Given the verdict in Furgeson, and possibly even more bewildering, the reaction, this seems timely. I have friends who hate cops. I have friends who are cops. I wasn't there so I don't know what happened. Brown's death seems unjustifiable based on the facts we have. But it's also been sensationalized and distorted to the point that our feelings are based mostly on a constructed narrative.
Note: This was originally posted on Medium. This is it's new home.
The first time I understood creative process was through studying jazz. In about the 6th grade I started getting exposed to jazz through being involved in the school band program, and throughout high school, I spent most of my day time hours in a band room behind a drum kit.
Blue Notes are Awesome
I couldn’t read music very well. Notes on a page never made sense to me. So I primarily learned by listening to records, and feeling my way through a given piece. My favorite records were Bebob and Hardbop from the 50's and 60's. The structures of these types of songs, at least in how we were taught to think of them, was essentially a main melody, or “the head”, leading up to a solo. A collective statement, leading to an individual response, followed by commentary by other soloist. The solos were the whole point. They were a dialogue with the experience in real time. Once you got to the jazz solo, anything could happen. There were guiding principals that lead the ear — chords, rhythms and scales — and from those came an endless chain of thoughts, statements, experiments and expressions.
If a horn player or piano player had those chords and scales as the core of their language, I similarly had the entire sound of a drum kit at my disposal. You learn fairly quickly that hitting the batter head of a drum is only the beginning. The rims, shells, metal tubes of the stands, and every possible edge of a kit could be incorporated into a given statement. Speed it up, slow it down, make it up as you go. Mistakes only lasted as long as it took to exit a passage and often times those offered surprise and excitement. The “blue note” — technically an expressively flatted note in a scale — was jokingly used as a catch-all description for a dropped stick, an odd note, or a rhythm that just stretched time.
It would be clear fumble of some kind, and you learned quickly how to recover a passage out of sheer panic. This moment of fear was what taught you most about improvisation, process, and how to incorporate a near-disaster into an overall statement. If the accident occurs, absorb it into the overall statement, but whatever you do, don’t stop.
Mistakes really only had to do with how well you dealt with the situation…
This is what made jazz human. No two players sounded alike, even if they were equally boring. And any given musician had the potential of blowing it. But mistakes really only had to do with how well you dealt with the situation, and the more experienced you became, the better you got at dealing with them. It by no means meant you didn’t make them. It just meant you weren’t afraid of the risk.
The Middle Makes It
Visual art for me is very much the same — be it a design project for a client, or a painting. When I started pursuing abstraction seriously, it was merely an extension of what I had learned playing the drums. If there was an ending to a song, it was everything that happened in the middle that made it what it was. The ending was more or less determined by a player finishing a thought or just stopping at the end of their 36 bars. A painting is merely a beginning and end, but it’s the middle that makes it what it ultimately is.
The first marks on a canvas, or the first cut piece of paper for a collage, are typically just a beginning. Not a planned strategy. Just this material, on that flat surface to see what happens. The Dadaist and Surrealists perfected this kind of approach. They called it Automatism, and had much more interesting (or boring) explanations for the how’s and why’s behind it.
The important thing was that it happened without a preconceived idea in mind of how something should end. The outcome was not predetermined. The only thing that is decided in any good work, even if it’s a monumental installation that takes planning and logistics, is that it begins.
All that is needed from the maker is patience, and willingness to make a mistake. Sometimes the mistake forces you to white-out a complete section. That move alone could be what takes you in a direction you never would have thought of by following a plan.
I'm not necessarily one for posting inspirational quotes. There is plenty of that on the web. However, when you are in a specific headspace regarding a certain issue, and you come across something addressing the same concern, it can be really loud. And you simply must share.
On creative satisfaction:
Are you creatively satisfied?
Never. I don’t think there’s been a moment in my life when I’ve been creatively satisfied. Maybe there’s a sliver of creative satisfaction in the moment between when I have an idea and when I have to make the idea: I have an idea, it’s in my brain, and it’s perfect. As soon as I start making it in the real world, all satisfaction goes out the window and will never return. No matter what I do, the thing I make will be different than what I had in mind; there’s the original fantasy and the final execution.
On making a buck and sticking to your guns:
You have to balance doing what you want with making a buck, which is hard. But if you do what you love and keep that as a goal in your work, you’ll find that people will eventually come to you for it. Instead of you going to them for money, they’ll come to you with money and hire you for who you are.”
There is a familiar point, in between periods of creative output, where things feel frozen, overwhelming, stuck. I’m not talking about creative block. I don’t believe in that kind, insofar as it means literally frozen from making or doing. This definition assumes that no work is being made at all. If you aren’t actually doing the process of making, going through the motions - active searching - then you don’t get what it means to be an artist, or maker. Or in the very least, you certainly aren’t going to get out of whatever it is you are in.
The familiar point I’m talking about is one of convergence. Ideas have fallen in on each other, crashing through the roof of desire. Questions have flooded the basement. One becomes stuck in a mental stasis of yes or no, right or left, up or down. No matter what mark I make with paint, or line I draw, it feels inconclusive. Old. Done before. Not what I want to be saying now. Though I take in a ton of imagery, I seem unable to respond in my own way. Fumbling. But I know this is the process. And the key is to move. Make. Do. Change something from before. Step outside.
Case in point.
I am feeling the push in myself to take on the task of actively developing the way I communicate with others online. This means more focused writing, sharing, showing what I am doing. Some of this feels affected or incongruous with myself. I’m not sure if that’s me, or the frayed remnants of a constructed artist narrative we’ve all grown up with. The one where you get discovered, chosen, hand selected, and don’t need to dirty yourself with promotion. It’s a myth. We all know this. It does happen to some. But that it will happen while I work away all to myself, without going out, showing, talking, trying to connect others to my work, in this digital age of instant image dissemination, is a myth.
So I started writing this post in order to be active, to sort out, to hit publish. And that is what I’ll do. Hit publish and not worry about this one anymore. My studio is a dark, freezing garage, but my dissatisfaction with my current imagery won’t get fixed because I pull out the heater. So then what? Don’t pull out the heater, and do nothing?
I should get punched in the mouth for that shit.
Time to kill the darlings. It is said a samurai should make a decision in seven breaths. Get out the white paint and start blocking out sections, creating obstructive statements that force a response. It’s hard to trust a painting that looks easy.
Less thinking, more breathing.
Going through some udpates around here. If it appears broke, it probably is.
Once again the folks at Squarespace are updating their platform. New back end and all that. I started monkeying with it. Then I decided to make changes I've been thinking about for ages. This used to house my design portfolio. But now that I've started my own design studio, I feel freed up to make this place less focused and push my fine art and side projects to the front of the line.
So, if you want to look at what I do professionally, get the eff out of here and go there --> artsdigital.co. I designed the front end. It's lovely. Meanwhile, this place will be in a bit of a shambles while I move things around. I'm not a fan of pressuring myself to have this place perfect, so I'll continue to mess with things live and on the air. Text and details might be missing. Page titles might not match images. You might find your wallet is missing or your can't remember your name. Don't worry about it. Everything happens for a reason.
Threats and challenges
You SHOULD sign up for updates and nonsense from me because I'm getting ready to sell several of my paintings and random drawings on my shop page. Probably not this week or next, but pretty soon.
Be cool. Nothing lasts forever.
Been looking at a lot of zine galleries online this week. I've started working on a couple myself. I'll most likely will release them digitally first.
Here's a page from the first one.
Found this really great skate zine archive/gallery. All handmade/photocopied zines like your older brother had. These zines were largely how the backyard ramp scene spread
Don't Fall Apart
So I submitted a graphic I had kicking around to CottonBureau.com and they went for it. I actually had several versions with dismembered body parts, but the above image seemed the most likely to get the thumbs up (see what I did there?) from...
Off and on over the past couple years I've been making drawings involving draped or folded cloth. Usually the cloth appears to cover or contain an object, but the object is either missing or completely hidden.
Read more after the jump.
New Skatepark coming to Eugene
As a fan of skateboarding and someone who has been skating off and on since the mid-80's, I am so stoked for this thing to be finished. It will open this spring, and make skating in our rainy town possible year round.
It's being built by Dreamland Skateparks. See more pics after the jump-->
First things First
If you've been here before you may have noticed the domain change. Don't panic. I've redirected my personal domain at courtneystubbert.com back to this site. The old domain, punchgraphicdesign.com still points here for the time being...
I've found a stack of t-shirts I made with my art-school-homie-and-artist Spencer Reynolds. The Boom Box graphic was a collaborative game of layer tennis between the both of us. I've only got a few left so get on it and grab one.
One Day You Wake Up and Everything Changes
As of September 1st, I left my job of 6 years at Copic Marker, USA / Imagination International, Inc. Things had run their course, restructuring was happening, and ultimately I wasn't able to do design on my terms.
Up until the summer of 2013, it had been a great place to work, and I learned so much from my time there. I don't regret it at all. I began as the lone staff designer, and worked my way into a Creative Director position with a programmer and two designers working for me by the time I left.
Been looking at Dieter Rams this week in between projects. Looking at his output is a good way to remember how important it is to distill things down to their essence.
It's been a while since this space had any real action, but I'm starting to get the itch to use it again. I've had a busy several months so I'll start by recapping some recent projects.