Good Tracks

Autolux

Music

A couple of weeks ago I picked up Autolux’s Future Perfect album which has been great for cloudy El Nino weather. Like a pot roast or French onion soup Future Perfect is currently the comfort food for my soul. They’ve been compared to Sonic Youth and Radiohead and while I can hear that on tracks like “Turnstile Blues” or “Angry Candy”, they definitely have a more modern shoegazey spin on that classic sound.

“Turnstile Blues” is probably their most recognizable song on the album and it’s definitely one my favorites with that intense popping drum beat that’s easy to get stuck in your head. However “Subzero Fun” for some reason takes me back to my grunge days with the whiney grit on the guitars and the soft tenor on Eugene Goreshter’s voice falling somewhere between Billy Corgan’s (Smashing Pumpkins) shrill and Thom Yorke’s (Radiohead) quiet haunting. “Robots In The Garden” turns the album’s shoegaze into a sudden party while “Plantlife” intoxicates you with some screechy guitar that drugs you with a low buzzy-tingle – not sure if you are becoming energized, drunk, or both. “Capital Kind Of Strain” is a great way to close out the album with it’s echoing drone and light guitar sending you out into the world with it’s reverberations wanting just a little more.

Next on my purchase list is their other album Transit Transit which sounds just as good, but what really drew me in is their single release which is supposed to whet your appetite for their upcoming project due on the digital shelves after they play Coachella this year. Deep, dark, and dreamy “Soft Scene”, which I highly, highly recommend giving a listen to, especially if you are a Portishead fan, will play your dark emotions like a beat machine.

Soft Scene (Single)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Nwp5uMvvIU]

Future Perfect (Album)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi1IqQlWQb8]
Shit Advice

Online Advice Sucks

Business, Random Thoughts

For a couple of years now I’ve been chipping away at creating a business with some minor success. Although I’ve never… let’s say allowed myself to become fully independent, it’s partially the fault of crappy internet advice. When I was getting started my initial thinking was, “I can Google anything and learn.” Now I know better.

Used to be that I would absorb everything that people wrote about freelancing and graphic design. Online advice was useful for telling me that I needed a formal agreement and that I should have a process and tons of other 101-type shit. Yet when it came to delving deeper into subjects there was either no information to be found or it was hidden behind a paywall. More and more I found myself becoming distanced from what people said.

Everything that I was coming across was built on the clique-ish idea that you can build off of your previous career and attend magical conferences for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. To me it was like the rich elite telling me how great and easy their life was and that anyone could achieve this lifestyle if they just copied their model of living, morals, and philosophies.

My needs, hopes, and dreams are completely different from that. In a way I feel like the working class of the design world and the closest thing that I can call My Tribe are people taking cues from DIY and Punk aesthetics that have created their own space. I’ve found inspiration from others who have bucked the system and found their own path which I am now starting to take control of and develop in my life.

But it’s taken a long time because I put my faith in people who probably have something to offer for a certain group, just not for me. Since there is so much shitty advice in the world for people like me I feel like I should offer a tip to people who maybe feel some sympathy pains,

Finding your own way is hard because no one else has done it and no one else can tell you how to do it. Stay the course. Follow the things that interest you and you will find people like you and work that fits your personality.

That’s it. That’s all I have to offer. I’m not saying I’m qualified because I’m still trying to get off the ground myself. However, for people like us I know that all the other advice out there sucks because we are tinkerers, flipping things around, testing, probing, asking questions. This is a constant work in progress that will always create a desire to invest in yourself and your interests. These things will change over time as you develop and get better. And it will get better if you follow the one person who knows you best: yourself.

If you are like me taking the slow road to getting on the self employment train then you probably have the same start up cost concerns. You are probably trying to figure out how the labyrinth of business regulation works and still uncomfortable with your style. All of the “Top Tens”, “Quick Tips”, and “How To” articles suck for people like us because they are not meant for people who have to start with essentially nothing. There really isn’t anything there that applies to us. So when people write about working harder (like this article) and how life is actually tough – it resonates with me, but I don’t see working my side hustle as hard. I see it as enjoyable and challenging. I want more of it. I feel addicted to it and I’m willing to push myself further, not because I have some deep burning passion that I discovered at a seminar, but because I just like drawing.

Life doesn’t have to be hard. There is resistance from time to time and I am happy to bitch about how things are stacked against us. However you and I are still doing our own thing that we probably won’t quit doing. We will figure out what works for us. Customize it. Evolve or get out of the game because it’s not what we thought, but then it morphs into something else since we are not happy with just standing still. The most dangerous thing about reading articles that tell you these life truths is that you can fall into the trap of “I’m not like these people and I probably will never be.” It prevents you from even trying in the first place and the best thing you can do for yourself is to test it out. Just dip your toe in the water and if it sticks go with it. Don’t worry about following the rules or doing things the “right way”. Just do it and figure it out as you go.

When you are building from the ground up – when you don’t really have the resources to jump in – the only way you are really going to learn anyway is by doing it little by little, setting one stone on top of the other. That’s probably the best way too, because now you can learn while you earn. Have people pay for you to hone your skills and talents. Plus with your ass on the line these lessons will stick with you long after you have forgotten stupid, pointless articles like the one you are currently reading.

So the best thing to do is to ignore all that shit that people try to tell you and follow through with you ideas. Make mistakes. Get better. Start with nothing.

Sensitive Artist Type

Creativity, Random Thoughts

Just read an article describing artists as sensitive people who contradictorily rely on both outward, boisterous expression and quiet, inward solitude to keep themselves in balance. I’ve never really thought about it, but I think there is an element of truth to this concept.

Recently I’ve been thinking about my work style and temperament. As a general rule I find myself really driven and productive for a period of time followed by a sudden crash and a complete and total desire to do fuck all, as the kids over in the land of Eng say. I’ve always accepted these two extremes in my life, but others haven’t been quite so understanding. At least one friend asked me if I was manic. And I’ve openly wondered with my wife if maybe I didn’t suffer from bouts of depression.

With the perspective of this article (linked above) added into the mix, I think the whole package makes a little more sense when plugged into the model of a sensitive creative type: I get overstimulated and need quiet alone time to recharge. Some of my most cherished moments are alone, removed from society and culture. It is in solitude that my mind works best to come up with new ideas. And I’ve described myself as a little shy and socially awkward, but I also feed off people’s energy; if they are happy I’m happy; if they are sad I am sad. Plus I have these extreme moments where my highs are really high and my lows are pretty crappy: one moment happy and boisterous; the next quiet, reserved, and I’m a crabby prick.

Thinking back to the short period of time that I worked as a true freelancer (not just moonlighting like I do now) I would work solid ten, twelve, fourteen hour days for about three months. Then, running full force into a wall I would wake up late one morning and decide that I’m eating cookies and playing video games and nothing else. I am aware that I turned into a bag of shit, but I always figured that I gave too hard and my body shut down in order to preserve my health. Looking back I think there was a psychological need to recharge as well.

The one sign that there was, is, mental exhaustion is that after about two weeks of going full retard I would start getting twitchy again. My hands would crave some kind of craft and my mind would start spitting out new ideas even if they weren’t illustration related. I would find myself back at the desk creating again without reason or rhyme.

Now that I work full time on top of a side hustle that rhythm has changed a bit, but remains essentially the same: a period of sprinting followed by a period of exhaustion. These days I have a busy season that follows the school’s semester schedule. Mostly hitting hard toward the middle-end of fall and spring which I find really draining and I get pretty whiney. Then it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. During the off months is when I get most of my work done since I can direct energy to more creative pursuits, but once we hit our busy season my work drops off.

The frustrating thing is that I feel like I should be able to push harder. As one friend recently posted on Facebook, in order to achieve you must be able to push past the pain. I agree with this for the most part, except that I’m lazy, but taking into consideration all the things we have to keep in balance the real struggle is what do you focus on and what do you sacrifice?

While having full time employment is – to borrow from religious folk – a blessing, I would rather be working on my illustrations and prints. However, I know that I am not going to make a living off of my art yet, because I’m taking the slow road, but this current side hustle will need some more investment to get off the ground in a sustainable way. Yet, I can’t help feeling that if I quit my job and focused on my side hustle, trying to make it a full time gig I would a) feel a fire under my ass since it would be my only source of income, and b) be able to dedicate the time needed to get out there and promote the business like it needs to be.

Also I’m curious to see whether or not I can wrangle in this up and down cycle I’m on and better manage the energy I put into life on the whole. With the theory that I will get more enjoyment out of life if I can spread the energy out more.

For now all I can do is keep plugging away with the goal of achieving self sufficiency. At least now I know that I’m not totally crazy and maybe I can figure out a strategy to work with my temperament. One thing that has become a really important aspect of life is to take vacation time that separates me from normal life. Solitude is what I cave to recharge and if I can tap into a little bit of beauty in the process then all the better the recovery will be with the added benefit of inspiration.

Side Hustle

Competing Against Nothing

Random Thoughts

Living in California you almost have to have a side hustle. It’s expensive here and pay hasn’t exactly kept pace with living costs. Check this out: if I want to buy a house near where I live in Orange County you have to come up with, on average, $600,000. With 20 percent down for typical loans that’s $120,000, more than the average income in the state by about double. It’s a small chunk of what it costs to live in paradise, but it just goes to show that if you’re going to make it here you have to earn some extra scratch.

One of the things I like about living here is that a lot of people have that side gig and it’s not just to make money. We’re dreamers striving for happiness – hedonistic to the core. Not too long ago a couple – friends of ours – went off the grid. She went freelance locking in video work with a pretty stable company and he reconnected with a former job to negotiate a work-from-home deal. This is the perfect example of turning that dream of making your side-gig into a full time job coming true and I’m really excited for them.*

The funny thing about all this is that the very things we are pursuing may be eroding the ground our dreams stand on.

Almost a decade ago now I remember getting really excited over stories of how people were creating these great, collaborative, social projects to help people and make the world a better place. Things like Wikipedia have been an incredible free resource built on people’s good will. And when people couldn’t find it for free they would steal it through sites like Pirate Bay.

Now, I’m more hesitant. How do people make a living doing this kind of stuff? And how do we side-hustlers compete against the growing pool of free resources?

An interesting take on this whole free/sharing economy comes from Dan Pink, speaking at RSA, who points out that people are seeking fulfillment in their off hours and participating in projects and hobbies that create a sense of purpose rather than a steady income. Drive, it would seem, supersedes financial reward which explains why we are seeing seemingly contradictory behavior of giving away work for free.

The video is worth watching:

In an interview article from Vice Paul Mason talks about how social and technological trends are undercutting capitalism. Economic value has become detached from actual production costs and refocused on social impact. We are more concerned with reducing environmental pollution and achieving work-life balance than profits (at least, outwardly). Additionally companies are turning to more automation. Amazon’s pursuit of flying delivery drones and Google’s self driving cars will cut deeply into the delivery industry which employs a lot of people. It’s as if, Mason points out, we are living in a world where the goal is zero.

There are still Googles and Facebooks in the world that are making more money than the governments of some mid-size countries. And as far as my circle of friends demonstrates no one has given up employment altogether. Most are still working full time on top of their hobbies and side-jobs. So I don’t see the “End of Capitalism” as Mason describes it. At least not in my lifetime. But I do see that there are trends that will affect my side hustling people.

Take for example Miya Tokumitsu who recently wrote “Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness”. Pretty dismal I know, but her claim is that companies have caught on to Dan Pink’s idea: that people will work to create meaningful projects without pay; then encourage the behavior on behalf of the company’s profits.

Home-based business, soloprenuers, freelancers, crafters, and makers are a kind of return to pre-Industrial Revolution cottage industries where households used skills and trades to make income through various channels. People have taken up the call for homemade, handmade, bespoke, and other interests in part out of fascination for a bygone era of industry, but also to fill the gaps left in our economy.

As a side hustler I am forced to compete with free things all the time. If this trend deepens it could spell disaster for a part of our economy that serves to bring the amenities of life within reach. Then again it’s in my job description to convince you to support me and come up with new creative things that make you “ooh” and “awww” and hand over the cash. Isn’t it?

*Side note: my friend’s freelance gig crumbled, but forced her to pick up the slack and dig into solo-hustle mode.

Photo Credit Todd Quakenbush

 

copyright © 2015 Robert C. Olson

Star Wars

Too Much Star Wars Already

Random Thoughts

I’m not even going to try and compete with Star Wars 7 this week. Forget about it. This has been one of the biggest marketing blow outs ever created and the hype alone will destroy people’s fun because nothing will compare to the level of excitement that people are expecting.

For the next couple of weeks I will be living in a dark hole under the earth trying to avoid all possible human contact because I don’t want to know a single thing.

I haven’t seen the ads – and I don’t want to. I want no expectations because the more hyped a movie is the worse the opinion will be. And I predict that there will be a huge disappointment from all of the boners that are erecting at this very moment.

I will be watching this behemoth of a marketing campaign despite my repulsion of Disney’s money hoarding soullessness, because it is Star Wars after all, but not until well after the geeks have had their nerd-gasms.

Don’t talk to me until after Christmas.

I Hate LA

Hating LA

Random Thoughts

Los Angeles. No other city holds itself in such low regard. San Franciscans will correct you if you try to abbreviate their city to “San Fran” or “Frisco” – “It’s San Francisco” they’ll assert every time. New York may be short for the many Burroughs it holds like Manhattan or Brooklyn, but rarely is it N-Y-C. Chicago can be an affectionate Chi-Town, but only L.A. is abbreviated as if it’s original moniker weren’t good enough. As if the people of the Los Angeles can’t be bothered to go into full detail.

It’s a city contrived, obsessed with appearance, built on an illusion. Serving as the precursor to Las Vegas (which no one ever called L.V.) Los Angeles was more or less the first city of sin raised out of the desert in an impossibly large scale with its tentacles reaching far and wide to drain the essence from the surrounding geography. It’s that mirage that sits near the ocean living off the crumbs of bygone movie glamour, faded surf wax, and a tray of illicit drugs.

And yet this wild paramour leaves you feeling breathless and inspired with her free abandon. Her claws digging sharply into your back as the lust fills your loins with excitement. The pinch of your lip between her teeth and the iron taste of your own blood. Living on the brink, driving you wild while making you think somewhere in the back of your head that your lover could take your life like she’s done to others left for dead foaming at the mouth on the floor of their hotel suite.

For the places surrounding Los Angeles its gravity breeds contempt. Orange County which tellingly refers to itself with a similarly lazy two-letter abbreviation, “O.C.”, holds Los Angeles at arms length. With an upturned nose, clasping Los Angeles with two fingers as if it were a spent diaper, Orange County attempts to have it both ways: a distant suburban family wonderland and “just minutes away from L.A.” as travel brochures will tell you. This paradox is not lost on locals either. They poke fun at the marketing campaigns that claim that Disneyland is only short drive away when in reality The 5 (translation: Interstate 5) is a clogged artery that bends the space-time continuum to a crawl where thirty minutes becomes two hours. San Diego also finds itself in this marketing Twilight Zone that is like a rainbow that you always chase but never quite reach. Horror stories tell of four hour or even six hour drives from Los Angeles to San Diego when it should take maybe an hour and a half.

Despite the traffic, over population, pollution, and general insanity you find yourself drawn in by the mist. The people are beyond beautiful – genetically perfect is a more accurate description. Sure, there are ugly people here too, but once you leave here you start to notice an abrupt decline. And the food… while we may not be the bastion of pizza like Nueveo York or the undisputed champion of tubular meat like Chicago no one – I MEAN NO ONE – has Mexican style flavors as rich as we do. Sorry Midwest, but your peas and carrots Spanish rice is fucking weird. You might even argue that we have world class Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. Although, like the spoiled children we are, we might only notice once we leave here and see how poor the rest of the world eats.

With three hundred sixty-three days of beauty a year there is always something happening. A festival, and concert, and farmers markets, a day at the beach in winter, or refreshing summer day in the mountains. Travel ninety miles in any direction and you are in a completely different world far from the sprawl and noise.

People complain about Southern California and for good reason. When you have twenty million people crammed into a hot desert you’re going to have some problems. Yet once you get a taste you can’t leave. The main reason people keep lingering here despite the problems is because no place does it better. No one can offer this environment. And yes you pay a premium for that right, but if you play it smart you can get your money’s worth by exploring and hanging out and maybe *cough*, just maybe catching a cold every once in awhile and calling out sick. And once you leave her you start to realize that you crave her touch. That her craziness is infectious because it makes you feel alive. Soon you find yourself hopelessly addicted.

Photo credit William Langenberg

 

copyright © 2015 Robert C. Olson

Made A Thing

Random Thoughts

 This weekend is my first art walk and I needed a display. So I made one. DIY bitches.

The Perfectionist Dragon Hair-Do

Creativity, Random Thoughts

My hair stylist taught me everything that I know about not chasing the perfection dragon. Or at least provided a good prompt for writing about it.

We are about to wrap things up when the stylist pushes my freshly trimmed mop to the other side of my hipster part.

Mouth Watering Beats of Jus Wan

Music

Been catching up on some music that I’ve been meaning to dive into and for any of you looking for some chill beats to help you start your workweek, check out Jus Wan.

Out of Colorado and recent addition to San Francisco (well known for it’s electronic scene) Jus Wan was first introduced to me via “Miles Away”, whose light, rhythmic taps, buzzes, and chimes settling me in for that perfect trance-like state ideal for digging into a drawing. Don’t let that light trickle fool you though, the album, taking it’s name from the title track, draws from deeper, darker pools dripping with beats that nod to dub (of the old school reggae type, not this new euro shit) that always get your head bobbing.

Can’t find much more info on this guy and it doesn’t look like he’s played much since 2012, but I suspect that he’s a part of a breed that quietly shares his treats with the world rather than thumps his chest in bravado. If he makes it down to Los Angeles I’ll have to see for myself. In the mean time, enjoy.

Copyright 2015 © Robert C. Olson

Everyone Is An Artist

Random Thoughts
Band

Photo by Tony Fischer

A feeling of frustration clouds conversations with artists these days. Dismay over how flooded the  market is constantly comes up with printmakers, illustrators, photographers, DJs, musicians, writers, graphic designers, videographers and other artisans. Technology, both the boon and the thorn to artists has done much to alter the landscape of creative markets.