots of tools, a big pile of junk in your yard, a yard, if you don’t, well… and now I do have a yard, but I’m married and have a wife. She’d probably be pretty unhappy with that.

So I would like to do some steel sculpture again. I like doing all kinds of stuff. With painting, you don’t use your muscles as much. If you spend time building your own canvases or something that might be the extent of it. I like to be a little tired after, more active instead of just all in your head. It’d be nice to have a little of that. I remember that about steel sculpture that there’s a physical-ness not necessarily there in the same way when painting. It entails forging, hammering, cutting, using all kinds of different tools. With painting you have your brushes and your knives. It might be that [brushes] are so natural to me know that I don’t even think of them as tools.

MOT ~ So where did you grow up?

JH ~ I grew up in Maryland outside of DC, College Park, pretty close to the University of Maryland.

MOT ~ Do other members of your family also do creative types of activities?

JH ~ Yea, well my dad’s always been an artist on the side, a print-maker, doing etchings and those kinds of things. He often drew and has done some Continue reading

Knarlly Rebar

After only being on the road for just a week, with a two man pup tent loaned by my dad, sleeping bag, and basic gear strapped via various bungees to the motorcycle, I am realizing it’s not quite as exotic as stories and films tend to make this kind of adventure out to be. Camping using only the regular spots, which it seems is what the park services want people to do, is not like what I remember as a kid. It probably doesn’t help that the majority of campsites seem to be situated for RV or giant camper ease of access. Spending the majority of the day on the road, trying to get to the next location with enough day light hours to pitch camp doesn’t leave much time for seeing all the awesome sights, sounds, and chatting with the people inbetween. Nor am i finding much time to just hunt down interesting folks willing to spend an hour right away to discuss what they do, and I wouldn’t expect too either.

After several nights sleep on the ground, my back, and brain feel like this mangled heap of rebar looks. There are other methods.

Trying to keep up on the posts is tough too. Each interview seems to take about a good days worth of work to have a fairly edited and organized post to present. This is meant to be professional quality, regardless of the format. So far, general word of mouth feed back has been good. I’m curious what others stopping by actually think. I’ve noticed some suggestions. Unfortunately they may be loftier then my capabilities at this time. If when making suggestions you could also explain how to accomplish this in these basic html slash motorcycle parameters, that’d be helpful.

This weeks focus is on transcribing three interviews. One conducted with filmagrapher Andrew Warnecke based in Portland, Oregon. The other two are with painters working out of Eugene. More to come on that later, so stay tuned.

Right now I’m in the Bay area aka San Francisco and planning on interviewing some great creative minds here. If you know somebody you can direct me to from SF to San Diego and or Mexico too, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Thanks.

Keep checking in. More will come up this week!

“Don’t Read, It’s Precious”

September 10, 2007

Sitting under the shade of a nice size tree in the back yard of his friends North Portland home where he keeps his studio, he has spread out paintings of various sizes. He unrolls several large canvases he’s been working on, some painted plywood boards and blocks. The studio space, he mentions that it’s also known as a garden shed, is tight, full of work in progress and energy.

Born and raised Portland, Oregon artist Donald Olsen takes some time to sit down and discuss drawing, destruction as beauty, painting, and what inspires him to create an artistic dialog with society.

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Background:

Moments of Truth ~ Please describe your primary creative endeavors.

Donald Olsen ~ Probably drawing is definitely my primary, that’s like an everyday thing. Actually, I was thinking today, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to make things, that I didn’t have that pressure, but it’s something just inborn. I go nuts if I can’t express that. So it’s usually drawing. I also like to make music and paintings. I think they are separate, somewhat separate endeavors. And I guess a little bit of writing, although it’s usually not visual.

MOT ~ Which one of those do you think you spend the majority of your time in? Has this changed over time?

DO ~ No, it hasn’t, it’s been drawing for as long as I can remember. I guess when I say drawing I am usually thinking of sitting down with a piece of paper and not having any idea, just letting it come out…

MOT ~ Like free writing?

DO ~ Yea, stream of consciousness.

MOT ~ Do you remember one of the first times you started doing that, how old you were, what you might have first drawn?

DO ~ I definitely can’t remember the first time, but lots of times getting sent to my room (deep chuckle) When I was a kid I used to love to draw surfers, basketball players dunking, and some architecture, like birds eye views slash floor plans of mansions, like my mansion (hahahaha). Some battles, draw the battle lines of each side and then over the top view. And I’d like to play with the G. I. Joe guy’s.

MOT ~ So do you think it worked as escape for you, to live in your imagination and visualize it?

DO ~ Oh yea, definitely an escape. I think paper served as a place to stay while I could brain storm around it. I could kind of like create my own reality, like pornography before I had access.

MOT ~ And music?

DO ~ Music was a later thing, as a kid, I got ruined on piano lessons early on. Mom nagging me on practicing, and I had shelved all of it until I turned 19, listening to music made me start to want to make music at a certain point. So I found myself playing air guitar too much, so I finally bought a guitar. And then learned… I’m left handed and I ended up taking this guitar class in college. At the end of the class the teacher confessed to me that “I could never look at your fingering because it would always mess me up.” So I never really learned the whole reading music or notes, but I got playing cords. And that was enough to have a lot of fun.

More recently, for my brothers wedding, we put together a band. That was a really cool experience that I’d never had before. Probably the most collaborative art making I’ve ever had is working together with people on music. Pretty novice, but I enjoy it a lot. Ya know, three or four basic cords is generally enough to play your average pop song, I kind of dink around and do that. For this band thing though I picked up mandolin. A lot of the people in the band (at this point my cell phone rings and I make a mental note to put that thing on silent) were along those lines of trying new things and new instruments. One of the other guys was a guitar and bass player, Brad, in the band picked up trombone. It was all about trying new things and exploring.

MOT ~ Do you think there are other mediums that you would interest you in the future?… like say sculpture or carving….

DO ~ I’ve done some sculpture and carving, I mean my masters degree was in printmaking and drawing, so I’ve done printmaking too, but unfortunately I don’t have a set up for it now. I guess that’s what I appreciate about drawing is the materials are so basic that you don’t have to … printmaking requires the press, various tools, etc.

And I am writing a book, which is sort of a different medium. I am integrating computer more into what I’m doing lately. I don’t know, I guess I’ve always seen drawing as the foundation, a way I gather and figure out my ideas so those ideas can go in any media or direction after that. I haven’t made very many videos but I don’t count it out as a way to make art.

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MOT ~ Where did you grow up? And talk a little bit about that community and if it influenced you in any way.

DO ~ Well, I grew up here in Portland. Which now is like an oddity, every time I tell someone I’m from Portland they’re like “really, you’re like the first one I’ve ever meet.” (Which brings a good laugh to us both) It’s kind of weird, I feel like it’s now this town of ‘out of towners,’ and I don’t know how I feel about that. On one hand, it’s made this town a lot better place, bringing a lot more things to do especially for younger people, but on the other hand there’s a character about Portland that people don’t understand. They don’t understand what it was like before.

I think Portland and the Pacific Northwest has definitely influenced my work, but it’s more about this place then the people. Just being able to get out and see all these different types of areas. The beach has been a place that inspires me, being able to get to the desert or forest easily. Access to really changing your environment easily… I don’t know exactly how that’s influenced me, but I’m sure it has. It’s part of me, so it comes out in my work.

The other thing is this is such a fertile place, it’s like a place that has been creatively fertile since the Native Americans were here. A place, at least to my understanding, that you could fish for a few months and have enough to get through the winter, then have enough time to make art. I think that’s still here to some extent. It’s cheaper to live here, so you can get by on less, and make more time for your own interests. I think the rain can make people pull inside themselves, especially during the winter, and that’s a good thing.

MOT ~ Hibernating…

DO ~ Hibernating, yea, and focusing on your own unique weirdness, what ever your thing is, ya know.

MOT ~ Would you say you had any mentors that helped guide you? Or folks that may have just given you encouragement?

DO ~ There’s been people, … yea, my next door neighbor growing up influenced me, and she wasn’t even really one to even call herself an artist, but she was. She’d make these Christmas cards every year that were insane, insanely processed, just complex. I’ve always been more of an observer than an inter-actor, and just picked up things from people without them even knowing.

Drawing for me has always been a very solitary thing. Also, just other artists that I admire, I usually admire from afar, from books or things like that.

Inspiration:

MOT ~ Do you have any particular sources of inspiration?

DO ~ There’s been a couple recently. Most recently I’ve been reading about this area of the ocean between here and Hawaii, where huge amounts of plastic have ended up. Have you heard about this?

MOT ~ Nooo…

DO ~ It’s twice the size of Texas where the currents go in a vortex like whirlpool, and all this stuff ends up there. That’s been really on my mind a lately, as far as how gross that is, and what it must look like. This tangled mess of all this stuff. I think about that as far as my work, and [find it] inspiring.

Another thing that’s been going a little longer then that is an interest in these floods that happened about twelve thousand years ago in this part of the country. There was an inland ocean [near] Montana area, and this massive amount of water flooded through Eastern Washington into Oregon and they think it may have occurred forty times. Like ten times the flow of all the rivers that exist on earth today, crashing through. Basically stealing all the top soil from Eastern Washington and depositing it in Oregon, which is partly why this is such a fertile green place. So, trying to imagine what that looked like, or imagining what the after math of that could have looked like has been inspiring to me.

I think it comes through in some of these pieces. What would a 200 acre forest look like all just in water stranded on the side of the moon or something like that. And that beauty comes from violence over time. Tremendous violence brought about this tremendous beauty. Thinking about those issues… I like to find inspiration in science or environmental things.

I think art is a language and you have to find something to talk about. For me I like to find subjects outside of the art world. Art tends to be such a mirror ball just looking back at ourselves so much and I try to jump out of that.

MOT ~ Man, yea, that’s good. There you go. (I’ve got to work on this thinking thing)

Do you have any specific concepts or symbols that you like to work in? (Didn’t the man just break it down… I’ve also got to work on breaking away from the outline.)

DO ~ Kind of on that flood tip, I’ve had a lot of log jams popping up, or tornados flying around messing everything up. Those have been popping up. What else. . . I always think that’s interesting because I never try to control the symbology. Like, alright, these are the seven symbols I use… I always thought that was restrictive so my symbol library just happens by accident, mostly by looking back at what I’ve done, kind of intuitively. I’d say log jams, and tornados, and thinking about that huge pile of plastic, like a lot of stuff, just tremendous amounts of built up stuff all piled up.

MOT ~ Like natural imagery.

DO ~ Natural, but that’s not really natural.

MOT ~ Well, maybe unnaturally natural. (Both trying to make sense of it)

DO ~ Well, yea it is kind of natural the way things just get stacked up like drift wood on a beach; just how things kind of end up. I feel like I paint that way too. I do control things, but I do want it to have that look that it ended up that way. Which is probably why it’s really hard to finish them. When is the pile of the beach ever finished, it’s continuously changing.

MOT ~ Well, there is that moment when you see it, or take that picture, captured that moment, that’s all, it’ll change again.

Do you think you have specific goals you’re working toward?

DO ~ I do, yea, I do. I’m working on this book. That’s been my main goal recently. I find it hard to have, …with these paintings, it’s been hard to have a goal because the way I work is pretty intuitive. So, umm,

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MOT ~ So you’re able to work with out specific goals , just relax. .. Well, the question is more to delve into, like a lot of people in the business world have to have the goal. With out the goal, they have no direction, is there a way that allows you to balance your direction, err?

DO ~ Hmm, balance my direction…? I don’t know. (laughing) I think I’m at a cross roads. I don’t know what my direction is right now.

MOT ~ But you’re definitely working.

DO ~ Yea, I find that I have to work, I have to keep going, but I guess I don’t know where it’s going to go. The motivation is always there so I always keep moving forward.

MOT ~ It’s an internal motivation, you don’t need external end point, you just work from the inside…?

DO ~ I guess with these paintings yea, I just keep going. Now, say having a show scheduled is good. But that’s more about finishing, forcing me to finish. Or decide that this is where I let it stop. Right now I don’t have anything scheduled, so I’m not working in that way. Just kinda keep it none players paint. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

MOT ~ Do you do any exercises to stay energized or other methods that you may use to prepare your mind and body prior to painting or like, once you feel like you’ve drained your creative energies, is there any thing you go do to recharge?

DO ~ Well, one thing, with this studio, I almost always ride my bike here. I almost always have a few ideas I’ve thought up on the ride, and know once I get here. I find that having that distance and that time between my home and studio is a practice that helps clear out [my mind]. Now I’m leaving real world behind and entering studio world where (just getting excited thinking about it) possibilities are endless. I don’t have to worry about finding a job or doing the dishes. Physical exercise in the form of transportation, I find works for me. I find it hard to just exercise for exercise sake, so I have to trick myself. I like that my home and studio are far from each other so it forces me to do that. Mentally it’s good. Walking, I take walks, I find it helps recharge me too. I always attribute that to our hunter gather-ness from way back in our evolution, that walking around helps us think. I definitely find that I can think better when I’m moving.

MOT ~ Some people, artists, graphic designers – I know you do some graphic design work – bouncing from one element to the other you probably have to take into consideration the audience. How do trigger those elements within you?

DO ~ While I’m painting I’m always considering composition, stepping back and thinking about how somebody might find their way through this painting. I think a lot of my work is about is about how we receive information and how we deal with HUGE amounts of information that we’ve never had to do before. Like right now we have the whole world at our finger-tips, and what do you do at that point. And when you’re faced with a river full of logs, or like, ya know that board at the airport with all those different lines; how does your eye figure out where to go first and decode all that stuff? That’s how I picture the viewer dealing with these paintings, and I want them to have to come back more then once and see different things or not be able to always have the same path through the painting; for them to be able to take different things away from it.

MOT ~ Have you been able to witness the reactions?

DO ~ That’s the hard part. With paintings I’m not always there with them, you can put a comment box, but it’s like whose gonna . . . hahaha. What I’d really love is to video tape someone’s eyeballs and what path they take. But, so no, I haven’t, I think that’s something that’s been triggering this interest in interactive work is to get that feedback. I’m putting out something and I need that feedback, and it’s hard to get with traditional work. Maybe putting plexi-glass over my work and providing dry erase markers for people to draw on it or have blocks that can be moved around and rearranged.

I think the challenge with that is the stumbling block of “don’t touch the art” that most people have inborn, “don’t touch that, it’s precious!” That’s something I would like people to get over. I treat my work like… I sit on it, tear it apart, sand it down. For me it’s not precious any more, I think the challenge for me is how to get the viewer past that and gauge the reaction.

Technical:

MOT ~ Do you have any books, resources, or particular tools on hand regularly that you turn to?

DO ~ Well, there’s a graphic designer named Tibor Kalman, that’s totally my guru for… everything really. There’s a book I think just called “Tibor” that I keep handy. He did a bunch of Talking Heads [album] covers and designed products like a black umbrella with the underside clouds. He did this whole series of paperweights that were crumpled up graph paper. Things like that, he took the every day and flipped it over and handed it back to you.

There’s an artist named Tom Freidman, I really love his work. He does a similar thing, he takes everyday objects like paper and pencil and obsessively works with it. He took all these pencils, cut each at a 45-degree angle and stuck them back together until he created this mound (doing some motions with his hands) like this, a tangled mess. He’s done some other stuff with paper. He did a piece with bubble gum, he used 1500 pieces of bubble gum that he sculpted into this perfect sphere and he pressed it in the corner of the gallery at head height. And he did another piece, where he had an empty gallery and stretched this gum from the floor to the ceiling.

MOT ~ Damn, that’s got to be a lot of gum!

DO ~ He had another with this pencil in the shape of a lighting bolt that went from the ceiling to the ground. So I keep his books around, he’s influencing me. Ummm, Basquiat, he’s been an influence. I’ve found at times I have to put him away because he’s too good, too influential. So I’m kind of off of him right now. He was ahead of his time.

MOT ~ Can you talk a little about your process? You mentioned riding your bike and coming up with ideas. Like your process from idea, dream or where ever in your head or like reading about those different natural things that are occurring and how you may work with that in your brain, consciously or subconsciously, and how you work on bringing that out into a final product.

DO ~ I think that’s just usually happens on paper. I keep sketchbooks, and make sketches on paper a lot. Sometimes I’ll have little flashes a lot and scribble it down and usually just develop it on paper. Just last weekend I had this idea about how tied to laptops we are, and thinking about – this might be like a t-shirt design – having a person and a laptop in love, like “you complete me.” I don’t know, a lot of things just like that, having little flashes and scribbling that down. The floods and stuff like that, I think, “Oh, I’m thinking about the floods,” okay, so I’ll just start drawing endless log jams on paper. I think that’s my main process is thinking on paper, thinking through drawings. I’m not sure if you answered the question…

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MOT ~ Any particular technique’s to you that allow you to distinguish your style?

DO ~ With painting, it’s all about layering, I almost always paint with just one color at a time. I’ll often paint on multiple paintings at once with that one color. So I don’t know if that’s unique to me, but that’s how I’ve always done it. I do a lot of covering up of other things, or covering mostly and leaving little parts to show through.

Let’s see, I also like to use rags, and be really rough. Using wood panels allows me to be really rough, and getting back to that element of not being precious. I think about painting as scrubbing a floor. Except I don’t like finishing things, so it’d be like scrubbing about 75% of the floor and leaving the rest. I think I do that a lot. My drawing style may be unique to me, but it’s hard to put that into words specifically.

MOT ~ Are there drawing tools. . .?

DO ~ Yea, I mostly draw with ball point pens. Ahhhh. What’s the kind I use, just Bic’s maybe. I like ballpoint pens because you can get a wide range of marks. If you push really hard you get a deep mark or you can barely touch it and get a really fine hair mark. I haven’t found another art material that can be so far ranging in marks. I don’t know, I guess I might like them because they’re cheap, always around, and leave money out of the equation.

MOT ~ True. So, we’ve talked about this a little bit. You’ve been working on these paintings for quite a while. How can you tell when something is complete? How do you keep from (said in almost unison) working it to death?

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DO ~ Oh man, I think some of these I have worked to death. I’ve just not worried about finishing and just kept going and going and going. Some of them have reached a point where I think they’re just fucked. It’s over! Over worked. Maybe they’ll come back around on the other side if I keep going. I don’t know, that’s the question. I don’t have an answer to that yet. I think it’s finished at midnight the day before you have to get your show up.

I guess I could talk about the mural in Brazil. It was this all over style and that’s one way to get around that problem. If the style itself is to fill up the wall to a certain level of density. That particular mural crawled out and stopped at a certain point, it was almost like a virus or bacteria that stopped at a certain point. It crawled up to the wall, onto the ceiling a little bit, around two or three corners and then stopped. I consider the shape that it becomes. The finishing is “is it dense enough everywhere? Yes, okay it’s finished.” But as far as these paintings I haven’t found that or let myself go that way.

MOT ~ With graphic design or say the book you’re working on, how do you know you’ve completed that?

DO ~ Well, graphic design I feel is different. I feel more of a corner that you turn and it finishes. Or I guess with graphic design I’ve figured it out more, or have more of a sense “okay, this is finished right here.” And that happens once in a while in the paintings.

So, I don’t like to finish. I don’t like to finish anything in my whole life. I’ll read a whole book and leave the last ten pages. Or do all the dishes and leave a fork, knife and bowl. I don’t enjoy finishing things at all. There’s probably other examples of that I’m sure. Finishing anxiety. Once it’s finished it has to be on its own.

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MOT ~ Say like with Tibor, say you were able to sit down and ask him like three questions. What would you ask him?

DO ~ Maybe something about how you deal with failure. How do you deal with getting your idea chopped off, something like that. One of his things was ‘you’ve got to go out and find the client that will let you do what you want.’ Like, he did that magazine called “Colors” which was paid for completely by Benetton’s, they took no editorial control over that How do you find that? How do you find that sponsor or person that sees your vision and let you do what you want. Another paraphrase of his I thought was cool, “You want to find clients that are smarter than you, not stupider. Because if you have clients that are smarter than you, you’ll be able to expand. If they’re stupider then you, your time will be spent trying to catch them up or just being frustrated they wont let you do what you want.

I’ve never been good at talking to people that I’ve admired that way. I feel like (changing voice) “duhhh, I really like your work.” Like seeing the lead singer after the concert and saying, “hey, great show,” (almost seeming slightly nervous just thinking about it) but what do you say after that.

MOT ~ Do you want to talk a little about how you were selected for that trip to Brazil and about that?

DO ~ It’s a funny story. A student of mine, sort of, well when I was in grad school I was a teachers assistant and this woman Alana was in two of my classes. She got this scholarship to go to Brazil. She went down there for a year, started talking to all these different artists and hatched this idea of ‘artist as ambassador.’ So she organized this exchange of five artists from Brazil that were part of this gallery called ‘Al gen shil Carioca’ and carioca is a person from Rio de Janeiro, like a Portlander from Portland, so like a gentle person from Rio.

They’d just started this gallery and their whole mission was education. Putting contemporary art in front of the average person and building a creative community. Five artists from Brazil ended up coming to Portland and doing a show at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art). It was great stuff.

One artist had a piece were she wove feathers on to live chickens in Carnival style costumes, with a whole chicken coop that was built in the gallery. For a month these chickens were there in PNCA gallery, squawking, laying eggs and all this stuff. And some really experimental sound art that was happening. A video of this guy slow motion biking on the beach in Rio, he had a gut. Ernesto Neto (Ernesto Saboia de Albuquerque Neto) had a sculpture there, that was awesome. He does this kind of soft sculpture.

So that happened in August 2005, this last January 2007 5 artists from Portland went to Rio and put on a show at this “ Gallery”. I ended up getting selected I think because I knew Alana, and they liked my mural work. The all over murals, I’d done a couple.

I had done one at ‘New American Casuals,’ do you remember that shop? Do you remember ‘Poker face?’ Anyways it was a clothing store under the Morrison Bridge, he was a real proponent of street art and sold aerosol and sold all sorts of clothing. He cleared out his whole shop and I covered all the walls, 15 foot walls with this all over black lines on white wall. Dense covering on every inch of the wall. That’s what I showed the selection team and they liked that.

I ended up making drawings that were both things from Portland, flood themes, log jams, and also stuff that I saw in Brazil. It was interesting because some of the imagery was decades old and some of it was seconds old. Some of the artists from Rio would come in and… like this one guy had a rubber stamp of his face, and just stamp that on his work. It was just constant on everything, and I put one of those stamps in the mural, and I put the chickens with the colored Carnival feathers. So it was like everything and the kitchen sink idea, it’s all going in, no editing going on.

We went there with 8 students from PSU that were there assisting us, which was great, I’ve never worked that way before with so much help. I had all these drawings created and we used digital projectors to put’em up on the wall and I had all this help tracing them with black paint. It was a really fun experience to have all that help, it was kind of overwhelming at the end how much work had been down.

MOT ~ Did you notice any cultural elements that would allow them to do one thing versus here where there are cultural elements to do another thing?

DO ~ Probably the coolest thing we saw there was these kids. Rio is surrounded by these slums, favelas, and we got to go into one which is pretty rare. Mostly tourists don’t because they are pretty dangerous, yea

MOT ~ “City of God?”

DO ~ Hahaha, yea, that’s what we saw before we went and we were scared shitless, hahaha. This guy that was staying at the same place as us had come to work on this project in the favela. So we got to go in and see that these kids had taken bricks from the surrounding houses and with a little hammer had pounded out little windows making a mini-favela. All of a sudden one brick had become one house. They had made this scale model, they had everything, even little lego guys, toy cars, police… everything. They had built it on this hillside.

That would have been cool enough, but now these kids have traveled all over the world with this. And they were in the most recent Venice Biennale (Biennale di Venezia) where they flew over there, flew a bunch of Brazilian bricks there and built this whole thing. They’ve been to France and Barcelona, all over the place. That was just insane. It’s such a cool project but it’s cool to see these kids who looked like all the other kids in the favela, except they had gold chains around their next and would be talking on their cell phones constantly. And here are these kids that are basically way more famous as artists then any of… I mean a lot of the people I was with from Portland were some of the best artists in town. Much more distinguished then me, most of them. And you have these little kids who’ve shown in Venice Biennale, climbed half the mountain.
Just seeing how what starts off as play and is a good idea can just, well, there’s no end to what that can become. That was an inspiring trip.
That was like our last day and awesome to finish on that note.

It was so inspiring to see those kids doing that really making it happen. You watch “City of God” and think it must just be a horrible place to live. If you ask those kids “so you make a little bit of money now have you thought about moving outside the favela?” Their response, “no, I love the favela, it’s great.” I can see why, it’d be like if Multnomah Village was on top of the West Hills. They had the best views of Rio, they could see the whole thing. It’s interesting to flip the script and see the other side of things.

You have these conceptions of how something is, that living in a favela is a horrible thing, but maybe not necessarily. Just incredibly nice people. But violence was a way of life, it was there. Luckily nobody in our group had any problems. Another girl staying in the same place as us got robbed. Her camera, passport, everything stolen. It is a totally dangerous place, but they’re also the nicest people you’ll ever meet. There’s definitely creativity in that kind of environment, like all or nothing. The stakes were raised or something.

Then we got back to Portland and it snowed. From 90 degree weather to snow. That was hard. Tremendous culture shock when we got back even though we’d only been gone for two weeks.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Notes:

Thanks for joining in on another installment. Hopefully these are getting better or providing some interesting reading for you. Let me know what you think. To see more work by Don stop by
www.donolsen.com

Don Olsen dot Com

Scatter Grain

This session had been tentatively arranged the night prior, but I wouldn’t have felt bad if he’d canceled because I knew Zae began his day around 5am and made it home 8pmish. That being an extremely long day usually leaves a person mentally drained. About 7:45pm I received the call that he was about home and wanted to know if we were still on. After collecting the necessary tools (the digital recorder and camera), confirmed the location on Google maps, warmed up my motorcycle and was off. The nights adventure to score an interview had just begun.

Portland Riverfront

Arriving at his place he explained the need to head to a particular location where he could hand off some cash to a friend of his girl’s who is currently studying down in Guatemala. Because of his hours he was unable to make the much needed deposit to her account. Zae figured he could take out several birds with one stone, getting some dinner, a few beers, and this interview done at that same spot. Well, first things first, to get there.

With no valid drivers license he asks if I would mind driving his gf’s car. After confirming that insurance was cool we went out to fire up the ’84 Accord. Ummm, no go, some electrical problem. I’d give him a ride on my motorcycle (something I still have yet to do) but he’s got no helmet. The alternative became bicycles. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I really rode a bicycle anywhere.

Through the dark side streets of Portland we cruised, and I could feel the breeze of autumn in the air. After dodging a couple of hairy intersections, and retrieving my digital recorder before it got ran over we arrived at Tiger Too, ordered a couple Bridgeport IPA’s and introductions were dealt out. Zae ordered himself the 1/2lb pepper jack cheese, bacon and sliced jalapeños fire burger. Unfortunately, for some reason we didn’t get around to the interview here, the fries were good though, and the pints might have warmed us to some decent conversation. Even more unfortunate was that I hadn’t noticed just how tired this guy had become.

The nights adventure to score an interview had just begun.

Regardless, back at his place he made the attempt to go through with this interview, the best that a sleep deprived delusional individual can.

Background:

Moments of Truth~ Please describe your primary creative endeavors.

Zae~ Graffiti art slash vandalism slash bike riding, masturbating slash gardening.

MOT~ Okay, umm, so is that how you want to break it down? Maybe, what medium do you most focus your creative energy?

Z~ Rampant vandalism.

MOT~ Why have you chosen this medium versus all those other fantastic ones out there?

Z~ There are not that many other fantastic mediums out there as far as I’m concerned.

MOT~ Alright then, well, break it down where you grew up?

Z~ Primarily grew up in North East Portland, spent my early childhood years in Olympia, Washington where my childhood memories rest. I preside in SE Portland now-a-days.

MOT~ Tell me a little bit about this gardening that you do.

Z~ Gardening is a meditational experience. Vegetable gardening not landscaping, you can watch things grow and get to eat them, it’s kind of fun. I’m not as into it as I should be, it’s more of an old people hobby, even though old folks might not exploit it as much as they should, uh, tomatoes are amazing, fruit, obviously it’s a very exploitable region. I mean if you don’t have to buy produce in the store why should you? Heirlooms, the most legitimate thing you can work with.

MOT~ Do you have any particular memories when you started focusing your time and energy on your creative endeavors? Say, about the time you started switching off all other avenues of the other not very many other creative endeavors and started focusing on this rampant vandalism thing?

Z~ Around the time when I switched off was when my brother David was murdered down in Eugene, Oregon. Uhhh, I kind of shut off completely. I was already pretty anti-social as a kid, and I had very few friends and it stuck me in a whole different world. I was already kind of getting into graffiti and I accelerated that world, graffiti art, graffiti vandalism, what ever you want to call it. From there just went into a few years of depression and uh finding myself and making friends finally that has brought to where I am now.

MOT~ So you think you made a lot of friends through that avenue that you wouldn’t have necessarily made in any other way?

Z~ I think with out graffiti it would have been a lot harder for me to grow as a person and find a community. That was my community and that was my way to come up in the world which I didn’t have before.

Portland Backyard Garden Vegetables

MOT~ That’s a good transition to my next question how would you describe the community you grew up in and do you think that the community influenced your ideas style or just the way you approach life in general?

Z~ My community was both very positive and very negative at the same time. It was very polarized. You got your violent shit head irresponsible side and you got you artistic expression community blah blah blah, whatever people call it. A lot of people try to label, catagorize, every thing’s a category, label or syndrome these days, soooo I like grey areas, I like things to be grey, except for walls.

MOT~ So do you think the community had a large impact on the way you think about things or do you think you would have just come up with them on your own?

Z~ If the world wasn’t fucked I wouldn’t think the way I think. I mean it’s not like we live in some third world country. Things are handed to Americans that aren’t handed to the rest of the world. I can’t say I grew up in poverty. Nobody in America really grew up that impoverished, I mean maybe a handful of minorities, perhaps if your in the dirty south.

MOT~ Yea it’s tough to say that over here in the northwest, people are pretty well taken care of.

Z~ You can do what you want to do if you have the right mind-state. But sometimes, family has a lot to do with it, . . . I lost track of the original question falling out into different tangents.

MOT~ How would you describe your creative style? What is it you are trying to accomplish or express with the medium that you choose to use?

Painting by Zae photo'd for Scatter Grain blog post and Street Cred

Z~ Well, as far as graffiti goes it’s full on freedom of speech, full on freedom, you’re not allowing someone else to speak for you, or going through some commercial medium, it’s all you and your own community. Which is an excellent thing, and it can also be a retarded thing half the time. But you get your good with your bad and your happy and sad, smile now cry later.

MOT~ But like in any medium [of life] you’re going to have rules people are supposed to follow, there’s like levels of engagement, it’s like it breaks down to a militaristic form of combat. How is that free versus something else? How do you set yourself apart?

Z~ UngWell, you’ve got your rules and boundaries, you’ve got those that choose not to follow any of the rules or boundaries and you’ve got those that are strict to the rules of the game, what is allowed and not, ya know. I don’t know, in a smaller city like Portland everybody makes there own rules, and nobody really gets checked. But I know in bigger cities the graffiti community is tough. You can’t really fuck around in some places. In Portland I’ve gotten away with some shit, and shoulda’ got my ass kicked, but I didn’t. But ya know, I’ve also given people passes on getting their ass kicked, it goes either way. Maybe I’m just a mellow dude.

Portland Characters

Myteaone

Inspiration:

MOT~ Do you have any particular sources of inspiration, what ever might inspire you, it doesn’t necessarily have to be artistic or creative….

Z~ I love nature, I love the balance between nature and civilization, that’s an inspiration. I love my dad, he’s an awesome person, with out him I wouldn’t be anywhere.

MOT~ Do you have any particular artistic influences, styles of thought you might emulate?

Z~ As far as artistic influences, you gotta go back to the old school folks. I’m not even going to elaborate that much. Your “Style Wars” people and what not. As far as artists, Salvador Dalí, Picasso, I haven’t studied art really that much to know this or that. I’ve always been mostly a free thinker, but I am considering trying to be more structured, get into meditation, reading a lot more books, basically, because I don’t feel like I know shit about the world. If I ever expect to travel and learn about the world, I am really way off base. It just involves traveling and reading, hopefully I will eventually figure out a true direction. Right now I’m pretty much in limbo land, and that can happen when you chose lifestyles that I’ve chosen. I’ve been a wandering graffiti writer up until about two years ago. Those two things combined, being a traveler and artist, you can experience a lot of things people don’t get to experience, but you can also put yourself in a void where you don’t learn other things about the world. A kind of tunnel vision.

MOT~ Do you have any creative goals in mind? A direction you plan to work toward? Some specific goals you’d like to try and achieve.

Blackbook Sketches

Z~ I’ve always wanted to be a free lance journalist. Originally I begin putting out my own magazine, now everybody seems to have their own magazine. Everybody’s a graphic designer… I put out three independent graffiti slash commentary magazines from ’99 to 2002. This was back when Kinko’s was very exploitable, and my dad has a printing background so that was helpful. They were full size, color.

My dad’s been running printing presses since the 60’s, that’s his official trade. And now he’s dabbling in it a little bit, and part of the teachers union. He’s a major inspiration, done a lot.

MOT~ Were you able to glean any knowledge or methods of printing from him?

Z~ I would be around when he was running them, and he’d be helping people with their poem books. Always working on something whether through work or helping other friends, and obviously that rubbed off on me. The ink kind of attracted me, I thought “I could get into that.” I’ve always had a writing urge, although it’s kind of died off in recent years. Everything goes in cycles, so I’m likely to get back to it, eventually. I need to get back into the practice of writing, reading more, and educating myself, dancing around questions that people ask me.

MOT~ Zzzzzzzz (loosing my train of thought as ‘Mr. Bungle’ surf rock plays in the background)

Z~ Yea, I’ve been working the blue collar muscle and beer drinking muscle the last two years. It’s feels good, certain aspects, but it’s also pretty exhausting.

Technical:
MOT~ Do you have any books, resources, or tools that you turn to for your main creative endeavors?

Z~ I used to rely heavily on music as a kind of guide, which I forgot about in recent years. I’ve been getting back into music as inspiration. I come from a very musical artistic family so it only makes sense, I’m destined to be a whore to some sort of art. So it’s no surprise that I’ve dedicated myself to graffiti, music, some sort of art (drifting off to sleep)

An interview moment captured for Scatter Grain blog post

MOT~ Well, do you think you have a particular process from start to finish? Like from the development of an idea to

Z~ Basically I’m a scatterbrain so any pocket of creativity I relish in….

MOT~ How do you collect it, organize yourself?

Z~ It just comes to me, a lot of the time I’m really lazy and I’ll spend a lot of my time thinking I’m really bored and in reality I’m not, I’m just not living up to what my potential offers me…. (questioning his sleepy thoughts) that doesn’t make any sense. Not living up to my potential is what I meant to say.

A lot of the time I don’t record my ideas, I don’t stick with them, and I don’t follow through with them.

MOT~ Why not?

Z~ Uhhhhh, scatterbrain laziness that’s somehow imbedded in me. I don’t know if it’s a birth defect or what. I mean I definitely have honed my creative abilities in the past, so I know it’s there. It’s definitely always there, that’s the thing, I know it’s always there, but I can always put it off. . . .

MOT~ Do you enjoy having these ideas? Why not capture them, what might keep you from taking them into fruition? Do you not see a need for it to become part of physical reality?

Z~ I think a lot of the time I am very picky and I scrutinize myself too much and don’t let things just come out, and I don’t let things happen; therefore I eliminate them from my thought process and forget about them. That’s not a good thing, because I do have a lot of good ideas, “Oh man, I could just take off on this.”

I don’t know, what’ll happen is I’ll get off work, forget about it, have a couple beers, ‘whew.’ A year later I’m like, “I wonder if I could still work on that?”

Sometimes I do, sometimes I can come back and do it, paint something, further the idea, put it back on the back burner and let it marinate. I figure with youth, I’m still young, 27, got a lot of steam yet to blow off, a little bit of partying left to do, not too much but I figure, ya know, I got all my 30’s and 40’s to hunker down and finally capture all that creative process. Write, read, art, travel, I mean, it’s all still there, right now I’m just working on trying to get a career together as far as making money, I’m going with the trade, I have no desire to go to college or an office and sit behind a computer all day. I don’t know. Hands on. But I’ve paid for it, physically and mentally.

MOT~ When you’re working on a project, putting something together, what tells you it’s complete?

Z~ I try to like to work in one big spurt, I try to be 90% done from start to finish. I try to get it started, come the next day and tweak it out a little bit. I like to get things done all in one, that’s probably part of my problem sometimes, with the continuing artistic endeavors is that I don’t allow myself time to put things together in order, and I just want to get it done I guess. I mean, I might take my time, but I want to get it done. I could add this little rinky-dink there, or through this in there. It’s like with music, you can come up with a simple song, figured out the lyrics that night, bust it out and record it, sometimes that’s the best way to do it. It sounds like a corny comparison but I know Tu Pac would just sit in the studio and just pump out songs.

MOT~ What about the possibility, I mean, I don’t know him personally, but that he sat down and thought these songs out in his head years and years ago. . . . I don’t think that’s something to be discounted, to be able to develop something in your mind. The challenge can be in manifesting it into the material world, put it down, to share with other people. In your head it’s one thing. . . he could have easily done that.

Z~ Yea, that’s how my thought process works too, maybe not exactly like that, but I definitely lay out plans in my mind. A traveling freelance journalist in my 30’s, been thinking about it for a while. Maybe because it’s such a fantasy idea that you could get hired by the ‘New Yorker’ to say do a story in Brazil one day “Oh wow, that guy that wrote about Brazil for the ‘New Yorker’ was amazing” and the next another rag wants to hire you to interview some ghetto g’s in Harlem….

Fuzzy moment at Tiger Too captured for Scatter Grain blog post

MOT~ Why do you think you do an artistic thing instead of others who’ll just come home and watch TV?

Z~ I don’t know. I’ve tried to be the guy who comes home and watch TV, but I’ll be watching a show and think “this isn’t funny, I know people who are funny in real life, this doesn’t fucking compare.” I mean, I’ll get one laugh out of some hit show, one good laugh, and yet I can go hang out with one of my funniest friends and be cracking up for hours, just drinking a couple beers and laughing harder then I ever have in my life. I’d say Bore (RIP) for instance was someone like that. I’ve never met a funnier motherfucker in my life. He would just entertain you to know end, to the point where you’d just be on the floor and couldn’t handle yourself, and coming home and watching TV doesn’t compare.

I mean, when I was a kid, and didn’t have any friends, I could sit and watch TV for days and days, and maybe I got it out of my system then. I can understand lonely people, people who grew up on TV and that’s all they know, but that’s not me. I can watch a movie.

MOT~ Do you have any particular style?

Z~ Off beat, I try to do something a little bit different. I come from an off-beat family, I can’t live with myself if I’m just some generic dude, just going with the flow. If you’re in an art medium, especially graffiti, you can’t just be some Joe Schmoe, like I’m gonna copy Twist style or something and live off of it for years. A lot of folks might do that, copy generic do-dads or do different variations on different peoples styles, and it’s just boring. I might find myself doing that, and “well yea,” I’ll call myself out and switch it up. Other wise what’s the point, you got to do something different. People get all egotistical about shit, yet they don’t do anything different then the last thirty years of thousands of people who have done it. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

If you’re not weird and off beat, . . . you don’t necessarily have to be weird, but if you’re not having fun with what you’re doing what’s the point. You get all those attitudes and egos, I don’t know, that doesn’t apply to me.

I feel like at points graffiti has become a job for me, I don’t like that. I like it to be fun. People stress me out on going painting, and want to go paint some dumb spot that’s been painted a hundred times before, and push to do something I don’t care about. I don’t know, graffiti, there’s more to life then that, people can get caught up dwelling on one little thing. There’s more to life then that.

Painting by senior isaiah and the monk photo'd for Scatter Grain article

MOT~ Do you have a potential direction you’d like to go?

Z~ I could go in so many different directions, that’s probably part of my problem, I’m a scatterbrain. I’d love to be a jack-of-all-trades, but it’s not realistic. Basically I could be the guy who does graffiti, owns a bar, is a photographer, journalist, prints a magazine, travels the world, I could be all these things at once, in my mind. I don’t know if it’s realistic, reality crushing a lot of things sometimes, but if you are clever enough, and time things right, I think you can do a lot of things, life is a long time. I think life is pretty long. I’m 27 and stressing out, and I don’t think I should be stressing out. I’ve got like God know’s how many years in front of me. . . right?

Sometimes you’ve got to push yourself a little farther and live dangerously. Maybe I should climb a mountain or something, I don’t know.

MOT~ Who are some of the musicians that inspire you, and what about the creation of that music inspires you?

Z~ Well, I’ll throw out ‘Captain Beefheart,’ he’s kind of like balls out free flow of music, sometimes it doesn’t make any sense and sucks, and sometimes a beautiful song will just materialize and you’re like “where did that come from?” So that’s one example. I feel like that’s me, I go on different wave lengths. I could come out crazy, or really chill, or smooth, I could come out psychotic, I feel kinda psychotic these days. I’m a metal head at heart though. I love some Iron Maiden, probably one of the best bands that ever existed, Metallica is classic, I can just really chill out to them. Metal for a person like me, and I’m sure for most metal heads can geek out because it hits that wave length, relaxes you, go along with every note of the shredding guitar. It equalizes the brain patterns that aren’t quite normal. That’s where metal comes in for some people. Ya gotta hear some thrash, out of this world musicianship that equalizes those brain patterns. Not that I can’t listen to some mellow music, I love good folk, really I’m all over the place. I enjoy gangsta’ rap, I could go on for days about music.

Oregon's Nature

Final thoughts:

It would seem obvious, and probably most people know the need for it, but actually developing and sticking to a regimen or routine that allows a person to exercise their creativity regularly is a tough act to follow. Working long hours the majority of the week leaves a person exhausted mentally and physically.

There are endless bound reams of paper on “How to…” do this or that. The act of dedicating oneself to a craft on a constant long-term basis that does not provide monetary results is energy wasted by modern American societies predominant standards. This leaves me a little stumped. Every individual seems to be essentially on their own in that no one else can truly make a decision for another. I think Zae is of a much more optimistic bent then myself. His paradigm is one filled with time; I, on the other hand, think time ends with every passing second. So ends this post.

Time to begin

Welcome to Moments of Truth. This project, ‘moments of truth,’ is a first step toward creating a life focused on contributing creative efforts to society. The title was inspired by a phrase often used in the Fort Mason printing studio by printers I looked up to. They would say it right before putting the plate to paper through the press. This phrase kept coming to mind while searching for a holistic title that could represent this effort. I am stepping away from the easy made paycheck of just showing up to a job that means nothing to me and doing the minimal possible to just get paid. Sure, lots of people have their reasons for just going with the flow and working to make ends meet. This is in no way meant to put them down. If everyone went off and did their own thing, hell, I don’t know but maybe the world would actually be a much better place. Maybe not. My goal is to dig my claws into those folks who are pursuing creative endeavors to the fullest. This is like my ‘moment of truth.’ To attempt a paraphrase of Joseph Campbell’s famed words, those people following their bliss. What is it to be creative? What drives us human beings to create something new and different, altering our surroundings?

Essentially, I have quit my job / altered my career path (semantics, HA) to dedicate my time to travel around to meet and interview what I will refer to as creative individuals. Of course this means the traditional perception of artists, musicians, writers, but I also want to meet people that have a passion for something that could be as mundane as cooking or whatever and put themselves so deep in it that what they create goes above and beyond the average.

The current outline for these interviews I envision revolving around three basic elements: background history, inspiration, and the technical. What is it that inspires these folks to do what they do? Are they enjoying life? What can be gleaned from them and applied to my life? The creation of this blog is to share what I learn, because I am going to do this regardless. It is like my quest or something, to discover how others follow their bliss before I can feel justified to completely dedicate myself to my creative inspirations. We will see how it evolves from there.

I appreciate all subscriptions to this web log and hope it can be life changing. Check in regularly to read the latest interviews. Audience feedback is essential to help develop and expand on this research experiment into the creative process. What questions would you like to ask your favorite creative individual? What am I missing? I will try to keep the flow of posts as steady as possible. Obviously this is a work in progress. To challenge my self on this pilgrimage of sorts I have set the restriction to travel with only what can be carried while touring on a Honda Nighthawk motorcycle. You know, the most basic, like sleeping bag, socks and draws, tools, the digital recorder, some paper, colored pencils, etc. The next five month leg of this tour will take place on the west coast from Seattle, through Oregon, California, down to Oaxaca, Mexico. If you can put me in contact with some one you think has some creative things going on and they’d like to share I’d love to interview them. Post a comment or shoot an email to momentsoftruth.wordpress@gmail.com or join in on the experience by connecting to myspace.com/momentsoftruth_wordpress.