Once again my sons and I strolled by the street art and got to see fresh new splashes of colour and creativity. There is something really beautiful and odd about how fleeting a lot of this work is. Painted over masterprieces with new slices of art. And it really speaks to my kids who see that art can exist anywhere
Took another stroll along the Grand Canal basin to see what new visual delights now adorn the walls
In the midst of all this sadness in the world, the kids and I decided to embark on a brand new creative project to brighten up our garden furniture. It brought some much needed joy.
More oddball New York-era paintings of mine from the start of the millennium that I found in the attic. I think I was trying to say something profound about words (palate) and painted visuals (palette).
One more from my sketchbooks at the turn of the millennium. This may have been an idea I was toying with as a fake ad campaign for our arty, satirical website artlick.com, or perhaps it was just a little gag for my own amusement. Either way, something about the simplicity and silliness of it still really appeals to me. In this day and age of craft beers, it almost feels like something that could happen.
Another one from my sketchbooks around the year 2001 or 2002. This one was drawn during a pretty politically charged and sensitive time in America, and I had just lived through the September 11th terrorist attacks, so was undoubtedly influenced by that. But at the same time it feels kind of jokey and irreverent, which also seems to fit. I remember having a notion of doing a series of these with different body parts and culminating in a full lifesize outline of a person.
I went through a phase of sketching and drawing quite a lot from around 2000 to 2003. Painting and drawing were never a creative pursuit I considered myself particularly adept at, which actually meant it felt very freeing to simply doodle and paint without any consideration of an audience or indeed expectation. I have very fond memories of this time and the drawing above feels representative of some of the earliest stuff I was drawing.
Nicolas Cage has been making increasingly erratic and poor movie choices for some time now. Back in the 90s, for the now defunct artlick.com project, myself and my friend Dave had this mad idea of creating marketing materials & collateral for a buddy road-trip movie, where Cage would star as himself opposite a bottle of ketchup. We wanted it to be just odd enough to seem almost a plausible choice Cage would make. We really got into it and the final mugshot movie poster Dave created up above is an absolute gem – a proper work of art that belongs on a wall – and I would dearly love to see this movie. Presenting Mr Splash…
The idea began I think over lunch one day when we spilled some ketchup on the table and Dave took a photo of it with our trusty digital camera. Somewhere between that moment and our mild obsession with quirkmeister Nicolas Cage as an actor, grew this idea, which was quite simply one of the most fun creative things we ever brought to life. It spawned such a world for us as we explored it, including a whole backstory and history, as well as a visual identity that we gave a lot of thought to.
We were very interested in getting the right look and feel for this sort of creative project, so it became important to us to test different variations of ideas and styles for the fake film we were constructing. We landed eventually on the teaser poster above, but we did toy with the slightly more cartoonish noir one below for a while, but eventually discarded it.
With the visuals starting to take shape, we spent ages (probably far too long) cooking up names for the cast and crew of the movie. I have very vivid recollections of being very precise and specific about this absurd list of contributors, but that level of detail ultimately helped us bring the creative world it lived in to life. There was a particualr moment of giddiness about deciding the score was written by someone called simply “Barkley”, which somehow was a nod to the legendary composer Vangelis. Which then led to us deciding that Vangelis was actually going to make his debut as an actor in the movie! (alongside a rather eclectic international cast, which you can see in the mugshot poster at the very top of this post)
As part of this extensive world building, we then decided to present the archival materials and content from the film on artlick.com as an exclusive peek into the library of self-proclaimed film historian and auteur (and crushing bore) Raymind Runn, a personal friend of the film’s director. Below is the elaborate, self-indulgent, and deliberately poorly written introduction we used to present Mr. Splash on the website.
There are other fragments that I can unfortunately no longer find, including a memo from the movie producers outlining a series of changes they required in order to complete the financing of the movie to completion – with ludicrous requests like demanding that it be 17% more funny; adding a scene where someone eats sushi, because people love sushi; giving Nicolas Cage or the bottle of ketchup a catchphrase.
Like so many of the things we created for artlick, we really went deep into the details, and went super specific to our own sense of humour, in the hope that others would follow. And if they didnt, that was ok, because we had an absolute blast piecing it together. Which feels like a good rule of thumb in general for most creative endeavours. It will find an audience. Even if it doesn’t, enjoy it. You might end up with something as funny and simultaneously cool as this poster!
Spotted this the other night as I was flicking through one of my dad’s final sketchbooks. To me this sketch is a haiku that folds a whole universe into it. This was the last time he drew me and it is a great snapshot of a fond moment. Drawn on a sweltering humid day in the apartment I was subletting in Brooklyn. The air conditioner was broken, so we cracked open some ice cold Red Stripe beers we picked up at the Jamaican corner store. He sketched with charcoals while I played Bob Dylan songs badly. His hand starting to tremor already, but his eye still keen, and the lines still quite certain. By the next summer when he came to visit me, he was unable to draw any more due to his illness and he filled his days going to the Met and the MoMA to marvel at the masters instead. Happy times.
For the past two days I have been sharing the wacky album cover and music industry satire we created for the defunct website artlick.com (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). This is the final instalment in that oddball collection. And if you thought some of the other albums were odd, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These go deep into really unusual abstract places, but are among my very favourites of the entire series.
Albums: Futurific; Neon: The Futurific Remixes
Singles: Once in my past twice in your future; Greener Grass; Eliminate your last thought
One afternoon in 2001 we headed out around the financial district to take some suitably esoteric photos of me wearing a beanie hat and some Elvis sunglasses. I remember really loving this photoshoot. The result was the Futurific album which we decided was to appear on a new record label called Electric Son. I imagine this as somewhere between heavy beats driven electronica and jazz. We had been listening a lot to the band Red Snapper during the creation process for these, which I feel are a big influence on them.
As with all popular records, you’re nothing if you don’t have a dance-y remix version of your album. So we went to Times Square one night and captured some remarkable photos in front of the neon lit NYPD outpost there to assemble the makings of this sister album to Futurific.
The singles all followed a similar theme to the Futurific album cover but are lent an added air of poignancy given the events of 9/11 a few weeks later. They now stand as a strange document of that time
The most eerie and unusual one of them all was this single, which we named before the terrorist attacks, but now seem strangely prescient given the subsequent events that unfolded. Another curious element here was the naming of Clune (David Gray’s longtime collaborator and drummer at the time) as a collaborator on the tracks. I was a huge David Gray fan, and we had been to see the band perform many times during this period. We had a huge affection for the charismatic drummer Clune in the band, so we added him in as an unlikely collaborator on these.
The Greener Grass single cover is probably the coolest of them all and might well have deserved an album of its own.
We shot so many great images of the Twin Towers, so we designed a funky foldout CD type inlay to accompany the standard album covers. These are really nicely designed I think and the glorious lines of the towers are so photogenic in these. Masterful work by Dave on the design.
Albums: The Rambler Trilogy – The Rambler; The Return of the Real; Committed to Mediocrity
Singles: Slang; The Myth of Everything; Intermission
This is where we went super oddball and arty, and the results are both beautiful and slightly unnerving. It began with a photoshoot in our old office, where we were packing up to move to downtown Manhattan. So there were loads of empty office spaces, brimming cardboard boxes and a wealth of orange packing labels. Naturally enough I decided to stick them to my head to create a makeshift hat of sorts, and off we went. Given the rather unusual atmosphere and ambience of the photos, we took the album art even further out there as we manipulated the images. We also decided to put this out on yet another record label that we called And Recordings, which somehow felt suitably indie. Additionally, I quite liked the idea that the word “and” is a conjunction and it was somehow connecting radically different phases of the artist’s career
We imagined that the recording artist would forgo his usual name (Kalle Ryan- yes, I find it odd talking about myself in the third person too) and simply become a character called The Rambler and this would be a suite of three concept albums that told a trilogy story from his experimental point of view. Ultimately the idea was a series of records based around language. And if you look closely, the table of ideas has resurfaced as one of the tracks on the first album
Again for this one, we decided to a gatefold centre with a slightly unusual look and feel
The singles all followed in the same mad spirit. There’s something almost Kubrickian about them. Empty spaces. Weird characters.
I love the deliberately computer generated blockiness and cut-n-paste vibe of many of them. Seems fitting for something so artificial and contrived.
This one really looks like some kind of otherworldly painting. For some reason it harkens imagery from the Wim Wenders film Until The End of the World, which I was really taken with at the time. I remember going to see Wim Wenders do a Q&A at a legendary 4 hour version of that very movie around this time ( and it was the only print in existence of the movie) so some of that must have filtered into the influences on this one.
Album: Eventuality of Nothing
I think this one was imagined as an instrumental album along the lines of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Dave was also a huge fan of Vangelis and I think some of that was fuel for inspiration too. The record label was again different for this one, Lösch Audio, which seemed to fit with the experiemntal soundtrack vibe. If thie artist was to fully realise his wild ambitions then of course he would release an epic lush instrumental soundtrack
Album: I was just getting into that (b-sides & rarities)
Single: Toasting Paint
Any good artist worth their salt must release a B-sides and unreleased demos record (or his contractual obligation will ensure that the record label releases it). But his artist had to obviously go even bigger and release a double album of demos, and an entire record of cover versions. This is very much a Thin Raft album and the choices of acoustic guitar cover versions ranged from the possible (Bob Dylan) to impossible (Public Enemy).
Fun fact, this photoshoot was done on the same day as Dr Livingstone I Presume, but we didnt use it till much later. There is also a shoutout my friend Corrie Leane (who created the artwork for the Footsteps in Chalkdust album) who is named as co-songwriter on a few tracks. And all of those particular tracks are references or in jokes between us, although my foggy memory can’t really recall the exact reference points any more.
Album: Midnight at Donington
The metal album.?At the time on MTV we were often treated to heavy metal concerts from Castle Donington. So, in my mind that was a connection forged between a place and a genre of music. Which meant that we decided we needed a heavy metal record to capture the artist’s evolving musical development and genre defying proficiency. I think it may have also been inspired in part by Ryan Adams, an artist I adore, who had put out a trash metal record under a different moniker at the time called The Finger.
I think we imagined an epic Stairway to Heaven type track as the closer, and for that we felt we needed to ground it in metal royalty with Kirk Hammett (Metallica) as a guest guitarist on the track. The record label naturally enough had to be suited to the genre, so it came out on Darrk Source, which sounds like something a user on Reddit would call themselves these days.
Long before the mighty Ryan Adams made it popular to do a superb cover version of an entire album (have a listen to his Taylor Swift reworking of 1989 – sounds like Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths singing pop songs), I cooked up this acoustic, unplugged tribute to the seminal Zooropa album by U2. A band and an album I adore to this day.The guitar is my Takamine that I still own to this day, and the Zooropa artwork and layour is poached from the original album. I always wondered what this album might actually sound like if it were recorded this way. Over to you Bono…
And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed this odyssey through my fictional musical back catalogue (Go back and read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). I have a pile of sketches in a notebook of album titles and concepts that we never got around to creating, so I will post those at a later date.