Q&A #26: Todd Casey

 

Todd shares his journey as a painter, how running helps him work out problems in his painting, and the importance of not putting a timeframe on things.

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Todd, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your site, I noticed that you have some prints for sale. Did it take awhile for you to decide how your paintings are going to be captured as images as well as the printing process?

 

Todd Casey: Hi Leigh, thank you for taking the interest in interviewing me. It did take me a while to make the decision to sell prints. It’s a new venture and a few people had shown some interest so I figured why not.

There is always something lost in a print as in relation to the original. Its one of the reasons that held me back from making them earlier in my career. I also feel that I have something that is marketable in drink painting and cheese painting. Who doesn’t like wine/beer and cheese?

In terms of how it was captured, I’ve been able to find a few photographers that do a really good job of getting the color and subtleties in the photos. The paper that the images are printed on is a good quality thick paper so it lasts.

 

 

LL:  Why do you think you do the things you do?

 

TC: I feel that if my paintings can touch one person in anyway then my job is done. It is my intention to give the world something beautiful and add to it with great things. In the words of Thomas Mann “Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.” or of Neil DeGrasse Tyson “I fear living a life that I could have accomplished something and didn’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are as a painter?

 

TC: My artistic journey of how I got to where I am now plays out like a long novel. To sum it up, I started out at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston MA where I got a BFA in Illustration. I then moved to NYC to pursue a career in Illustration in which I failed miserably. I then decided to go back to Graduate school and enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I majored in Animation.

I wasn’t satisfied so I found myself back in the Illustration Department where I met Warren Chang. This led me to move back to NYC and pursue studying under a master painter and found one in Jacob Collins.

 

 

 

LL: Sounds like it took awhile for you to find ‘the painter you’.

 

TC: It did take a while to find that I wanted to be a painter though I probably would have taken it up in college had they offered a program where I would have studied the figure instead of abstract painting.

 

I initially went into Illustration because I wanted to do paintings like Norman Rockwell and Illustration seemed to be the only place to do stuff like that. Little did I know that illustration had evolved into more of a super stylized art form or something that was closer to design work.

 

I’m glad that I went through the illustration and then the animation to get to painting though as I feel I was able to pull all that knowledge into painting. I was able to also appreciate all forms of art as well. Too often now I will meet a painter that is so narrow minded its kind of sad. I love all forms of art, even abstract art but it just doesn’t mean I want to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Is there a Connection between Warren Chang & Jacob Collins? (Even not directly…did meeting Warren Chang steer your towards finding Jacob Collins? Or was it more the move to NY that triggered the events? And Warren was able to give you a different kind of insight?)

 

 

TC: There are multiple connections to Warren Chang to Jacob actually. I took Warren’s class in grad school called Heads and Hands. Its an illustration class that they make the animators take so they know how to draw.

 

Both Warren and I have a love for Rockwell so we would just talk before class began and after about art and names. The method of drawing that I was learning seemed like a long time to do one drawing and I remember him saying “If you think this is long, check out Tony Ryder, they take 60 hours to do a drawing” and that concept just blew me away as we were doing a 3 hour drawing and I was amazed.

 

 

So that conversation kind of opened the book for me to start looking around. We continued to talk before and after class and he also loved the work I did in his class. He was the first to bring up the names Jacob Collins and Max Ginsburg. Being a good student, I wrote them down in my sketchbook and looked them up. I was definitely fascinated by their work.

 

 

Months later I had moved back to Massachusetts to take the summer off from grad school and was staying with my parents. There was something about grad school that made me not want to go back. One was the idea that I had changed my major from 3D animation to 2D animation and then to Illustration within a year. I didn’t feel focused and I couldn’t understand why a school would allow this to happen. I also didn’t want to walk out of grad school with a huge amount of debt. I decided to take time off of grad school and move back to the east coast.

 

So, I did this big cross country trip with my buddy I met in grad school. Our plan was to make it back to San Francisco to get our stuff and move to New York but along the way visit as many artists and their studios as possible. It was quite the enlightening experience. Warren was one of the artists that we visited and he gave us a bunch of names to look up, mentioning studying with Jacob again.

 

When I finally got back to NYC and settled in, I emailed Jacob. He emailed me back in like 10 minutes, it was really bizarre. I interviewed for his school and then he sent me on a mission. (The story continues into the next question)

 

 

 

 

LL: How did you know that Jacob Collins was the person for you?

 

TC: When I interviewed at Jacob’s studio he greeted me at the door. I thought he was a student because he looked like a big kid but I said, is Jacob here and he said yep and said come with me. Then I realized he was Jacob.

 

Jake’s studio was in the back of the school which was in the garage of his carriage house on the upper east side of Manhattan. During that walk through, there were about 15 students standing around a model painting the figure.  Each students painting was so good, I knew right there that I wanted to do this. I figured, even if I was the worst student in this school, I’d be super happy.

 

 

When we got into the back where his studio was, he asked me a lot of questions. He challenged me to ask why I wanted to do this, who I had studied with. I showed him my work and he was not impressed but he said something like “eh, there maybe something there”.

 

So, he sent me on a mission. He said, go study at the Grand Central Atelier with either my student Nick Hiltner or Camie Davis. Do a cast drawing and show bring it back to me when you are finished. I called the GCA that night and enrolled in the night class.

 

It was crazy, it was every night from 6:30 – 9;30. I remember walking in to a full room of students (of all ages) and looking at their drawings. I asked a ton of questions like how long did this take you to do, and what materials they were using etc. What blew my mind was that they all were working on one drawing for about 3 months.

 

Initially I was like, yeah this may not be for me but I figured why not give it a shot. I thought there would be no way in the world I could draw a plaster cast that slow, what were they doing with all that time???

 

 

But Camie was a fantastic teacher and she really got me to slooooow down. As each day went by and I did the drawing, I started to see how this could be the foundation for what I had always been looking for. This was the link to that Gerome painting “L’Eminence Gris” I had seen in my undergrad at the MFA Boston. So, I just took my time and did the drawing at the pace that Camie had guided me through.

 

 

I was happy with my drawing and I let Camie know my intentions. She gave me a recommendation email to Jacob and we scheduled a second meeting.

 

 

When I showed up for that second meeting I had a bit of confidence. He asked to see my drawing and I showed him. He wasn’t overly impressed with it though. All I kept thinking was: ‘What was he seeing that I was not and how can I see like him?’.

 

The second interview seemed to be going terrible in my eyes. He was asking how old I was and then he would say that I was kind of old to start this, that you have to really want to do this and that it takes 10 years to build a career as an artist. He would look at my work then go over to his email that I sent with the images I sent. He was making sounds like he wasn’t’ sure what to do.

 

 

It was a Friday and he just said, “show up on Monday with a pencil and paper.” I remember saying: ‘Wait, What? Am I in?’. He said yes, show up with a pencil and paper. And that’s where it all began. Honestly I felt like someone kicked me in the balls and then gave me a prize. I felt so indifferent about the whole thing.

 

 

 

 

LL: Looking at the time you’ve invested in those two degrees, can you see now how both have helped shaped you as a painter? (you wouldn’t change a thing? Or if you would have a chance to tweak a few things…you might have just gone straight to private lessons under someone like Jacob Collins and skipped doing both degrees)

 

TC: I wouldn’t do anything differently honestly. I love all forms of art and I had the chance to try them all out. I almost double majored in Illustration and Graphic Design in undergrad because it’s so hard for me to just pick one thing. Although, studying with Jacob in those early days of Water Street would have been nice.

 

Just to clarify though, I did not finish my Master Degree program. I only have a BFA, I’m about half way through a Masters program.

 

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

TC: I love to read and always have a few books that I’m reading. My top 3 that are always are in reach is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

In terms of art books, I always have Emile Friant, John Singer Sargeant and Andew Wyeth close.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

TC: I am always challenging myself as an artist, I’m never at rest. As I feel I gain a new skill I’m always looking to build somewhere else. I’m always doing portraits from life because I feel that as an artist it is probably the hardest thing to do. It took me a while to get good at them. I’m still learning though and continue to always try to keep my sword sharp.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has yet to attempt to craft their first painting, so they could have the capacity to paint at your level and skill. What would it look like? (Would you want them to go through the same journey as you did?)

 

TC: I would let them know to take it slow, very slow. I think that the journey is the best part of any goal that you are trying to achieve, although the end is always nice. When I found Jacob Collins he told me it would take a good 4 years of just study under him and then another 6-8 years to build my career. It didn’t phase me as I knew.

 

 

 

LL: What does building your career mean to you?

TC: The idea that it takes 6-8 years to build your career is a bit arbitrary and organic. Some artists catch a break right away and some have to build their careers over time. I’m not looking to get into a big gallery but to get into the right gallery for me. Some of the bigger galleries have so many artists in them. I’d rather be in a smaller gallery that promotes my work, more of an intimate experience. But, some people feel that if you are in a big gallery then you made it.

 

At this point in my career its about making the right moves and building relationships to push my career forward. A lot of decisions in art are risky like entering competitions but sometimes they help you. You never know where you will be planting a seed so I always give something a shot.

 

 

For instance this past year I became a member of the Salmagundi Club. It’s a lot of money to join, 750 dollars a year. But, it’s a prestigious club that has been around a long time and there are many shows that you can be in as a member where they award prizes. Its definitely a lot of money for an artist, I’m still trying to figure out if its worth the money though.

 

I do think that finding the right gallery to promote your work is key to a successful career. I am blessed that I found a great gallery and great family in Rehs Gallery. They are a family and they are all about having a personal relationship with their artists. I go there so much that the front desk guys calls me one of the Rehs.

!!!!

 

 

LL: Artists are known to be very protective of their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

TC: That’s hard to say as I share all of the stages of my work. I love to pass knowledge down to anyone that is interested. I get the reason that an artist would want to stay protected. I think that giving students all of the answers at the beginning of their career could be detrimental. I think the journey is really important for any student.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a painter?

TC: I would definitely say that it is the discipline that got me to where I am. I always say that its like the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy says that he is going to dig his way out of the prison and Red says “It will take a man 600 years to dig out of here.” So later on in the movie we find out that Andy did it in about 20 or so by being patient and just chipping away piece by piece at the stone.

Patience is a big part of getting to our goals as well. Take the time and set realistic goals and also be relentless.

 

“I remember thinking when I got him that gadget back in ’48 that it would take a man six hundred years to burrow through the wall with it.” (Link to Shawshank Redemption Film / King Novella)

 

LL: It’s interesting that you used that term (relentless). Was it something that you had to build on? (I sense that you’re the kind of person that knows what he wants, and will keep going for it. Which might have made it easier for you maybe to say: ‘nope..this isn’t for me’ when you were going in the direction that you thought wouldn’t bring you closer to where you wanted to be as an artist. Do you feel like there is little room in your life for discouragement? Because you know it would be so worth it to be on the right track again?)

 

TC: I’m definitely into the idea that slow and steady wins the race. We are an ADD generations now with instant gratification. I think that really taking the time to slow everything down is key as it helps you to really focus on the things that you really want, not just something that instantly gratifies you.

 

I took time away from art to really think about if I wanted to do this or not. I decided to just kind of walk away from it for a while to test myself, see if this was a thing that I loved or something I had been pushed into. The good news was that after taking that time off, I just had to come back to it. I knew it was my calling. So, here I am.

 

I think that discouragement is part of being an artist. I think to a degree we all are trying to change and morph, to grow in thought and also art. The unhappiness is sometimes a fuel for the growth. I think that the artistic journey is in all of us, we just have to go along for the ride. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us”

 

 

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

TC: I feel strongly that the Academic approach to painting was what I was searching for the whole time in my career as when I found it I knew I that this was what I wanted to do. Jacob Collins’ method is based off of years of traditional that go all the way back to the Renaissance and peaked in the French Academy’s in the 20th century.

For inspiration I still keep in touch with all of my old instructors and visit their studios or speak with them on the phone frequently.

 

 

LL: What are your guidelines to joining artist societies? (You mention that you had recently won gold at the Allied Artists of America, and was wondering if you limit your memberships — and even limit the contests you join annually. If you’d like to also share how the gallery fits in all this — maybe there have been times that they have suggested you enter your work to be considered for a specific award)

 

TC: I try to support the societies and organizations that I feel are doing the right thing for art. I’m not a fan of organizations that feel like they are money making endeavors. My gallery, Rehs Gallery is behind me building my career through these organizations as well. Howard Rehs is always open to lend me a painting for a show at one of these organizations he knows that awards and recognition will help me build my career.

 

 

 

 

LL: Favorite time of the day to work?

 

TC: I’m a night owl so I always work best after the sun goes down. If I could I would start at 8 every night and paint until about 4 am or longer.

 

 

 

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project? (Or the main things you bring along with you when you are working on a project when away from your favourite working spot? For example, if working with a client there’ll be lots of sketches, nothing digital yet, vs if you were just doing a project for you, for someone to invest in — or pieces to go on sale to the public.)

 

TC: I feel that painting is visual poetry so I let the ideas and come to me and then come to fruition when they are ready. One of my paintings took 5 years in the making to have it all come together and be ready to paint. You never know and I hate to rush any painting.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you tell me more about that painting? (is there a link to a publicly accessible image? If not you can mention the instances when you spent time on it, and knew that it wasn’t quite right. Then the difference when it was)

TC: I feel that paintings should come together when they come together. I hate the idea of doing a painting within a deadline although sometimes I have to. Working out a good idea takes time and to make a story feel rich and authentic is the key. Whether that takes a day or 5 years or anything in the middle, I like to let the seeds sit and come to fruition naturally.

The painting that I referred to was the painting “The Shamrock” that I did in 2014. The idea began when I was working at Ralph Lauren and saw this beautiful blueprint of a yacht on the wall. It was just stunning, there was something about it. So, I had asked my boss if I could borrow it for a painting and he said yes of course.

 

Then later on that year my brother got married in Nantucket MA. My wife and I toured the island and when I was in the gift shop I spotted a model yacht so I bought it. Sometimes I’m looking for objects to compliment an idea and sometimes the ideas just come out of where I visited or what I saw. When I got home I put the two together but it just felt staged. I wanted that story, that authenticity to the image I would create, that wonder of what is this? That was in 2008.

 

I left it alone for a couple of years but it was still there in the back of my mind. Along the way I had come into some beautiful old books and also a compass. The books were from my wife’s Aunt who had passed away but it felt like it was complimenting the story and the scene I wanted to create. Around the same time, my wife’s grandmother had given me her old box of paints from about 1970 that came in this beautiful box.

 

All the elements seemed to be coming together. I began doing a few studies to see what the big image would be (6×8 small paintings). I really wanted to develop this character so I added a stack of letters I bought off ebay and set the scene up as if the character was writing something to someone, perhaps a loved one. The glasses and the binoculars acted as an idea of searching for something.

 

 

 

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a painting?

 

TC: My small paintings, around a 6 x 8, take me about 3-5 hours to complete. The bigger stuff takes a lot more time and planning, anywhere from 40-80 hours. The small paintings I always feel are just beautiful little studies that don’t tell a big story. The larger paintings however are always about a story.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style?

TC: Realist Painter

 

 

 

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a painter? (particularly by other painters. You could also mention some misconceptions that people have about artists in general — which have been directed at you.).

 

TC: I would say that some big misconceptions are that artistic ability is born naturally, that I was born with this talent. To a degree I feel that there has to be some drive inside you that makes you an artist, a different view of the world.

BUT I would also say that from a technical stand point anyone could get good at this. What you have to say is just a different conversation.

 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outlier’s” he brings this up, that the idea of genius is a bit of a misunderstood concept. I believe that if you keep working at something you will be good at it, to some degree. And if you do it for a lifetime you will separate yourself and master that thing. If you put love in there with that thing you do, that is even better!

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

TC: I always feel that I’m pushing towards new ideas and directions with my work. I feel good about my technical ability but I am never satisfied with where I am. Lately I’ve been working on putting a narrative in my work so it’s not just a painting of a thing. I try to create a character and put elements around that would support the story.

I’m also reading a lot of classical literature that can add to my stories. In addition, I love science and I would love to bring some of that curiosity into my work.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist? (can be in your work when teaching too — or even reading a book that doesn’t have anything to do with painting!)

 

TC: One approach that I took to becoming a better artist is to not put a time on anything, to take things as they come and to stop comparing myself to others. Another approach is to be relentless and just keep working on your craft.

I feel that a lot of artists are interested in the field but give up to easy. If this is the thing that you have to do and it makes you happy then you will keep doing it. The last would be to be inspired by all the arts and be open-minded. I have met way too many artists that only think in one way and don’t appreciate all of the arts. The world is your oyster as an artist.

 

 

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that a piece is finished?

TC: It’s always hard to tell when a painting is done. One thing is to step back and say “is this what I envisioned” and if that is a yes then maybe you are done. I don’t have a physical checklist or anything, I just let my feelings tell me when something is done.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up when painting? (You can be as detailed as you want! You can even share your set-ups for previous work. For example, if it is a particularly busy month, you might work on doing the base of the design…then build on each element as the month goes on. I appreciate that on your site you’ve shared a bit of your process. Is there anything else that has changed from that set-up?)

 

TC: I love dark paintings with a pop of color. The dark background usually makes the color pop even more. As for objects to paint, I usually go with whatever touches me deeply, perhaps on a visceral level.

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

TC: My setups are always based on a visual poetry of objects. Typically I have one strong light source, objects that interact and complement each other but always a strong sense of design. Eventually, I am going to try to work more with a cooler light source to make it feel like I am painting from natural light. Natural light is usually a little less dramatic and the colors tend to be cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

TC: I don’t use all that much technology in my process. Normally I will do a drawing for a painting and then I scan it, and blow it up to the size I want to transfer to canvas. Other than that, I do tend to create fake vintage items. Mostly because they cost way too much, so I will print them out and doctor them to look older than they are. Same with the drink painting, most of them are coca cola or water instead of mixing a cocktail.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

 

TC: The only technology I have is a bunch of different lights that are warmer or cooler and wider so smaller than what I use now. I use the computer to scan and print out a drawing to scale. I’ll sometimes doctor things in photoshop but that’s about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics while in the process of finishing each of your pieces?

TC: I wish that I cared more about my posture while painting, haha. I do exercises outside of painting as I play basketball and run a lot. I find that running helps me with working out problems in my painting, it really helps me stay focused as they complement each other.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage? (Is there a specific part of your kit that you are extra careful in transporting and handling? If you own a Mac, there is a saying that Mac users tend to clean their computers more often…so it’ll be interesting to hear your response about that!)

 

TC: Haha, I do have a Mac but I don’t clean it all that much.

I clean my studio all that time, it’s actually a routine that I do almost every day. I don’t try to ever hide the fact that I’m a painter and sometimes wear my painting clothes out to dinner with my wife (where she always says, why are you wearing that?).

I’m also really bad at cleaning my brushes at all. If a brush is bad I throw it away but sometimes it becomes a new tool to paint with. I love accidentally finding new things out like that. A crappy brush could come in handy sometime in the future!

 

 

 

LL: Goodness! So…instead of the bits of paint that gets stuck in your fingernails (and maybe some bits that gets missed on your hands and arms), you opt to wear the clothes! Is this ‘Rebel Painter Todd’? (‘Painter Represent’? Or could it be a mindset thing? The clothes build the mindset? So when you’re back from dinner, you can go straight to being a painter?)

 

TC: Haha, my idea of clothes are more about comfort.

 

I am not a fan of faking who you are or even hiding what you do. When I was at Ralph Lauren they were all about wearing these fake costumes and pretending to be a certain kind of person. I don’t pretend to be anyone other than myself. Sometimes the shoes of a fisherman can tell a story in themselves of where the person had been.

 

I am who I am, I don’t hide it and I love what I do.

 

LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when transporting your work?

TC: I hate transporting my paint gear but it’s always worth it to get a good painting. I often go into New York City to paint the model with other artists or at the Art Students League. It’s always a pain, my gear is big and clanky and I try to be as small as possible but when you have about 20 tubes of paint, brushes, turpentine and also an easel, that is a lot of stuff.

 

 

 

 

LL: Do you keep some of your originals either on display on in storage?

TC: I normally send all my work to my galleries. However, I do have a few that I will never sell because they mean too much to me. I have a still life in my living room of all the elements from where I proposed to my wife in Bermuda. I could never sell it. If paintings sit at the gallery for too long, sometimes I’ll just take them back and put them on my wall or move them to a new gallery.

 

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on the photos you share of your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest? (and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it would be quite difficult to do?)

 

TC: Great question, honestly I don’t think all that much about it though. There is just a huge difference between an original oil painting and a digital representation of one. If it moves someone to download it and put it on their desktop then by all means they are welcome to.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your paintings came about? (You can choose your own, though I’m particularly keen on hearing about: ones that you haven’t done an entry about! Also you can include a bit of your ‘subjects’ — are they items on loan? Do you specifically seek them out?)

 

TC: A lot of my paintings come out of a song, a book or an idea that I’ve been pondering for a while. For the painting “Another Story”, I was obsessively playing the album by the Head and the Heart and was just captivated by the song with the same name. I try to paint what I feel though so it’s not just a literal translation. It’s my own poetic interpretation of the song.

I hope when someone sees the painting that it makes them feel the same way that I do when I hear the song. Almost all my props are bought as I mostly paint from life. I like to spend time with the objects and study them. The violin for “Another Story” was bought on craigslist for like 100 bucks. I bought the violin way before I liked the song and then it just all came together, though they used their violin as a fiddle in the song. I would listen to the strings in the song, which are a minor part of the song, and then it just kind of all came together. The background was from a palette that I had out by the shed for over a year that I pieced back together. The elements just all came together and it just felt right.

 

LL: It’s the first time for me listening to the song. And after looking at your painting, then watching the lyric video, somehow the line: ‘Can we go on, as it once was?’ jumps out. Would you say the painting is representative of you wanting to always have a place to find shelter (when life gets crazy)? (You mentioned that the background was from a palette that you had out by the shed that you pieced back together. It reminds me of a desolate but peaceful place…with a shed with a similar palette, that I could stare at for hours…and just feel…safe, and peaceful. Kind of like staring out into the ocean, and instead of the smell of the sea, you smell the foliage nearby. Maybe more like a cabin in the woods…where all the people you love are gathered.)

 

TC: Yes, a lot of the lyrics in that song ring true for me. I do think that the song brings peace to me. When I’m inspired by a song I try to capture the mood of the song and how it makes me feel and then convey that into a painting.

 

I try not to over think it or be too literal, though it got a bit literal in this one as the song has a violin that is used perhaps a bit more like a fiddle.

 

 

 

LL: Have you ever considered selling the elements and the painting as a package? (For example for ‘Another story’ — maybe not all elements…just the violin…or even the palate you stitched together as a separate item.)

 

TC: I have considered selling some of the elements though most objects that make it into a painting are very special to me.

 

I don’t know if a collector would ever buy the object and the painting though, it would definitely be a new spin. Although, I’m sure a few of the commissions that I’ve done for friends or clients are hanging near the object of theirs that I was asked to paint.

 

 

I did a painting named “Birth of a Kamikaze” for Howard Rehs as a commission from his wife for their 30th anniversary. Howard absolutely loved the painting and still tells me all the time to paint more like it. He loved all the props and asked what I was going to do with them so I gave them to him. I think he has them set up under the painting at his home.

 

LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

 

TC: I like to work with a client to find out why they want me to paint the thing they are asking for. From there the best I can ask for is a collaboration of ideas and not to paint what they want. Then I usually will do a poster study or two (small oil paintings sketch) of the setup.

 

I’ll show it to them so they can see the composition and color and if they are good with it, then I’ll pull the trigger and go for the big painting, or whatever size they want. Sometimes its as simple as sending them a photo of the setup to have them approve the composition and elements in the painting. Sometimes its even the client saying you paint me what you would like, so it depends on the person. (I have examples if you want any small poster studies).

 

 

 

 

 

LL: With your website, what process did you go through?

 

TC: I used to design my website as I know some basic HTML coding. I like to present myself in the spirit of what I imagine. I did this for about 12 years but it got to be too time consuming so I now use a template driven site.

 

I like it way better now as I have more time to paint and its easy to upload images.

 

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

 

TC: Here are a few commonly asked questions:

When do you find the time to paint?

Where do you want to go with your artwork?

How do you choose the things you paint?

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting blog entries?

 

TC: I actually gave up on posting on my blog. I wanted to offer something to an audience about learning but found it to be too much about me. I love to offer my work to the public and share art but blogging felt a bit egotistical. I’m not one to talk about myself unless its for an interview. Although, I love to tell stories and give anecdotes for others to learn from.

My newsletter is aimed at building an audience that is really interested in my work. That ranges from collectors, students and family. I find that if you take the time to sign up for my blog then you are really interested in what I have to say.

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

 

TC: I normally take a day or two to write a post. I reread it like 50 times and then have my wife read it. She’s my proofreader and editor as she is way better at writing and grammar than I am. She did not edit this interview though, haha.

 

I am always open to ideas about what to add or take out of a newsletter though. I’ll always ask my students or family what they thought of my post. Critical feedback is always important.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

TC: I definitely have to clean out the basement of my house! I also need to work out more. I kind of brushed working out to the side when I started my atelier training.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

 

TC: I work with 3 students that live in my area. We meet every month to work on still life paintings as a group. They have grown over the years into better painters. I prefer to work in smaller groups and I am always in contact with them.

 

In fact, one of them is more like a second mother to me. She is always helping me with my career and suggesting me to do things here or there and is always telling all of her friends how good of a teacher I am. She offers me to teach out of her studio, its really a blessing to have met her. She found me about 3 years ago when I was in the Artists Magazine.

 

She saw that I was close to her and asked if I would teach her privately. So, I said sure. We talk, text and are always in touch.

 

I also have a student come to my house 2 times a week for private study. In addition, I teach workshops in my area regularly.

 

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Happy Inktober! #pen

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LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

TC: If it is in a teaching scenario or painting scenario I’m always one to try to fix what is wrong. Painting is challenging and if the light stinks or there is something off, you’ll constantly think about it and it on your painting being back.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?

TC: I have an addictive personality (as my wife says). When I get into something I usually immerse myself in that thing. Most recently it was reading books by Joseph Campbell, then it was the books of Neil Degrasse Tysone (and lectures) and now its Michio Kaku.

 

I’m always searching for a good album that will just suck me into it, though it’s been a while. The Head and the Heart was the last album that did that. I listened to that album for almost a whole year, every day (I know that sounds nuts).

 

In addition to loving music and to read, I love to watch sports. If my teams are doing well I put everything aside to watch them. It’s kind of the only TV that I watch but I do watch 1 hour of TV with my wife a day. We love CSI or shows like that.

 

 

 

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

 

TC: I’ve always been fascinated with Eastern culture and thinking. I think because I’ve grown up with western culture and thinking. I don’t look too much at what the contemporary painters are doing, I’m almost always looking back.

 

Today’s art is lacking spirit (in my opinion) and also the technical prowess that all the 19th century French guys had. Not to generalize as there are some great contemporary painters. If I could I would study with Odd Nerdrum or something as his approach to painting is much different than mine and he also paints his subconscious (being a big fan of Carl Jung).

I also have to mention that I meet up with one of my best friends quite often to talk about everything. He is a poet named Jose Canon. We talk about books that we are reading, politics and everything. We always exchange books when we finish reading them.

 

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

TC: I never pre-order anything but here is the last 5 books/dvd’s I have ordered:

Michio Kaku – Beyond Einstein

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Impossible

Neil Degrasse Tyson – Death by Black Hole

Wilhelm Hammershoi – Hammershoi and Europe

The Teaching Courses – Philosophy as a guide to living

 

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (You mentioned one of your paintings being inspired by a track you listened to. Does your music library reflect your work? In a sense, maybe you can grab random albums from your collection and bring it to the gallery, and somehow…it would fit? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Or maybe if you were to pick a track/album for someone to listen to while viewing your work? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

TC: Yes I listen to a ton of music. I’m always looking for something that will just catch me and suck me in. sometimes it’s a lyric, sometimes it’s the mood and sometimes it’s the album.

It’s a fun idea to bring the music to the gallery but it would take a joint effort on their part to want to do that. Most galleries don’t have music as it may get distracting when a collector comes in to buy art.

Here is a small list of artists in no particular order:

 

Radiohead – In Rainbows (Nude, All I Need, Reckoner) also  Decks Dark off the new album

 

The Head and the Heart – Lets be Still (10,000 Weight in Gold, Another Story, Gone)

 

Matisyahu – King without a Crown, Got no Water)

 

Gipsy Kings –  Greatest Hits (Bamboleo, Baile Me, Volare, Djoba Djoba)

 

Wu Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers (Tearz, Clan in the Front, Wu Tang aint nuttin to F wit)

 

Delta Spirit – Bushwick Blues (EP Version), Salt in the Wound, Streetwalker, Strange Vine, Hold my end up (acoustic)

 

Guster – Keep it Together (Come downstairs and say hello, Long way down, I hope tomorrow is like today)

Beck – Sea Change (Golden Age, Guess I’m Doing Fine, Lost Cause, Ship in the bottle)

 

The Killers – Hot Fuss (whole album but love All these things that I’ve done)

 

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away (Australia, Phantom Limb, Sea Legs, Black Wave, Split Needles)

 

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (Whole Album)

 

Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake

 

Yo Yo Ma – Bach Cello Suites nos. 1, 5 & 6

 

 

IamamIwhoamI – Bounty (Y)

 

 

 

Bjork – Greatest Hits

 

Kings of Convenience – Riot on and Empty Street (Love is no big truth, I’d rather dance, Homesick, Cayman Islands)

 

 

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Live and let die #fineart #vanitas

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LL: What are you reading at the moment?

TC: Michio Kaku – Beyond Einstein

Robert Frost – Selected Poems

Joseph Campbell – The inner reaches of outer space

The Origins of Species – Charles Darwin

Space Chronicles – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

 

Bill Nye – Undeniable

Caveat Emptor – Ken Perenyi

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

TC: I love talking to people about their top 10 lists. Books, Music, etc. I don’t go out of my way to look too much for books and such. Just like art, I like to read the classics. If I go to a bookstore I usually sit in the café and draw the people while I drink coffee.

 

I would love to hear your list of books and music though.

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: Prepping a link to list of books and music (TBA!)

 

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

TC: Painting can be tough at times. I like to go visit an artists studio and just talk with them or see their work to get inspired. Art inspires me but not just art. Listening to lectures or intellectual conversation motivates me to read more and dig deeper into my artwork.

 

If I can’t find an artists studio to visit I will go to a museum to see an old masters work or a show that is coming through the city.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

TC: I love romantic comedies on television. Any time they are on I’ll end up watching them. Also, comedies like Super bad or funny movies like that. I also like stand up comedies as well as I love to joke around, a lot. I also love motivational stories like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2IU1h9sG7U

And also the movie “Finding Joe” by Takaya Solomon I watch a lot of Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” interviews with Bill Moyers all the time

 

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Samurai Todd, digital. #arte

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LL: What’s your view about social media?

TC: I am not a fan of social media. I was not on it until my gallery convinced me to do it for my career. If I was not in that gallery I would not be on social media.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

TC: I really only go to sports websites and Art Gallery websites. I do also go to youtube and watch a lot of lectures, mostly science ones though. Also, lots of Radiolab (podcast). I’m always interested in hearing something I HAVE to listen to though, what are your favorite sites?

 

Editor’s Note: TBA for fave site list link!

 

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

TC: I try not to post onto any sites, not even facebook. I’m on it and tempted but there are so many people that are negative on sites, that troll it. I try to read articles (mostly sports) and then not read the comments. I don’t like negative energy.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

TC: Haha, not really. I like to spend time looking at art, in person. Looking at art on the internet is usually a totally different experience.

 

 

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Pedro, oil on board. #art #arte #pintor #painter

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LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

TC: I usually go for a run as I can usually work through a problem. Inspirational movies are always good too like “Finding Joe”. I’ve seen it like 20 times.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists? (via YouTube or specific collaboration websites. Or would the collaboration be more about co-hosting a podcast…like the video of ‘The Guys and A Chick Flick’ you have on your site’s media section?)

TC: Haha, I love that you saw that on my site. I find that to be such a funny experience. I mean, I say “My mom loves my stuff” lmao. Normally the only time I want to collaborate with an artist is to have a show with them. I have a 2 man show with David Palumbo this May.

 

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

TC: I’m interested in technology but I’m also not. It fascinates me but our generation is too addicted to it. I hate that everyone is glued to their phones, it promotes an ADD generation.

I have a mac computer with a Wacom tablet for doing graphic design. I do a lot of random graphic design jobs.

 

LL: With your blog entries, are you looking to write the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

TC: I don’t write enough honestly and I wish that I did. I’ve kind of given up on the blogging. I post to Facebook and Instagram only for my art or to show that I am teaching somewhere or showing somewhere if anyone is interested in going. Other than that, I have a sketchbook with notes and ideas for what I want to do.

 

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from your paintings, which one would be your favorite?

TC: Great question. I don’t’ really have one. I like certain aspects of a lot of things that I have done. I guess I like the ship paintings the most, they feel complete and deep and have a story to tell.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

TC: No, I’m quite the opposite. I like to take my time to build a great idea rather than just hop right into something. I paint when I want to paint and if I don’t then I don’t paint.

 

 

 

LL: For someone seeing your work for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

TC: I hope that my paintings touch them in some way, to add more deep and richer meaning to their life. To quote Horace Mann “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

TC: People who want to make the world a better place makes my soul sing.

 

 

 

 

LL: You mention your wife earlier and also in your episode with Danny Grant. How important do you think  artists’ take their time to choose their life partner? (It’ll be great to hear how you think your partnership with your wife has made you a better artist. Also, if you had the kind of qualities in mind that you were looking for in a spouse in mind, before you even met your wife. There are some artists who feel like sustaining a relationship takes too much of their mental energy, and they would prefer to expend it on their work, so they’d usually not make it a priority in their life.)

TC: I think it is very important to find your life partner. It should be the yin to your yang. Your partner should complement you and balance you in every way possible. My wife is an artist as well, she’s a graphic designer but we went to school for the same thing so she understands it. She has always been supportive of my career.

 

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list? For those interested in supporting you, what would you want them to know? Is there a specific social media platform that gets the most engagement with your network/circle? How did you meet your biggest fan? Alternately you can mention how have you managed to find the people who resonate with the same things as you — and as a result, they resonated with your work. Maybe a lot those that currently support your work have found you through your blog entries compared to finding you via a Gallery? Or Maybe within 6 months of winning a specific prize, you’d get an influx of inquiries and among them people who ended up following your work until now?)

TC: I prefer that anyone interested in my work to contact me through email or through my gallery. I find it a bit more personal. For those interested in supporting me, there is no better way to support an artist than to buy a painting or commission a work.

Most people interested in my work have emailed me but some contact me through Instagram or Facebook which is fine. It’s not my preferred way of communicating as I don’t check them as much as my email. I have received emails after publications, shows and also awards so yes all those things are great ways to get in the public’s eye.

 

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

TC: I would say that my close friends, family and especially my gallery have been the best tribe I can have. They are all so supportive! Finding the right people to support you is tough but I think that if someone senses that this is a true passion of yours that you have to pursue then they will be behind you.

Being relentless in your pursuits helps as well. Find like-minded artists who show at the same galleries or shows that you would like and talk to them, reach out to them, visit their studios. Artists all love talking art with one another, I do.

Creating art can be so isolating at times so having a visitor to a studio is nice.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

TC: I’m interested in adding even more depth to my work. I’m a big fan of reading classic literature and using that as a source to say things. Perhaps even delving into the subconscious. I believe that art is visual poetry and adding that layer to my paintings is always important to me.

I also want to keep evolving to never stay stagnant, be like a sponge. To quote Bruce Lee “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water may flow or it may crash. Become like water my friend.”

 

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

TC: I love to help anyone who is truly looking for what I have to offer but they have to really want it. I offer a lot as a teacher, sharing funny stories and also a lot of things that I’ve learned in all of my training.

 

I find that in smaller groups I work better with students and feel more comfortable. I’m not one for attention so I don’t’ like big groups. I find I’m able to connect more with smaller groups as I like a one on one experience.

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

TC: I love the journey and I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished but the journey is not over. There is still more room for growth and much more to achieve.

 

LL: How can we support your work?

TC: My goal is to keep painting and provide for my wife and I through my art. The best way to support an artist is to buy a piece of art from them. If you want to support me buy some art http://www.rehs.com/Todd_M_Casey_Bio.html or a print http://toddmcasey.com/Prints-for-Sale.

 

 

 

 

* Todd Casey is a painter based in New York. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. You can pick his brain by reading his previous blog entries, via his newsletter, or by attending one of his workshops.

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August – December 2016) between Todd and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Todd that should be included, please do leave a note (opting for your question to be displayed publicly gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community as well as giving Todd the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Please reach out here!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂 In the feed you’ll find related readings from past Q&As as well as curated posts to help artists find new ways to engage with their fans.
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Twenty Five) is posted that would be a companion piece to Todd’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

First time visiting the site? Highly recommended you take the time to check this out!

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*** If you are unable to log-in through any of your social media platforms using this device, and would not like to lose this page, you can use this:

🙂

The Quote Jar: Twenty Three

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Matthew during his Q&A.

I’m just doing music the way I learned how to do it back in the 70’s” – Oscar Hernandez, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

“Music is something that that is really big in my life, everybody knows that, but my first love was traveling. I saw the ships disappearing whilst I was in the island of Mauritius at a very young age and that sense of wonder that is in my music came about before I even played a note of music.” – Jean-Paul Maunick, Guitarist – Incognito

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter/Facebook, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • The Q&A also has a home on Facebook! 🙂 In the feed you’ll find related readings from past Q&As as well as curated posts to help artists find new ways to engage with their fans.

What are some of your favourite quotes?

🙂

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you’ll have to publish it on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook then reach out to me directly to send the link, once I receive it, I’ll embed your feedback or comment!

Q&A #23: Andrew Kolb

 

Andrew shares his journey of being an illustrator, his love for cookies, one of his methods of getting bad ideas out, and how his stinginess has amusingly become prevalent in his approach to investments.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your site I noticed on the upper right hand corner the picture of a fist that morphs into a ‘thumbs up’ if I hover over it. Has that been a new addition when you last revamped your website?

Andrew Kolb: Oh I’m glad you noticed! I wanted a quick link to my Facebook page and a friendly thumbs up seemed like an appropriate gesture.

 

LL: Why do you think you do the things you do?

AK: This can quickly get existential but I think my main driving force is making a strong connection between my mental and physical output. The hardest part, for me, is getting what’s in my head out onto the page. Sometimes it’s close and sometimes it’s not, but I continually strive to better connect the two.

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are as an illustrator?

AK: Oh I don’t feel like it’s a very exciting story. I feverishly drew as a child and continued to do so in my young adulthood. An art teacher directed me towards design, and that’s what I studied/worked as for a number of years. Slowly I realized I needed to transition more exclusively to illustration and the rest (after a slow fade from one into the other while also freelancing) is history!

 

LL: Does that mean you just drew everything that caught your eye? (no particular theme of drawings you were particularly drawn to? Meaning…you didn’t draw mostly…eagles…etc?)

AK: Sadly I didn’t draw nearly enough eagles in my youth. I really liked making something that people could recognize so I often drew existing characters (a trend that carries on to today).

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

AK: Not particularly. It usually depends on the project I’m working on and that will define what references from which I’m pulling.

 

 

LL: Can you share maybe three examples?

AK: Well there are two books that I couldn’t live without: The Graphic Artists’ Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and Business & Legal Forms for Illustrators. These combined are what took me from casual artist to a somewhat legit freelancer.

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

AK: I think the biggest challenge in my learning process is refining my communication skills. It’s ongoing but without the ability to get your thoughts and opinions across to the client, you won’t be able to effectively collaborate.

 

LL: So, a bit more like making sure the client and yourself are both on the same page before going to the next step of the process? (I’m interested to hear your thoughts relating to how you would approach if you were dealing with a client when after you’ve explained to him/her for 3-5 times what your vision is — or why specific changes would be helpful. And they still don’t get it. Would you pull the plug on the project? Refund their payment and mention that you’ve made a mistake committing early on and now know that there isn’t a fit?)

AK: No nothing that drastic. If I’ve committed to the project then I’ll see it through to the end. If, however, the experience was one where neither were really satisfied at the end then I’d probably have to really think on it before working together again. And to be fair, they’re likely feeling the same way. At the same time I’ll also reflect on the experience to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t properly communicating and perhaps I need to approach the conversation in a different way next time!

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who hasn’t paid attention to how they approach their drawings before, so they could have the capacity to write at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AK: I think everyone’s journey is unique but a consistent element for growth is reflection. Look back on your work and try to figure out what you like and don’t like about it. Look at other’s work that inspires you and define what it is that you like. Do the opposite for work that repulses you. Collect this info and just reflect on it.

How can you take what you like and make more of it? How can you mitigate what you don’t like about your own and others’ work? There’s no single answer to these questions but asking them in the first place is what’s most important.

 

LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

AK: An interesting observation! For the longest time I didn’t share process work because I thought it was uninteresting, and yet I was always fascinated to see the processes of other artists. I would say to this hypothetical person that they’re adding beauty to the world and that the kindest gesture would be to share that beauty with others.

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an illustrator?

AK: Perhaps a mix of discipline and perseverance. It’s tough to overcome the early work that you know isn’t your best but you have to keep going if you’re going to get better.

 

LL: Do you keep before and after photos?

AK: I don’t necessarily make a conscious effort but the Internet does a pretty good job of reminding you of your past. I still have people reference work that’s no longer on my site because it’s 5 years old and outdated.

All you need to do is go back to your earliest Flickr post or Tweet to get a quick reminder of where you started.

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

AK: I would say the most important lessons I’ve received haven’t been technical but were more ethereal. It’s important to talk to other people in your industry at different levels (more or fewer years than you) so that you can get a good perspective on how you’re doing. They might be able to provide you with direction or suggestions that you couldn’t conceive simply because you haven’t been around as long as them.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to work?

AK: I like the feeling of getting a lot of work done in the morning. If I finish a project in the AM then it feels like anything that happens after lunch is a bonus.

Is this sensible? No. Is it how I feel? 100%.

 

Adder's Fork

 

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?

AK: I always start with pencil and a sheet of paper/sketchbook. Sometimes it’s just to get the bad ideas out but I never start right on the computer; there’s too much commitment there.

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete an illustration?

AK: It really depends on the complexity of the project. A single character image can probably be done after a few hours, but I’ve also spent hundreds of hours on more complex images. I try not to time my work too much as I find it limits creativity.

That’s not to say I don’t track my hours, I just don’t say I’ll complete a project after spending X amount of time on it.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style?

AK: Genial with a touch of overthinking.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as an illustrator?

AK: This is weirdly specific but if I was paid every time someone said they thought I did my work in Illustrator, I could retire today. I think there’s also a misconception about freelance in general that it’s all weekends all the time.

The truth is that you have to be more disciplined as a freelancer than if you were employed. Yes there are perks, but if you chase those perks for too long then they start to be what ruins your business.

 

No Strings on Me - Captain America

 

LL: Why do you think you get that comment a lot?

AK: Hmmmm. I’m not exactly sure why! Perhaps it’s the relative geometry with which I work or maybe because I don’t do a lot of painterly executions (something I’m working on right now!) so I think the assumption is “not paint = illustrator”.

This is a gross generalization but maybe that’s what’s happening?

 

LL: Can you give an example of how one of your days look like?

AK: No two days are identical but I try to keep to a general structure. I start the morning with emails for 15–30 minutes and then get to “work”. That could mean research or sketching or admin but what matters is that I’m not constantly checking emails. I’ll spend the last 15–30 minutes before lunch checking social media and then I take a break.

That process repeats after lunch (and sometimes after dinner) and I find it helps to break the day up into chunks.

 

 

LL: 15-30 minutes checking email. How are you able to stick with your time limit?

AK: I admit it’s not a hard rule. Sometimes it’s quiet and I only need a few minutes to reply to what’s in my inbox. Really what I’m getting at is that I don’t constantly check my emails. I scan the emails to see what’s most pressing, and then reply to those first. If I have time to start working on a more casual email then I will.

What this helps avoid is an email conversation as that starts to really eat up precious time.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AK: I’ve been exploring more restrictive palettes and, quite separately, trying to be more loose with my execution. I love a painterly aesthetic and I want to leave a softer impression with my imagery.

 

 

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?

AK: Hmmm. Top three pieces of advice/approaches I find works:

  1. Draw every day (in any capacity and without too much filtering)
  2. Read a lot (business books, biographies on people who inspire you, stories about subjects you’d like to illustrate, whatever!)
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself (being unhappy doing the work that you love is a very difficult feeling to overcome).

 

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that it’ll be the take/version you like?

AK: This is so tough to say but I just kinda know. I’ll do a sketch and know ahead of time if they want to change something or not. It’s not a 100% guarantee but once you get to know your collaborators it makes the process so much smoother.

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AK: My day, when planned, is generally structured with emailing being the first half hour of the day, after lunch, and before I wrap up the day. Sometimes emergencies will negate that but it helps me focus when I know I don’t need to check something every 10 minutes.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

AK: The transition from my drawing tablet to a screen based tablet was a big hurdle. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d gotten to looking in a different direction than where I’m drawing, but that mental shift took a while to correct.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

AK: Well I use a mac mini outfitted with a Cintiq 22hd, Creative Suite CS5, and a second monitor to have research/comments visible while I’m drawing. My mouse and keyboard are as integral as the drawing stylus and music or a podcast is running in the background.

I’ve probably also just recently eaten a cookie.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

AK: Not much. I make a few custom brushes but outside of that I find I’m a fairly vanilla guy when it comes to my technology; I just need it to work.

 

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

AK: Not that I can think of! I try to do a loooooooooot of research before I invest in anything and I think I’m so stingy that even if it wasn’t perfect, I’d make it work somehow.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics while working?

AK: I recently invested in a standing desk and that helps a lot. I also make sure to get up for regular cookie breaks.

 

 

LL: Okay…You’ve mentioned cookies twice already! I have to ask for the readers who are cookie fans: ‘What kinds do you keep within reach?’

AK: Well my mum and sister bake a lot so I usually get the spillover from their hobby. But I actually have a very low bar for baked goods and will eat pretty much anything.

But some faves: Chips Ahoy Rainbow cookies, Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Creations cookies, and Danish Cinnamon

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

AK: There is one thing. I invested in a fireproof box that I keep my external hard drives in. That’s pretty much it.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your illustrations?

AK: I keep a few prints on hand for sale; does that count? Outside of that I usually give copies of my work (like magazines I’m in or greeting cards) to my family members cause they like to see what I’m doing.

 

LL: Yes! That counts! What’s the magazine/greeting card limit when you buy?

AK: Oh I’m usually sent a few copies by the client and those get distributed as far as I can go. Immediate family is first and then grandparents and friends are next in line. If it’s something really big (like a magazine cover) then I just tell everyone I know so they can buy a copy and get the client to hire me more because that means sales go THROUGH THE ROOF!

 

 

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest, and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it’ll just be a matter of time before they’ll be paying for what they have done?

AK: Interesting. I can’t image someone trying to pretend their work is mine as what does that get them? Eventually they’ll need to create MORE work and I doubt if they’re that they’d be able to recreate the aesthetic. If they CAN then they’re probably talented enough that they don’t need to use someone else’s work. So I suppose that the law of averages will even it all out.

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your illustrations came about?

AK: The Vacation poster came about simply because Mondo had the license and thought I’d be a good fit! I actually did a bit of a process post about that very project over on my blog.

The opposites poster was for a gallery show in France and it was a lot of fun! It was originally intended to just be that piece but after a while it really felt like it could be more than just the one print. I reached out to the Internet in general and a lot of wonderful people helped me translate it into other languages so that it could get into as many classrooms or kid’s rooms as possible!

 

 

LL: Mondo? (Is that mondotees.com? This is interesting because — there are a lot of ‘tribute art’ out there that is being sold. Would be interested in hearing about your perspective on how you approach it. Would you not put out publicly any art that has a link to a particular brand? Also! The story behind your collaboration with Mondo! Was it because of an existing relationship? Or did you get your art on their site because someone recommended a previous work you did?)

AK: Tribute/fan art is tricky. I try to draw what I enjoy and occasionally that means working with existing properties. With that said, I also like to add a little something new to the mix (perhaps a different style, or an additional story) and I think that’s what caught the eye of Mondo (though I genuinely have no idea how they came by my work). They approached me about a Yogi Bear poster and I’ve been working with them on various projects ever since! They’re a great group of people and really have a passion for the industry.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

AK: It’s tricky. Every client and every artist is different so I’ll only speak for myself; I think the best way to serve the client is to truly understand what it is that they’re trying to accomplish and offer the best solution you can muster. The client may see the problem as one challenge and you may see it another way, but that’s part of the dialogue.

At the end of the day, communication is what’s key. Listening is a part of that but so is being open with how you feel about what they need and what you’re doing.

 

 

LL: With your website, what process did you go through? (Do you do collect notes of the kind of changes you’d like to have, then after 2 years — roll them out?)

AK: Actually, yes! I take note of sites I like and try to parse out why I like them. Those items become a small running list in my head and eventually it spills over into a properly written list. That list translates into rough sketches and eventually a baby site is born!

 

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

AK:

  1. ‘What brushes do you use?’ (I use a few custom brushes and others from Kyle T. Webster).
  2. ‘What software/hardware do you use?’ (Photoshop and a cintiq)
  3. ‘What are your influences?’ (Too many to list!)

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting blog entries?

AK: I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous with sharing and I like how that’s going. Some projects require postings at certain times (days before a gallery show opens, not until after a project is made public) but process work is generally as I’m working on it and it feels more natural that way.

 

LL: I have to ask about part of your Twitter Bio (“…keepin’ it clean…”). Does that have anything to do with the kind of illustrations you do?

AK: Yes and no. The whole “Kolbisneat” moniker started as a double meaning since I’m both a tidy guy AND a fairly genial illustrator.

 

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

AK: Nope! The whole “spontaneous” goal means that I try to not overthink and just share. If it’s a simple sketch on Instagram then that’s okay! There will be more posts like it in the future and one dud won’t spoil the whole lot.

 

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

AK: I guess updating my website is the big one. Not that I’m putting it off so much as I just have trouble finding the time to take on something so big for myself? I’d rather be drawing anyway.

 

 

LL: Would getting someone else to do the work for you an option?

AK: Oh I’d never considered this!

I think when I was doing more traditional graphic design then I’d be comfortable with someone else making edits (usually text or photo retouching). As for illustration, I really feel like they’re coming to me as much for my execution as they are for my ideas so to pass off a stage of the project would be to fall short of what they need.

As for the website, I think I’m trying to be more strategic. Instead of coding from scratch I’m definitely working with templates so I suppose I am happy to release some of the responsibility.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

AK: Actually I am! One of my old design students is looking to get more into illustration so he and I have been chatting about where he wants to go and how he can best get there.

It’s still in its early stages but we’re both having lot of fun! Or at least I hope he’s having fun as well; he hasn’t told me otherwise.

 

View this post on Instagram

Repost of a little Home Alone preview for @mondotees

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: Oh! How did that come about?

AK: Well we’ve kept in touch since he graduated and I’ve occasionally offered feedback on individual projects. So the rapport was already established and we just formalized it and gave the interaction a little more structure!

Again this is my first attempt at something like this so I’ll be the first to admit that I’m making it up as I go along and as he offers feedback. Basically I give him goals to achieve and timelines by which to achieve them. If he doesn’t meet them then we discuss why and revise. If he has questions along the way then I’m happy to chat but I feel something this personal is still an experience to work through on your own.

I’m more like signage on a trail than a tour guide.

 

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

AK: I suppose it depends on what’s annoying me. If it’s something I can change then I start to try to enact that change. If it’s something I can’t affect then I try to remove myself from the situation or change it so that it doesn’t happen again.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

AK: Right now I’m reeeeeeally into Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve always been into fantasy but something about role playing and being a proactive part of the narrative is really grabbing me! I listen to podcasts about it. I read blogs from Dungeon Masters. I read the books; anything I can get my hands on!

 

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

AK: Ha. I rarely preorder BUT I did just preorder the second volume of IDW’s TMNT comic series! They’re releasing the series in these beautiful hardcover books and the first volume is great so when I saw #2 listed I didn’t hesitate for a second!

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

AK: Artists to which I’ll never grow tired of listening: Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Sleigh Bells, Andrew W. K., Theophany. Authors whose work I’ll never grow tired of reading: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan L. Howard.

 

LL: How do you make sure that your media consumption doesn’t overshadow the time you have for your work?

AK: If anything I worry the balance is the other way. I’m so busy with client and personal work that I sometimes forget to take a break! With that said, I try to read every day and am sure to take breaks to see what my peers are doing (both for moral support and inspiration).

 

 

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

AK: Oh yeah! Some of my faves to both check out and thank for all of the help are Chris Lee, Meg Hunt, Kevin Stanton, Jared Schorr, Matt Kaufenberg, and James Boorman!

Some are great inspiration for the business, some are great for the ideas, and all are great for the visual expression!

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

AK: I don’t know if it’s so much about “discover” as it is trusting a few key resources. I try to collate my favourite bloggers and sites so that I can keep up on what they’re recommending for music, games, and books. The Mary Sue and the AV club are two examples of sites with a lot of overlap in tastes. If they’re highly recommending something, chances are I’ll also be on board.

 

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you? During days when you’re not so motivated and inspired…would you read a certain book? Think back on a certain experience? Find something random to do?)

AK: I’m not sure if they’re intertwined. I can be inspired by something but it doesn’t immediately motivate me to recreate it or do something else. If anything, it may get tucked away and not pop up again for months!

But when I’m feeling unmotivated I take that time to do the stuff that doesn’t require any inspiration (invoicing, proposals, all the boring admin stuff that makes the world turn).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

AK: Oh just go to my vine account and look at my likes. They may not all be PG but that gives you a good sense of what makes me laugh.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AK: Oh I love social media! I think I’m inclined to sit back and observe or respond when approached, but that’s something I’m trying to proactively change. Twitter and Instagram have been invaluable in not only growing as an artist, but connecting me with likeminded creatives who’ve helped me and I can help.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

AK: Feminist_Tinder on Instagram and Man Who Has it All on Twitter. Clearly I’m a feminist who enjoys biting satire.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

AK: One collective to which I regularly submit is Planet-Pulp. It’s a great collective and a nice way to keep up with a community in a casual setting.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

AK: Hmmm. I admit I’m guilty of using an RSS feed aggregator so I don’t often visit the actual sites any longer.

 

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AK: I usually go to my vine likes.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

AK: I do! It doesn’t happen very often but when I get the chance I will always say yes to a collabo!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AK: I don’t suppose I am. Perhaps in the big picture (what technology is breaking ground on a global scale and how that impacts our daily lives, but I usually don’t get very granular on the topic).

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the blog posts you have, which one would be your favourite?

AK: Maybe it’s not a single post but I really like my Monthly Media posts. It’s just nice to reflect in some way and while the posts don’t get a lot of likes or reblogs, they do create a lot of conversation and it’s something I value far more than those little hearts.

 

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

AK: I do! But I try to balance that with recognizing if it’s a project that I should just as quickly end. Just because I’ve started something doesn’t mean I need to keep going. If I’ve learned from the experience and I’m no longer enjoying it then there’s no need to keep going (I’m speaking exclusively about personal projects).

 

LL: For seeing your work for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

AK: I’d hope it brings a smile to their face. Or even if it makes them think! Heck if they’re smiling and thinking at the same time then that’d be a dream come true.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AK: Finishing a good book. The first listen of a new album by a favourite artist. Not having to leave the house when it’s a rain/snow storm. Waffles. That perfect bite of a really unhealthy burger.

 

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list?)

AK: All of it! I try to keep up with social media comments but I admit they’re more frequent than personal emails. Tweeting at me with a question will usually get a response. Oh I’d say no matter the platform, brevity is key. I’d rather have two or three emails going with short answers than one email with 14 different questions.

(outside of this interview, of course!)

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet? (Also, if you’d like to give some guidance to those who haven’t found their tribe yet…where they should start…and how they would know they are in the right track…and when they’ve succeeded in finding ‘their peeps’.)

AK: I think a tribe/family is always changing shape. There are people that I really connected with for a time, and then paths change and that’s okay. There’s definitely a core that’s stuck it out with me and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Some are further along in their career and some are right on my heels, but I think what matters most is that I trust them fully with whatever I’m bringing (a problem, a celebration, just a random idea, whatever!).

As to where you should start, just trust your gut. I think if you try to force a friendship and you’re not 6 years old then it’ll be a hard feat to accomplish. Reach out to people you respect and admire and if something clicks then great! If not then maybe it’s just not the right time?

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

AK: I’m really excited to getting into more dimensional work. I’m currently exploring 3D and it’s sooooooo insane!

 

 

LL: This is probably a good time to bring up 1001 Knights. Are you all talked out about the project?

AK: Oh yeah! So Kevin (whom I just mentioned) brought me on board as he’s 50% of the creative force (along with the ever-awesome Annie Stoll.

Kevin pitched it to me as a way to offer a diverse representation of what a “knight” could be and I was immediately on board! It’s been a little over a year in the making and the Kickstarter has gotten wonderful traction! It started out as purely a labour of love for the curators and the concept and I think that’s the best way to get an authentic marketing experience out of it!

Any eyes on my work based on this anthology is truly because everyone put so much passion into the project.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

AK: I really like one-on-one interactions. I love teaching and working with an entire class, but when we get the chance to connect in small groups it really is a different experience. Outside of that, any chance to push someone further is great!

I’m guilty myself of putting too many constraints on my own work so helping others break down walls is oddly cathartic.

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

AK Yes?

 

* Andrew Kolb is an illustrator based out of Ontario. If you resonate with any of the information about him, he looks forward to hearing from you. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his blog entries.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (January-February 2016) between Andrew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Twenty Two) is posted that would be a companion piece to Andrew’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

The Quote Jar: Twenty One

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Nigel during his Q&A.

 

“I never really stopped and smelled the roses” – Phil Collins

 

“The only players on the record were myself, Rob Ellis, and Mick Harvey, and between the three of us we can pretty much play any instrument you can think of.” – PJ Harvey

 

“That’s one of the reasons why I don’t have my own band; I really enjoy playing all these different styles of music.” – Dennis Chambers

 

 

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • The Q&A also has a home on Facebook! 🙂

 

 

What are some of your favourite quotes?

 

🙂

 ** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #22: Nigel Powell

 

Nigel shares his journey of being a drummer, the perils of being self taught, and how learning proper posture early on helped him with his playing.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Nigel, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your YouTube page, you use an alias, and from what I can notice, you don’t put your name in your videos. Is that something you just wanted to have a bit of play with?

Nigel Powell: Most of that is historical. My alias everywhere is sadsongco, which comes from The Sad Song Co., the ‘band name’ that I’ve so far released two solo albums under – my third is in the recording process right now.

I opted for that when I started working on solo stuff because I can’t see the name ‘Nigel’ as very rock and roll or credible! Probably a contextual thing. In my work with other people, especially Frank Turner, I go under my given name, but all of the social media accounts I set up used the project name.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

NP: The bulk of my learning was copying records I liked. I tried teaching for a little while, but it didn’t feel right to me. I just wanted to say to students “go and play along with your favourite album until it sounds right”, because the way you do things wrong is what makes drumming develop and be exciting, and creates original and new drummers with identifiable personalities.

When I was first out and gigging there was a famous drum school in London called Drumtech, and whenever you came across a player who’d learned there you could instantly tell – they were like little drumming clones. They could always play the arse off everyone around them technically, but it always seemed to be lacking soul.

 

I do practice though. I used to do it much more, working on rudiments (which some drumming friends had showed me), working things out at home. We play so much with Frank now that I don’t practice in quite the same way any more, I much prefer playing with people in front of an audience. It develops different skills – my technical level has perhaps declined a little, but in terms of vibe and making a band sound good (which is the top of my priorities anyway) I’m as good as I’ve ever been right now.

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

NP: I worked through the first half of Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin a few times, and will still occasionally revisit to see if I can break through to the second half.

From time to time I work on pages from Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, sometimes hands and sometimes feet. But as I say, I’m on the road so much that that ‘woodshed’ kind of approach to my playing has taken a back seat to actually playing shows.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

NP: Definitely wouldn’t want someone to go through the same journey that I did. If I had to give advice it would be to get into a band with your mates at school (or even more than one band), and learn your instrument in the context of how it makes music with other people, rather than from a technical perspective.

Take some advice from knowledgeable people about simple technical things – how to hold the sticks, letting them rebound, that kind of thing – otherwise you will find yourself hitting a wall later on and having to unlearn things. This is a problem I still come up against because of my self-taught approach.

But as to drumming as a philosophy, find your own, and invent yourself.

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

NP: Motivation is harder now than it was. But the biggest challenge is always working through something that you can’t do, starting it slowly and patiently making it work. Do what I say, not what I do – I get frustrated and I’m bad at being patient!

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer? (That you were able to build up the knowledge and skill — and able to apply it)

NP: In terms of career success, I can only really put it down to always keeping going and staying positive, even when things were bad and I really should have given up pursuing it full time if I had any sense. It’s a boring answer, but I was very careful to plan myself financially and be careful with money so I could afford to ride out the bad times and keep going.

I had other jobs, responsible jobs, and things I was good at, but I always considered myself a drummer who was doing something else. You want to be in for the long haul as a drummer? Stop smoking and drinking, you’ll save yourself a rent’s worth of money every month so you’ll never be cornered into having to give it up!

 

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice?

NP: There have been times when I didn’t practice. Depression and negativity visit most people at some time, and I would sit on a sofa and play video games rather than improving myself. I think anyone who says that never happens is probably not telling all of the truth. I’m sure even Gavin Harrison has occasional days when he thinks “bugger this, I’m going to the cinema”.

But luckily there’s always been a gig on the horizon, so eventually I need to get myself back in shape or risk making bad music, or not giving someone their money’s worth. That’s the thing that truly drives me – live, someone has chosen to take a percentage of the money that they earn, possibly doing something crappy that they hate, and they’re spending it on coming to see the show you’re contributing to. If you have any respect for that, you always do your best.

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

NP: The advice I picked up was all in bits and pieces. I never had a specific mentor, but gleaned little bits of information here and there. No-one was really invested in my learning except me.

If anyone deserves props it was my mum – my drums were in my bedroom above the kitchen, and I used to play for hours while she’d be cooking or something. If it was me I would have gone insane within a month!

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

NP: Ummm… hard to say. I try to think about whatever music I’m playing first.

I guess my personal preference is I don’t care it it’s simple or complex, but I’m looking for something original, even if it’s just a subtle twist that you wouldn’t necessarily consciously notice. Take the new Frank song ‘Get Better’. When we were arranging it straight away I wanted that relentless ‘four crotchets of snare drum’ feel. After shifting things around a little bit, it became that with the Sabian Chopper as well, which gives it the slightly unusual sound.

Then on the left foot for the second half of the first verse I’m playing hi hat tambourine, but it’s a three bar phrase, so it shifts across the pattern as the verse goes past. I don’t think anyone would notice unless you pointed it out, but it gives a subconscious texture. Then in the second verse the hi hat tambourine switches to the backbeat to give an injection of urgency, but the kick takes over on the shifting three bar phrase.

Something like that sums up how I think of my drumming style – trying to find ways to make it different, without it being obvious or self-consciously different, and it still rocking hard.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a drummer?

NP: I’m a fan of some prog rock, so a few people who’ve known that have assumed I’m going to be playing massive fills all over the place. But that’s not really me. I do, unequivocally, love Phil Collins, but I equally love the work of Rob Ellis on early PJ Harvey, and in my work I tend to take that approach – slightly weird patterns, generally repetitive to create an original groove – more than the prog.

 

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished? (Idea, mental picture of how the end would look like, then chart it out? or are there people that note some input, then you go about finalising your work?)

NP: My concepts for things are all instinct, which I then use my right brain to realise. If it feels right when it’s done, it is right. I’ve never charted anything, except for occasionally in rehearsal where I’ve needed to remember something.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

NP: I’ve been practicing a bit more lately, trying to get my feet a bit more solid when playing double kick and getting through the glass ceiling of speed on my left hand. But that’s technique, not music. And everything that is ‘next’ for my playing is musical, not technical.

So it depends on what songs need their emotions refining and focusing as to what I need to do on the drums next.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

NP: I’ve always sat up straight. I saw a Dennis Chambers video ages ago where someone described his posture as “like he’s welded to a lamppost”, and I took that on board.

Thank goodness my idolisation of Phil Collins didn’t extend to mimicking his posture; now that his back problems have come to light, watching old videos of him just hurt to look at.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down? (both feet?)

NP: Heel up for loud, heel down for quiet. Although my right foot has a weird thing it does on double, which is kind of a heel-toe thing, but not like I’ve seen anyone else do. The perils of being self-taught!

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

NP: I do half an hour of rudiments on a practice pad before we go on, to get the blood flowing through my hands.

 

 

LL: Favourite Shoes for Drumming?

NP: I’ve got a pair of Macbeth sneakers which seem to make playing easier. Totally psychosomatic I’m sure.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to play?

NP: When there’s other people to play with. Other than that, no preference.

 

LL: What’s your default gear set-up? (You did a walk through on your kit in this video — do the details still hold true currently? or have there been minor changes in your set-up since filming that?)

NP: That video is pretty much up to date. Little bits and pieces change from time to time, but that’s the basis.

 

 

LL: Do you keep track of your kit bits?

NP: I’m a bit of a hoarder, and I know where it all is.

I run a backline hire company with the bassist of The Sleeping Souls, so I own a few more kits that we hire out, but I love them all dearly. I still use my older drums for various things depending on what I’m doing. I recorded my third solo album recently and used my old Premier Genista concert tom kit and loved it.

The Dive Dive album we recorded recently used one of the hire kits with a 24” kick.

 

LL: Are you a bit of ‘gear-head’?

NP: Not really a gear head. If it works and sounds good then I’m happy and I’ll hang onto things forever.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

NP: I’ve changed hoops from time to time, but no, not really.

 

 

LL: Do you vary your kit tuning?

NP: More once it’s right, I stick with it. Snares go up and down a bit in the studio, and there was one song on the new Frank Turner record where I tuned the floor tom to a note for a specific purpose.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

NP: I look after all my stuff, clean it regularly (I polish most cymbals as well, except for hi hats). My Frank Turner kits are in big flight cases, and they live there between tours. I have an identical kit in the states, which also sits all quiet and lonely in it’s road cases when we’re not there.

 

 

LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs?

NP: Not really. I try and look after myself the whole time.

 

LL: When recording, are you pretty much hands on when mixing your kit?

NP: Depends on the project, but usually I make my drums sound the best they possibly can, and then trust producers and engineers to do their thing with it. I’ll throw my opinion in, but the best results usually come out of collaboration.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos on your YouTube channel?

NP: No schedule. If something interesting comes up then I’ll share it.

 

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

NP: I’m not mentoring anyone in the drumming sense of the word, but I have two children of my own so maybe there’s a bit of mentoring involved in that.

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

NP: Not that much annoys me, but unless it’s directly affecting me or someone I care about I try to let it go. There’s quite enough conflict in the world without trying to kick off because someone posted a YouTube comment you don’t like.

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

NP: I geek out about movies a lot. I love watching films for enjoyment, and then again looking at screenplay structure, editing, shot choice and other stuff. I’m totally an amateur about it, but they are excitingly complex things to analyse.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

NP: I’m sadly not that big a listener. I’m going to blame that on age – I think at a certain point everything begins to sound like something else that you’ve heard, and it’s harder to just go “that sounds COOOL!!!” at things. I’m too analytical.

Occasionally though things do have an impact. A few years back the first two The Streets albums blew me away; recently Mew and Honningbarna (a Norwegian punk band) have really been exciting me. I tend to fall back on familiar things too much though. It’s not healthy, but it is what it is.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

NP: ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’ by Iain M Banks. One of the Culture novels. Only ever feel like I understand about 50% of what happens, but I really enjoy them anyway. Planning on re-reading ‘God Bless The NHS’ afterwards.

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

NP: As above, not really. It’s got better recently, because my girlfriend is a music journalist, so there’s a constant flow of new releases knocking around.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you?)

NP: They are definitely intertwined. I find inspiration usually comes from doing something, and once you’ve got a kernel of inspiration it motivates me to chase it down and finish it.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

NP: Obvious answer, but comedy. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my Norwegian girlfriend to loads of UK comedy she hadn’t seen, and getting to revisit it. The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, Father Ted. All awesome!

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

NP: I have a very private personal Facebook which I really enjoy as a way of keeping up with friends, and I’m very selective about who I’m in contact with on there. Otherwise it’s excellent being able to have communication with people who appreciate your music through my more public FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I think it’s fabulous – face to face can be a bit threatening sometimes, but the technology allows a non-threatening way of having good two-way communication.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

NP: I visit Ain’t It Cool News most days. I used to visit Global Warming News daily, but it reading the comments was bad for my blood pressure, so not any more. Other than that, BBC News keeps me in touch from the road, and I click on The Hunger Site religiously.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

NP: I don’t, no. It’s not really my personality to be trying to foist my opinions on others.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

NP: Kids. Comedy. Cooking.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists online?

NP: I haven’t done it, but I would love to. I don’t know if people assume I’m too busy with Frank, but I don’t get many offers. I’m always up for anything!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

NP: I’m competent at it, and I’ve programmed the back end to a few quite complex websites using PHP / MySQL. And from a professional point of view I keep up with what’s happening and where things are going, definitely.

 

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

NP: I upload things I think will interest people. So if the stuff I’m interested in shifts, then I guess my uploads will change too.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

NP: I think I am. But I’m always cautious about making any pronouncements about what kind of person I may or may not be. That’s a question for someone who knows me!

 

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time (or attending one of your gigs), what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

NP: It depends on the video. A bit of entertainment, some info they might be interested in, something to briefly raise a smile. Whatever it happens to be.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

NP: My kids.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

NP: Twitter and my public Facebook. Or just chatting after a show.

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

NP: I’ve always felt like a sole agent. I bounce around and am happy in a lot of people’s company (although usually I vastly prefer one-to-one over big group interaction), but I don’t really feel like I belong in a particular ‘tribe’, as you put it.

 

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

NP: I’m looking forward to getting the Dive Dive and Sad Song Co. albums out this year. Otherwise, I like to be surprised. Opportunities present themselves, I just have to be open to go “yeah, ok!”

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

NP: I taught on a BND Music for a long while, and I enjoyed trying to inspire kids through that kind of course. Other than that I try to make my default position to be ‘generous’, but again that’s something to ask a third party, rather than me pompously talk about how great I am.

 

 

 

* Nigel Powell is a drummer based out of Abingdon. You can check out more of his videos here and learn more about him on his Wiki Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-June 2015) between Nigel and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Nigel that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Nigel the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
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  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

The Quote Jar: Twenty

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Scott during his Q&A.

 

“When you’re looking at the world that way, worrying over if somebody knocked over a saltshaker 47 years ago, that’s kind of stupid.” – John Fogerty

 

“There isn’t enough time in the day or in my life to please everybody” – Tiger Woods

 

 

 

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂

 

 

What are some of your favourite quotes?

 

🙂

 ** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #21: Scott Raines

 

Scott talks about his journey as a guitarist, the importance of spending time with your chosen instrument, the importance of having a coach (no matter where you are) and the reason learning/practicing for him was never a chore.

 

Editor’s Note: Before you start reading Scott’s Q&A – play at least minute of his cover of Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’. Let those chords and notes get in your veins!

 

(Word of warning: after checking out Scott’s videos on YouTube and reading his Q&A, you might be struck by the desire to fly to where his next solo show is going to be)

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through your YouTube videos I notice that you have quite a variety of artists you cover. Is this a reflection of your own listening habits?

 

Scott Raines: With covers, I generally play what I like (my taste has a wide range). Sometimes I’ll learn or play something special for someone just because or if it’s something I like and is requested at a gig 😉

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

SR: I was about 8 years old when my playing journey began. Growing up in Slocomb, AL, there were no local “mentors” or influences really. When I was 9, I had a really good friend (Johnny Hendrix), who was my age and knew some chords and played CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival]. Sometimes we had music books with chords, but mostly we learned by ear.

Randy Thomley moved to Slocomb with his family from Michigan.  He turned me onto great rock like Ted Nugent, Montrose, etc. Of course, as I got older and travelled, I had many influences and mentors.

 

2 of my best friends, my older brother and I formed a band at very young ages and were playing honkytonks at the ages of 13 & 14 (my brother was older). We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that we needed to sound like the records we were listening to. So we would put the needle on the record and learn stuff note for note. There is no better ear training than that. We didn’t have another band in town with which compare ourselves, but only to the bands/artists themselves on the records. We blew everyone away from very young ages. The older bar cats/musicians didn’t know what hit them.

 

I grew up in the Church of Christ (no instruments), which is known for their awesome singing and vocal arrangements. I was hearing harmonies from the womb. I have always had a natural ear for harmony because of that.

 

 

LL: What pulled you to travelling?

 

SR: I knew I wanted to play music from a very early age. As soon as I was old enough, I hit the road. I took a break from traveling while my daughters were very young. They are older now, so I am enjoying traveling more again.

 

LL: Were there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

SR: As a kid, my problem was keeping my fingers from bleeding from playing so much on a very cheap guitar.

 

Most of my challenges came later when I crossed into other genres or between playing acoustic and electric (which are really 2 different instruments technique-wise). I never had a problem with motivation. I was going to do it/learn it, period. I would just listen to and play with the music, jam with people and study until I got better. Learn stuff note for note, then use the concepts and apply them to my own playing, etc.

 

I get blocks and hit ceilings, as I’m sure everyone does. That’s when you go see live music, get on YouTube and watch some greats, go jam with friends or put on some old music that takes you back to what got you into music in the first place.

 

 

LL: Does that mean now you’ve learned how to pace yourself? (making sure that you don’t injure your fingers? Or did you just find a way to protect the tips of your fingers as a kid – maybe with something like Micropore Tape?)

SR: As a kid, small Band-Aids, then superglue worked well. After you have played for so long, you and your fingers get in shape and it doesn’t bother you any more. Playing regularly keeps them in shape. I often play with heavier gauge strings, which keeps them strong as well.

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

SR: I was turned onto SCALES AND MODES in the Beginning by a friend (Mike Barnes) who was/is an amazing player who trained at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now MI – Musician’s Institute]. I was already playing much of that stuff I learned by ear, but this book enlightened me on some of what and why I was playing some things (scales, etc.). I don’t think it really changed my life or anything.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a learning plan for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

SR: For me, playing guitar is mostly right-brained. It’s a feel thing. It’s a passion thing. My thirst for theory didn’t come until later when I wondered why I played what I played. My advice would be to explore the technical side as well as the creative. Feel what you are playing, but also explore what is going on under the hood of what you are playing and why.

 

Take lessons, get mentors, jam with artists much better than yourself. If you are really serious in making a living at it, go to where the music business is; L.A., Nashville or New York City.

 

Start writing your own stuff from day one! Learning covers is good in that you pick up technique, feel, etc., but don’t spend too much time on it. Put a band together and write your own stuff, no matter how bad is sucks. Just keep writing!

 

If you are seriously learning guitar (or ANY other instrument), consistently practice with a metronome. Rhythm is your job. Take it seriously! If it is your job to start or count off a song in a pro show, you’d better have a click in your ear or metronome on stage in order to start it at the correct tempo. There are too many factors that can affect your inner clock (butterflies, adrenalin, distractions, etc.).

 

As good as Tiger Woods is, why does he still have a coach? The best drummers in the world come to practice and to the gig with a metronome. That’s all I will say about that.

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a guitarist?

 

SR: It was never a chore for me to “practice”. My body and soul become one when I have a guitar in my hand. I can literally feel my blood pressure even out. You hear people speak of God-given talent. Maybe there is some of that, but I tend to believe it is more of a God-given passion.

If you have true passion for something, NOTHING gets in your way and “can’t” is not an option. Yes, running scales can get tedious, but by keeping your eye on an end result/goal, it is just a necessary thing. Task over time is the only way to get great at something.

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

SR: Over the years, I have learned to not waste time inventing the wheel and go straight to someone who is doing what I want to know how to do and ask them. I call it Continuing Ed. Ask them, jam with them, pay for a lesson or whatever it takes. I have played with some amazing guitarists over the years and I have to give credit to Jack Pearson, one of my current coaches/mentors.

Jack takes playing guitar to a whole new level, stepping into multiple arenas (genres, techniques) and drops jaws wherever he goes. I try to see him every few weeks when I make it to Nashville. I will pay him for a lesson, we will go to dinner and then we’ll go out on the town to see some great players.

 

I learned a lot by watching and playing studio sessions. Good session players, engineers and producers are incredible to watch. The way they create such masterful arrangements on the fly is just amazing. Hearing myself on tape put things in perspective. I had to practice more!

 

LL: Would you mind sharing some of the recent lightbulb moments you’ve had during your time with Jack?

SR: Jack and I are friends. I have never really taken formal lessons, though I would have liked to go to a music college like MI if I could have afforded it. Teaching guitar is a source of income for Jack, so I support him by paying him for lessons and subscribing to his online guitar school while I get top notch jam time and custom direction on new perspectives of the fingerboard.

 

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

 

SR: Get a chord book/app, learn the basic chords and go for it. I enjoy picking up instruments that I don’t play and banging around on them. This has inspired some pretty cool original ideas for me.

 

LL: Can you share three music theory related ideas that helped you become a better musician?

SR: The Nashville Number System (Number System is part of general music theory) has been the most useful for me. Generally, I can hear a song for the 1st time and have it mostly charted by the time it gets to the end. Great tool in studio sessions. Most of the jam sessions in my life, players are yelling numbers to each other, not chords. It is also invaluable when the singer decides to change the key of the song. The 1 is the 1 no matter what key it happens to be in.

 

Sight Reading staff certainly has its place.  I just never find myself in those places.

Not really music theory, but I have to mention that if you want to be a great musician, it is VERY important that you learn to listen to what else is going on. Do not stampede on top of vocals, someone else’s solo, etc. What you don’t play is MORE important that what you do play! Playing music is not everyone banging out the same chords from start to finish.

The arrangements are carefully designed for the instruments (including the voice) to work together. This may mean that you don’t play a single note until the bridge and when you do, it is only 3 notes (maybe not even chords). The same goes in jams. When someone else is singing or playing a solo, SHUT UP or at least bring your volume WAY down. It is a conversation. Let the others speak, too. All this depends on the genre as well. There are exceptions 😉

 

Another thing that has helped me is learning other instruments’ parts in songs. Organ voicing is very fun on guitar. Sax solos are very similar to guitar licks and lend another perspective/approach. Piano parts are a lot of fun on guitar. I have played guitar synth and would learn many parts like organ, horn lines/stabs between guitar parts, etc.

 

Finally, BE NICE! Just like everything else, it is all about relationships. Learn something from everyone you meet and be nice to your fellow musicians, club owners, managers, producers, etc., but especially your fans. Nobody wants to be around an ass—.

 

 

LL: Do you do your own chord experiments?

 

SR: Every time I pick up a guitar! I play with inversions, especially on an electric. One of the best things you can do to learn your neck is to jam with a song a thousand times and play it different every time. Play each chord in different locations of the neck every time it comes around, on 2 strings, on 3 strings, skip strings, play the chord in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, with the root on bottom, 5th on the bottom, 4th or 7th on the bottom, etc. There is no end to how many ways to play a simple song like Take It Easy. Per my answer above, learning other instruments’ parts helps with this, too.

 

LL: What’s your view on alternate tunings?

 

SR: I have played with alternate tunings in other artists’ music, but haven’t really gotten into it with my own music. I enjoy drop D, open A, D & E for slide. I wouldn’t hesitate to go there if I heard something I needed to capture that couldn’t happen in standard tuning.

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

SR: Yeah, there are endless ways to approach playing this song (and most songs). Depending on my mood, I may play a song different every time. Sometimes I want to play very sparsely to let a song breathe and bring more weight to the voice/lyrics. Sometimes I will play a piano line/part instead of guitar, etc.

 

Being a hired gun, my playing will have different colors, depending on whom I’m playing with, what instrument I am playing, the setting or music style. My playing style will always complement the song or type of music I am playing.

 

I do a different thing with my right hand, in that I hold a pick, but still use my other fingers for picking (unless it is a full on strum). I use this technique with acoustic and electric guitar.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you come across about you — as a musician?

SR: Musicians/artists come in a wide variety and unfortunately many generalized opinions of them are justified by the actions of the egotistical, undependable, entitled and generally unprofessional actions of more than a few. It is a tough business and it is an uphill battle to make a living as an artist. Too few artists know anything about the “business” of their craft. It is very important to learn that side as well.

 

When I was young, I played by ear and would nail the songs I had learned. I had no idea what I was playing or why, but anyone who heard me thought I was amazing. This was NOT the case! Sometimes I would land on the wrong dot 😉 Ouch!

 

It’s funny when you see someone who shreds some song(s) and you want to jam with them and explore with them, but in reality, they can’t as much as open jam on a 1-4-5 blues. All these great clips on YouTube are cool, kids playing Eruption, or whatever, note for note, etc., but I always wonder if they have anything else. I like to think so.

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

SR: I’m almost always happy, but never satisfied with where I am knowledge-wise in general. I’m a student in life and am always hungry for knowledge, especially musical knowledge.

Right now, I am working on my voice a lot. After singing all of my life, I have only recently learned about chest voice, head voice & the mix. There again, I’ve done it for years, but never really knew what I was doing and why.

I am currently spending a lot of time writing for a couple of different projects.

 

LL: Do you think you’d be on the lookout for a vocal coach as well?

SR: I heard a lot about Brett Manning in Nashville as the guy the record companies sent their new artists to in order to dial their voices in. I ordered a couple of programs from him that really helped my technique. When I am in Nashville, I like to schedule a one on one session with them.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

SR: D’Addario electric strings and Elixir acoustic strings. I mostly use V-Pick for electric guitar (mostly a custom Tradition) & mandolin. For acoustic, I mostly use Dunlop Tortex (1.14mm). I use heavy pics unless I am playing a strumming rhythm acoustic track in the studio where you want to hear the sound of the pick on the strings, which syncs with the drummer’s high-hat.

I have many guitars. Which I use depends on the gig or style of music I am playing. My favorite is Fender Stratocaster (I mostly play a Jeff Beck model). I like the percussiveness of a nice clean single coil. It can get very funky.

I have Strats, Teles, Larrivee, Taylors, Peavy Wolfgang, Ovation, Brian Moore, Kramer, mandolin, dobro, ukes, etc.

 

LL: Do you go for D’Addario strings for your electric because they have extra flex in them? (for bends…and other nutty electric stuff. I have the impression that Elixir is great primarily for their longevity. Are those part of the choices for you?)

SR: I don’t break D’Addario strings like I do other brands and they sound and react really well. Elixir strings are for the lively sound and yes, for longevity.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

SR: Different gear for different genre/gigs. I use different amps for electric; Rivera, Fender or Marshall usually. If backline is provided, I usually get Fender, Marshall or Blackstar, depending. I’m pretty much ready for anything in my pedalboard.

If we fly to a gig, there is backline provided, so I will only bring a guitar or 2.

 

LL: Did you have to do any set-ups adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

 

SR: I’ve never had a guitar come straight from factory perfectly set up for me. The setup depends on what I’m going to do with it.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

 

SR: With experience, you learn what you like. If I’m playing slide, of course, I don’t want the strings lying on the neck. Unless I am playing really hard rock, I like my strings up a bit so I can get percussive without splatting out.

 

Acoustics have a better tone when the strings are not right on the neck. Heavier strings help, too. I use .013 Elixirs on most of my steel string acoustics.

 

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

SR: If I’m doing a cover solo gig where people make requests, I have my iPad to pull up lyrics from the Internet so I can play songs on the fly. Plus, I can pull up songs to see what key they are in so I can get as close as possible. I play many songs on a gig that I have never played before. The ones I like, I’ll fine-tune later and keep.

 

If playing a show/concert with one of my regular bands, no. We follow set lists for those.

 

If I am hired for a show or session, I will have charts, probably on an iPad.

 

And of course there is always this mental note: Don’t screw up, because if you do, it will show up on YouTube and you’ll have to live with it the rest of your life!

 

No, seriously, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. EVER! Everyone makes them.

 

LL: Would any clips from solo gigs end up on your YouTube channel in the near future?

SR: Other people upload most of the videos I see on YouTube, so I imagine they are out there. I know the APB videos pop up all the time from videographers and people in the crowd. I like it. I can critique myself.

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

SR: Before a show, I warm up with scales on guitar. Some voice warm up. Then I’ll sing and play a bunch of songs with my acoustic to get all warmed up. Ideally, I like an hour to warm up.

For practice at home, it depends on my mood.

 

LL: Have you always been mindful of ergonomics when you play?

SR: All that just comes naturally. For guitar or voice, you should be very relaxed. That being said, I don’t like to sing sitting down. Even on solo acoustic gigs, I stand up for a better voice. Economy of motion is very important when playing any instrument.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

SR: Since I have regretted almost everything I have sold, I pretty much hang on to my gear. I love going through old boxes and finding cool pedals I forgot about.

 

 

LL: Do you buy consumables in bulk?

SR: We have string and pick endorsements. When I buy, I always buy in bulk. Saves $.

 

LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

SR: 50% humidity. Most of them are hanging in my music room, ready to pull down and play when the mood hits.

 

LL: Would you have a humidity monitor in the room?

SR: I have a temperature/humidity monitor in the room. I use humidifiers to keep the level at 50%.

 

Editor’s Note: Scott tells me that this picture he shares on his Facebook page belongs Jake Peavy (a dear friend of Scott’s and current baseball pitcher with SF Giants). Scott clarifies that his (with 50% humidity) is similar, but smaller.

 

 

LL: With your videos, what process do you go through?

SR: The ones I have done, I just start the machine and start playing. The first ones I put up (after being urged by so many people to do so), I turned the recorder on and played about 20 songs straight through. I uploaded it, split them into separate songs, trimmed the beginning and end and uploaded them. What you see/hear is what you get. No editing. Plus I like everything dry. Just guitar and voice. If it doesn’t sound good, I have nothing to blame but me. Practice will fix it. Not reverb 😉

That reminds me of one of my favorite comments on one of my initial 20 videos. Some guy said something like, “Dude, you are awesome! You are good enough to go out and get paying gigs so you can buy a new shirt!”.


LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos?

SR: I always have stuff I would like to record and upload. It’s just the challenge of time. I hope to get better at it.

 

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

SR: No, I just post what I want to when I have time. The idea of setting it up is a bit daunting. I need to do it more so I get more comfy with the process.

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next? Has your approach to learning changed in the last 5 years?

SR: I have grown more in the last 10 years than my previous years combined. I have craving for knowledge and for the betterment of me.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

SR: On my life path, I try to learn as well as teach, serve or inspire any place I can. As humans, we have a duty to do these things.

 

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

SR: I am rarely annoyed or offended. I have learned that it is really easy to shake things off and move on. Life shouldn’t be that serious. We fail, we learn from our failures and hopefully next time, we’ll remember the lesson we learned. #fallforward

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

SR: Technology, business & investing (especially real estate).

 

LL: Are there artists that you would hope more people should listen to?

SR Music is a very personal thing. Some types of music or particular songs, solos, etc. touch everyone differently. Find something that moves you and get lost in it.

 

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

SR: Right now, I’m reading “How To Use the GoPro Hero 4”, by Jordan Hetric. For building a strong life foundation and attitude, I recommend books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), The No Complaining Rule, Energy Bus, Training Camp (Anything Jon Gordon). I like business news, I follow the stock markets as time allows, I like commercial real estate and retail stats and trends.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

SR: Every day! I mostly Google to find information. If I want to dig deeper, I look for a book.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

SR: I stay motivated because I’m always feeding myself spiritually, mentally and physically. I play guitar, read positive books, I avoid negative input as best I can (sometimes this requires staying off of social media…or ALL media), do yoga, bike, run, swim, workout, crossfit, etc.

 

 

LL: What makes you smile?

SR: After a couple of days on the road with the Artimus Pyle Band, my face hurts from laughing. Great guys that love to have fun!

 

LL: I’ve been checking out your Facebook page photos and couldn’t help but be amused! Is enjoying life (including not being afraid to look silly for the camera) what you aim for each day?

SR: Every day, I want to lift others up, learn something, better myself and HAVE FUN!  EVERY day.  And I am a HUGE t-shirt fan 😉

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SR: It’s a great tool and a curse. I jumped right in, however with all the political and social rants that has taken over; it takes a lot of weeding out and unsubscribing. I mostly just post and try not to browse much.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post at forums?

SR: I never got into forums much.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

SR: No. I’m all about content.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

SR: Grab my guitar or go for a run.

 

 

LL: What do you enjoy most when collaborating with other artists?

SR: I love that music in an international language. It has been the catalyst for dear friendships across the globe. We may not speak the same language, but we can speak musically endlessly.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

SR: After drinking the Apple Kook-Aid, I am mostly Mac now. I love my MacBook Pro. I could not function without Dropbox and Evernote. My home recording software is Presonus Studio One Pro. And I love building out Excel files for real estate investment and cash flow analysis.

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

SR: Probably will change things up as needed. 

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

SR: I enjoy looking at videos that pop up on YouTube after a run of shows. I like getting the crowd’s perspective.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

SR: I’m a note taker. I have to get my ideas down and “whiteboard” them so I don’t forget or lose the vibe I had when it hit me. I can add to, edit or trash it later if it doesn’t do anything for me.

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

SR: I hope to inspire.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

SR: Playing in front of thousands of people and directing/connecting them in unison (hand claps, applause, singing), flying down a mountain on a single track bike, jumping out of a plane, overcoming my limited mindset and pushing through a ceiling…any ceiling.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

SR: Messaging on social media is probably the quickest. I don’t think YouTube has messaging notification outside of email. If it does, let me know.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

SR: I am open to all opportunities. I would love to jam with someone in every country on earth.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

SR: Our Church is very hands-on in the community and around the world. I don’t know an organization that does more in the world than ROTARY. I am an active Rotarian and the mission trips I have been involved with have fulfilled my soul.

 

 

* Scott Raines is a guitarist based out of Asheville, and is a walking jukebox (ask him how many tunes he can whip out!). He looks forward to realising his dream of jamming in every country in the world — and is open for an invite to visit a country he has not been to, and jam. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014 – July 2015) between Scott and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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