Complex’s Mindbending FKA Twigs Online Cover Story

Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.
Avant Garde photography and clever online animation turns feature article into a user experience art piece.

Kudos to the staff of Complex Magazine for its approach to the feature article on Pop and R&B Art Futurist FKA Twigs.

Part artist profile, part interactive art exhibit, and part user experience multimedia experiment; it boldly shows a glimpse into the possible future of entertainment content delivery.

DJ Shiftee Explores Thirty Years of Turntablism in Fourteen Minutes

Electronic music production and DJ training facility Dubspot has been instrumental educating the public on the history and technique of the DJ and two-time DMC (Disco Music Club) turntable champion and instructor Shiftee’s examination on the craft is an arresting blend of historical lecture and performance art.

This is an excellent primer on one of the pillars of Hip-Hop culture (Break Dancing, Emceeing, DJing, Graffiti Art, and Beatboxing) and for those who wish to explore the subject in detail I recommend the following:

  • Wild Style (Film), Hip-Hop is exposed to the World in Charlie Ahern’s seminal 1983 film
  • Scratch (Film), Doug Pray’s fascinating documentary on the history of Turntablism and the cult of the DJ
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (Book), Jeff Chang explores the economic, political, and social forces that create and shape what we now know as Hip-Hop Culture
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life (Book), Bill Brewster traces the unexpected history of DJ culture through exhaustive research and engaging personal interviews

Cooper Hewitt Exhibit Explores “How Posters Work”

From my childhood I fondly remember staring at Richard Amsel’s Raiders of the Lost Ark poster outside of the theatre box office: it’s clean lines, graphic symmetry, and beautifully rendered images and bold colors inspired me.

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Richard Amsel’s iconic poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As a designer, I have always loved to create and study posters. They have always struck the balance between information and creativity; often revealing an artist’s distinctive style and singular point-of-view as much as the product or service it’s promoting.

Cooper Hewitt’s How Posters Work Exhibition explores the theory and technique of the poster and is on view from May 8, 2015 to November 15, 2015. I have included samples below, but a detailed look at the curated pieces for the exhibition are online and print in a companion book edited by Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s Curator of Contemporary Design.

POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966
Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/
POSTER, ADDO-X, 1958 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Anonymous Donor. 1994-109-7. This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar in 1958, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/

 

10 Writing Tips From “On Writing Well” Author William Zinesser

Here are 10 writing tips from author, editor, and teacher William Zinesser who passed away last week at the age of 92. I must admit, I didn’t know of Mr. Zinesser’s work prior to his passing, but after hearing an thoughtful appreciation of him last week I intend to read On Writing Well immediately.

Writer, editor, and teacher William Zinesser's book, On Writing Well sold more than 1.5 million copies
Writer, editor, and teacher William Zinesser’s book, On Writing Well sold more than 1.5 million copies (Photo: Walter Daran, The LIFE Picture Collection, Getty Images)
  1. Don’t make lazy word choices: “You’ll never make your mark as a writer unless you develop a respect for words and a curiosity about their shades of meaning that is almost obsessive. The English language is rich in strong and supple words. Take the time to root around and find the ones you want.”
  2. On the other hand, avoid jargon and big words: “Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other. It’s impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English.”
  3. Writing is hard work: “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”
  4. Write in the first person: “Writing is an intimate transaction between two people, conducted on paper, and it will go well to the extent that it retains its humanity.”
  5. And the more you keep in first person and true to yourself, the sooner you will find your style: “Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.
  6. Don’t ask who your audience is…you are the audience: “You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.”
  7. Study the masters but also your contemporaries: “Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”
  8. Yes, the thesaurus is your friend: “The Thesaurus is to the writer what a rhyming dictionary is to the songwriter—a reminder of all the choices–and you should use it with gratitude. If, having found the scalawag and the scapegrace, you want to know how they differ, then go to the dictionary.”
  9. Read everything you write out loud for rhythm and sound: “Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.”
  10. And don’t ever believe you are going to write anything definitive: “Decide what corner of your subject you’re going to bite off, and be content to cover it well and stop.”

Source: http://www.openculture.com/2015/05/10-writing-tips-from-legendary-writing-teacher-william-zinsser.html

Take Cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Drawing Challenge

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Artist, educator, novelist, and playwright Lynda Barry encourages us to draw like children with the Monster Drawing Challenge

Every day I pick up my four-year old daughter from day care and every day each student produces at least two new art projects! I admire and aspire to their level of output (and to have mandatory naps and play time), but what impresses me most is the freedom and joy in their work. Kids aren’t overly concerned about proficiency and perfection, they just want to express themselves and get their ideas out. The results are always creative, interesting, and original—isn’t that what EVERY artist wants?

Enter artist and educator Lynda Barry, whose comics I have been reading for about thirty years, who has a great drawing exercise to access one’s creative inner child (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-friday-may-8-2015-1.3065520/cartoonist-lynda-barry-dares-you-to-draw-like-a-kid-1.3065525):

Level one! Monster to-do list:
1. Take an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. It’s better if it’s a piece of paper you were planning to throw away.
2. Fold it into four quarters, so it’s divided into four chambers.
3. Take a pencil or a pen. On one chamber, make a squiggle.
4. On another chamber, make a closed shape, like a square or a rhombus.
5. On the third quarter, make another squiggle.
6. Set a timer for two minutes, that’s how much time you have to turn that first squiggle into a monster. You know, eyeballs, teeth, claws, etc. Repeat for all four chambers.
7. Make a list of 10 things you have to do that you’re not doing. (I have to do my laundry, go to the dentist, etc.)
8. Look at that list, and figure out which monster has to do what.
9. Write those tasks above those monsters. It’s an instant comic and the results are often hilarious.

Level two! Monster parenting
1. Fold another sheet of paper into quarters.
2. Take any one of those monsters, and now draw that monster’s parents.
3. Think about the task that monster has to do — like go to the dentist. Make one parent loves the monster “Honey those teeth aren’t important, what’s matter is you’re happy.” Make another parent hate you “Of course you’re not going to the dentist.”
4. Just have them start talking about the problem. It’s instant! And the most important thing is it makes you start laughing.

Bonus: the Counterfactual Drawing Board Project:

Four Steps to Executing a Successful Deejay Performance

<Writer’s Note: This is an amended post where I have added more information>

I am a Graphic and Web Designer by trade, but for many years I’ve earned money as a professional DJ (for events, companies, organizations—and on occasion—a wedding or party on referral) and there is nothing quite like the rush and excitement of performing music for a crowd. But, before you can move the crowd there is a lot of preparation involved:

  1. Be Prompt—respond to any and all correspondence immediately, be it a contract, question, or request; the sooner you have all the info you need, the sooner you can start your preparation
  2. Be Prepared—ask questions, research your client, request an itinerary,  walk through your performance venue, create an equipment checklist, and practice, practice, practice your material; the unexpected will happen at your event so be prepared when it does
  3. Be Professional—respond quickly (see tip 1: Be Prompt) by phone or email; dress appropriately; arrive and set up early on event day, be friendly, flexible, and smile often
  4. Be Productive—before, during, and after the gig engage your guests, clients, and followers in person and online (have your business cards ready); be diligent in producing content and sharing your work (this will lead to new clients and opportunities)

Deejaying is a performance: the live aspect of playing before a crowd is theater and everyone is watching you so don’t blow it by not being prepared.

 

 

The High Priestess of Soul Featured in New Documentrary

Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix
Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix, June 26th 2015

Academy Award winning filmmaker Liz Garbus has directed a long overdue documentary on Nina Simone using unseen archival music, photos, and film footage tell the story of a fiercely creative, complex, and socially conscious artist.

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Nina Simone is personally inspiring because of her singular commitment to her craft, her art, and her message. During the height of the civil rights struggle, she put it all on the line—her fame, her reputation, and her career—to reflect the times in which she lived.

I, for one, am excited to see this film and not the fictional movie on Ms. Simone, as portrayed by Zoe Saldana(!).

Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.
Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.

Cultural Exchange: Questlove Deejays and Crate Digs in Cuba

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Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known as drummer, writer, and producer for the hip-hop supergroup The Roots, but just as important he is a globe-trotting DJ and avid record collector.

Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe
Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe

Quest For Cuba is a thirteen-minute documentary by Okay Player Films chronicling Questlove’s funky, street-level cultural exchange tour of Cuba: spinning tracks, crate digging for classic vinyl (I spotted a classic Los Zafiros album in the stack!), and visiting the legendary EGREM Studios in Old Havana.

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Ten years ago, The Roots played in Cuba and Questlove vows to return again soon. I can’t speak for the American or Cuban governments, but I trust that “Questo” speaks the truth and we will all be the richer for the effort!