What I learnt from celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’

The closing of a year is often lead with great anticipation. Halloween, bonfire night, Thanksgiving (for my American readers), Hanukkah, Christmas celebrations and then finally…the New Years build up. Then creeps in January, dragging its oversized shoes on the floor. January is like the Maroon 5 performing at the Super Bowl of months, despite my own birthday being during this month, I too, have to admit that it overstays it’s welcome. A guest that you were once looking forward to seeing, but is now refusing to leave.

Then, after this excruciatingly dull month of broken resolutions and “I’ll start tomorrow”-s, comes an infamously suffocating day for singles and even couples alike. Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the day because it allows you to show appreciation to your significant other, plus the aesthetic of pink and red hearts everywhere may appear as obnoxious to some but I personally think they’re beautiful and uplifting. In a world that seems to forever filled with fake news and depressing headlines, then to suddenly be hit with flowers of all colours and love hearts is pretty encouraging to me. Lord knows we all need it.

But there is also a capitalist, ‘do it for the gram’ element involved which takes the real fun out of it. An haughty, pompous aspect that places couples to compare themselves to other couples. As though your relationships’ depth and meaning is measured based off of your financial income. A factor that is unfair and shallow to say the least. Personally, I’m a working-class student with low earning parents. Therefore, I don’t get any help from them. I simply rely on myself and how often I work, when I can. But with juggling a degree, a long distance relationship and other prospects; it can all get a little (VERY) strenuous. So with this continuous obligation to flex our lives on social media adds even more pressure on this particular occasion, minus the others- birthdays, Christmas etc.

In fact, just yesterday I was speaking to a work colleague who did not hesitate to tell me all about the expensive trips and gifts that her much older boyfriend so lovingly gives. Of course then, this was met with my own romance interrogation; “Where did you go?” “How much did they spend on you?” and “How much did YOU spend on THEM?” So whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a pain. Don’t worry single people, least you can treat yourself to a cheap bottle of wine and a Netflix marathon then call it a night, it’s not as pathetic as everyone makes it out to be. I promise.

Anyhow, so due to my long-distance relationship circumstances, this year I decided to celebrate my first ever Galentine’s Day with my single friends. Because being single doesn’t mean that you’re alone, at all. This is a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day. To quote main character Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” So for context, back in February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, a described ‘civic crusader’ and ‘friend extraordinaire’. As Knope explains it, each year on February 13th, she gathers together all her best female friends, including her mother, to celebrate what she loves about her female companions over waffles.

However, the biggest lesson that I learnt from Galentine’s Day isn’t to only challenge hetero-normative romantic relationships and gross gender roles and forever pining over ‘the right one’ but of also finally normalising the idea that being single IS NOT something to be distracted from. As someone that is currently in a relationship, I can understand why you’re reading this whilst rolling your eyes. Or how this advice would fall on death ears. Take this with a pinch of salt if you must, but the most significant rule to remember is that you’re able to be by yourself and not hate it. I know right, wild(!) I apologise if this sounds patronising, but you’re allowed to be single on purpose and enjoy it.

Galentine’s day doesn’t have to be surrounded by the concept of filling some sort of ‘romantic void’ otherwise you’re not full. That’s a complete lie. People speak to me nowadays as if by having a boyfriend, I have been “blessed” and that I have been changed for the better. As much as I love being in a relationship, I can be strong and empowered whether I’m in one or not. Galentine’s Day is for all female-identifying folks celebrating themselves, no man-dominated underbelly included, please.

As well as this, Galentines Day should be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Not everybody has this Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars-esque girl group. Sometimes our closest friends live in different parts of the country and so seeing all these cliquey squads can emphasise on the loneliness. I often feel it. So another lesson I have learnt is to keep open-minded and productive when it comes to this kind of thing. Galentine’s can be a beautiful day, but always remember to show love and support for women throughout all the other days to.

💚

Tyler Spangler on throwing illegal parties and how to be drugs without doing them 

Even if you don’t recognise the name, you would have encountered his work in some shape or form; Tyler Spangler is a Cali-native artist who rose to fame through his lurid, bold and vibrant pieces. As Jealous Gallery puts it, Tyler’s work focuses on the formalist relationship between images removed from their original context, while exploring the connotations of colour, form, and photography.

His work is the physical equivalent to a Flume song, sonically pleasing with a floating, comatose feeling. Tyler explains his style as “A grape flavoured Popsicle dipped in the ocean and placed on a rock to melt”. Whereas his lecturers and teachers could only describe it as looking like “a high school year book on acid”. Yet despite the substance influenced scenes, Tyler denies any involvement with the stuff and claims to be just “a bit obsessive”. Tyler’s work disseminates the world around him of surfing and west coast sunshine, but doesn’t stay ignorant by exploring the human condition and involving some significant political messages on gun control and mental health.

Tyler Spangler’s work caught my eye when I was around 15 years-old, my GCSE art teachers made us get a Pinterest account to ‘seek inspiration’, and upon scrolling aimlessly for what used to feel like hours, I came across his websites and social media pages which I later came to discover held 160k+ followers on his Instagram alone and double that on his Tumblr.

I was pretty captivated by the way that he plays with animation and colour, placing  bright colours, psychedelic patterns and cartoons and intertwining it with black and white old photography combing two different forms of art, creating  an outcome of colourful stimuli into the modern ‘gif’ age. This cool mix of old and new reminded me of a modern day Andy Warhol, even though my GCSE level attempts to recreate his art was beyond poor, he still saved me when I was feeling uninspired and landed me a decent grade, so I felt almost obliged to reach out- and you could have imagined my reaction once he responded (excited). That being said, here’s the exclusive chat I had with the artist, the first one I’ve ever interviewed too, and he did not disappoint.

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Your work mostly involves rather random images taken out of context, where do you source them?

I source all of my imagery from royalty free sites such as flickr commons, library of congress, and sphere.

Describe your work using 3 adjectives.

Chaotic, calming, curious.

You originally got a BA in psychology, what made you decide to explore digital collage?

I originally made hand collages on my bedroom floor which was really fun. I began exploring digital collage soon after and fell in love with the immediate manipulations and availability of imagery.

What’s the design process like typically? How long does it take you to create a collage?

It varies drastically. Most of the time I will search for imagery with no intention in mind and I basically just wait for something to spark an idea. I am always listening to music while I work. I used to listen to a lot of Electric Wizard but I am mixing it up and listening to this really cool YouTube channel called Don’s Tunes which is basically just modern covers of old blues songs. I really like to listen to slow and emotional music when I work – I think it helps access subconscious ideas.

How do you keep coming up with fresh, new and original content?

I sort of force myself to make new stuff everyday. I have gotten to the point where I get anxious if I am on vacation or away and I wont be able to make something. In those cases I just make extra work or repost old pieces. I tend to look at a lot of my old pieces and try to reinterpret them if I am at a loss for ideas. It usually comes out different so I am not too worried about recycling ideas.

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Do you ever get creators block? If so, how do you usually overcome it?

Probably about 40% of the time I sit down to work. I will just brute force myself through it and mix it with video games. I will start something then pause and play a video game or make food then come back to it. Temporarily taking a break is good.

You dropped out of the Art Centre College of Design, why was this? Do you think creatives can pursue their dream without getting a formal education?

I didn’t think the price justified what I was getting out of it. I didn’t want to begin my career in a financial hole in an industry where truth is subjective. Being in debt would force me to do work that I wasn’t interested in. I think it is definitely possible to be a creative without formal education but its definitely harder. You have to work your ass off, have something unique, and kinda get lucky.

How would you say your personality is reflected in your work?

I think it is a reflection of my introversion mixed with my curiosity for chaos. Originally I would interpret my emotions through imagery but recently I have started to experiment with typographic pieces. Its kind of cool to be a little more literal. I like to think I have a very playful and humorous personality and I think the colors and imagery I use reflect that.

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What do you think are some of the most inspiring things happening in art currently?

I think its amazing how artists are making mental health more positive. Im not sure this is entirely new but I have been noticing more attention and acceptance of mental health issues in the art community. It is really fun to bring awareness to such an important cause.

Some of your more recent pieces was a graphic commentary on the state of gun laws in America, do you think art should be more political or should, just be? Especially during these particularly divisive and politically polarising times.

I think art can be whatever anyone wants it to be. Its hard not to be political with art as it is a reflection of the self and environment in which one lives. I am not a political person but I like to create what I feel and sometimes it just comes out.

How do you think the internet has affected graphic design? Has social media been used to your advantage?

In one sense it has homogenised style’s but it has also created a competitive environment where the most enticing work will rise to the surface. Staying prolific is rewarded with attention. Social media is the main reason I am able to freelance. I am quite an obsessive person and the efficiency of being able to send my portfolio to 50 companies in one day for free sure beats the old method of sending an expensive physical portfolio to a company and paying for postage. Social media has removed a lot of the risk.

You ran an illegal punk venue for 13 shows which eventually got shut down by the police, that’s pretty badass. Speak a little about that, what would the shows entail?

After I graduated from college I had no idea what I wanted. I just knew that I loved surfing, art, and music. I loved going to punk shows and made friends with one band in particular. There is never enough if any all ages venues in most cities. I thought it would be cool to take a stab at running a cool warehouse where bands could play regardless of age. So I basically took my savings and convinced a guy from craigslist to let me pay 3 months up front. Everything went fine up until the cops came after the third week. Shows were super fun. The first show everyone lit fireworks which was exhiliarting but almost gave me a heart attack at the thought of a fire. Another show resulted in someones leg going through the wall into the neighboring business. I had to apologize and haphazardly repair the wall myself. A lot of it was just empowerment of knowing that I created something out of nothing.

And lastly, what advice would you give to any struggling creative out there?

If you are truly passionate about working in a creative field, stay true to your own style and be honest. There is nothing worse then making a watered down version of someone else.

Keep up with Tyler and find him here;

Website– http://tylerspangler.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/tyler_spangler/

Buy his prints– https://society6.com/tylerspangler/s?q=new

Buy his designs on shirts– https://tylerspangler.bigcartel.com/

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All work copyright © Tyler Spangler

The importance of “Dear White People” and the struggle with self-indentity

An opinion piece on the Netflix series “Dear White People” told from a mixed race perspective.

“When the truth is suppressed, it doesn’t die; it goes underground”.

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a blog post, I find that my intentions with this site change every other month. Originally, it was just a safe space for me to talk about my life and adventures, then it became a platform for me to practice my music journalism by reviewing albums, but then somewhere along the way I lost track of all of that in an abundance of things, like my exams, internships, portfolio expanding, maintaining friendships, working etc. And as a result my self-esteem sort of plummeted, especially in a creative sense. But one thing that I like and, above all else, appreciate about this blog is that I’m free to express whatever I want, no judgement on how I deliver statements or no one to devalue my views and opinions, and nowadays I find that my work frequently intersects with issues of race, gender, sexuality, feminism, and progressive politics.

Nevertheless, everybody experiences things in a different way, it’s not always easy to get people to understand what you mean or for everyone to see eye-to -eye. We’re living in far more polarising, politically intense times where things almost go full circle to the point that we lose direction. Or that we’re all reciting the same lines to the point where every room becomes an echo chamber, and it’s getting cramped.

If I choose to one day have children, the only values I hope for them to have is to appreciate nature, to love themselves and their bodies, have gratitude and empathy towards others but most importantly, to keep an open mind towards things and people that they don’t understand. This should be just the basis, but unfortunately this isn’t a natural inclination for everybody.

As a young person I always felt that it was important that I cultivate these strengths within my own character so that I can lead by example, not words. To be open to a new era of political correctness and changing sexual politics. You can call it whatever you want, whether it be “a liberal” or a “social justice warrior”, or the current favourite insult, a “snowflake” *cringes* however, these are the values I live by. Though it hasn’t always been this way.

Growing up in a predominantly white area in the UK (no, seriously the population of minorities is 2.2% in my area and that’s all the minority races in total) I never realised how oblivious I was to a lot of things, or how oblivious others were. Every comment that was made about my appearance and identity I mostly usually brushed off, especially because I was (unfortunately fortunate) enough to be light-skinned and borderline considered “White passing”. Yet still had the features of a Black person. So all my life I’ve been, what can be considered as ‘lucky’ in a way that not being ‘black’ enough came to my advantage, but in the least rewarding way. It’s as complex as it is problematic.

And that’s where my fascination with “Dear White People” came in, I immediately recognised the protagonist, played by Logan Browning, from Bratz: The Movie in 2007. My initial thoughts were “Oh god, please don’t let another mixed race girl not acknowledge her biracial heritage” I know, to some of you this may sound ghastly. But Zendaya in Disney Channel’s Shake It Up had two Black parents, and growing up I found this quite damaging, because it made it seem like multiculturalism couldn’t and shouldn’t exist, like we’re experiments and not the real thing, as if you had to be either one or the other. A “watered down” version of the original. So watching a show that finally addresses the struggles of a biracial individual and the war with their self-identification was refreshing to say the least, as well as reflecting the real internal struggle of figuring out who you are in this world.

Gail Lukasik’s novel ‘White Like Her‘ is a prime example of the struggle with self-identifying, she explains how her mother pretended to be White throughout her entire life and by doing this, she received a lot more privileges socially and economically, because she was “passing”. The saddest part, is that it all has to even matter in the first place. It’s funny how race is apparent on sight, isn’t it?

Yet racism hasn’t always been black and white. White supremacists, for example, used to hate Irish and Italians at the turn of the century. They weren’t considered white. But once people realised that there were a huge amount of them, they needed to include them for power’s sake and they did. Race is almost a concept, but in which involves real and damaging effects.

I kind of understand why people are interested in people like myself who are racially ambiguous. Race, however flawed the concept, is used as a tool for understanding people. Personally, I’m curious about other people’s racial backgrounds too and as human beings we are always searching for ways to identify, and factors like skin tone serve as physical reminders of our ancestry and racial heritage.

BUUUUUT, there are appropriate ways to talk to someone about their background and then there are ways to sound like, for lack of better words, an ignorant dickhead. And a lot of what I went through before was never worth compromising myself and who I am just to have a couple of friends, I’d go through the countless eye rolls and the tone deaf “You’re not even Black so you have no right to be offended!” statements just to get people to finally understand me on some level.

Since recently visiting an old friend from school that I had contrasting views with, the daunting realisation that I’m forever going to have to explain and justify my existence hit me like a bus. It was a heart-breaking epitome, racism is a lot more than “being mean” to someone because of their race. They’re a whole load of stages in White supremacy before being considered an extremist and with the case of my close friend from school, it was past indifference and minimisation, you know, “We all belong to the human race!” and the use of phrases like “post-racial society” and the casual White saviour complex followed by the denial of White privilege, plus never forgetting the constant false equivocation. Classic.

Yet the movie/television show “Dear White People” was enough in its title because it caused a bellicose, erupting reaction. Even Antoinette Robertson who played ‘white whisperer’ Coco Conners stated in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar that the name and podcasts ‘alienated’ White people. The like/dislike ratio on the YouTube official trailer was almost equal and the comments were all too familiar “What if there was a show called ‘Dear Black People??? There would be a war!”

Sigh. In explanation of that; first of all, the intent with the show was to generally raise more awareness with racial sensitivity i.e not doing black face and other blatantly racist hate crimes. Whereas a show directed towards minorities is always done with malicious intentions and is poorly informed i.e. everything Nicole Arbour has posted, ever.

Back to the show; each episode in the second season, save for the last, focuses on the experiences of one character, nose-diving viewers into the realities and trepidation’s of what it means to be black, or not black, or not black enough. Although the creator recognises that the show quantifies this problem through blackness, he thinks it’s a systemic result of the human condition.

In an ideal world, Dear White People would be better received. It encourages people to call out ignorance when they see it while educating individuals without chastising them, and holding both sides accountable. It deserves to have its watercooler moment because it encourages the discussions and bring issues to the surface that we really need to be having during these increasingly divisive times.

As journalist Wesley Morris of The New York Times pointed out in a podcast, change is happening in the Western world; “It’s just happening in dog years”. 

Calvin the II on working with Donald Glover and making music video history

Calvin the II gives an insight on being apart of this years most talked about music video and updates us on what’s next in store.

This year, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino dropped the mesmerising “This is America”, an emotive, powerful conversation piece that gives us a haunting take on the United States’ toxic cycle of violence. The video is an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present, using the ambivalent reception of black art to represent the tightrope of being black, Donald Glover has become a real force to be reckoned with. Once again, proving that he is the only Donald that is making America great again.

Since its May 7 release, “This Is America” has reeled in more than 147 million track streams and 216 million video streams, along with over 1.3 million track equivalents sold in the U.S. and 2.6 million track equivalents sold worldwide.

Before his rapping, striding and brutal murder scenes- Gambino dances towards a man who is initially seen playing the guitar while sitting on a chair but is later found with white linen covering his head before eventually getting shot.

People on Twitter theorised that the man during that open sequence was Trayvon Martin’s father, Trayvon was an African-American teenage boy who was savagely murdered in Florida in 2012 by a neighbourhood watch community member. That is not the case here, however, the man was not Trayvon Martin but a music artist who goes by the name Calvin the Second. And a rather talented one at that, so we caught up with him and asked him everything you wanted to know about the video.

First off, can you explain to the readers who you are and what you do?

My name is Calvin C Winbush II, my stage name is “Calvin The II” (Calvin the Second) I’m a recording artist and actor from Detroit, MI, and I was on Childish Gambino’s most recent music video ‘This is America’. As an actor, I’ve appeared in a bunch of commercials, voice-overs, television shows such as “Nashville” and Movies such as “Whiplash”. For my music, I usually sing, rap and play guitar with or without a band. My music style is a combination of R&B, Folk, Hip Hop with Pop sensibilities. Think Gym Class Heroes with more soul, haha!

 

How did you get involved with the project?

One of my agents, Jennifer Walton, books me on projects where I’m playing instruments a lot. I play piano, guitar, saxophone (my first instrument), drums and bass guitar, and from time to time, different productions need real musicians for that. I was up at Coachella for the second weekend and she called me out of the blue. She let me know that the content matter was pretty graphic, and wanted to know if I was familiar with Childish Gambino. I was, of course and told her to submit me. One of the producers contacted me to let me know I was in the running and then I got it!

Had you ever done anything like that before?

I’ve been in a bunch of music videos before (Diary by Wale, Free by Hailey Reinhart, Nathan Sykes – Kiss me quick, and many others) but I’ve never been in a music video that went viral to this degree before or that had any type of violent storyline.

Did you get a script prior to the ‘This Is America’? And if so, what was your reaction the script?

I didn’t get a script, but I did get a call from one of the producers who worked on the project to let me know about the graphic nature of the video. I was a little shocked at first until they told me who the artist was! I’m familiar with Donald’s work and knew that he wouldn’t be shooting me on camera for no reason, there had to be more too it. I was definitely right about that!

When you agreed to do the project, did you know that it was going to be as controversial and as talked about as it is?

Given the graphic nature, I was able to guess that it was going to ruffle some feathers. My prayer was that not only did it get people’s attention, but it made people think and converse with one another about race and violence in America. My prayer came true.


 What was the set like?

The set was very warm and friendly, but also very professional. Everyone knew exactly what they needed to do and got to work! It was like everyone was solving a puzzle together and doing their best to contribute to something bigger than themselves, for sure.

How many hours of rehearsal did you have to go through?

For my part, I didn’t need much rehearsal. I heard the track over the phone and figured out how match it on guitar earlier that morning. We did practice the first shot which is done in one take several times though so that it seems a seamless as it did. I was amazed at how many takes of dancing everyone was doing. But as you can tell, it really paid off.

What to you is the most significant part about the video personally and what do you hope for people to get out of it?

For me, the most significant part of the video is all of the conversation and thought that it’s creating. It’s making people wake up and think, even if they don’t agree with the imagery. I took it as someone holding up a mirror and having the viewer judge for themselves how they look instead of berating them to behave the way we want them to. I hope that it continues to make people think, question, then resolve and move in a positive direction.

What did it feel like to work with a director like Hiro Murai? Knowing that he’d also worked with the likes of Sia, David Guetta, Earl Sweatshirt, and a Tribe Called Quest.

Oh my God, Mr. Murai is incredible and extremely humble! He has a vision and knows how to make it happen. He was also very jovial and down to earth.

There was loads of speculation on Twitter claiming that you look like Trayvon Martin’s dad – was that a deliberate choice they were making because you’re an actor or a coincidence? Was it weird?

To this day, I swear I have NO IDEA how that rumor started. I in NO way believe I was cast because of any resemblance to Tracey Martin and hope that this video hasn’t caused him any more distress than he’s already experienced. That man’s life has been severely altered by gun violence, and now he gets to see more? It was weird hearing the rumor, but so many people have come out to let everyone else know that it wasn’t me, which is cool.

And lastly, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

As a musician, I’m writing original music for myself and other artist just about every day. I place music on TV shows and Film. I’m also currently meeting with record labels and music publishers. Several reps have heard my music on my website at and have reached out. We’re currently fielding offers and preparing to make the choice that helps establish my brand. My first single and video for the song “Keepa” will be coming out in June. We’ll be shooting the video in a week and I’m extremely excited! After being in all of those other music videos, I’m finally getting the opportunity to be in my own J.

Keep up with Calvin The II and find his social media on-

https://calvintheii.com/

http://www.instagram.com/calvintheii

http://www.twitter.com/calvintheii

http://www.soundcloud.com/calvintheii