Episode 014: Red Orbs
In which we discuss careers in the arts, memory, and Kurt Vonnegut
What Ron Burkhardt has done seems mind-boggling to a lifelong artist like me. He started out his professional life in advertising, became very successful owning a big NYC shop serving major clients…and then decided to give it all up.
To make art.
And wouldn't you know it, he became one of those really famous artists. It's just impossible to believe, it never happens like that. It’s backward!
The opposite is usually the way it goes. People study for years and years to become great at their art, find that they will likely never be rich or famous, and then in order to make a living go into a field related to the arts like communications or academics.
Burkhart has developed (branded?) three separate genres of art, but, as a note-taker myself, I gravitate toward his most famous creation, Notism. My favorite is his 2018 acrylic over pen and ink on paper, Red Orbs.
Red Orbs, like all of Burkhardt’s notism work, is, at its core, about memory. So I wanted this beat to sound like I was trying to remember something. Something that was just out of reach. Not easy.
I often find myself frustrated when writing a piece of music. I will get an idea, start revising, iterating, revising…and then realize a few minutes later that I forgot what I wanted to do. Where was I originally headed? The creative brain is sometimes working so fast, and there are so many ideas going through your head, it's frankly hard to remember things. At least for me.
So this called for a very hazy sound overall. Soft sounding, like most memories. What was I trying to remember again?
The picked guitar parts are like little bits of clarity poking through the mist, sharper and more precise than the other things for a brief moment…and then gone again.
A lot of depth too…some things feel closer or farther away. Closer to conscious thought and farther into the back of the brain. For example, you really have to listen closely during the breakdown to hear some folks back there causing a commotion.
One thing I found terribly interesting about this piece: it is displayed on its side in the gallery on Burkhart’s website. This piece was clearly created in landscape format, but he's displayed it in portrait orientation. An internet search showed Red Orbs displayed both ways, sometimes on the same site. I decided to go with the way the artist displays it on his own site.
I also get a pretty strong Ralph Stedman vibe in this work. I’m sure I will eventually compose something for Stedman.
Only three colors here, that part was easy. However, how to represent the incredibly dense scribbled notes throughout? So many different shapes and angles and letters and squiggles.
I finally decided on uninterrupted long lines [I call them beams in my reductions] to represent the black ink.
Simplify simplify simplify. Gotta get down to it. Can’t compose anything if I am seeing or thinking too much.
Man, this is one beautiful mess.
This week's topic is so inspiring to me. I really feel you have to make your art no matter what. If just one person enjoys what you do or make, and you make their day even a tiny bit better, you are a successful artist.
Even if you don't think you're an artist, do something. You never know what will happen. Take it from Vonnegut, it really doesn’t matter what you do: “draw a funny or nice picture…dance home after school…sing in the shower…make a face in your mashed potatoes…pretend you’re Count Dracula.”
He says it will make your soul grow. I have to agree.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and Kurt Vonnegut!], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.