Blogs We Like | Miguel Marquez Outside
Outdoor art has long suffered from an abundance of twee pronouncements. This is especially so with light-writing and pithier graffiti, which (in their less adventurous iterations) rely solely on decontextualization to offset otherwise vapid statements. Michael Pederson, the human behind Miguel Marquez Outside, is an utterly luminary counter-insurgent, producing genuinely original, combative, and entertaining outdoor installations.
Pederson’s work is vast and refreshingly aggressive. Park Rules unfold into a surreal mysticism; a payphone is elevated into an impossible time machine; virtually all utterances appear designed to unsettle and challenge automatism and unconsciousness. That’s not to say that Pederson’s presentation is that of a sledgehammer—there’s a constant thread of restraint, subtlety, and tactful design in each piece. But then again, this deployment of digestible design seems innately subversive, an adoption of generic marketing aesthetics in service of work that’s deeply, maniacally radical.
Shameless Plug | Manual for iPhone
Our close friend William Wilkinson is one of the best photographers we know. We’ve worked (literally) alongside Will for a long time, and his skill and technical wisdom have remained consistently impressive. So it’s not surprising at all that he’s made Manual, a niche-filling, simple, and gorgeous camera app that provides the user total exposure control.
As Will notes in the video above, the many automatic functions of the standard iOS camera are often “fucking stupid.” That’s why Manual gives you full control over shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus, and exposure bracketing. Manual also includes some important bonuses, like live value monitoring, historgram, fill flash, and more.
Blogs We Like | Jan Willem van Welzenis
Movement is one of the persistent legacies of mid-century abstract expressonism. Painters like Twombly, Pollock, and Krasner all have an insistent, distinct physicality in their compositions, evidenced not only in the paint but the sheer magnitude of its deployment. Though he mostly works on smaller surfaces than the colossal murals of yesteryear, Jan Willem van Welzenis' painting nonetheless shows a clear fidelity to dynamic creation.
This faithfulness is not mere repetition. There are distinct authorial patterns throughout van Welzenis’ work, many of which emerge only after a comprehensive review. In his more heavily saturated paintings, van Welzenis’ vortexes and ellipses aggressively unfurl themselves into disintegration. In his minimalist compositions, van Welzenis employs more calligraphic gestures, suggesting a kind of clinamen, or series of eruptive molecular swerves. And of course, this is logic is hardly linear—while these patterns comprise poles of a sort, van Welzenis’s art shows no signs of hard coding or predictability.
All this talk of movement shouldn’t reduce the equal centrality of color in van Welzenis’ work either. Complementarity and subtle mixtures add nuance to what are often incredibly bombastic pieces, again contributing a sense of deep investment and intentionality against often chaotic constitutive gestures. Van Welzenis’ art is fascinating, dense, and utterly sublime.
User Spotlight | Daniel de Amaral
Daniel de Amaral's photography is seemingly built upon a two-fold foundation of light and geometry. Arguably most photography is, but in de Amaral's work these rather large and technically-dependent foci are filtered through a much less lofty matrix of wanderlust and simple appreciation.
His subjects are often shot with a sense of admiration, whether it’s a skateboarding friend, a literal pile of trash, or an alignment of awnings in a Vancouver alleyway. That admiration and connection is a huge part of what makes de Amaral’s work so utterly warm and satiating. It’s a balance of adept composition and unpretentious approach, one that perfectly represents the better elements of Pacific Northwestern aesthetics. And in that light, it’s especially flattering to see it housed in our Kodiak theme.
WordPress, meet Rainier
Today we’re thrilled to announce the release of Rainier for WordPress. If this minimal, single-channel theme looks familiar, chances are you’ve met its predecessors: Rainier for Tumblr and Rainier Lite for Ghost.
At first, we thought that porting Rainier over to a new platform would be a simple process. But digging in, it became clear that WordPress’s expansive feature set presented a distinct challenge: how could we deliver all the functionality that this platform has to offer without compromising Rainier’s simplicity?
We took our time and rethought WordPress’s customization panel, making it easier than ever to achieve a refined site without watching life pass by as you waste away scouring support forums.
Rainier also comes packaged with a guided tour of your theme upon installation (new to our themes!) and the most gorgeous typography we could lay our hands on. Tweaking just a few settings has a big impact on the way your website looks – perfect for any side project you’re working on.
Blogs We Like | Louise McNaught
Yesterday I asked our resident grump Gray which animal, if he were to safely encounter it in the wild, would evoke the strongest (positive) emotional response from him. For me it’s the orangutan. If an orange person and I were to acknowledge each other, maybe go for a friendly stroll or share a meal, I’d probably start weeping after minute one. For Gray, it was the elephant, with the underlying logic being that such an enormous animal choosing not to stomp you is a singular, powerful thing.
That Stendahl-esque emotional intensity seems to be a key part of Louise McNaught's treatment of animal forms. In her painting, McNaught blends spare context, esotericism, and incredibly detailed realist zoology, evoking transcendence with an incredibly gifted subtlety. As McNaught explains in her artist statement, her
soft style suggests a delicate relationship between nature and ourselves, making a clear point about man’s destruction of nature - which flutters jewel-like in the balance. By subverting traditional representation she hints at darker consequences, yet paradoxically giving animals an elevated status with the neon paint making them look as though they have their own inner light and are literally shining from within. Just was we use highlighter pens to mark areas of importance, McNaught is doing this with fluorescent paint. By drawing the viewers attention to the animals presence and energy, McNaught is hoping to share with the viewer the awe that the natural world inspires within her.
McNaught’s awe effectively structures a visual hierarchy in each piece, one that amplifies the complete and inexhaustible otherness of each animal. Her magickal elements are also surprisingly effective in amplifying this intensity, gently stoking a tension between external and internal sublimity. Louise McNaught’s work is an incredible example of artist intention effectively and powerfully translating into the finished object, providing the viewer with a uniquely communal experience.
Check out Louise’s main site for more.
Blogs We Like | Scientific Illustration
It’s been quite a while since we last featured a curated blog. There’s no real reason, of course, but it does take a bit more to stand out in what’s inarguably the most populace genre of bloggery on tumblr. Lukas Large's work on the Scientific Illustration tumblr not only stands out sets a remarkably high standard for themed curation.
Large is a National Science Curatorial Trainee with the Birmingham Museums Trust, an organization which includes 8 galleries and museums in the city. Large’s work with BMT is clearly emblematic of a deep connection to art and art history, which is the core of SI. The range and variety of Large’s selections are staggering, including antiquarian and contemporary work from an equally awesome range of sciences and artists.
There’s no single emergent theme or point to SI, which is a colossal strength. Whereas many curations suffer from rigid constraints, “scientific illustration” is a giant umbrella, capable of including fine art as well as straightforward realist taxonomy. If anything, SI’s connective thought is of the visual nature of science, that before the crystalline abstraction of mathematics comes an irreducible and highly affecting encounter with aesthetically powerful phenomena.
Blogs We Like | Katie Ponder
Katie Ponder is a London-based freelance illustrator and recent grad of Falmouth University, whose work “often has a narrative behind it.” As Ponder explains, “I have enjoyed using music rather than literature as a catalyst for a narrative. I also enjoy the conceptual challenge of working on editorial illustrations.”
That catalytic power is absolutely flooring in Ponder’s illustrated interpretation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which won a 2014 AOI award. Like many of Ponder’s other illustrations, her Stravinsky-inspired series balances a mix of collage, ink, and photoshop to create a wholly immersive and dreamy space that’s equal parts curious and macabre. That mixture of beauty and the ill-at-ease is perfectly apt for a symphony known for causing a full-blown riot when it premiered.
Terror and dissonance are far less apparent in most of Ponder’s other works, however. There’s a playfully sardonic quality to much of it, a sometimes-eerie symbolic flair, but Ponder’s consistently attentive and sophisticated infusion of emotion and subtlety into her work prevents it from ever falling wholly into darkness.
Check out Katie’s main site too.
Blogs We Like | Rhett Hammersmith & Rhett Hammersmith Horror
Media have an inherent seasonality. I don’t mean the nauseating corporate calendar of “summer blockbusters” and winter bullshit, but rather that some stuff really works better at a particular point in the year. Winter, for instance, is made for black metal (no, not the other way around), whereas summer always seems tuned for hip hop. Film is like music in this way—I can’t imagine watching most Bergman movies in the summer, nor can I expect to really feel the fireflies and breeze in My Neighbor Totoro in the middle of January.
Most of all, though, summer feels like the right time for weirdness. The inanimate heats and expands from aggressive sunlight, pretty much everything living is in overdrive with biological imperatives, and the nights are undulating with all kinds of insectoid energy. To borrow and bugger a joke from Happy Endings, summer is the Wimbledon of horror vibes. And in this bizarro metaphor, Rhett Hammersmith is like the artistic Roger Federer.
The two blogs comprising Rhett Hammersmith’s output are incredible. On one side, there’s Hammersmith’s illustrated work, wholly original and firmly anchored in animated humor-horror, often more hyperactive and jiggly than gritty and grisly. On the other, Hammersmith’s film GIF tumblr is an ever-expanding universe of unabashed horror fandom, drenched in the barely-conscious irony and absurdity of late 20th century splatter.
One of the biggest strengths of this split is a kind of under-determining glimpse into Hammersmith’s pre-creative soup. Influence blogs are an artist standard on Tumblr, but Hammersmith’s dual-bloggery presents a much fuller and more interesting milieu than many others. Tiny details filter into his illustration the way soil content shapes the flavor of food, forming an incredibly entertaining (and fun-to-analyze) whole. Hammersmith’s work is the feel-weird hit of the summer.
Blogs We Like | Admiral Potato
Rare is the GIF artist who imparts knowledge along with beauty. Rarer still is one whose work not only kills but complementarily positions themselves within the larger Tumblr animation/GIF community. Admiral Potato is just such a positive force.
Potato’s GIFs (not to be confused with potato GIFs) are utterly dazzling. There are many nodes of mastery in AP’s work, but motion is obviously among the strongest. Each GIF is astoundingly smooth, almost unbelievably so. There are very few other animators/graphic artists on Tumblr with such consistent refinement and precision, and it’s to the Admiral’s credit that his work stands alone even in such rare company. Not only that, but the Admiral’s unceasing excitement also channels into some illuminating tutorials, each with a perfect balance of accessibility and a precise technical vocabulary.
That aforementioned lofty company is an important part of understanding and unpacking Potato’s project too. As mentioned above, many of Potato’s GIFs are in direct communication with other artists and experimenters, such as Potato’s “Hexeosiversary” set—a “tribute to one of the GIF world’s heroes, Hexeosis.” With all this, the Admiral’s blog is a constant source of novelty and beauty, and an absolute high point in an already beloved artistic community.
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