Lost Between Tomorrow and Yesterday…

bullet bird gt car

…”between now and then,” sang Ray Davies.

That song has been stuck in my head for weeks. It’s been years since I first heard the Kinks’ song “Do It Again”, and it kind of slid its way into the soundtrack of my life. What made me bring this up is the recent train of thought I’ve been on, with respect to my work, art and life in general. It seems that as things drift closer and closer to the absurd, I’m finding my inspiration in the very stuff that got me into this in the first place, which, as it turns out, is just absolutely beautiful. I’m finding the rhythm and flow of the work to be every bit as enjoyable as the little details, and am simply enjoying the organic growth and winding paths that a few strokes of the pen might take, versus fighting it. A more stream-of-consciousness approach seems to be fitting the bill, presently.

Consider a few things, if you’ll humor me (on what has become a long and winding post):

Like anything you find an interest in, eventually you move forward from that original starting point, and hopefully improve upon it, build your skills, and in some instances, find new inspiration someplace else. For me, my interest in art started with comic books, the MAD Magazine and CARtoons Magazine, finally leaping to fine art, namely surrealist paintings and Op-Art. While attending college, I majored in Fine Art, painting and drawing, and was thankfully exposed to a number of different styles, techniques, approaches… and I’d say that just about 90% of it was shit. Somewhere, it seems, craftsmanship was replaced by some rote technique, and “trendy” found a home in the one place it should have never been allowed.

My answer to that? I drew cars again. With the art world pandering to any two-bit hack with a brush, there was a certain peace in sketching hot rods and customs. I moved along with the times, bringing the digital tools into my work, and have continued to push the combinations of analog and digital. But every now and then, I slip into a comfortable routine, and just hit “auto pilot” for a bit… Yeah, I feel kind of guilty about that. I become the very thing that makes me rebel in the first place… And you know what? It’s good. It brings about some good, I should say!

What’s truly unique about this particular moment is that I have, for the first time, combined a lot of those early influences into my work at the same time. It’s been amazing, and only getting better! The point here, though, isn’t so much about what has BEEN inspired, but more WHAT has inspired.

I looked back at my more artsy roots, and recall the first time I saw Victor Vasarely’s work “Vega-Nor”, an Op-Art (“optical art”) piece at the Albright-Knox.

vega nor

This painting warped my young brain… not surprising, as that was its intent… After all, the point of Op-Art is to toy with one’s perception, using color and line. I really learned more about using line quality from that piece than anywhere else! It was later in life, while working on a rendering that I stopped to consider just how much depth you could create on paper just with line pressure… up until then, I had a pretty good idea, but the process and idea just seemed, well, natural. Vasarely, mind you, was well ahead of his time. Granted, this whole Op-Art movement was set in motion by the German mathematician (and artist!) Josef Albers, who experimented in the ’30’s with color, working to create spatial effects, but Vasarely moved it forward, working to create work that all could enjoy and take part in… kind of an anti-agenda, if you will… and as for being ahead of his time? Consider that in 1953, the man stated that “In the future, we will attend projected exhibits by contemporary artists. Two days will suffice to send a large show by envelope to any point in the globe. And in the attached letter, as in some sort of partition, in cyphers and terminology, the artist will present the initial and true conditions of his creation.”

Holy (expletive) premonition, Al Gore!!

Continuing this thought, he added that “from now on, the new technologies are here to diffuse art instantaneously to the masses.” Ponder this…. the man essentially predicted email, and the use of a means to reach millions in moments, using art coupled with technology. Thinking about this over the past few weeks, it hit me that truly, I was, like the Kinks song mentioned earlier, getting back to where I started! (definitely “lost between tomorrow and yesterday, between now and then”!) Here I am, playing with technology, and bringing in the old techniques. How cool is THAT??! (of course, to keep my cred with the artsy camp, I could point out the irony of using a pop band to illustrate an awakening based in art itself… that should buy some time and sound deep, too. Yeah, one for the hipsters.)

Over on the opposite side of this note, we have the unseen forces that make it all happen. Beyond the lines and colors and techniques, we have the almost intangible combinations of things that inspire a work to begin with. It’s that collection of inspirations that bring us to grab a pencil to begin with… all of those thoughts and items that begin to form a mental image. Each piece, no matter how insignificant on its own adds to the total. By concentrating on these smallest parts, a bigger picture forms. On that thought, I suppose that this is why I’ve always held a certain disdain for the Nihilistic approach, as it makes no sense at all. To simply start with nothing, and build upon nothing to achieve, well, nothing, is completely illogical. Every little spark springs forth something bigger than itself, and if you’ve been fortunate to surround yourself with positive, creative influences, then you’re going to boldly go where no man has gone before, to to blatantly lift a phrase. Everything has some value, it has to by its very nature… Your job, then, is to not only recognize what is there, but determine its value, and find the right place for it in your work (or life!). Victor Hugo made the point that “There is no such thing as nothingness, and zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing.”

So, I suppose, it’s remotely odd that I’d look fondly upon Op-Art and Surrealism so fondly, when either could, at any moment fall over the edge into Nihilism, and eat itself. Perhaps that is what makes it so damn fascinating to me in the first place. Walking that very fine line, and doing its own thing for shits and giggles. It’s the same reason that I enjoy the whole “Theater of the Absurd” movement (and its relevance to modern life)… it takes something so necessary for communication (language), and places complete distrust in it, opting for an alternative to illustrate a point. Combine that with the paragraph above, and you’ll gain insight to my values system, and just why I work as hard as I do: If you consistently think, walk and work outside of the box, you’re going to find some truly unique ways to approach a creative project or problem, and the end result will be something loaded with fresh meaning.

It’s no different than customizing a car, really. You simply have to look beyond what was placed in front of you (the stock car), and find a new way to express an alternate form from it. Consider that, in linguistic terms, having the same car as everyone else would be, by nature, a cliche’. While the Theater of the Absurd attempted to show an audience through an onslaught of cliche’s, overly-technical jargon and essentially unconventional speech that they could elevate their communication by seeking more authentic means, and thus communication more clearly, customizing a car communicates non-verbally, and far more effectively that we are all individuals. It goes light years beyond the spoken or written word (which is why, most likely, that the photos in car magazines are so big compared to the text!) And perhaps that’s a scientific explanation of why a mild custom works so well… there is beauty in simplicity, and by golly, when applied to a car, it transcends art.

What’s also neat about this whole Theater of the Absurd/Op-Art/Brian’s listening to the Kinks again deal is how there really is no conflict when done right… much like designing a kick-ass custom. Flow is everything! Consider this video (a visual version of “Bulbous Bouffant” by the Vestibules, a long-time favorite of mine). Consider the communication: oddly disjointed, strangely compelling, and it finds a rhythm:

Like any good design, it drags you along for the ride, enjoying the flow, and really not asking for a hell of a lot in return. And that, my friend, is a magical thing… When you can combine a couple of things, and just make it “happen”, it’s icing on the cake. Here’s hoping you’ll stay tuned and enjoy the ride! To say the least, I’m pretty stoked about where its all heading now, and the clients I’ve been fortunate enough to have are right along on this ride, making it even more fun. Like the song at the start of this entry says, “day after day I get up and I say I better do it again”, and that takes us, literally, back to where we started…

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About drawinghotrods

I draw cars. I also provide full-service hot rod design and illustration, custom car, graphic and web design tailored to the custom automotive aftermarket, including logos, branding, project planning and research, and even apparel design. Need an ad, some copy, or a jump on social media? I do that, too. My mission is straightforward: To consistently provide the ultimate in design creativity and customer service, with an experience and artistic vision that is second to none. While working to raise the standard of automotive illustration, I seek to educate the public with regard to the labor and sacrifice required to create a work of fine art.

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