Jillian Tamaki

Thoughts on Context, in which The Author rambles on Sloth, Musical Instruments, and Public Television

Jan 31st, 2010

Gourd Drum (Ipu Hula or Ipu Heke), 19th century, Hawai’i

I’ve been feeling shitty about not going to museums lately. I mean, why exactly does one put up with the crappy things about the City if not to take occasionally take advantage of the wonderful things?

And I missed the MoMA Bauhaus show. Boo.

Anyway. I was thinking I might go somewhere tomorrow. This Met exhibit of Oceanic instruments looks pretty cool. They’re something so beautiful about an object for which you intuitively know its use. Sam and I were talking about this the other day when we observed that he immensely, surprisingly, enjoys kitchen supply stores despite the fact he doesn’t cook.

For many of the instruments, you can listen to curators speak about cultural uses and hear audio of them being played. The site is simplistic, but it offered a glimmer of how museums could harness interactivity to reach many more people and, more importantly, deliver a more thorough understanding of the subjects at hand.

Context is important.

I’m currently working my way through a PBS documentary series called Art: 21, about fine art in the 21st century. 3 or 4 contemporary artists are profiled per episode, and the experience is so RICH. You’re brought into someone’s studio, peeking in on them working, speaking to their family, oftentimes their subjects, hearing memories of their childhood. So much more compelling and accessible to hear it from the artists’ mouth versus reading a curatorial text. You realize how much of creativity is simply exploring things that perplex you or that you’re curious about. Didactics come later. Or, perhaps, full meanings are discovered through the process of creation.

On illustration. Illustration has always been a late adopter, often reinterpreting or refashioning artistic “styles” several decades after they were conceived by the art world, and applying them to commercial purposes. It’s kind of a nostalgic form. No judgment on that (that should go without saying!). And yes, it does go the other way sometimes too (see: pop art). But! I think there’s a valuable lesson illustrators, particularly students of illustration, can learn from Fine Art… that work should come from a place of exploration and introspection. To copy a “style” is simply a superficial appropriation of someone else’s context. Someone else’s life experience, interests, travels, tics. It’s just surface. There’s nothing underneath.

Flute (Pūtōrino), ca. 1800–1820

Aotearoa (New Zealand), Bay of Plenty region, Māori people

The Two Things You Need to Know About Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Jan 28th, 2010


Jan 28th, 2010

I think I did this last year or 2 years ago. It was a crazy-rush piece (start to finish in a few hours), so it’s not the best thing in the world. But I was thinking about how I feel a TINY bit more connected to notable deaths if I’ve drawn the person. You end up meditating on that person for a while.

Sometimes that person is JD Salinger. Other times, it is Mariah Carey.

THURSDAY! Brooklyn Public Library Event (1/28)

Jan 27th, 2010


Jan 26th, 2010

I was dutifully doing work when I started watching a documentary on the Shakers. Then I had to draw a picture of the Shakers because I’m a sucker for the costume of religious fundamentalists.

Watching a movie about Shakers while filling in virtual shapes with virtual paintbrushes, and streaming said movie over a worldwide network of fiber optic cables and pulleys. Unpack that for a while.

Slo-Mo Pathos

Jan 24th, 2010

(click to enlarge)

It irritates me to no end that I can barely remember my PIN number sometimes and yet can pull up (multiple!) television advertising conventions from the mid-80s.

P.S. I am not insane.

Portrait of Right Now

Jan 18th, 2010

I spent a lot of time this long weekend drawing a lot of one thing. This is not it.

Sick Dog

Jan 17th, 2010

Boston Globe Op-Ed. AD Elaina Natario.

Sad Little Man

Jan 13th, 2010

Live, Laugh, Learn

Jan 12th, 2010

New Year’s Resolution 2010