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How Artlist.io Provides Quality Music for Indie Creators

Read all the way to the bottom to find a discount on both Artlist’s music and Artgrid’s film footage!

Launched in 2016, Artlist has grown into a powerful tool for many independent creatives today, providing royalty-free music tracks for use in various projects.

Today, we talk with Artlist manager Dikla Josef about the problem filmmaker and co-founder Ira Belsky and his three friends were initially attempting to solve, and how that has expanded in the years since.

The Basics

SbP: Hi Dikla! Thanks for chatting today. 

Can you tell me a bit about how Artlist was founded? What was the problem Ira and the other founders were trying to solve at that time?

DY: Artlist’s co-founders were filmmakers and musicians. And they saw a gap in the industry between the low-quality stock music that was just made for making money and the high-quality music that came at a price. They wanted to find a way to bring inspiring music made with heart and soul by real musicians to every creator out there. After all, music is an essential part of the creative process, and you shouldn’t compromise on its quality. And it shouldn’t just act as a filler. Music has the power to take film and video to a whole new level. The Artlist community continues to grow as more musicians and filmmakers join us. And our aim is to keep it as relevant and inspiring as possible for all creators.

SbP: And you’re based in Israel, yes? Do you have offices anywhere else?

DY: Yes, we’re based in Israel. Our headquarters is situated in the north of the country, and we have offices in Tel Aviv and in the Central District. We are constantly growing.

SbP: Why did you choose to offer a yearly subscription plan for services, rather than monthly or pay-per-use?

DY: That’s a great question, and the pricing model is something we thought about long and hard before launching our product. For one… it’s simple, and Artlist is all about simplifying music licensing for creators. This allows them to focus on the creative part of filmmaking. Second, we want our users to get the highest quality music as well as service. This model helps us ensure our musicians get paid well for their inspiring work.

SbP: This is probably a question tentative subscribers have. If a user cancels their subscription, what happens to the licensing rights of content they’ve downloaded previously?

DY: Once you download a song with an active subscription, it’s yours to use forever. It’s the same even if you don’t renew your subscription.

Stock Footage Thanks to Artgrid

SbP: I’ve seen the platform grow over time; not only in terms of content. What is Artgrid and what are some of other plans for your platform being made in response to your users’ needs?

DY: Artgrid is the footage licensing platform we launched this year, and it’s reinventing the way creators around the world think about stock footage. Our aim was providing the same simplified license as Artlist’s, as well as high-quality footage from today’s top cinematographers around the world. Filmmaking is our passion, so we understand what today’s creative filmmakers need to produce amazing films.

We want our users to use Artgrid as a starting point in their filmmaking process. That means that rather than serve as a stop-gap for missing shots, our users can create entire stories from our footage and fill in the gaps with their own shots. This can save so much time and money for creators as well as inspire them creatively.

That’s why each shot in the Artgrid catalog is part of a story, which is a collection of shots from the same sequence. You’ll see different angles and points of view, which gives you a lot more flexibility and freedom.

As for Artgrid’s future, we aim to grow our footage catalog exponentially this year. And we’ll do it without compromising the quality we offer.

Regarding future plans in general, we know that technology has a major effect on the licensing industry. And we plan on being at the forefront when it comes to improvements and innovations. We’re working tirelessly to make Artlist more of a complete solution for creators. We started with music, then added stock footage, so you can expect big features this year. Stay tuned…

Signing Musicians

SbP: Cool. How did you go about finding music artists to contribute work before launch? And how are you going about getting more these days? 

DY: Before we launched, we worked in two areas.

The first was signing a contract with a label from England that provided us with music from about 50 musicians. The second was making our own music. Two of our founders are musicians, and they worked their butts off so that we’d have about 1,000 original songs for our launch. Then, we put up a webpage on our website where musicians could contact us to become collaborators. We started recruiting in-house musicians that would contribute more music as part of our Artlist Original program. That gave us control over the quality and type of music we offer.

We still operate in these two avenues, and we also have music scouts that scour the web looking for promising musicians whose music could fit our catalog.

SbP: In that case, let me give a shout out to one promising your musician and producer with alot of heart and talent: Chris Punsalan.

DY: We always welcome new musicians. Aspiring artists are welcome to fill out an application and if we think it’s a good fit then our Music Department will contact them for further details. 

SbP: Do your music artists contribute regularly, sort of like putting out new albums or tracks? Or do they contribute in one-off amounts?

DY: It depends. Some musicians come to us with a back catalog of albums that they want to put out there.  But we have long relationships with our musicians, so they send us music regularly. Our artists are not only contributors, but they are also our partners. Our business model offers them a very nice percentage of our revenue, so when they succeed, we succeed.

SbP: What are your thoughts about ASCAP or other media licensing agencies?

DY: ASCAP and the other agencies are doing their own thing, which is looking out for musicians’ interests. Artlist was founded to fill the void created by the boom of filmmakers in recent years and the lack of affordable original music. As such, the sync license that we offer benefits both sides. On the one hand, it provides a new platform where musicians can get exposure and make a decent income from their art. And on the other hand, it gives filmmakers a source of quality music that can elevate their video.

Taking on the Competition

SbP: I’m going to pick out three other competitors within your space and I’d like you to tell me how you differentiate yourself from them. These are other platforms also providing quality music for the type of users you serve: Epidemic, Premium Beat, and Soundstripe.

DY: It’s funny because when we started, the music licensing industry was working on a pay-per-song model, and all the emerging creators out there couldn’t afford it. We disrupted the scene by going with the subscription-based model. Little by little, all the other companies followed suit.

Today, our main differentiating feature is probably our license. Our competitors set numerous restrictions on their licenses. They may limit you to post your video only on certain platforms. Or they may set a limit on how many followers you have. Or they may allow you to use a song for only one project.

We eliminated all these restrictions. With our sync license, you can use our music for any type of video project, even commercial. You don’t need to worry about your video getting flagged if it’s posted on the “wrong” platform or that you might face extra charges in the future. You can also reuse a song you like in as many videos as you want. And as I mentioned before, once you download a song with an active subscription, it’s yours to use forever and in any project even if you don’t extend your subscription. This is something that our competitors don’t offer.

Another advantage we have is value for money. If you take into account our one-time yearly flat fee of $199 (which comes out as $16.60 per month), that gives you access to our entire catalog, unlimited downloads and a license that covers everything. I think that you can’t beat that in terms of value for money.

Our third and final advantage is quality. I don’t want to slam our competitors… you can find good music there, but from what I’ve seen, we have higher musical standards. We manually check every artist, album, and song that is sent to us to see if it meets our quality demands. In order to see the big picture, we accept about 4% of the music that we receive. That doesn’t prevent us from updating our library every day. Just this year, we added more than 5,000 songs to our catalog. That allows us to always offer music that sounds fresh. We always look to ride the current musical trends and offer music that will sound attractive to our creators’ ears.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you! To snag two extra months of either Artlist’s quality royalty-free music or Artgrid’s stunning stock footage, just click the links.

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Best Stocking Stuffers 2019

If you’re looking for unique items to stuff your oversized red socks with this year, we’ve got your back.

Forget those shattered candy canes snatched from CVS at the last minute! Here’s our list of ten dope gifts produced by makers we know personally, as well as brands we dig at a distance.

1. Toy Boarders Figures. Make lines, not war! Replacing the classic green army solder, AJ’s Toy Boarders come in packs of 24 performing legit skate tricks. Series 1, 2 and Pro available as well as packs of snowboarders and surfers. $5.95-$7.95

2. Doughnut Socks. Sukeno makes quality products intended to make you smile, and these colorful socks do exactly that. Sukeno’s tasty toe-covers come in stunning “flavors” such as strawberry milk, PB & chocolate, and blueberry cheesecake. Other styles such as beer, pizza, and sushi are also available. $12.99

3. Boys Don’t Stink Soap. Boys and stink go together like Rudolf and red-noses… but Boys Don’t Stink giant bars of extra savage exfoliating Shea Butter and Oatmeal soap from Walton Wood Farm will keep them smelling more like a human and less like a reindeer. A bit of habitual reminding comes into play with the words “Don’t Be a Pig” inscribed into each bar. Three XXL soap bars for $29.95.

4. Chocolate and Cinnamon Coffee. Café Femenino Coffee is a Fair Trade, organic, and women-owned specialty coffee brand that provides direct compensation, leadership opportunities, and ownership rights to women coffee farmers. One of the brand’s six coffees, Café Femenino Guatemala Sololá delights the tongue with sweet notes of dark chocolate and cinnamon and is produced by a local Mayan co-op. This high quality whole bean coffee retails for $14.

5. Skateboard Wood Sunglasses. These durable and lightweight sunglasses are produced by independent maker Dex. Made from upcycled 7-ply skateboard wood, each pair of frames has a unique wood grain pattern while UV400 polarized lenses protect your eyes from the sun’s ray. Nestled inside a bamboo case, these stylish shades will make a great off-season gift in any cool kid’s stocking. $79.

6. English Toffee w/ Crushed Almonds. No stocking would be complete without some sweets, so consider Sweet on Vermont’s English toffee with crushed almonds. Made with pure Vermont maple syrup and creamy Vermont butter. Snapping-crisp, buttery and not overly sweet, these all-natural confections are handmade in small batches. Prices range from $16.50 – $20.

7. Clamdy Canes. Alternately, you can bring the whiff of the wharf into your Christmas morn with these clam flavored candy canes by purveyors of the weird, Archie McPhee. And check out their other remixes of this holiday sweet such as Mac & Cheese, Pickle, and Coal. $6.50

8. Modest Mix Tea. This ironically named brand “loves f***king tea and is damn good at it.” Check out their cheeky personalized organic loose leaf tea packages such as “Chai F***ing Harder”, a deliciously spiced chai that includes a very cool stainless steel tea straw. Crafted with organic, fair-trade ingredients, made to order, and coming at you from a unique woman-owned business. Tea packages range from $15 – $32.50.

12-pack of acrylic paint markers with box.

10. Acrylic Paint Markers. And of course we can’t miss an opportunity to self-promote! Consider this brilliant 12-pack of non-toxic acrylic paint markers to go along with a DIY paper-leather DrawBag® backpack or LunchKraft® lunchbox under the Christmas tree. For budding young artists, this pairing is guaranteed to be one of the most unique and colorful gifts you can give. $14.95

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Track Light Interview #12 : Caring Wong (China)

Caring Wong Artwork "Leave Me Alone"

“Leave Me Alone”

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery from their various places around the globe.

Today, I talk with Chinese-born/Paris-based illustrator & architect Caring Wong.

Canton Connections

John: Hey Caring! You know… you’re the only “Caring” that I know. Who gave you that name?

Caring: My parents, haha. It’s the same pronunciation of my name in Chinese (Cantonese).

John: And what’s the meaning?

Caring: It means “novelty”!

John: Okay, Ms. Novelty. Where’s your hometown and how did you end up in Paris? If your name is Cantonese, then you’ve given me a good clue.

Caring: I grew up in Guangzhou and went to Paris to continue my study of architecture after university.

“Backlight”

John: I don’t remember if I told you or not… but I lived for a few years in Guangzhou. It’s where I learned to design and manufacture the first DrawBag. I used to go to Sanyuanli market and look for sample materials all the time, or reference bags for inspiration.

Caring: I grew up in Panyu, in the south of Guangzhou. And the university where I studied architecture is in Tianhe.

“The Girls Dorm”

Artistic Influences

John: Ah, Tianhe. We laowai (foreigners) know it well. So what are your first memories of art?

Caring: I’ve been addicted to watching and drawing cartoons since I was a child. I love all types of Japanese anime and Disney animation. They had a great influence on my growth as an artist.

John: This sounds familiar. I was into anime as well growing up, and collected tons of comic books. Which cartoons or anime specifically influenced you?

Caring: I remember watching Cinderella and all the films of Studio Ghibli countless times. 

“Houses on the Stopping Train”

John: And did you watch the Monkey King (Sun Wukong) cartoons growing up?

Caring: Yes. Do you know the film “Monkey King: Hero Is Back” that came out in 2015?

John: Yes, I do.

Caring: It’s my favorite version for the moment!

John: Just the other day a Chinese friend told me about the new Ne Zha animated film. Sadly, it’s not subtitled in English here. I didn’t even know this character or story, but grew more interested the more I read about him.

So are Hiyao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli films some of your biggest influences?

Caring: Yes. I was attracted to the setting and the story of Ghibli films when I first watched Totoro. To paint a scene full of dreams like that became my hobby at the time.

John: You know, I think it can be challenging to present worlds that inspire our dreams and imagination these days. The danger is in appearing escapist or falsely sentimental. But I think your work definitely has a quality of sincere beauty and wonder to it. 

Caring: Oh, and Monet is also a great influence. In Paris, I’ve been given so many more opportunities to get in touch with art than ever before. The exhibitions, the museums, and my journeys through Europe have helped me find more inspiration.

John: What was it about Monet in particular that has inspired you?

Caring: His colors!

John: Okay, duh. And what do you do when you aren’t studying or making art?

Architecture

Caring: In addition to being a freelance illustrator, in fact, another part of my life is with architecture.

“Flower Shop on the Water”
“Rainy Day in Amegakure”

John: Yeah, you know… many of your images remind me of scenes from Hong Kong or Guangzhou. They have these tight spaces packed with life and detail.

How much are you doing architecture these days? And who are your favorite architects?

Caring: Actually architecture is my full-time day job. And I have too many favorite architects to mention… like Calatrava, Barragan, SANNA, Alvar Aalto, Bofill, Terunobu Fujimori… so many.

“Back Home”

John: I need to mention in closing that I really loved the DrawBag you hand-painted!

John: Thanks so much for chatting a bit today. In Cantonese, we say (拜拜) baai-baai!

Following Up!

You can find more of Caring’s work on Instagram and DeviantArt, and buy her work here.

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Track Light Interview #11—> Natsuki Otani (Japan)

“Land of the Rising Zine” cover art by Natsuki Otani from the charity zine for the Japan tsunami appeal by Illustration Rally blog.

 

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Japanese born/Sweden-based illustrator Natsuki Otani.

– – – – ->

Journey to the West

 

John: Kon’nichiwa and Hej! Let’s start with your growing up in Japan and eventually ending up in Sweden.

Natsuki: Sure. I was born in Tokyo and was living with my parents and brother when I was very young. Unfortunately my father passed away when I was fourteen and I guess that event shaped me to be a bit more independent than other girls my age.

When I was twenty-one, I enrolled in Norwich University of the Arts (in England) to study graphic design, and that’s where I met my husband. He’s a game designer, and people in the games industry seem to work everywhere in Europe. So the same happened with him. After getting married in England we moved to Portugal, Germany, and then finally Sweden because of his work. And all during that time, I was freelancing as an artist.

 

“Ryo” collaboration with La Mode Outré.

 

John: When did you begin drawing?

Natsuki: No one in my family was the artsy type, so I’m not sure where my interest in art came from! But I remember drawing some anime characters for friends when I was a kindergartner, and getting some nice praise! That definitely encouraged me to like drawing more.

Most of the prefectures in Japan have some high schools that focus solely on music or art courses. So when I was in my teens, I decided to go to an art high school in Tokyo. My first formal art training would have actually been in preparation for this school’s entrance exam. It involved pencil drawing and still life watercolor painting.

In my art high school we studied all kinds of art, including sculpture, oil painting, and traditional Japanese painting. I originally intended to go to a Japanese art university upon graduation, so again I focused hard on drawing for several years. I would need to pass yet another entrance exam for university! It was common back then for Japanese art student wannabes to spend years training before they actually got into an art uni. But at that point I had had enough of it, so I decided to study in England instead.

By the way, I really liked the first year of the graphic design course at Norwich back then. It allowed students to experience graphic design, editorial design, photography, animation, and illustration before choosing one to continue further in our second and third years.

 

Natsuki’s hand-painted Classic DrawBag.

Style & Influences

 

John: Your work interweaves floral patterns, figures, and animals using a dreamy mix of vibrant, yet muted colors. How did those technical elements come about for you?

Natsuki: I think I always try to create something that can exist only in a piece of artwork. I try to draw visions that I can’t see in the real world but I wish I could see.

John: And you seem to combine elements of the real with the surreal… or beauty with the sinister. What’s the motivation for these sharp contrasts?

Natsuki: The contrast is intended to give viewers something that is familiar amidst the unrecognizable. I think familiarity is very important for illustration and design. That isn’t always the case for fine art. But for design I always like to embed something “real” no matter how surreal my drawings can appear.

 

“My Sweet Boy” illustration for Saji Magazine.

 

“Secret” illustration for the group exhibition, ‘Stephen Chan and Friends Presents’.

 

John: What other artists have influenced you in your journey?

Natsuki: There are countless artistic influences over time, but I try to avoid looking at others’ drawing when searching for inspiration. Instead, I look to things like the photography of Wolfgang Tillmans, the films of Quentin Tarantino, or the music of Perfume Genius. They give me so many ideas without limiting my thinking about how to express myself.

John: Several generations of westerners were impacted growing up with Nintendo, Akira, and Studio Ghibli films. Can you comment on the fertility of these unique Japanese creators and innovators?

 

Akira promotional image
Cover of 1988’s animated film Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo.

 

Natsuki: I think Japanese creators are quite fortunate. They have an accepting environment in which to enjoy anime, manga, or even computer games without being discriminated against. They’re also able to use these subcultures to express their artistic creativity.

Playing Nintendo never categorized me as a geek girl. Hiyao Miyazaki’s films were on TV regularly. And Takashi Murakami started collaborating with luxury fashion brands, causing his anime/manga influenced art to enter the mainstream just like Andy Warhol. It’s all quite in sync with the overall culture, rather than against it.

Engineering a Lunchbox

 

John: You and I began brainstorming months ago about a print for the LunchKraft lunchbox. We talked back and forth through various ideas, and you sketched about a dozen possible designs over three rounds of development. The final design will be released in early September 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

John: Ultimately, you settled on one that incorporated a fantastical taiyaki fish bearing a boy and a girl aloft. How did you navigate through that process of development?

 

 

 

Natsuki: Originally you and I had discussed creating a design with a theme like “girl power”. But this then shifted to a more inclusive design for both boys and girls.

John. Yeah. I liked the idea of encouraging boys and girls to really partner together in adventures to make the world a more beautiful place.

Natsuki: Right. But I still wanted to draw something to say that girls can be leaders or heroes in a subtle way. It’s great to have a story that has a clear strong female character such as Wonder Woman but I think it’s also nice to see a more natural representation of girls in leadership roles. Hopefully in time this will simply become the norm.

So I simply drew the girl in the front of their taiyaki airship, to show that she is the one who leads this food adventure they are on! It’s a really simple bit of visual language, but I’d prefer to leave the space for people to read or think about what the design could mean.

I also knew you liked the idea of something a bit like Howl’s Moving Castle so that was one of the visual inspirations. My idea was to draw something to encourage children (and adults) to enjoy lunch or any mealtime, so I drew the boy and the girl in this taiyaki airship as explorers and… evangelists of food in some way to represent that.

Getting Off-Topic

 

John: You know, my interest in portraying boys and girls this way comes in part out of a sense that the sexes don’t seem to get along very well these days. The expectations on one another have grown more and more unrealistic, while the satisfaction in what is delivered has diminished. Things like social media, pop music, Hollywood, and mass media advertising could be blamed for this. But I think these are just the outward expressions of something that has gone wrong inwardly.

A few years ago, I read an article where a number of Japanese young men were expressing great anticipation for better AI and sex-bots. They hoped new advances would produce female companions indistinguishable from their human counterparts (except for being more compliant). This feel a part of movement in recent decades away from flesh-and-blood relationship through on-demand internet pornography, virtual reality, and simulation in things like Gatebox’s “virtual girlfriend” Azuma Hikari. 

 

John: And I know this is not just an issue in Japan, with its decline in romantic relationships and birthrates. We seem to be wrestling at this moment with a tension between the virtual (or imagined) and the real. The former entices us with the promise of engineered perfection to replace the challenges and natural “shortcomings” of our everyday experience.

Our minds have always been able to imagine a more perfect partner when engaged in a dualistic kind of overthinking. But now technology is poised to realize those imaginings through physical forms. But I think that will only lead to more disappointment in the end, rather than satisfaction. I believe that deep satisfaction in life comes from letting go completely of expectations and enjoying the journey, rather than trying to guarantee outcomes we imagine will bring us pleasure.

In short… adventures are what make life meaningful and satisfying! And adventures must have significantly difficult challenges along the way.

Attempting to Define One’s Culture

 

Getting back on track, haha… you’ve travelled to, lived in, and interacted with a number of other cultures. How much do you feel a part of, or not of, Japanese culture?

Natsuki: It may be that I didn’t know how to appreciate my cultural background in my artwork until I started living overseas. For some time I avoiding drawing things that were overtly Japanese in my work unless I was specifically asked to include them. This was because I felt I was taking advantage of something I hadn’t earned myself.

However, now I think Japanese culture is a part of me whether I intend it to be or not. And that culture is something to both cherish as well as experiment with. My artwork is ultimately more an expression of myself than of my country or nationality. But I wouldn’t have learnt this without traveling outside of my own country.

John: And how does that specifically play out in your work?

Natsuki: That’s such a hard question, and I honestly don’t know if it has changed anything in terms of my visual style. It’s definitely influenced my way of thinking and seeing things, though. I think only viewers of my artwork could comment on this, and it would all depend on their personal perspectives of me.

People often find something they would call “Japanese” in my work even though I’ve had no intention of doing this. I left Japan thirteen years ago and rarely speak Japanese these days. It seems to me that my real life journey is lost in translation. But it’s fine to me when this kind of interpretation happens. I like people to interpret my work in their own ways.

 

“Zashiki Warashi” illustration.

 

John: As creative people, do you and your husband want to get all kinds of fantastic art  into your daughter’s life? So she can say she did have an “artsy” family?

Natsuki: Of course we do, but we also want her to experience everything else! As a kid I used to learn about and enjoy Math, English, calligraphy, piano, tennis, kendo, and softball outside of regular school time… some of them I was pretty bad at, but it was still awesome to get to experience so many different things. I’d actually be more than happy if she ends up being sporty instead of artsy!

John: Do you think having a daughter will affect the substance of your art-making in any way?

Natsuki: It’s only been two months since my daughter arrived in our life so it’s a little hard to say what impact she has made to my creativity. I think I’m purely focused on making sure she’s alright at the moment! I never thought about my work being seen by my own children before her, obviously. I’m guessing I’ll be more conscious about creating work that she can be proud of or inspired by.

The design for LunchKraft is the first job I’ve finished since her birth, and I have some wishes for her future within that. I do want her to be a strong girl who can stand on her own two legs, lead her own life, and be able to enjoy and appreciate what she eats. To my husband and me, cooking and sharing a meal together is very important. I believe it’s a celebration of our life so I really can’t wait for her to join us and start using her lunchbox!

Following Up!

 

You can find (and buy) more of Natsuki’s work by checking out her Portfolio,Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Track Light Interview #10—> Mario Jin (Italy)

Wall mural by Mario Jin in Milan

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery from their various places around the globe.

<- – – – – 

Today, I talk with Italian graffiti artist and illustrator Mario de Stefani aka Mario Jin.

– – – – ->

 

John: So where did the name Mario “Jin” come from?

Mario: When I started to do graffiti as a kid in Milan everyone had a tag. So I decided to start with Jin, like the character from the PlayStation game Tekken.

Mario Jin graffito tag on wall
A bit more than a throwie.

Mario: But later I discovered a different meaning for this word: jin, jinn, jinie.

John: You’re sounding like David Bowie there.

Mario: Haha. I mean the djinn or genie. A demon or spirit… like a soul. For me, the meaning was like another way to be myself. Another form in which to express myself.

John: And where did you grow up and do that early tagging?

Mario: I was born in Milan and grew up in the southwestern suburbs there. Now I’m living right here in the city as a senior designer for my firm. It’s my home for now. But I’ve been feeling the need to travel and find and live in new places, too. In the future I don’t know where I will call home.

Wall mural painting of Indian by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Milan, Italy.

John: if you could paint a wall anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Mario: Anywhere! Really. Anywhere.

John: Who do you collaborate with in Milan?

Mario: In Milan there are a lot of great artists I regularly work with. Most of the time it’s Foskia, Yems, Prosa, Daste, Trust, Plinio, Zelig, Draks, Close, Tawa e Dada, Poms, Mr. Pollo, and the 10G crew. We just paint walls together for fun.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin and Tosk
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin and Tosk in Milan, Italy.

John: And how did you get started painting?

Mario: My aunt was a painter and teacher of art. When I was in her home as a kid I would get alot of inspiration. I was also influenced by manga and hentai growing up. And I started with graffiti in the streets in 1998.

I first started by copying the heroes and protagonists of manga or hentai and cartoons that I read or saw on TV. Some of my favorites were Lupin the Third, Kenshirō from Fist of the North Star, and others from The X-Men and Dragon Ball Z. I remember drawing them everyday on my desk at school. 

Later I started to redraw my friends and brothers in an anime style. And when I discovered graffiti, it opened a new world of inspiration, colors, and ways of expressing myself.

Wall mural painting by Mario Jin
A wall mural painted by Mario Jin in Canarias, Spain.

John: And being Italian, have you been influenced by any of the greats from the past?

Mario: A lot influenced me. I don’t have any specific preferences, but for sure I remember moments like the first time I saw Caravaggio’s paintings or one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

John: What are you communicating through your work? Are you?

Mario: Sometimes I work in freestyle simply as pure expression. Other times I think about the sick world in which we live and how I would like to change it. Or maybe that’s just a way I take refuge from it.

John: What do you mean by the world being “sick”?

Mario: I’m talking about a world full of pollution causing global climate change. I’m talking about bad vibes like hate and racism. I feel many people are thinking only for themselves these days.

LunchKraft lunchbox print designed by Mario Jin
LunchKraft Lunchbox screen printed design by Mario Jin.

John: Yes, I remember our first conversation about your design for the LunchKraft lunchbox. I asked you to just come up with something you felt strongly about and would want to communicate even through the canvas of a lunchbox.

Mario: I was thinking about our overuse of natural resources at the time, while also the respect for nature that people can and do have.

John: So the gas-masked figure is trying to protect that fragile bit of nature under the domed glass.

Mario: Yes.

John: I also asked you about drawing that LunchKraft lunchbox into the design itself, because I have some of the same concerns about our use of resources in a consumer culture. Sometimes I wonder if I’m helping or harming by manufacturing anything at this stage in history. I’m hoping to change a certain consciousness about fashion in small ways, but I still wonder.

Mario Jin's Classic DrawBag
A Classic DrawBag hand-painted by Mario Jin.

John: Currently, we don’t really play up the eco-friendly elements of the bags much in marketing. We focus on the art. But maybe we should. It’s been more of an attempted baseline rather than a marketing angle, and in some ways using it to market would feel deceptive to me.

Anyway, yeah… I’m trying to figure these things out.

Changing topics… you and I were talking recently about Playdead’s video game Limbo as well as their (somewhat) more recent release Inside. I brought it up because you had devoted a wall to the former. What is it about these games that have inspired you to reinterpret them in your work?

Wall mural of Limbo video game by Mario Jin
Wall mural painting by Mario Jin inspired by the video game Limbo.

Mario: Yes, I really like these games. The world and characters are so simple yet wonderful at the same time. But the gameplay and the stories are the best things about them. You have to think about how to overcome puzzles all the way up to the end. And the stories are speaking into the darkness of the world that the characters are entering.

I like how their stories inspire my imagination… and not in a way just meant to get you to buy the next episode. They really made me think. I did a piece of work based on Limbo. I think I’ll do another one about Inside also.

John: Cool. You can check out more of Mario’s work on Instagram and his official website.

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A Classic German Rucksack in Paper

In 2018, I began developing a new backpack based on the Gebirgsjäger military rucksack. This new version was re-envisioned, of course, in kraft paper.

Designed for German alpine troops, the original Gebirgsjäger is recognized as a classic bit of military gear. In recent years, it’s been replicated and manufactured in China, with original packs harder to find.

Gebirgsjäger Bundeswehr German Alpine Military Rucksack
An original Gebirgsjäger rucksack (photo courtesy of kommandostore.com).

 

replica german rucksack made in china
One of many replica packs manufactured in China.

I bought my first Gebirgsjäger rucksack as an undergraduate art student, and then sold it nearly two decades later to a mate in Sydney after traveling with it all over the world. It had barely aged.

About a year ago, I purchased a second from (the famous) Jim Korn of Kaufman’s Army & Navy in Hell’s Kitchen. This one became the source material for my re-envisioning process.

Why is the Bundeswehr rucksack a classic? Here are three of my favorite features:

Firstly, (thanks to some clever stitching) the side pouches allow for skis or poles to be inserted vertically behind them. Not a common feature on a civilian pack, but maybe it would be of use when returning from the Home Depot with a pair of baseboards.

 

Image result for gi joe snow job cartoon
G.I. Joe’s “Snow Job” snatching some style points.

Secondly, the internal sleeve at the rear of the pack accepts a folding sleeping mat which also doubles as back support when inserted. This seems a spiritual predecessor to the now hip FjällRäven Kånken, which was originally designed for students. The Kånken No.2 includes a siting pad placed in a similar position.

 

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The quite popular Kånken No.2 backpack by FjällRäven (www.fjallraven.com).

 

Image result for german alpine rucksack mat
A solid review of the Gebirgsjäger by the Wisconsin Woodsman showing the inserted sleeping mat (click on the image above to watch on YouTube).

Thirdly, the overall style is similar to the packs my G.I. Joes used to hump around the battlefield of my bedroom floor in the eighties. And that’s pretty dope.

 

GIJoe General Hawk Figure Backpack
General Hawk’s ruck (photo courtesy of Michael Sheridan at joesreassembled.com)

In July of 2018 I took the first prototype of a paper version with me to Bali for a bit of field testing.

 

It was a good first outing, and provided some useful insights. My plan is to refine the pack in the next few months, and then give it a second field test over four weeks in August while patrolling on my Santa Cruz Chameleon in SE Asia.

I also drafted four lines that explain what the pack ultimately represents in its re-envisioning:

It’s not about what you have, but what you leave behind.
It’s not about seeking comfort, but embracing the tension.
It’s not about getting somewhere else, but being where you are.
It’s not about what’s currently trending; it’s about what is ultimately timeless.

Updates to come.

santa cruz chameleon in thailand
Trail-riding above Chiang Mai, Thailand.

 

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Track Light Interview #9—> Maria Uve (Spain)

Classic DrawBag hand painted by artist Maria Uve

The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved
with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.

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Today, I talk with Spanish illustrator and photographer María Uve.

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John: Hi Maria! I was excited when you first contacted me through Instagram about collaborating on a DrawBag.

María: John! Sorry for the delay in finishing everything.

John: No, no, you weren’t late. Everything is in it’s right time. I’m just happy to have connected with you.

John: I’ve recently made more contact with artists in Spain as there is quite a wealth of talent there. Elena Pancorbo had just finished an original design on a DrawBag before you and I first spoke, and Jesuso Ortiz was also a collaborator early on.  What is the artistic community like where you are in Vigo?

María: Well… the truth is that I live in a part of my country with a very small artistic community. The larger groups of artists in Spain are really in the capital, but thanks to online social networks I have met artists of many nationalities and that has enriched me a lot.

John: The idea of community is continually being redefined in terms of its borders through technology, isn’t it?

María: Yes, and I think we should really support one other instead of competing because if our related community wins… really, we all win.

John: Where did you get your training as an artist and with what different media do you work?

María: I studied illustration, photography, and graphic design at EASD Antonio Faílde (School of Art & Design) in Ourense, Spain and have spent the past year and a half dedicating myself professionally to my profession– illustrating book covers, being exhibited in galleries, publishing my own book, and collaborating with various magazines.

John: Your style is quite recognizable. Were there other artists whose work influenced you in your own development of this style?

María: I think we are all influenced by everything. By other artists for their music, by the cinema, etc… I could not tell you specific names, though, because I try to escape the similarities. 

John: I’ve been really inspired by a handful of female artists who I’ve discovered this past year primarily through Instagram… #zipcy and #littlethunder being two others beside yourself.

Illustration by #zipcy.

Illustration by #littlethunder

 

Illustration by #maria_uve_

You are all quite different in expression, but seem to be similar in that your artwork embraces love, sexuality, the body, and emotional intimacy in ways that are neither prudish nor porn. Your work celebrates a genuine and nuanced eroticism that I think has otherwise been cheapened over time by happy endings to romantic comedies, free streaming porn, and the convenience store of online dating. Truly falling in love with oneself or others is not something we click to purchase, but must engage in with our whole being to experience both its heights and depths. But that’s my perspective, of course, haha. What is it that you are doing when you create your artwork? What are you communicating through it?

María: Obviously, artists expose themselves to having a free interpretation on the part of the receiver and that is inevitable. But yes… I am communicating precisely that which you just expressed: the importance of feeling good about oneself, experiencing love in healthy ways, de-objectifying the body as only a sexual object, making relationship a natural part of our conversation, respecting all kinds of people and all types of relationships, and breaking conventions and traditional values.

Illustration by #maria_uve_

John: There are quite a few symbols and motifs you return to in your work, including what I assume to be the red thread of fate from Chinese folklore, creeping yellow vines, tiny phrases in blue on the body, the serpent, skeletons, and various images of the galaxy.

Can you share a bit about your wider perspective on life and why we are here? Where we are going? And how that is reflected in your current stage of art making?

Illustration by #maria_uve_

María: Well, I wish I knew why we are here! I guess my perspective is as simple as finding happiness and satisfaction within myself, without hurting anyone or anything else.

John: Fair enough. I think a lot of young artists would be very jealous of the 300K followers you currently have on Instagram. How did you gather that global following? Did it take long for people to find your work on Instagram?

María: I think there are no jealous artists. We are all non-conformists. Perhaps we can get too focused on how things are going with others, but I always encourage artists to support one another and help share one another’s work with the world. I think everyone deserves to have the same possibilities for success.

And the truth is that I do not know how all my followers came about… but it was fast. In just over a year I suddenly went from having 150 “friends” to 300,000.

John: There can be fine line between genuine expression of oneself and finding a strong following in that… and then monetizing that expression into a product for sale which loses its original intent. How have you kept your artistic journey genuine and connected to its source?

María: I didn’t monetize my work until recently, when my first book was published. I always have some prints available for sale in case someone wanted them but I never advertised until now, because it has been important to grow my work first.

John: And how many new pieces of work do you make… say, per week?

María: One or two.

John: Tell me more about the book Nosotros which you recently published.

 

María: It’s about self-improvement after failed relationships. At the moment I do not have a version in English… only in Spanish. Everything in time, though.

John: What else fills your life besides from art making?

María: I love animals and nature in general… music, movies, reading, and traveling. Too many things and only one life!

John: You can see more of Maria’s illustration or photography via Instagram or Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or purchase her work here. Her recently published book Nosotros is also available in Spanish. Updates when available in English!