Friday, April 01, 2011

The Future is Now

I posted this ad I did, HERE, almost a month ago, promoting Scene Magazine's Best Of Cleveland 2011 issue, and it's finally here, out there in the world, right now.

Here's the cover art without any text on it, I think I'll pull back the curtain a little bit on this particular piece and reveal some of the process. This is easily the most visible, and honestly, I spent a lot of time on it. Not that I didn't spend a lot of time on the other pieces, but this is the cover and needed to be the most Next Level of all the Next Level jams and moves being made on this project. Also, this particular piece goes back the farthest.

Basically, the production manager at Scene emailed me and asked what I would do with Best Of Cleveland 2011 The Future Is Now and asked for a quote. I've done the Best Of issue before, back in 2008. That seems like a really long time ago, now. So I knew what goes into doing all the art for an issue like that, and how good it could be. I pulled myself up to my drafting table and roughed out a couple quick ideas, then threw some color on them in photoshop. I think about the future a lot, in general, but also in the context of Cleveland. Sometimes I think this is it, that we are, in deed, living in the future. And we ARE. Temporally speaking, we are always living in the future of the past, right now in the present. But when you think about the anticipation of building up to something, when you have a moment of clarity in your mind's eye, and that moment hasn't happened yet- it's real in the future. Not yet.

Well, Cleveland, this is what you've been building up towards, here's your moment of clarity. No longer trapped in the yet to be. It's happening, whether you're ready for it or not, welcome to the future. I chose two options, because the perspective can go either way. You can either look up at it, from the ground level, watching the spiraling towers reach for the heavens, or look down on it- from the god's eye view. The advantage of the god's point of view would have been to be able to see in actuality where the new projects like the Medical Mart and the downtown casinos are going to be. It would have made the cover a lot more green, which is definitely a direction I think this city is going to go. I've used this perspective before, and I've used it since I did this. However, I'm glad the ground level perspective was the one that got the nod, because I liked it a lot more and I think it was what was needed to make this crazy idea, this sci-fi look at a familiar place, a place the people I'm trying to reach call home, as approachable, relatable, and visceral as possible.

On a snowy, crummy day, I rolled down to Scene HQ and met with the team. I think they may have been scared of me a little. I mean, I put on a shirt with buttons and everything, but I'm bearded and kinda wild and live in a Volcano. Everyone was really excited and positive though.

SO- after getting approval for the project and the cover, I did this more comprehensive, yet ...still actually really rough drawing for this piece. At this point, I also started on the other interstitial art for the five sections: Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, Shops & Wares, Sports & Recreation, and People & Places. I knew I wanted to vary the perspective and keep the theme of overgrown vegetation mingling with technology and hype the interaction of people and environment. It's something I did on this triptych for Waterloo last year around this time, HERE. I wrote about it then.

Here's the brush and ink line art. It was a matter of spending the time with it. I took it upon myself to dig deep for this one. This image, completely fantastical, needed to be rooted in a place that I knew well enough to represent as if it were real. I love Cleveland, and downtown, and even though it's supremely frustrating to park down in Tower City, I like it. I like that the parking lot, and garage, tucked under the buildings and everything feels like it's ancient ruins. But that's not what this piece is about, this is about what it could be if there were no parking garage and the entire city grew out of a place that was vibrant and bustling. This drawing is on a 14" x 17" sheet of Bristol Board, and I used a Winsor & Newton Cotman 222 series #2 brush and Speedball Super Black India Ink, then went in with a .01 Micron pen and did the details, then splattered a little bit of ink with a tooth brush on it. I'm not sure how long it took total, but it was a long time.

Okay, so that process, I repeated more or less for each section, here they are:

PEOPLE & PLACES: This is an approximation of what's been going on down on East 4th street, only ...not really. I've actually only been down there once during the day, and had lunch on the patio of The Greenhouse. Back in the day East 4th used to have a lot of wig shops on it. Seriously. I liked to think of it as the "wig district". At any rate, I snuck in the logo for Blackbird Baking Company, even though they aren't anywhere near E. 4th, nor mentioned in this section. But that bakery is, by far, one of the best places in Cleveland, and run by some of the best people (Full disclosure: my ladybird works there).

FOOD & DRINK: From memory, I only really looked at a photo reference after having laid out the drawing, I tried to capture one of my favorite places in Cleveland, Le Petit Triangle Café over on Fulton just off of Bridge. There's something specific about that patio, and it's really a great restaurant.

SHOPS & WARES: This is clearly My Mind's Eye, over in Lakewood. I'm pretty glad I was able to get Charles in the mix, but in the printed magazine he's covered by text. Which, also in this image is the Megachurch record and a fake record by a fake band I like to call The Francis Scott Keys, also Goat Cheese, Keelhaul, Beckett, Dominic, and Zip.

SPORTS & RECREATION: There's a Skate Park actually planned for the Flats, right by the rowing association's secret hide-out, but that's not what's the most important part of this piece. The central figure is a dude I knew by seeing him around a lot, almost every day for a long time. He was integral to the best bar in America, Now That's Class, and he worked at Gypsy Bean which I frequent ...frequently, but he was also a huge part of the skateboarding community, though which I am pretty unfamiliar with, as a former BMX Rider I have a lot of respect for. I can't say I was friends with Jerry Malafa, but a lot of my close friends had really deep love for him. I feel like doing this, the art for this issue of Scene, was an opportunity to shed some light on the Cleveland that I live in, the Cleveland that I experience. The Cleveland that maybe isn't as in touch with the Tribe or Browns when you mention the words "Sports" and "Recreation", but has a pretty keen awareness of the importance of the other parts of the city that make it what it really is. A place where you can live and give, and love what you love without apologies. You can work hard and play hard and grow into it and be as much a part of Cleveland as you want, then be remembered fondly by all the people you came across and whose lives you touched. This was my opportunity to pay my respect to a true Clevelander, that even though I didn't know maybe as well as I should have, I'm positive was exemplary of all of those things.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT: I spent a year working in a studio space in the strange and wonderfully weird buildings now known as Tyler Village. They knocked down these warehouse/garage buildings to make room for parking. I once saw This Moment in Black History play a show in one of those warehouse/garages and it was awesome. I also saw a show at MOCA, where they projected video onto a screen behind the band performing and that was awesome. Those two experiences informed this piece more than anything else. I think it's a good thing that there are places that can facilitate the next level of creative interaction. That's something that maybe gets overlooked here, or wrapped up in politics and money, or almost gets co-opted by nefarious interests. I think every neighborhood in Cleveland is trying to attract "the arts", though I'm not certain I understand what that's supposed to mean other than it sounds better than saying you're trying to attract "industry". All I know is that somewhere there's an empty factory, or a vacant warehouse, and someone's got the keys, and someone gave the night watchman a pizza and a six pack, and someone's going to draw a poster that tells all the people that know enough to look at such things to go to that warehouse and bring their friends, and someone's going to plug in an amplifier and maybe project someone drawing live on the giant screen hanging behind the band. And it's going to be awesome.

I've been typing for way too long. If you're interested, I'll probably be posting a bunch more art and stuff soon, so stay tuned, and feel free to comment or give me a shout.

Alright, Cleveland. Welcome to the Future.


Elisa said...

Fantastic post! You're artwork is so energetic and vibrant. Found you via Scene >> Facebook. Thanks for laying out the process and for your unique and fresh perspective on CLE. I love it here too. Your description of Tower City parking was spot-on and made me smile. Best wishes.

John G said...

Thanks Elisa!

Suzanne McGinness said...

Congratulations on your scene publication! The work is outstanding and a fantastic insiders view of Cleveland. I always look forward to seeing your work, and this is a keeper for sure! You have an amazing work ethic, thank you for all your blog posts on your process! Best Wishes, Suzie

M said...

Oh man do I love the uncolorized brush and line art. (The Cleveland Underground page on F-book had it up.) Kudos.