User Spotlight: Joanna Caskie
If you’re not into a cool lady making paper art on a scenic island off of Scotland’s West coast, then there’s probably no hope for you. Joanna Caskie's work, blog, and pretty much entire existence is an awesome, inspiring example of beautiful stuff happening in beautiful places.
Papercrafting was inexcusably underappreciated until recently. It’s regaining prominence thanks to increased social media exposure (and, let’s be frank, Etsy), and for good reason. Of the many physical or “plastic” arts, paper has often been relegated to its antiquated industrial role as “stationary,” sidelining the meticulous and singular work of people like Caskie.
Caskie’s work with paper is primarily focused on
creating paper sculpture, papercuts, collage pieces and handmade books. I work mainly with paper but I also integrate yarns, fibres and paint into my work. I love to use all kinds of papers - handmade and watercolour are my favourites at the moment but I also often re-purpose paper, like my children’s offcuts or bits of envelopes. (via)
Each point on that spectrum is infused not only with Caskie’s tremendous attention to detail, but also the Isle of Mull itself. Caskie calls Mull “a spectacular place to live,” and notes that “the sense of space and light I enjoy every day seeps into my work.” This is espcially noticeable in the her use of sunbleached wood, relief, and perforation, quite literally letting Mull’s island light course through her pieces.
Caskie’s blog (running on our Readymade theme) is an absolute delight, full of art, photos, and even the occasional how-to post. Check Joanna out on Facebook, Twitter, and store, and grab Readymade here.
Blogs We Like: Andrew Smith
Illustrator Andrew Smith recently answered some FAQs about his work, and the topmost question seemed almost humorously grand: “why do you draw birds?” Ever the agile wordsmith, Smith responded with characteristic enthusiasm:
I don’t really know why. I know that they are about the oldest things, and they seem to carry and keep our ancient ways. I know that we can measure a place by the presence of birds, and if there is no sight or sound of birds in that place then it is most likely not a place to be. And they are a constant for me. Whatever kind of darkness or light I am holding, the pull toward watching and drawing birds is a breathing blinking being thing.
Smith’s answer, fantastic as it is, somewhat belies his creatures’ true depth and scale. His subjects occupy a wide spectrum of speculative life, and while there are very birdlike beings, most of them are subtly fantastical, seemingly distorted or mutated. That is, of course birds are crucial to Smith’s project, and explicitly so–yet there’s a lot more going on than that term can cover.
This slipperiness of identity plays on the perennial “imaginary bestiary” concept, and also allows Smith to foreground his skill in fine texture and microscopic detail, augmenting his subjects with a seemingly infinite variety of odd variations. The challenges of quantum detail and hair-width linework inherent to representing avian (and avian-esque) beings are clearly tentpoles for Smith. His illustrations thrive on their relative smallness, concentrating their many aesthetic and biophysical details within very small, highly mobile organism. Yet there’s always something in excess of bird-ness, elements that unglue the subject from easy classification and therefore create new traces of meaning and tone in each instance.
Andrew Smith’s illustrations succeed in conveying a very specific rarity and complexity, and additionally layer quiet tones of disorientation, solitude, and simple contemplation. It’s moving, thoughtful work that strikes a laudable balance between realism and subversion.
Blogs We Like: Ryan Tippery
Until about a month ago, I’d have had a hard time isolating a common thread among Ryan Tippery's many projects. His work includes illustration, book and graphic design, and collage, with dozens of different media and subjects. But in a warmly sincere response to the classic question of how to know when a project's complete, Tippery explains that
I wish I could tell you that I knew when my drawings are “done.” But often I completely over work things, I get obsessed with details that no one else will ever even notice, I have this urge to cover the whole page. It honestly takes someone sitting by me who knows me saying, Stop, it’s done! However I feel at that point, I just let it go and call it a day. But more often than not no one is around to do that. It’s really hard to tell yourself something is done.
I’d argue that this hesitance toward closure is the most prominent idea in Tippery’s work overall. In his most recent project IN/FLUX, Tippery shows more restraint than in his ink illustration (which often borders on hypergraphic/manic in the very best ways), but nevertheless utilizes immense visual concentration in its foregrounded elements. Tippery’s spotty, marbled textures are a kind of controlled anarchy in each image, structuring the project’s interrelations with a fluidity that really does feel endless.
The result of this ongoing balancing act is a body of work that revels in volume changes—lingering in spare color fills only to blast into a storm of lines or spatter-worlds a moment later. And there’s an organicism to that, a sense of physis that synthesizes classical logic and contemporary aesthetics to unique and hypnotic ends.
Check out Ryan’s portfolio too.
Heartbleed Reminder: Change Your Passwords
In case you spent yesterday in an isolation tank and/or opium narcosis, the internet (yes, all of it) was freaking out about an OpenSSL bug named Heartbleed. And rightly so: as TechCrunch explained, the bug basically allows a dedicated individual to “get a server to spit out its secret keys, allowing them to read to any communication that they intercept like it wasn’t encrypted it all.”
So let us be the millionth voice to shout: CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS. Everywhere. Change it on Tumblr, change it on Reddit, change it on AIM, PornHub, whatever. Everything. OpenSSL is ubiquitous, so you really can’t be too careful this time around.
And if you have a human brain, please consider XKCD’s fantastic advice above for creating something equally hilarious and effective.
User Spotlight: CJO Photography
CJO's novelty lies in its saturation. It's rare to see urban photography projects really engage with the loudness and magnitude of the city's being, not only because of the difficulty in representing those macro-elements, but also because it takes time. The volume of images required to even hint at the sheer gigantism of urban environments is a colossal project, made even harder by the more standard challenges of composition.
Simply put, there’s more work here than in many similar projects, and it builds a world that teeters between hyperreal and surreal. Winding subterranean pathways shot elegantly and immersively; the dusty stone color of a rain-soaked street; the punctuation of street art tucked away into an alley—all of this is woven together with a staggering density. It’s the city as it feels, a towering assemblage of inextricable spaces that form a precariously functional chaos.
CJO’s project reproduces one of the most enjoyable and difficult-to-capture aspects of urban life—the feeling of becoming lost in a much larger, much older, organism. To get a sense of that specific delirium through photography alone is absolutely wonderful.
You can buy our Expo theme here.
Blogs We Like: J.D. Doria
J.D. Doria's multi-decade career in art has so far been characterized by meticulous complexity. Each project has involved not only multiple media, but a wholly unique layering thereof, and a sense of pure invention. Or, as Doria puts it, “growth:”
Rather than composing, I ‘grow’ my images from the materials, surfaces and mediums I am using. Technology is my organ of apprehension through which I curate the generative capacity of the work. My interest lays in the creative process, in undressing painting from its structural forms, and remaining in contact with its verb.
Doria’s current Petri Dish project is one of the most unique experiments so far. Using glass dishes, a crane-affixed camera, and “different mélanges of liquid colors and materials,” Doria explores valences of “becoming,” the formation of patterns, structures, and lack thereof, over time:
By agency of the materials (colors and mediums) the composition in the Petri dish becomes active and generates chaotic processes, out of which a ‘colony’ of images emerges. This is where the camera and a photographer enter the scene and captures the dynamics in time. Images are then digitally enlarged and enter a process of selection till a set is chosen. Each ‘work’ is composed by a circular image that captures the initial stages of the reaction and by the ‘multitude’ of images extracted from the process.
Like the best big-idea work, Petri Dish offers viewers inspiring and challenging experiences regardless of analytical investment. Though they yield odd and theoretically rich results when thoroughly investigated, each image is, at its simplest/most immanent level, a purely physical entity, something that ultimately reflects as much as it emanates. And so is Doria’s work overall—deeply, laboriously meditative art that offers a full spectrum of aesthetic and philosophical content.
User Spotlight: The Portraitists
Balancing a conceptual project is the hard part. Lots of art begins with a big idea, often an ambiguous one, and organizing the practical or material elements to support it is when things get tricky. This is especially the case with photography, which is especially sensitive to the weight of its theoretical bones.
Martin Adolfsson’s The Portraitists project not only evinces this conceptual balance, but anchors much of its structure to the concept of balance. Each installment presents a pair of portraits: one by Adolfsson of a fellow portrait photographer, and another of Adolfsson by said photographer. Each pair is therefore united by an obvious professional and/or personal link, and by Adolfsson’s conceptual impetus. As he explains:
By portraying photographers from different niches and having them portray me I wish to create a visual dialogue that challenges the idea of a self-portrait. When making a portrait, a photographer is not simply capturing the sitter in their “true form,” but also projecting their own vision onto the subject and making a self-portrait of themselves in the process. How one sees and depicts others can be telling of not only artistic vision, but their nature of seeing the world.
Following that last assertion, Adolfsson’s vision appears clearly indebted to the “interconnected relationships” his project foregrounds. The Portraitists is a celebration of the balance between community and individual, built upon the beautifully invariant minimalism of Adolfsson’s portraits and the dazzling diversity of his subjects’ portraits of him. There’s an entire geological poetry built of reflection and balance in each pair—in the images themselves, their presentation, and the ideas they invoke.
So not only is The Portraitists not burdened by its conceptual heft, it clearly succeeds in presenting even more than its concept demands. So it’s not perfectly balanced in that sense. In fact, its many structural, visual, and tonal pairings often push and pull at each other, never completely static. But that’s precisely the genius of the project: Adolfsson’s contributions are eternally shunted into a rigorous technical uniformity, while absolutely no constraints are put upon others’ portraits of him. Yet they’re always connected, always inseparable. Each pair of images antagonizes balance while never completely abandoning it either.
The Portraitists is a brilliant and surprising meditation on photography’s fundamental structures and polarities, as told through the people who navigate them. We’re honored to be a part of its presentation.
Stuff You Can Use: Theme Recovery
Tumblr’s theme recovery page is one of the most tragically overlooked features on the platform. Though it’s certainly skewed toward “power users” (PC slang, lol), Recovery is a powerful tool in undoing mistakes of many sizes with minimal stress.
Theme Recovery is exactly what it sounds like. Tumblr stores up to 20 versions/revisions of your blog’s theme, and allows you to retrieve them if you accidentally fly your HTML ship into an asteroid. It’s important to note that this only applies to direct HTML changes—that is, Tumblr saves versions when the HTML itself has been changed, not every time you change a setting like header text or other “secondary” theme options.
For those of you who like tweaking code but occasionally goof it up, Recovery is absolutely indispensable.
Have additional questions? Throw ‘em our way.
Blogs We Like: Erik Svetoft
One of the strangest truths about human bodies is their inherent excess. They’re never “just” physical objects, but also self-aware material, both the thing and a generator of ideas about the thing. It’s our idiot brains, basically, that makes the body so weird. Our self-perception spawns an infinite series of reflections that exceed the simple meat of the body itself.
Visual art has often foregrounded the oddity of our people suits, and Erik Svetoft explores this to a wonderfully bizarre and grisly extent. Svetoft’s bodies are (as others have noted) fluid, molten things that appear to be in states of constant d/evolution.
This textural dimension not only showcases Svetoft’s skill with ink, lines, and color, but also effectively delimits his subject matter. Svetoft sets his weirdo skin puppets in a huge variety of environments and situations, enhanced by each piece’s unique saturation and slightly demented sense of play. Larger pieces are especially textural, illustrating Svetoft’s hypergraphic tendencies and thematic complexity. It is, overall, one of the most uncompromisingly intense artistic projects around.
User Spotlight: Erica Hampton
Erica Hampton creates big, immersive images that hum. Subtly but pervasively, Hampton’s portraits exude an energy and that’s present in only the best portrait and fashion photography. It’s a nuanced sense of presence: the subject, their environment, and a subliminal sense of Hampton herself all glow through the final image. It’s a fantastic, coordinated gestalt.
That sense of intense composition and sublimity veers into different territory in Hampton’s main blog. Whereas her portfolio represents the most meticulous wing of her work, Hampton’s blog is a lighter, often off-the-cuff repository that leans more toward excitable travelogue than jaw-plummeting art shots. Together, they form two complementary nodes of Hampton’s incredibly beautiful photography.
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