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Your eyes tell you they’re photographs. That’s exactly what they seem to be: complex, colorful faces with paint on them. Your mind, seeing no reason to think otherwise, accepts the perception as reality. But something about the surface of the art compels you to think again. How can photographs yield such a realistic consistency? It looks and feels as if these photographs have skin–textured skin. Drawn in by the mystery of it all, you look up the artist for more information: Eloy Morales, hyperrealist painter based in Madrid, Spain. Painter you think to yourself. Somehow, they’ve made a mistake and misprinted information. But they haven’t. Your eyes have. Looking again, more closely this time, you realize that the crystal clear photographs creatively staged with bright colored paint are oil painted self portraits.
It seems unreal that this internationally renowned artist started experimenting with paint when he was only 4 years old. But ever since 1995, Morales has catapulted his childhood experiments with paint into an ever growing career. “I try to show my inner world in my work,” he told Daily Mail, the UK online news website. Hence his love for painting faces. For Morales, the face is a public gateway to one’s inner world. The textures present on the faces of his subjects, whether artistic or physical, illustrate an inner world that viewers may not be privy to but are nevertheless intrigued by. Less focused on physical aspects, Morales enjoys capturing the ethereal world through his painting. For example, his painting, “Francisco with Butterflies,” evokes an imaginative, poetic feeling on the face of an older man. From the pale white color used to recreate Francisco’s face to the wrinkles on his forehead to the facial hair to the closed eyes to the blue butterflies, the amount of detail devoted to the piece is incredible.
It’s no wonder Morales’ paintings are completed in tiny pieces at a time. Full of discipline and patience, he fills in one small pigment at a time, blending it if necessary. “It’s all about creating smooth transitional tones,” he states in a video illustrating his process. That’s how he achieves such layered details that resemble photography. Watching him paint almost feels like a time lapse as the image slowly spreads across the canvas, colored oils mixing and blending together to form images that look exactly like their photographic counterparts. With such a meticulous process, it should come as no surprise that it takes Morales a month’s worth of eight hour days to complete one portrait. He also prefers to work alone in his studio intentionally located far from his home. Intentional or not, this solitary work habit has helped launch Morales’ latest series of self portraits.
The conceptual self portraits, as Morales calls them, visually depict the painter’s complex relationship with paint itself. Holding the belief that everything we do is a self portrait, the series reflects Morales’ emotional and creative journey. Photos showcasing a rainbow of paint on his face seem to speak to the vibrant life art breathes into this husband and father. A portrait of coffee brown paint oozing off of his face, however, may speak to the mundane everyday struggles artists sometimes feel. Despite the overwhelming hyperrealism present in his art, Morales prefers not to hold so tightly to labels and tags. Instead, he prefers to think of art as unlimited and uninhibited: free of labels that restrict art to confining descriptions.
Perhaps, the best way to describe Eloy Morales’ art is living and breathing. Despite the pieces merely being oil on canvas, they seem to come alive with one glance. Though silent, they tell stories. Though still, they trigger emotions. Though hyperrealist, they reach beyond a tangible, physical world, tapping into a world that can only be visited through imagination. Though he paints faces, he’s caused faces all around the world to feel something. Known as the world’s greatest hyperrealist painter, Eloy Morales demonstrates the words of Henry David Thoreau: “this world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
Hip-hop changes daily. From the sound, to the look, all the way down to the acceptance of new ideas to expand the culture. I often find myself out of the loop on some things that the younger crowd of hip-hoppers thinks everyone should know because of how quickly things change, and how fast we’re introduced to the next coolest dance, song or artist. Very few people outlast the test of time, typically the artists who stay true to themselves are the ones that remain. The same can be said for lyricists; their command on the mic will always be key to great songs. Lyricism is slowly making a comeback, and Top Dawg Entertainment’s MC, Jay Rock, is one of the true MCs helping to keep the flame lit on the torch.
Jay Rock has a really strong following, and is a part of arguably the best rap group out. Top Dawg Entertainment is the premiere crew of MCs in hip-hop today. With Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock on the roster, it’s safe to say they lyrically have the best lineup of any crew in the game. Kendrick is undeniably one of the game’s heavyweights, but Jay Rock isn’t far behind. Jay Rock’s latest album 90059, dropped earlier this week. After listening to the album in its entirety, I can confidently say that it’s one of the best albums so far this year. The album really depicts what West Coast rap has evolved into. It’s the quintessential West Coast gangsta feel throughout, paired with one of the best lyricists in the industry.
90059, as one of the hooks states, is “the zip” where Jay Rock is from, Watts, CA. Growing up, Johnny Reed McKinzie Jr., better known as Jay Rock, chose to rap instead of indulging in a life of drugs, gangs, an almost certain path to an early demise. Having dedicated himself to his craft and telling his story on wax, Jay Rock quickly became a fan favorite. The stories he tells come from a place that many can relate to, and even if you can’t, don’t worry, Jay Rock’s lyrics, like on his song, “Fly On The Wall,” are told in such great detail that you can see the words turn to images in your mind. This is a song in which Jay Rock collaborated with the legendary Busta Rhymes, and Busta clearly tells him on his verse that he’s next up to blow. .
Support like that has got to be incredibly encouraging for someone that’s been on the grind like Jay Rock has. Busta is someone who often advocates for newer and slept on artists to get the recognition they deserve. Getting the blessings from the “O.Gs” in the game is something all rappers dream of. It brings a certain validity to listeners and fans such as myself, who prefer lyricism over the dances and catchy hooks. For the artists themselves, it keeps them focused and wanting to put in the necessary work to be able to have the longevity of someone like Busta. Jay Rock didn’t reach this level of success overnight, either. He’s put in the hours, and done his homework for quite some time.
Jay Rock first hit the scene in Top Dawg fashion. In 2008 he dropped his first single, “All My Life.” This was some people’s introduction to TDE. The song featured arguably the hottest rapper out at the time, and self-proclaimed “Best Rapper Alive,” Lil Wayne. Wayne was at the peak of his career, and Jay Rock was a new face. He was also one of the people that would end up being responsible for putting West Coast rap back on the map. Sure, we’re all familiar with Compton rappers, and have been for the last three decades. Although Jay Rock was from Watts, a place hip-hop may have never explored on such a big stage, his face was a new one, his story was a familiar one.
Jay Rock grew up like most boys with hoop dreams. Then as time passed, and life started happening, he soon realized his calling was elsewhere. Early on as a teen, Jay Rock admits he dabbled in drugs trying to find a way to feed his family. As the 29-year-old rapper put it, it was at about 18 or 19 that he realized he really needed to focus and figure out what he really wanted to do with his life.
Jay Rock decided to try his hand at rapping, and telling his version of the story. He hooked up with and started a group and independent record label with some fellow California rappers. The Black Hippy was the lead act from Top Dawg Entertainment, and burst onto the scene with a purpose. Prior to Top Dawg Entertainment, many rappers focused on getting signed as being the avenue to measure success. Getting signed isn’t for everybody though, and sometimes it can hinder your growth as an artist. Jay Rock had come to a crossroads in trying to further his career, and decided to try work with another group on a different independent label.
He had left briefly to pursue his dreams with Tech N9ne and Strange Music, who welcomed the then underground Jay Rock with open arms. His decision to join Strange Music was cool with his then former group and label mates of TDE, and there was no bad blood between the parties. Jay Rock spoke on of his time with the independent label, Strange Music, on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club. He said that he was able to learn a lot from them, specifically Tech N9ne. Adding that the reason he left is, “it’s hard to get where you’re going on a train that’s already moving.” Strange Music was moving with a full head of steam when Jay Rock joined, so it was better for him to go back to TDE, a ship he’d helped to build.
It was at that time that some advice he received repeatedly from his dad, had began to make sense. “When things around you start to change, you just stay the same. Your time will come.” For a long time, he wondered what that meant. But as soon as things started to change around him, it all started to resonate. Jay Rock didn’t change up, his surroundings did and a few of the people around him as well. By staying true to himself, and continuing to work hard, TDE and TDE fans were excited to hear that he had returned.
With so much talent over there at TDE, you might wonder just how much those guys learn from one another? Or how do they motivate each other to put out such quality music? Jay Rock touched on that briefly in a recent interview with MTV after his album’s release. “That dude (Kendrick) don’t sleep with this sh-t. That’s what gives me inspiration to keep going. We all learn off each other and feed off each other’s energy.”
The West Coast is back and here to stay. Jay Rock is almost certain to have a meteoric rise to the top of the game with this sophomore album. And no sophomore jinx seems to have worried the veteran rapper. 90059 was done in classic fashion, with something true hip-hop heads from each generation will appreciate. He provided us with something you’ll “Wanna Ride” to. The album is his “Telegram” to the rest of the industry and “The Message” is Jay Rock is bringing the heat!
– Blake Holmes
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Tom Ford, the former creative director for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, has added film director as one of his titles. Ford is the director of the A Single Man, an American drama film which was released last year. This Austin Texas native once had his eye on becoming a movie star, not a fashion designer. Ford set on a path and allowed his heart to lead the way.
“When I was young, I wanted to be a movie star. But I realized that you have no control being an actor. So I went to architecture school in NYC, because I was crazy about buildings. Then I began to realize that I got more excited about Vogue coming out each month than I was about my projects. I also realized that the way I approached architecture was with a somewhat fashion brain,” Ford said in an interview with thefashionspot.com.
He went on to study interior architecture at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. During his senior year he became interested in fashion while working as an intern in the Chloé press office. During his first year of college, Ford was a model and an actor in several commercials.
By the end of his senior year Ford knew for sure that he wanted to pursue a career in fashion. After he finished up at Parsons New School for Design in France in 1986, he moved back to New York to begin his professional career in the fashion industry. After many interviews he landed his first job with Cathy Hardwick, where he worked as a design assistant for two years. In 1988, Ford began working for Perry Ellis, which is where a lot of great designers got their start in the world of fashion. But he knew that working in American fashion was not an absolute passion of his and that he would have to broaden his horizons in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a great designer. It wasn’t until 1990 that the dream would become a reality. That year he was hired on as Gucci’s brand chief for the women’s ready to wear designer. Within six months of working for Gucci he was moving at a fast pace and begin designing menswear and shoes.
Due to his hard work behind the scenes he was promoted to the Creative Director of Gucci in 1994. Ford was credited for putting the glamour back into fashion by introducing Halston-style velvet hipsters, skinny satin shirts and car finish metallic patent boots. Ford has been known for his sex appeal, and when it comes to selling clothes the ad campaigns for the brand are very appealing to the eye.
Ford told thefashionspot.com “I suppose everything I do has sexual undertones, but I don’t set out to make everything about sex. My clothes are more about sensuality. What I do is dress and beautify the body. My feeling is, if you have something beautiful, then show it. I don’t start out by saying to myself, What can I do that’s sexy? It’s more that what I find beautiful is also sexy and sensual. That doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily making clothing to go out and pick someone up in.”
The fashion designer was also credited with helping transform Gucci when it comes to revenue. By the end of his tenure at the company in 2004, Gucci was valued at over 10 billion dollars. Leaving Gucci was something that was hard for him to do and was due to what he called a “mid-life crisis.” In an interview with CNN he discussed the emotional breakup.
“It was terrible. I think it came at a time in my life when I was possibly due a mid-life crisis anyway. I worked so hard all my life to get to a certain point. There’s a wonderful quote that says a mid-life crisis is when you get to the top of the ladder only to find out that it’s against the wrong wall. So, perhaps some of my priorities weren’t in the right place. But, I took a little bit of time and cleared my head. Even though I didn’t want to leave Gucci at that time and it was quite traumatic for me, I tried to learn something from it. The thing I learned was that I never ever in my life want to retire.”
In 2005 Ford partnered with Domenico de Sole who was the former chief executive officer of Gucci to produce his own line Tom Ford which features menswear, eyewear and a fragrance collection. He opened his first store in New York City and now has 21 stores across the world.
One thing that can be said about Ford is that he takes concepts and images that he loves and reinvents them as clothes, bags or shoes so that they will inspire similar connections with consumers.
Tapping off his dream of being an actor, Ford decided to try his hand in film directing. Ford has his very own production company called Fade To Black. In 2009 he released A Single Man, which is based off of Christopher Isherwoods’s 1964 novel. The film is mainly about a gay professor and his struggle with suicidal thoughts after the death of his longtime partner who was killed in a car accident. Taking five years to produce the film, it was well worth the wait for everyone. The film received wonderful reviews from the Venice Film Festival.
She captured him so perfectly: his dark shades, full lips and creative swag. The vibrant colors used to create his sweater simultaneously demonstrate her creative license and his unique style. Ironically, his name described her painting with ease: notorious. He, of course, was Notorious B.I.G. and she was was notorious for her art. A self described Jill-of-all-trades, Danielle Mastrion paints on walls, canvases, engages in graphic design and even dibs and dabs in photography. Her murals, bright, bold and culturally relevant, cover several walls in Brooklyn with socially conscious narratives. Illustrating the lives of well-known icons, her art functions like documentaries endlessly playing on city streets. But this extremely talented yet laid back street artist never imagined she’d end up creating murals.
“I come from a super fine art background and I wanted to master oil painting,”she told Frank151, an independent media company. “I didn’t go to school to become a muralist, street artist, or even [an] aerosol artist, which was the furthest thing from my mind.” Instead, she explained, her work naturally progressed from canvas to walls as a friend noticed that her paintings continued to increase in size. As a result, this technically trained Parson’s School of Design graduate found herself engrossed in the world of public art. Along with that though, she proudly carried her Brooklyn heritage. As a native New Yorker, Mastrion enjoys exploring the city’s history through her art. Her murals, for example, range from dedications to Babe Ruth to tributes to the Beastie Boys to Jay Z to Billie Holiday.
But Mastrion’s narratives are not always rooted in New York. They tell the stories of icons from all over the world. Channeling her inner activist, she painted a mural in dedication and solidarity for the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, the worldwide response to Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 270 Nigerian school girls. Joining her artistry with the activism of civilians, political leaders, diplomats and celebrities all across the globe, Mastrion illustrated global citizenry through her art. She’s also painted the late Nelson Mandela and Trayvon Martin. Illustrating her love for cultural icons in Europe, she created a mural for French painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp.
One of Mastrion’s most compelling murals is “Malala Yousafzai,” the young girl from Pakistan that survived a brutal attack from the Taliban. Adorned in a fuschia hijab, Malala’s hazel eyes speak for themselves; they speak of freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. The eyes, a key element in all of her art, symbolize an artist’s ability to look at the world and express his/her opinions freely and creatively.
“I didn’t think that I do this but I’ve noticed from seeing pictures of me working that I always start with the eyes,” Mastrion told Frank151. “I think if you don’t have the eyes right when it comes to making portraits then you might as well not continue.” Her precise dedication to such a small part of the face reminds me of a quote by art critic G.K. Chesterton. He said, “There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.” While both Mastrion and her art are full of knowledge, wisdom and cultural intelligence, the eyes of her subjects, reminds viewers of stories, people, songs, and moments in history that bypassed the mind and captures the heart.
Danielle Mastrion creates art that makes you laugh, smile and think at the same time. She’s not afraid of making bold statements. Commenting on what she’d do with a million dollars, She stated that she’d pay off student loans and then blamed the U.S. government for her debt. She also said she’d buy her mother a house off of the beach. It’s these kinds of stories that Mastrion reveals through her art: narratives that highlight humanity. But be warned, this technical artist has and continues to kick butt in live painting art battles, one of her most prized accomplishments.
With her work featured in not only New York but Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Washington DC, Israel, Mexico, Cuba, Berlin, Paris and London, it’s no question why she’s successful. What I love most though, is that this self-declared beach bum tells it like it is. I hope her artistic eye never fades and that her work continues to tell the stories we love best: those of our heroes, our advocates, our cities, our songs and our memories.