Friday, November 11, 2016
I don't usually like posting up such rough sketches if I don't have a final to go with them, but I just learned that the one and only Ayysimon has a target date for his next album, and I'm overdue on Friday's post, so here we go. Plus, to be real, I have been unsuccessfully trying to get in the spirit to draw for days now, but I just can't muster anything worthwhile, it's all garbage, and I'm running on empty. So given the oddly coincidental timing of my randomly sketching these last week and his announcing the next album just now, mize post these rather than leave them to rot away in their sketchpad, as I don't think I can collect the drive to finish any of these any time soon. I have to get some other pieces done first anyway, assuming I can still do what it is I was put on this Earth to do anymore.
I'm just so disgusted we collectively decided to spit on our country's history and honor, its future and legacy, and that we even have to entertain the idea that we should condone and understand the hatred represented in that fraud's election. The key word is normalization--it cannot be that what has come to pass is ever deemed normal. We cannot forget how he conducted himself and others; what shame upon us if we forget. I hope I can lock the emotions I'm feeling right now into these words so that I can forever look back to these past few days of posts and refresh exactly how I feel when it's time to vote or make a creative decision or whatever else later on. Remember the ugliness you feel right now and use it when it's time.
It's funny, I was so pumped when I drew these sketches--I was deliriously tired on the last string of trains home after a meeting in the city, but I spontaneously churned out pages and pages of ideas--and now I can't bring myself to draw anything. What a difference four days can make.
Hey, let's tie all this rambling into what today's art is actually about, what a novel idea. I feel it bears repeating, this site is above all for me: I post the art for people to discover, check out, or ignore as they wish, but the text is mainly for me to remember what I was going through at the time, and to note any secret things I hid in the art so I don't forget years later. This "time capsule" approach is similar to how I engage with music. Since I listen to music constantly, music invariable intertwines itself into different beats of my life. Sometimes, when I recognize something significant is occurring, I'll even "program" myself with music. Just last week, I finally came across Bleed American, which I never actually listened to before, aside from the usual suspects--ironic since I hold Futures as one of my all-time favorite albums. So, given this timing, I know I'll listen to "Cautioners" in particular and it'll unlock precisely what I'm feeling, as if it were just Wednesday again (Japan's a day ahead).
So bringing it back around, I can listen to Mr. Pizza's music and remember what it felt like that night as a tiny ant on a star-speckled Mt. Fuji, or nervously reviewing my notes for the millionth time during the drive to LA for the interview that got me to Japan in the first place. I associate his music most tightly with that period starting right before Japan, almost my very last memories of the US--man, the last big dinner in the US with the family, his music is right there in my mind. I live in nostalgia, and music is an extremely important part of that existence. He was there bridging Yale into Japan. And of course he was the soundtrack to my YouTube stuff through my early, rural Japan days. Really special memories in that tiny town, scored by that dude. Mundane memories no other human will ever know, between me and the music.
The Ivy League (band) era stuff especially captures that lonely, adventurous feeling of being on the outskirts of a new, utterly non-Western country, where you discover you are immediately and entirely illiterate. It captures the pioneer's isolation felt in uprooting from California to the east coast for four years, where everyone else already seemed to have some lingua franca--I didn't even know what Princeton was! I never feel homesick, and I love being alone, but I can still feel that stinging nostalgia embedded into the music. Motion City's Justin Pierre is the absolute master at this, but AS can go for the jugular just fine. If you're ever walking down the street and listening to either, you always run the risk of one of those little nostalgia nuggets bursting open, and sometimes there's good memories, other times not. Tricky business, loving music.
How embarrassing, by the way, in terms of gulf of skill that this guy was in high school when he made this (first!) stuff that resonated with me, meanwhile I was a college upperclassman--and am now a hermit in Japan? What's always got me is that wire-to-wire, he's got such incredible closing tracks right up there with Motion City; I would put him ahead of Radwimps, who themselves started in high school, and I'd say he beats the spotty Hosomi Takeshi's various projects, even Arctic Monkeys, Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Man, "I'll Wait For You" just came on as I'm writing this--you can't beat it: the steady, driving drums into the finale, the swelling backing vocals, cut out to just the guitar, silence. You can't beat it. Ugh...then fade up to BUAD, the bonus track! It's just perfect. A human being made this. A kid! Haha! Makes you reevaluate your life.
Ah, I love this guy's music. You know, he's so good he made me hate '80s music less, though I guess Glitter & Bones is technically '10s music...so '80s music still sucks? Not sure on the math there. So, yeah, my point is: I wish I could be more excited about his announcement, but it's just hard at the moment. Justin Pierre just indicated MCS might reunite in 4 years for the election, and I could only register that as "this is a positive development." That's where we are right now. I usually look to art in my never-ending quest to escape this ugly world, and AdSim music has long been one such escape, but we're in the depths of a serious, legitimate, (inter)national black hole right now.
I should talk about the sketches at some point, huh. But first, the backstory, because I'm still eagerly fleeing from thinking about reality right now. I had a meeting in jolly old Shinjuku last Friday, so afterward, for the first time in at least half a year I got to play Magic since I was in town near my old LGS, just in time for FNM (shout out to whoever scheduled that meeting so opportunely--oh, wait, it was me). I had stopped keeping up closely with the game as I plunged into focusing on art full-time, so drafting a set you have almost no content, let alone strategic, knowledge of, all in Japanese, was quite an experience.
During the triple Kaladesh Draft, I had to read just about every card in every pack at every pick; the judge eventually had to hover over me to monitor my speed and prod me to make my picks, like a sad parody of a professional event (this was FNM of course, the "open weekend pickup kickball club" of Magic). I almost always try to go black when I draft, but seeing nothing of apparent quality, I started with and unwittingly ended up going almost monowhite with a nominal amount of blue cards, allowing me to splash a single green card (either the UG legend main or the GW modal pump spell SB, prolly shoulda reversed since I had a lot of token-generators). I had to calibrate and contextualize all cards on the spot during the draft, only going on hunches of synergies, forget about trying to plan for how this new "energy" resource fits in. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did have that distinct, gross feeling you get when you know your deck does nothing, but you sleeve it up, and try to do your best.
I sucked just about as hard as one possibly could, making n00btacular mistakes like playing the white ETB pump a guy after a defenseless attack, and even started the night losing to a lands-in-fronter dirtbag. This guy always walks around the room and scouts decks during construction (recall this is FNM, not the Pro Tour), doesn't answer when you talk to him in-game unless you basically shout (you must honestly answer direct questions about public information), does not represent the board state clearly so you wouldn't have to talk to him in the first place (I don't like talking in-game myself aside from narrating my actions, so out of consideration I play such that the opponent has all public information as readily available as possible so they don't have to ask me), and he generally treats you like a lesser player for not being Japanese (you either lose to him as expected or didn't deserve the win). Plus he speaks in English to you erroneously, as if you don't know at least "Magic Japanese," as if that's actually being helpful (it is illegal to lie about public information, and guess what, there's a difference between "blockable" and "unblockable," so rather than accurately describe his creature's evasion in Japanese he technically lies to me in English, leaving me to Sherlock Holmes what he's misrepresenting).
The stereotype that Japanese players are all super polite is simply untrue (heck, some of the game's most infamous and widely acknowledged cheaters are Japanese), some of the rudest humans I've ever met are JP Magic players, much like the same is true in the US. Jerks exist everywhere and can suck the joy out of something as wonderful as Magic. So 97% are nice, 3% make you want to burn every card you own and lobotomize the area of your brain that holds any knowledge of Magic. Note some overlapping percentage are those are players with the animu girl sleeves and playmats. I had to play a couple! like that one prerelease, with coordinated mango gear...like did the girlfriend not get the memo from her eyes about the merch she and her boyfriend had been using all day? I digress. The point is, no country is immune from jerks.
Anyway, I basically never blame losses on opponents, least of all on this, my first rust-crusted games since the Shadows Over Innistrad prerelease, so needless to say, I was full of self-disgust after the event for playing so poorly I couldn't even manage a single game win (particularly when I got close against the lands-in-fronter--nothing sucks as bad as losing to actively rude players), so of course I looked to art for escapism from the horrible, no-good night, and my headphones were already on with no delay.
I have no idea why, but I just wanted to draw AdSim ideas after that miserable experience. It might have been because I've been listening to a lot of Gorillaz lately, and I've long been in awe of how they could marry visual and audio art so excellently, so I might have subconsciously been hypothesizing about that kind of treatment set to the AS catalog, especially since the Plastic Beach and Cancun Kid aesthetics are tangentially similar in my mind's eye--sort of a roguish, pirate-radio schema where anything's possible. I imagine Homie Airport as a guy (we don't know his real name, though the closest clue we get beyond "Cancun Kid" is his youngest personality, Davenport) on a lush island, living large. He dresses like a laid-back admiral or something, but he's actually alone, and it's all in his imagination. If we ever flash to what he really looks like, he's disheveled and hobo-like, but we almost never, ever see that, we just see his imagination. That's why on his abandoned island he can wear squeaky clean threads and designer gear, have any guest vocalist, cover any song, hit any genre, utilize any instrument, adopt any aesthetic. Ultimately, we don't know if what we're seeing is imaginary or memory or both. The truth is just backstory, merely hinted at in the liner notes.
Maybe he's playing tunes for us on the radio, but in reality he's actually screaming hoarse into the night for rescue at the top of the island's abandoned radio tower. Whoa, what if "glitter and bones" is actually the key to everything--it's referring to the worthless doubloons he found on the island, and the remnants of whoever crashed landed with him (losing this person snapped him into insanity, triggering his imaginary world) and he constructed everything, the entire catalog, his varied personas, and their invented(?) histories (previous albums) to mask that fundamental horror from himself? Maybe he's the Aristotelian tragic hero--he was rich in his old life and on vacation in a private jet (glitter), but then he crashes and loses everyone and everything (bones), and now he has to deal with infinite wealth (imagination) but tangible poverty (reality)? As a commentary on modern culture, he chooses to reside in imagination to escape the horrors of his actual life, in turn granting others the same ability by being an audio artist--the epitome of intangible escapism: you must see a picture, book, or movie to actually experience it as an artform, but you can never see or touch music, it's cruelly, beautifully all in your head.
Ok. Got off track, back to the sketches, then we outtie. The sailor/beach motifs obviously reflect his most recent incarnation, the dominant Homie Airport, which is more...I dunno what you'd call the Cancun Kid EP, tropical? Absolutely not reggae, ska, etc., though. You can't even safely call it rock...it's an experience, it plays like a movie with no certain narrative, but you have to listen to the entire thing, like one super song in four movements. You still won't understand it, but you'll be plopped in the world it describes, at least peeking in on it. Anyway, I wanted to sketch ideas for mock poster designs, and had hoped to take at least one to finish, but blah, who knows. Everything feels meaningless right now.
"Boom," the first design above, was an ironically action-packed, tough-guy treatment to contrast with the more laid-back vibe from the Cancun Kid era (the explosions are "taped" onto the background of an otherwise placid beach, and the Kid is all serious for no reason). Again, there's never willing/overt acknowledgment of the non-imaginary world, he's just doing a PR photo shoot and it's just supposed to read as a cool, ironic, humorous image.
"Kingbaby" was just a power pose on a tropical throne. No particular meaning on the name, it just has a funny ring to it. I figure Homie Airport likes to be kind of cocky in his photo shoots.
"Tally Ho! That Wavy Fellow," was more of a purely care-free concept, like a One Piece Color Walk illustration. Color Walks are the exact tone I'd go for. You see Luffy and crew out of regular costume, in different time periods, on all kinds of implied adventures you'll never see in the actual story. You can do that with the imaginary radio station framing device. Meanwhile the fun little secret between those in the know is that it's all fake, every line and pixel.
"Shadezzz" was sorta imagining the poster as a glamorous fashion spot. There'd typically always be some humorous element, even in "cool guy" imagery, so like here, he's posing all cool-like, but then you notice he's wearing three pairs of sunglasses for some reason. For the real thing I'd have to look up some stylish sunglasses, since I don't actually know about fashion, but I love the research phase of illustration. By the way, JP has some great fashion magazines, with the most bizarre-sounding names you'll ever see. For example, my copy of Men's Fudge is my go-to source for preppy fall male costumes. The cover model even looks like el Sr. Pizza, actually.
But I was really excited about the last concept, "Simon Days." It was obviously going to be a take on that iconic Gorillaz album art, but with the different slices of personas he's used over the years. There's Homie "Cancun Kid" Airport (leader, bass), Charlie Christmas (keyboard, backing vocals), Midnight Pizza (drums, unclean/rapping vocals!), and Davenport (lead vocals, lyrics, guitar). A supergroup of one dude, haha. Pretty sure Patrick Stump did something like that already...one guy on every instrument for an album? Anyway, I love Gorillaz as a group and as a concept, not to mention Jamie Hewlett's style, and this one woulda been a fun homage to these artists I admire so much.
(The piece above was a garbo live-ink sketch from June, inspired by "I Wanna Break Ur Heart" from Glitter & Bones. I'm including it just to break up the wall of text.)
Anyway, I'm trying to snap out of this funk...it's not artist's block (I don't believe in that), it's just the sheer lack of will. I can usually channel even my most hideous emotions into art, but this one is especially crippling because the epicenter is not just me and my woeful little life, it's an entire nation, one that the whole world looks upon in some way, and we just outed ourselves as stone ignorant, hateful, gullible idiots. You either bought into that fraud's message, or felt its overtly hateful message was not as bad as a quantitatively less bad alternative (protest votes, etc. would be the latter). People are already being attacked, some are dead, as I understand it.
This isn't a case of, "oh dear, the black guy didn't beat the white guy," or "oh darn, the man beat the woman." It's about the specific person who won and what that thing represents. It means, "having had a black guy in charge just shy of a decade, we now condone and exalt hatred, and jubilantly rip progress from ourselves and willingly at our own peril." Replace the present winner with almost anybody else and instantly: who really cares who wins? It's politics, whatever is whatever, the winner will try to do what they honestly feel is best for the country and will limit their personal interests. I love President Obama dearly, but if he didn't win his second term, I'd be like, well, fair enough, good luck to the new guy, let's see he does. It would not cross my mind for a second that his opponent could ever be or even resemble--let alone embody--dishonor or danger upon our country. This present person is fraud incarnate.
I hated how with every election, they call it the "most important election of our generation." Even Obama's first election, what was actually at stake if he lost? If he lost, whatever, a war hero's in office, boo hoo. This time it was the most important election we could have, but they rendered the sentiment meaningless. I hope sincerely the superlative-spewing nature of our generation is dead. Now the presidential election focus must shift to 2020, where hindsight will play an excruciatingly important role, and at which point we'll have to act not to prevent but to cure, hopefully stronger after the check up in 2018.
So, my gosh. I'm getting there, I can feel the will to draw coming back on the strength of the anger and disgust I feel. Writing about these rando concepts to music I love helped. Writing's not drawing, but it's close. Hoping to be back at it Monday. I must snap out of it. Less writing, more drawing. Yes. Way too much writing.
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