Thrift Stores & The Brand Dilemma

Status and style have a tendency to go hand in hand. There is this fine line between being fresh vs frugal. Often what is associated with fresh or trendy has a tendency to be expensive, even unattainable for some. This unfair idea of status attached to garments is of course a construct. In the west, and well all over the world items are highly sought after. Not for what they are but for what they represent. What do they represent though? Prosperity and the unattainable? Perhaps…

Everyone wants to create a look, an image. A representation of themselves. The common misconception is that you have to break the bank to do it. That somehow the more you spend means that your look holds more merit. The truth is if you look and are willing to be patient you can find the same brands you want now for better prices. Sales, and discount stores have hidden gems. The most obvious yet hidden option however is the thrift store. I just recently copped a pair of $200 A.P.C. jeans for $6 at Goodwill today. Tag still on them. In layman’s terms… They were new.

The deals are out there. You just have to look. You can wear what you want to wear without having to be essentially hustled by companies who want you to be an uneducated consumer. The options are out there. Like most things in life it just takes a little patience and alot of drive and it can happen. You can have your unique look with the brands you love, and still have some money in the bank.

Happy hunting…

The Flaw in Ranking

It’s that time of year again… Probably not the time of year you thought I was talking about, but still the time is upon us… That time when everyone wants to condense and simplify what’s good or not in a top or best of “category… List…” If it’s done by the numbers I would have less of an argument than if this was compiled based on ones taste alone.

Numbers of views and clicks matter, which is why these lists are becoming more common. The validity in the list themselves is irrelevant. Mainly because the whole intent is to get numbers. So what’s really the point? There is so much amazing art, music, photography, culture available to us. So many talented voices all trying to be heard. Anything and everything is done in abundance these days. We’re having a sort of Renaissance right now. New perspectives and ideas are being shared and appreciated. So why put limits on what is good or great based on a list? Why not nurture the differences and diversity by being more open. To put it simply… It’s a numbers game.

That whole train of thought used to be reserved for companies focused on their bottom lines. Now that every creator is a company or brand they see the importance of numbers as well. It’s a blessing and a curse. A mixed bag of fickle intentions and motives. It’s a new year. Let’s try to look at things in a new and open way. I mean we control cool after all…

The Generational Gap…

With every generation comes that urge to be the first to do it in a new way, that no one has seen or experienced before. That shameless optimism and drive to stand out has led the way for countless innovations in culture and business. That knack for the youth to question and wonder, to not just accept things the way they are. It’s consistently forced the old guard to pay attention and change the model that was the previous standard for how “things” were done. Sometimes a nuisance, youthful optimism is often times the catalyst for necessary change. It’s not that things aren’t going to naturally evolve. It’s just that things might not progress as quickly if not for that push from the younger generation.

These days are no doubt very different than days past. Still it seems like as fast as things progress and technology advances these days the old guard still has hard time adapting to the change. So the obvious next question to me seems to be, why has the older generation not caught on and attempted to stay relevant. Why is it that as much as the attitude of staying young is so prevalent, older people still have a hard time keeping up? We are all creatures of habit. We get so caught up in our routine and what we’re used to that we lose touch with what’s happening around us. Maybe it’s more of a not caring as much about it. Seems crazy not to care as all of it effects us, but it’s not a far fetched theory.

To me there’s something noble about older people attempting to keep up with the times. Not trying to stay forever Young, but rather just staying aware and involved in current events. Aging gracefully. Not physically in all cases but in cultural literacy. Attempting to understand it all rather than just dismissing it. That understanding can help the older generation as well as the younger generation alike. Wisdom and youthful optimism can be the ingredients needed to create the society that we have been working towards for generations. That logical patient approach mixed with the impatient emotional approach. The balance of it all. For the betterment of future generations. Isn’t that the point. Art, expression, creativity… It’s all a part of that quest for self exploration and betterment.

The old guard should helping not hindering growth and progress. That is not the trend unfortunately. That should change and it starts with the elders.

Let’s all try to age and grow gracefully.

Artist Q&A: Yoon Miseon

The world is getting smaller. Not literally of course, but in the reach/impact that an individual can have. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of the creative. The artist. Emotions and experiences though different, still can be related to universally. The human condition is after all a mosaic of experiences that make up the places we live.

Emotions and feelings are the universal languages. So it should be no surprise that we related so much to an artist like Yoon Miseon. So much emotion is put into each piece. For her it’s somewhat theraputic. A way of working through her past troubles that may still be a burden. Again this is something I think people everywhere can relate to. Especially myself. At a glance it’s obvious there is more to her work than the mere image, but let’s allow her to give us the bigger picture.

Enjoy…

What made you decide to pursue being a full time artist?

I spend most of the day doing work or thinking about things related to it, and when I spend time related to work, I get answers from him and new things happen.

Do your pieces always start out as sketches, or do you also work more free form at times?

Unconditional sketch. Whenever I come up with a feeling or idea I want, I do sketch each time.

“Why do I have to look at the’ human relationship ‘in an unsteady gaze.”

In your portraits (which are amazing by the way), there is so much emotion. The texture and colors all help to set a mood of depth and reflection. Is this the emotion you intend or is it just what the subject evokes?

I study and express the balance between my insecure view of human relationships and the general (called normal) form.

As a freelance artist is it difficult to find balance in art for arts sake versus art for profit, or are the lines sometimes blurred?

It is very difficult to get that balance. I think it is probably a big problem for all artists.

Your work seems very emotionally charged. Is it therapeutic or taxing to put so much into each piece?

This is the reason why I was working to heal the mental trauma of my childhood. So I feel that these feelings are inevitable for my work. As I mentioned above, balancing between my crooked uneasy gaze and general intact form is only part of the future.

I was reading in Toner Magazine where you said that you were inspired by “human shapes and geometric objects that are balancing in imperfect forms.” So in a way your art imitates life? Maybe the better way to say it would be that your work is more a reflection of you?

My long – lasting psychological pressure made me very disturbed about all things or relationships around me. That part has eroded all my parts and I am balancing it by expressing it in my paintings. I analyze my unstable gaze, express my balance, balance my thoughts on the next artwork.

How do you hope your work impacts others? Is that even the point at all?

If the form I express is emotionally communicated to another, it is surprising and interesting in itself.

Some artist do what they do with a goal or primary motivation behind the hard work. What’s yours?

Finding a working in a working is a “truth” and takes as much time as possible for the working.

Are you close to that goal?

I keep going.

Any advice for other artists?

Living as an artist is another way to identify myself. I want you to feel the endlessness and to move forward.

Artist Q&A: Brent Schreiber

In my opinion the greatest part of the artist as well as their art is the ability to capture and convey feeling. To evoke something within that touches us deeply. That ability is a huge part of what made me fall in love with ALL creative expression. To make tangible the intangible is not an easy task. To effect your audience in a specific way universally is even more difficult. In a sea of voices to be heard is a huge accomplishment. So when we come across artists that not only capture our attention, but let us into their world it’s a beautiful thing.

Today we got a chance to speak with Brent Schreiber. What he has tapped into is something beautiful and uniquely his own. Through a theme and an idea he expresses through his work as only he can. We won’t spend much time trying to explain things for him, but will rather let him do it for himself. So let’s get into this q&a shall we.

Ok so I’m curious. What’s the significance of the headphones?

The headphones which are present in the majority of my pieces serve as an expression of a unifying god /human concept in a simple inclusive way. We are overwhelmed with information in regard to what we should believe from conflicting sources, and it’s difficult to find your voice and peace. The headphones represent blocking that interference out, finding a connection and voice that’s yours.

Does most of your work make up parts of a series? If so what is the collective story they?

I have been working almost exclusively on the Listen series for the past four years. It is an ongoing collection using the portrait and figure to explore contemporary themes of god, faith, hope, weakness and the human spirit. It is also an exploration of a different side of faith. So often it is portrayed as a black and white pristine ideal – the search for faith or hope is hard. It can be ugly, dirty, difficult and lonely – most of all wrought with fear. There is no need for faith when life is easy… it is the exact opposite.

Do you prefer doing portraits? If so what about them fascinates you?

The majority of my work centers on the portrait and figure. I’ve always loved classical realism and the process of trying to capture a person or express an idea through them. I think the human body is something everyone can relate to as well as the experience shown through a portrait. Them majority of the models I’ve used have played key roles in my life and the goal is to share them as they are in that moment. I think all portrait and figure work unless commissioned are self portraits in the execution and choices made.

Who are some of your artistic influences, living or deceased?

The artists who hit me right in the heart are Alex Colville, Robert Bateman and Jeremy Geddes. Colville and Bateman are two amazing Canadian painters – Colville for subject matter and Bateman for technique. Geddes is from another planet – makes you want to cry looking at his stuff. In my teens and 20’s I was fairly obsessive with comic illustration and animation. I started refocusing on traditional figurative and portrait work in my early thirties. I absolutely love Graydon Parrish, Jeremy Mann, Vemeer, Phil Hale, and Rockwell – all for different reasons. For techniques and improving my process in regard to the figure Adrian Gottlieb, Anthony Ryder, Parrish, David Kassan and a few dozen more along with a whole library of classical artists.

How difficult is it marketing your work?

Incredibly hard – not getting the work out per say but getting it seen. All the digital access we have to people is amazing and it offers incredible opportunities but there is so much out there – it’s like being a gold fish in an ocean at times. The only path I’ve found is to be persistent with improving the quality of the work, keep putting it out and being ready for opportunities when they come. Choosing the proper venues in which you put your marketing efforts is also key.

What would you say is a common adversity you encounter when trying to distribute your art?

We have more artists than venues capable of showing the work. The gallery system has faced major changes in the digital age but is still vital to bring in and sell work to collectors. The artist is now more responsible and has the opportunity to market and sell their own work – it’s half the business. One of the drawbacks of the digital age is we are so used to seeing things on screen at no cost – the challenge is to get an audience to see and appreciate a piece of art in person and the work, cost and sacrifice involved in it’s creation as well as the final price.

Is it important to find your audience and market to them, or let your work reach whom ever it may?

It’s a mix of both. If you’re working strictly to fill a trend the audience can spot something phony. You have to be authentic in your choices and subject matter or you’ll hate the work and people over time will not respond. Do your best, fail, try again, be persistent and the audience will eventually find you – be you – we have enough clones. At the same time you have to market your work to promotions that make sense, move you further along and you have to be vigilant at all times. The number of digital opportunities are fantastic but there just as many liars, cheats and thieves… you have to protect yourself and your work.

Where would you say most of your inspiration comes from?

Simple boring answer – life. Experience, mistakes, trying to understand the monkey cage in my head. The people around me, the gifts they have given me and what they have taught me.

What’s your biggest challenge in being recognized for your work?

Your work has to be damn good … or you have to be a devious, brilliant marketer with a bucket of cash and know all the right people haha. Honestly it is getting off the approval bandwagon, worrying about likes, hits, money and just doing work that’s honest that you love… other people will too.

Any advice for other artists?

One of the hardest things is getting past your influences and finding your own voice. It took me 4 years to figure out what direction I needed to go in. If someone isn’t sure what subject matter or theme their work should take be patient – but never stop working. Failure is your best friend. Get a journal and use it, keep image files of things that register, read a ton and focus on what is important to you. Eventually something is going to emerge. When it happens be brave and don’t second guess yourself.
Advice for a young artist… draw, draw, draw. Then draw some more. There’s nothing more frustrating as a young artist than to have a concept and not being able to translate it because the technical skills aren’t there. Study as much as you can from life, get in as many live figuring drawing sessions as you can, take workshops and really study how forms are built and connected. If someone is really serious about their work be brutal with it – no one else is going to be. It’s wonderful when people tell you how great your stuff is but 99% of them don’t know anything about art and don’t see or understand the flaws and holes. Always compare your stuff to the work of the artists who you have on a pedestal and figure out how they do it.

The Social Media Poblem


In life there are blessings and there are curses. Other times we encounter something that is a bit of both. The things that have the potential to open doors to the world around us are often the same things that hold the pitfalls that can keep us from it. It’s really a matter of how we use it. To quote Voltaire and Uncle Ben from the Spiderman comics, “With great power comes great responsibility.” After all it is ultimately in our hands how we use what is accessible to us.
Ok… Take cell phones for instance. Most people have multiple uses for them beyond calling and text. Some watch their favorite shows, others read articles, but many people (myself included) do it all on their phones. For some, actually for most, phones have replaced computers. I don’t know if I would say replaced, but social media has definitely changed the way we interact. EVERYONE is more accessible than ever. Because of this ease of interaction and accessibility it is often used in the most basic capacity.
Most people use literally billions of dollars in technology to research the bare minimum. The ease of use and knack to just do the bare minimum hoping for the best result is becoming all too common. This ease of use should be looked at as a challenge rather than a convenience. Just because it’s easy does not mean its effective. Liked/followers on Instagram does not equate to reaching your target audience.
We spend hours upon hours here trying to do just that. Trying to figure out how to tap into our audience and capitalize on what we have to offer. I’m sure this is no different than many other companies and outlets. The question isn’t why aren’t they seeing us, but instead how can we reach them. The question shouldn’t be why is my social media not lit, but rather how do we bring the lit folks to the table. In short, what works for some will not work for others. Sometimes you have to go deeper and do more with what is available. I mean after all the platform is there. The money has been spent on maximizing its potential. Now to maximize yours….

The Beauty Standard

ugly-swan.jpg

Alot of time and effort is put into appearances, both literal and figurative ones. The social significance based on how things appear to be is immense, but is it realistic? Does the norm do more harm than good? The very thing we are trying to stay away from it seems we all fall victim to. Tribalism is so much a part of who we are. Its like we still can’t escape it. Even in our attempts at individuality.

In a world where now more than ever originality is praised, we still get the homogenized version of ourselves. All to fit into what are the norms of today. What is acceptable? What has that mass appeal (not the magazine)? We are sometimes held hostage by the restrictions of normality. It’s like that game we used to be able to buy at the dollar store. It’s basically a flat square with individual movable tiles inside it. Each one of those tiles are numbered. When you buy it all those tiles are mixed up. You win the game by putting the tiles in numerical order.

It seems our individuality is the numbered tile in this game. Free to be placed where ever we see fit within the confines of the square. However to win the game we must have placed all those things that make us special in the right sequence. The right combination is what makes us acceptable in mainstream society. That’s half the battle.

The standard of what it takes to be successful is a whole other animal. In this fractal version of numerical tiles placing them in the right order takes so much more. The right combination of money, network, and mass appeal don’t guarantee it but it does help. All to become successful to the fickle masses. The price of success is a steep one and nothing is guaranteed. All we can do to push through and endure. Strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can no matter the outcome of the game.

A Most Stylish Rebellion (Black Music In America)

I believe the quote is “history is written by the victor.” Through the years people have chosen to interpret this quote in different ways. Ultimately, there is one truth that rings out to me in this statement: the plight of the oppressed is often understated when writing history. There is a lot of truth in that but let’s not mince our words here. That is not the whole truth. The oppressed have had and always will have a place in written history. The influence of the lower class is subtle but not lacking in potency.

The influence on pop culture and mainstream society is undeniable. Another undeniable truth is that this influence stems from rebellion. A rebellion rooted in challenging the norms of western society- from beauty standards to what was deemed as acceptable attire. Musically, the blues was
probably single-handedly the most influential music next to hip hop. Stylistically, however, every era has had their effect on the mainstream. From zoot suits to the afro, people of color have
showed a refusal to be limited by what society expected of them.

Every subculture has their way of rebelling and going against the grain. To people of color however, often the rebellion is unintentional but rebellion nontheless. I heard it said once, that to a minority in America, your very existence is a form of rebellion. When Elvis performed jailhouse rock as well as countless other blues songs and did dances that were taboo at the time, blacks in America were already familiar. Throughout history people of color have unknowingly been privy to what would become the future of style and music.

As “history repeats and ciphers become complete“, nothing changes and people of color will always influence the mainstream. We sit with a silent pride and understanding in spite of what society says. Cool is not defined by what the norm is but by what the norm is not.

Random Record Review: Black Thought “Streams of Thought Vol. 1”

I remember my first time hearing Black Thought rap. I was… uhhh… Let’s say two sheets to the wind. Ha! More like out of my mind on something mind altering, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway I was at a party listening to The Roots 2nd studio album “Do You Want More?!!!??!”. When I hear Black Thought ask for a 5min break. I’m in another space and time at this point and it seemed appropriate I heard him ask this, as is the case with so many jazz recordings I’ve heard them mention this. To my surprise there was no 5 minute break. Instead they break right into what I soon after learned was a song called Essaywhuman?!!!??!. At the time and in a way still is to this day one of the coldest fusions of hiphop and jazz I had ever heard.

The lyrics and delivery was so unique and full of flavor, it was undeniably fresh. Now keep in mind this was during what alot of people proclaim as the golden era of hiphop. So there was no shortage of great lyrics and delivery, but the way Tariq Trotter stepped to the mic… I had never heard it like that before and I have yet to hear another person flow like him. To me that is one of the most important aspects to music. Timeless originality. It’s what gives so many artists that staying power that keeps them relevant no matter the era.

Around the time The Roots dropped Illadelph Halflife I saw that lyrical prowess live and direct. I don’t know if it was the phenomenal opening set by Rubberoom, or just The Roots themselves. Either way I was hooked. Much like that concert Black Thoughts first solo project has this way of just pulling you into that same sophisticated street style cat persona that he’s made his signature style. By the slang and presentation you hear it in his voice. He’s no stranger to the ruff side of the tracks. Though through is vocab and play on words you can see that he’s surpassed that mind frame and evolved into something different, some might say superior to your average street cat.

Most people only associate The Roots, and Mr. Trotter as the house band for the THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON. I suggest highly you dig a little deeper. There is so much more to them. What could possibly be one of the most important hiphop groups of all time, and one of the best lyricists of our generation. Mr. Trotter and 9th Wonder partner up to solidify their place in the culture with this project. With effortless mastery, stories are told and scenes are set in a style only these 2 can create.

The Appropriation of Style

There are few things more self identifying and important to culture than style. The importance in symbolism and use of color is often lost on us in the western world. The generations worth of history and passion that went into creating what we see currently is often lost on our disposable sensibilities. Something uniquely American allows us the luxury to only have respect and admiration for other cultures when it’s convenient for us. Its that unique convenience that enables us to unknowingly disrespect other cultures.

We spoke a bit on this during our ¡Culture Fresh!™ Podcast episode. It’s to me difficult to say that people are appropriating culture. To appropriate culture you have to understand the culture and all it encompasses. In reality people do not make the attempt to understand the culture, which is why we state that it is more an appropriation of said cultures’ style more so than it is the culture as a whole.

This is not to downplay the significance of that disrespect, intentional or otherwise. Its merely a change in the wording to give another view of a common theme in western culture. This is not meant to draw a racial divide either. Merely to allow some clarity in terminology. No one is safe from style appropriation in the west. Let’s not mince our words here. We ALL do it. From sagging pants to esoteric imagery used in fashion. We often manipulate symbols and traditions that once represented something powerful into a marketable fashion statement. By downplaying the cultural significance style has and will have we do our collective histories a disservice.

The idea should be to pay homage and educate, rather than assimilate that style into mainstream society. What’s the saying? “He who does not know history is doomed to repeat it.” Let’s not lose sight of the importance of style and flavor. Not just to look fresh, but to educate.