Issue #6 2021
FEATURING ROGER ROBLES PHOTOGRAPHY & LEGENDARY ARCHITECT GEORGE RANALLI PHOTO: ROGER ROBLES
Lon Levin Editor at large
Jade Dressler Editor/Contributing Writer
©2021 Levinland Studio All Rights Reserved “AM I CRAZY?”, Pg. 5 The Editor expresses his feelings about how crazy you have to be to be an artist. “UBER-ARCHITECT” GEORGE RANALLI, Pg. 6 George Ranalli is one of the finest architects working today. His work is iconic and unique and what he has to say matters. TEACHING KIDS TO HEALTHY COOKING, Pg. 12
Caryn Antonini, the creator of the “Early Lingo” learning program is at it again creating a cooking up a tasty new project.
DAVINCI: MOVE OVER, Pg. 17 Multi-talented Roger Robles is classic in his approach, thinking and has mastered multiple disciplines of art. A “NATURAL” CREATIVE FORCE, Pg. 22 “Curb Your Enthusiasm” producer, Linda Balaban is nonstop creating great new projects with her own bent. ART AS PERFORMANCE, Pg. 28 Anna Dart is not only a talented artist, she’s poetically open about her life and work. THE BUSINESS OF ART, Pg.34 Andrew Conningsby wanted to be a pro tennis player and ended up as a savvy art business executive with a thriving company that represents scores of artists worldwide.
REAL CREATIVE MAGAZINE is a subsidiary of Levinland Studio ©2021 All rights reserved. Lon Levin/Real Creative Magazine (RCM) All content is the property of RCM and cannot be copied or used without the expressed written consent of the publisher
“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.” - Émile Zola
Photography by Lon Levin
my opinion by Lon Levin
extremely enthusiastic. Have you ever thought to yourself, I must be crazy having a goal of succeeding as a artist? Along the way you've been praised, criticized, ignored yet you persist. What is that all about? Why do we continue? I've asked myself this so many times I've given up asking. It is what it is,...right? Years ago I was months away from graduating from UCLA School of Fine Arts. My teacher at the time was famous painter, Richard Diebenkorn. He looked at my senior project and offer this advice. "You need to find another profession." He went on to explain. "It's not that you don't have talent, you don't strike me as committed to your art and to make it as an artist, you need to be all in... totally crazy about your art."
“Ball of Confusion” Illustration by Lon Levin
"Was I crazy?!" my father yelled at me when I asked him to finance my latest idea. ""You need to join the real world!" After a lot of fighting and arguing with my parents we agreed to co-finance my folly. I would get loans and scholarships and they would match it dollar for dollar. In addition I had to get a part-time job. That added up to 40 hours of classes, 40 hours of homework and 1520 hours of paid work. I have no idea how I made it thru that gauntlet but I did and I graduated Art Center as an Advertising/Illustration major. Soon after I started getting freelance projects and in time a job as an art director in the entertainment business. For 23 years I created art, flm campaigns, movie trailers and online advertising for several different studios...and now,"still crazy after all these years" I am painting for myself and loving every second
At that moment my already fragile ego took a major beating. Was he right...was I faking it or did I really care about being an artist? Ever felt that way? I graduated in June of that year and had only a vague idea how to get work. I'd sepnt my whole life in school concentrating on how to render figures, mix paint and copy master drawings in charcoal. Maybe my father was right, I needed to get a real job. As luck would have it I met a girl Marilyn Keast, who was attending Art Center College of Design...the old school on 3rd street. She suggested I take a look at enrolling in their master's program as a painter. I made an appointment to see the admittance supervisor soon after. When I arrived for my interview I walk thru the halls that were covered with all sorts of student work. I was stunned to see the level of professionalism and knew I needed to go there if I was ever to have a chance to succeed in the art world.
So, if you feel lke a "ball of confusion" about your career choice in the arts, feeling like you must be crazy... never fear you're on the right track. 5
A while back I contacted George and asked if he’d agree to an interview. It was a long shot since
I didn’t know him or anyone
that did but it was worth a shot.
was pleasantly surprised
when he agreed and even more surprised at how gracious he was to me.
the interview to laying out his page with the great
design work he’s done it has been a delight to deal with him.
When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What or Who were your influences? I was a happy kid who grew up in the Bronx, New York. My parents supported me to explore the arts because we all loved to sing and dance. I learned to play the drums at school, and when I was ten-years-old, my parents drove me to Manhattan to perform in a network television show called Star Time Kids.From then until I graduated from Pratt Institute School of Architecture, I saw myself headed for a career in music. 7
“While technology is a necessary driver of innovation, technology alone is not sufficient to generate ideas of value.” I had a summer job for a neighbor who made spectacular architectural scale models of buildings like Huntington Hartford’s Paradise Island. My boss and I shared a love of jazz music, so I began to explore architecture to the soundtrack of Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus. My most difficult and frightening childhood experience was when I almost lost my right arm to a malignancy at 17-years old, except for a successful, experimental stem cell transplant surgery. After a painful recovery, I remember feeling enormously grateful for cutting-edge innovation, and I kept in touch with the surgeon for decades afterwards, and always sent reprints of my project publications. While attending college, I performed as a percussionist with ensembles, and luminaries like Etta James and the Johnny Morris Quartet featuring Toots Thielmans. A few times a week, as soon as classes let out, I would change into my tuxedo and dash off with a roll of drawings and a pair of drumsticks under my arm. My family and the musicians were always supportive, but the other architecture students must have thought I was nuts. Etta James was the first modern artist to influence me. The first time I accompanied Ms. James during her stirring delivery of At Last!, I had brought along some timpani mallets to try out, and when the song ended, she turned and whispered, “Well that was cool,” which shocked me so much that I almost passed out. Ms. James was a bold and elegant artist who introduced me to the idea of carrying forward the legacy of an artform into a newly enriched idiom. 8
Tell us how your background played a part in your choice to be an architect? And did your stint as a jazz drummer factor into that decision? My earliest memories of architecture are the old Penn Station, the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, and an astonishing view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s partially constructed Guggenheim Museum, on a misty evening, from the back seat of my father’s Pontiac. After graduating from high school, I worked as a professional musician for a few years while my “day jobs’’ kept steering me towards architecture. A high school course in mechanical drawing qualified me to work at the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation as a draftsman in the industrial design division, and Bell Telephone Company’s Construction Drafting Department, and finally, a small architecture firm. My interest in architecture bloomed as my career as a musician was taking off, but the two roads diverged, as the great poet said. Do you see a link between your musical rhythm and the rhythm of your architectural design? Music and architecture share rhythm, texture, harmony, proportion, and dynamics. In music and architecture, rhythm — whether regular, alternating, flowing or progressive — is realized in social space. When an element repeats, the intervals between those repetitions create a sense of rhythm that can yield wildly different outcomes. For example, the Parthenon is an iconic master
work that adopts a regular rhythm, whereas the repetitive rhythm of the International Style movement has left us with many places that people have a hard time caring about. The history of architecture leaves a trace record of the relationship between the phenomenon of rhythm and human perception. Has the evolution of technology in architectural design affected the client participation in the process? Particularly the ability now to do 3D walkthroughs and visualizations. Does that impair your creativity or enhance it? Our clients are our design partners. Years ago we used large scale physical models and handdrawn renderings to represent design concepts and elements of form, mass, materials, and details, and today, we produce these materials with the assistance of the computer. While technology is a necessary driver of innovation in architecture today, technology alone is not sufficient to generate ideas of value. For me, architectural design always begins with sketching by hand. For many years, I taught a course at Yale University called Descriptive Geometry to architecture students, and I suppose this experience left me with a deep appreciation for the importance of the role of hand drawing to architectural design. The details in wall panels, doors, chair backs and intersecting wall design, stairs, etc. Seems to be a common theme in your work. How did that evolve? I do have a particular fondness for designing doors and windows, and I always tell young designers to think of windows or doors as special occasion.
“Our clients are our design partners.”
How do you determine what materials and/or color you’ll use in the design of a project? Is that governed more by the client or the natural surroundings of the project?
as outcomes-based models, even though, generally, value is rarely reflected in architect’s fee schedules, which hurts the economics of architecture, the bottom line, and the role of architecture to society.
The importance of materiality to architecture, and the emotional power of color, can not be overemphasized. Inspiration for materials selections comes from the setting and those people who will live with and use the project. When I began to adapt abandoned factory buildings for reuse as residential dwellings back in the late 1970’s, the needs of the family, and the remnants of the building’s industrial past-life would converge as a powerful source of inspiration, and I began selecting materials like sheet steel, which had not yet been fully housebroken, for the interiors of these new loft-style apartments.
What advice do you give to young Architects/Designers who want to pursue projects like you have?
How has the business of architecture changed from when you first started out?
My spouse of thirty-five years and both of our grown children are my heart and soul, and the great joy of my life, and everyone in our family has something to say about architecture.
The business of architecture is an old story. According to American Institute of Architect’s data, U.S. architects design about $600 billion dollars worth of buildings annually, and earn about 4.8 percent of construction value, and for centuries, architect’s fees are either stipulated as lump sums or fixed fees, such as a percentage of construction cost. Perhaps the biggest change in the business of architecture is the use of digital tools to drive innovation, but there is always the potential risk of value going unrealized without inventive new business models, practice approaches, and the willingness to experiment with the definitions of architecture services. George Ranalli Architect is an interdisciplinary practice with architecture as its core competency, which empowers us to generate new compensation models, such 9
Young architects and designers are curious about our interdisciplinary practice model. When young people ask about how our hybrid practice model evolved, we say that today’s problems are too complex for any one profession to solve, and we encourage them to use their own powers of creativity to reimagine not only project typologies but professional practice models. How has your family been affected by your career?
What do or did you do to promote yourself? When I started out as a young architect in the analogue dark ages before the dawn of the internet, the gifted architecture photographer George Cserna played a role in helping me to launch my career, with richly nuanced images that landed on the pages and covers
“For me, architectural design always begins with sketching.”
of media publications, worldwide, reaching thousands of people. The promotional strategy to share complex projects understandably with diverse audiences grew out of the quirky nature of early work that didn’t quite fit in with the mainstream architecture press. Telling the story of a project with sustainable upgrades and retrofits, exterior historic restoration, and striking bespoke modern interiors, including the first residential adaptive reuse of a historic landmark building in the U.S., is a time honored marketing strategy still in use today. What exciting projects are you working on now?
After more than forty years, I have designed just about every project type, and right now we are working on large-scale projects such as the design for a residential school for foster children, and R&D for the ‘greening’ the existing skins of older r esidential, institutional, and commercial properties,to better align them with leading-edge policy changes to encourage drastic reductions in carbon emissions. At the midsize and small scale, we are designing projects for ‘aging-inplace’, the formerly homeless, and beautiful and durable, sustainable single-family homes with good thermal performance, energy
efficiency, water efficiency, resource management, and minimal long-term impacts on our environment. Ongoing co mmissions for custom furniture from our portfolio keeps us tinkering with prototypes for the most comfortable, fanciest dining chair, and the most elegant grown-up bed with storage drawers underneath, and other delightful everyday objects.
“After more than forty
years, I have designed just about every project type”.
The $20,000,000 Beverly Hills pool.
- Photo: Lon Levin
CARYN Antonini The creator of the successful children’s language program , “Early Lingo” talked with RCM Editor Lon Levin and here ’s the interview.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
As a child I was always very interested in different languages and cultures. My parents both traveled and had traveled extensively and brought those experiences to life in our home through food, art, music, stories and décor. Growing up, I was further influenced by the constant flow of international visitors in our home. They taught me about their languages, their countries and customs, and I desperately wanted to visit those countries if I hadn’t already. I was fortunate to be able to travel and study languages at a young age. I was often found with a children’s book in any given language and a dictionary to decode it. Tell us how your background played a part in your choosing to be a children’s educational producer ? As a child I was always looking for a product on the market that could teach me languages in a fun, engaging way. The only thing that my parents or I could find were cassettes and books for adult language learning, which I used, nonetheless. I finally discovered a specialty language shop in NYC but the materials were expensive and not always readily available. As a young adult, I still found nothing on the market that I found suitable for children so I created my own. Tell us a little about Early Lingo and where the idea came from? How has it performed over the years and did it reach your expectations as a learning tool??
When did you first think about performing, writing and producing film as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers and mentors?
Early Lingo has global distribution and is used in school systems in the U.S., Fiji, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It is sold in over 70 countries. We started with DVDs then added a full curriculum, which included workbooks and flashcards. To date we have 65 products. In 2016 we introduced the Early Lingo Language Series App – our entire curriculum, including additional games, a written test section and lessons. In 2018 we launched the Jojo’s
The idea of Early Lingo first came to me after I had graduated Georgetown University. I had studied in the School of Languages and Linguistics, where one linguistics class in particular sparked my imagination for how I could create a program for very young children to learn foreign languages. I was actively encouraged by family members, faculty at the University and mentors. 12
World App which teaches languages through play in a gaming format. My original idea for a language program was originally software based so the app has really proved to be an effective learning tool as it’s truly interactive and engaging. What’s your process when you approach a project? I am old school in the sense that whenever I begin a new project, I love to sit on a sofa with a pen and notebook and brainstorm. I literally carry small notebooks with me everywhere so if a thought pops up, I can write it down. I’ve also learned to make notes in my phone in case the book isn’t handy, lol. Planes and trains used to be the perfect haven for uninterrupted time where I could let my creative process flow. I then create a plan of how execute what I see. However, the key is being flexible because things may not happen the way you envision them or something may just work better, and you have to flex. I also look to see what is on the market, if anything, and how I can make it better and different if it does exist. Then I throw my energy into making it all happen. Tell us about your new endeavor Cooking and Kids? Why did you choose that path? I’m really excited about my new endeavor. My goal is to inspire people to cook and to enhance their lifestyle through small changes. I’m offering fast and easy recipes that save time and money as well as tips and ideas to make any occasion more festive – whether it’s a birthday, movie night, game night or even a weeknight dinner that you want to make special or different to change up the routine.
As a single mother, during lockdown I suddenly found myself without childcare and in a position where I had to do literally everything. I saw two choices – I could either stay in my sweatpants and pull the covers over my head and cry, OR I could embrace my love of cooking and creativity to create something positive for my children - and others. I found that cooking and creating little projects was incredibly therapeutic. I’ve always loved to cook, yet this time around I am more inspired and am constantly thinking up new ways to make things special, whether it’s cutting the veggies in a different way or introducing a new recipe. Lockdown felt like the movie Groundhog Day, and I realized that unless I made little changes here and there, we would all go crazy! For example, it was fun arranging a tray of goodies for movie night and immerse myself in the film with my kids. We could no longer escape to the movie theater, but I could still make it fun at home. 13
You have two sons now. Are they helping you with the new project? It seems like a natural fit?? My boys are ages 8 and 11 and both have been very involved with my new project. We’ve created everything from mock travel videos to kid’s projects to cooking segments, and it’s been great for them to be involved in the process and to learn what goes into creating a new business. Sometimes one will be my cameraman and the other will help edit or offer suggestions for my videos. Inside Edition called at 8:45pm one evening asking if I could contribute to their Mother’s Day show, which we would tape the following morning. My oldest son helped do the cutaway shots for that segment which was an amazing experience for him. I also listen to both of them as they’re the next generation and technology and attention spans move quickly! How do you feel about being on camera now in your cooking show after being the person behind the scenes and co-ordinating everything for Early Lingo? Years ago I was asked to appear on CNN/HLN for a segment about Early Lingo and language learning. I was so nervous beforehand but spent a lot of time prepping myself for the interview. When I arrived, the host could not have been more friendly, and I slowly felt more relaxed than nervous. And when the camera started rolling, it was like something clicked. The nerves went away and I realized that I loved being in front of the camera for a change. I was getting the opportunity to share my passion and my mission which was - and is - really important to me. Since then, I have appeared on all major networks across the country, I’m a regular contributor at a local station in CT and am pursuing more opportunities of this nature. What kind of advice do you give people who want to pursue projects like you have?
No matter what kind of project you pursue, you must believe in yourself. You also have to do your research to see what is out there and how your unique talent and abilities make yours different. Run your idea by your friends and family, but also remember that what inspired you in the first place. You don’t have to take everyone’s advice, but it’s good to listen to others. If people start saying the same thing, then you may want to start doing some work in that area. Then jump in and don’t give up. Be resilient, don’t let a ‘no’ throw you off track. Oftentimes the ‘no’ leads you to something better that what you’d imagined. I also do a lot of visualization which helps me plan my projects and see them through. 14
What do or did you do to promote yourself? What other exciting projects are you working on now?
Using the Freshest Ingredients.
With Early Lingo, initially, word of mouth was really important to me. It helped that I was developing the series while I was pregnant and growing the business while my children were very, very young so that I could share the product with other parents, schools and educators. Social media has been a great way to spread the word about both my businesses and engage with my audience. Interviews (thank you, Lon), podcasts, print and digital media, television and ads have also been incredibly helpful, but social media and word of mouth is something that I engage in on a daily basis in between those larger opportunities. My other current project: I’m co-producing a show celebrating First Responders – and I am the chef! We start filming at the end of this month - more to come!
“It was like something clicked. The nerves went away and I realized that I loved being in front of the camera, for a change”
548 Palisades Drive • Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 TheKBakery.com • 310.573.9900
A very fine artist...
When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
I met Roger nearly 20 years ago when I lived part-time in Rancho Mirage. He was friends with my wife at the time and came to look at my illustration work for a children’s book. We instantly hit it off as he candidly offered some painting tips to me. It was obvious he knew what he was talking about so I incorporated his suggestions into my work. I still use his techniques to this day.
As with most people, something in childhood clicks showing us a path to follow. I am a firm believer in determinism -- we really don’t have the free-will that we think we do and our future is not in our control. Our subconscious is writing a script and we are trapped as actors to play out the part we’re given. One’s destiny is pre-determined by genetics and all other limitations and advantages. The actor has to perform, the artist has to paint, the writer has to write, and the mountain-climber has to reach the summit. Successful people have aligned themselves with their abilities, their inner voice, and the talent for identifying opportunities. I could do two hours on regrets. With hindsight, I can look back at lost moments that might have changed my life, for better or worse. But I just don’t believe it all could have been any different, we can only play the hand we are dealt. We eventually receive all the things we desire.
Later I visited him in his home in Palm Springs and saw his painting and his incredible photography. It was all brilliant and I realize he was a master at both. We’ve remained friends ever since. “I tried to interview him a few times to no avail. However, I persisted and here we are.” Here’s our interview...
Moholy-Nagy, and Berenice Abbott. I never bought into California culture probably because I am a contrarian by nature and hated to identify with groups. But I guess L.A. was the best fit and only option for my interests. After graduation, my parents sold their house in NJ and moved to Taos, NM; I found the artificiality of Hollywood far more grounding and irresistible. This place where illusion and reality blur to meet the needs of every misfit and wannabe probably had room for me. I think I knew early on that I needed something more than the bland traditions of a quiet and safe New Jersey life. L.A. certainly provided an array of crazies who arrived daily by the busload. Even though I rarely participated in the wild lifestyle, the parade was fun to watch. Movie stars came with the territory and I found their delicious insincerity entertaining. But many were also very kind and generous. When I was twelve, my discovery of celebrity glamour photography was a stack of George Hurrell fan photos that my mother collected. With focused lighting and high resolution 8x10 format, the images had a depth and luminosity that I had never seen before. I instantly new this was something I wanted to do. There was no one around to teach me the technical skills, so I figured it out on my own. I persuaded my parents to buy me a used 8x10 view camera with a Commercial Ektar lens. I built a darkroom and little studio in the attic of our house and enlisted classmates for photo sessions. I was up and running. The small fee I charged barely paid for materials, but the learning experience was invaluable.
As a teenager, my parents said I could paint my bedroom any color I wanted, so ultra-white and empty walls was how the boy-cave turned out. It looked like a set from John Frankenheimer’s Seconds 1966. (Rock Hudson told me this was his favorite acting job and he wished more dark roles had been offered to him.) Having his brain scrambled with a hand-drill was a memorable exit. So yes, I did receive limited encouragement but I’m not sure it made a difference in who I am today. My father used to tell me that I would end up digging ditches for a living. So now, every time I have to trench for landscape irrigation on my property or dig a footing for a wall, I think of him! How did he know?
Tell us how your background played a part in your ending up in the art and photography world? I don’t think there was ever any question that some form of image making would be in my future. The challenge was to find an outlet for monetizing my abilities. I loved shooting portraits and got to be fairly competent -- -- by trial and error I was completely self-taught. I also painted portraits. Art was heavily featured in my house; my oldest brother, Julian Robles, was a successful painter and my mother was an artist as well. There was always an art project in progress somewhere under our roof competing with family functions. Just by osmosis, I seemed to absorb the creative vibe.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? I grew up in Nutley, NJ, a beautiful little town twenty minutes from the NYC museums. It was the home of Martha Stewart, Robert Blake, Jacqueline Kennedy’s grandparents, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler (1892-1904). I had an excellent public school education, far better than anything today, but they were civilized times. I received a BA from UCLA where I studied photography with Edmond Teske who was at the center of the avant-garde photography movement in Los Angeles. His circle of modernist pioneers included Man Ray, Paul Strand, Laszlo
In high school I was voted most talented, but all the compliments and praise evaporated when I got out into the real world to find I was just another struggling Joe Schmoe. My first job after college was in the property development department of United California Bank . For one year I suffered the tedious banking bureaucrats. 18
I had my own private office but knew this was only a temporary gig to get my footing for something with more meaning. It was so difficult to get fired; I came in late every day until they finally got the message. One of the executives took me to lunch, he was almost in tears -- it was the first time he had to release an employee. But for me, it was like getting out of jail. It’s funny how things fall into place at the right time. As I’ve said, we are definitely not in control of our future. A wealthy friend suggested that I paint his portrait. I gave him a fair price, but I would have painted him for free if I had known that portrait was going to unlock all kinds of opportunities. His canvas was a springboard for a network of commissions that kept me busy painting for the next thirty years. I was commuting to Chicago and New York for work on a regular basis doing portraits of society people, industrialists, and celebrities. The money was much better than just shooting photos. One of my paintings of Ann Landers is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in DC. Another oil portrait I did of Sir Georg Solti hangs in Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
to bend to a more timeless look. The objective is to capture people at their best moment; I love making subjects look fantastic. I don’t mind seeing grit and grunge in a good photo, but that’s not something I care to do. Clients usually tell me that it’s the best picture they have ever had taken -- and that’s what I like to hear. Harsh reality is everywhere and that seems to be the popular trend in today’s photography. I want to take people to another place where they are idealized. How has modern technology affected your work (painting and photography)? Have you adapted or are you staying “old school?”
You are a master in both photography and painting. Do you consider yourself a photographer or a fine artist (painter)? Why?
The style that I sell is unashamedly “old school” -- no apologies. An art director once told me to pigeonhole my photography, keep it as unique and identifiable as possible and when vintage glamour is required, my name should be first in the queue. That approach has always worked for me. As far as technology, I stay up to date on the last minute of advancements in camera evolution. I’m an equipment junkie and love reading technical stuff. This is a particularly exciting time for photography. New mirror-less full-frame and medium format cameras have taken the industry by storm with a bewildering selection of features all designed to make shooting pictures foolproof. Cameras today are, basically, nothing more than a computer with a lens. Never before has bad photography looked so good!
My vocation is divided into three equal parts: 1. I am a portrait and landscape artist. 2. I am a portrait, product, and fashion photographer. 3. I have a recording library and sell audio transfers (mostly to Sony Music). I own one of the most significant private 78rpm record collections in the US specializing in vintage jazz and historical popular music. I have recordings that record companies no longer physically own, so they hire me to supply soundtracks for CD reissues and Internet streaming. Here’s a link to my YouTube channel that demonstrates the kind of music I have: https://www. youtube.com/user/Prozoot/videos I get easily bored with a steady diet of one pursuit, so I bounce back and forth to keep things fresh and interesting. I’ll be heavily engaged in photography and see a wonderful piece of art, and be instantly inspired to return to painting. Each is a vacation from the other.
Tell us about your microphone collection. How did that start and where are you with it now?
Your photography harkens back to the masters of Hollywood’s Golden Era. Why is that? It’s seems intentional. That period of high glamour was the template for modern fashion photography and advertising. Of course, I admire Hurrell, Clarence Bull, Ernest Bachrach and many other great Hollywood gallery photographers but, for me, the real stars of that period were Edward Steichen, Hoyningen-Huene, Cecil Beaton, and Horst, who all shot for Vogue. They beautifully integrated Continental sophistication with society glamour and fine art photography. My work is highly derivative and I usually ask subjects
I currently have a moratorium on microphone acquisitions. For a while, they were multiplying like rabbits. As with most hobbies, or addictions, the collecting bug bites hard and it can be difficult to refuse these magical machine-age beauties. My collection starts with the first Western Electric condenser from 1924 -- only three are known to survive (Even the Smithsonian doesn’t have one). Another rarity is the RCA Photophone PB-17, the first ribbon microphone 21
What kind of advice do you give people who want to pursue the arts like you have?
from 1931. This was a breakthrough technology that enabled startling realism in sound recording. It was the gold standard for the following thirty years.
To excel in anything it takes a fair amount of obsession. One has to more than want a career, it has to be an intense focus that will redirect all energy and interest to you and what you offer. To be brutal, it is an exercise in solipsism -- casual dabbling will not bring you success. The arts have become so highly competitive that unless one is willing to put their craft ahead of everything else, the rewards are small. Finding luck is the most difficult part -- you know the old saying: “I’d rather be lucky than be good.” Well, I don’t want to be totally cynical, but most of the journey is completely out of our control. The best one can do is prepare well and strike like a snake when the opportunity shows itself. We all get a certain number of chances. I have squandered moments only because I didn’t recognize potential that was staring me in the face. That is were talent comes into play. I have friends with a “Midas touch” -- they always make the right business decision, at every turn. It’s a gift.
The first microphones I purchased were intended to be used only as props for publicity photos. I soon became fascinated with the history and technology behind their development. The art deco and streamlined designs are quite wonderful and I think of them as sculpture. They are displayed in my sound room and I never tire of seeing them. They continue to serve as authentic and highly visual props for musicians. You moved to the desert years ago. How has that affected you artistically? I bought my house in Ranch Mirage in 1995 and only regret that I didn’t come to the desert sooner. L.A. was getting too nasty; the constant gridlock and congestion with hostile grasping people were starting to wear me down. Even now, when I have to drive into the city for business, I count the minutes until I can return home. I live in paradise -- this should be illegal!
The old cliché of never giving up really works -- eventually, your number is called. I can think of several extremely average and even bad photographers and artists who command huge fees and are celebrated. These people are relentless, they are indestructible and always ignore criticism. They forge ahead with complete belief in themselves. After a while, critics, collectors, art directors, galleries, publishers, and influencers start to fall for the sham. The “suits” really want what is trending -- it doesn’t have to brilliant, as long as it fits the moment. The fact is, very few decision-makers have a truly refined sense of aesthetics and taste.
As I drive into the Coachella Valley, I can feel my blood pressure dropping and a sense of calm washes over me. The people who live here are happy and friendly. They are here because they want to be, not because they have to be. Before the economy crashed, I was shooting for Palm Springs Life Mag. A lot of clients don’t mind coming to the desert for a photo session -- after all, it is a resort destination. Last year, a couple flew in from London for photos. Of course, Covid has frozen my creative ambitions for the moment, as with everyone else. So, I am currently all dressed up and no place to go. I can’t wait for the vaccinations to be fully circulated so we can all come back to life.
What do or did you do to promote yourself? What other exciting projects are you working on now? I am the worst at self-promotion. I always feel that if my images can’t speak for themselves, how am I supposed to convince people to like them? Here’s where a good art rep is worth his/her weight in gold. Someone who is articulate and connected can work wonders pushing a portfolio to the right channels. They really earn their commission and the high-quality, high-paying jobs that might be found can dovetail into lucrative long-term contracts. As long as one feels the agent is devoting the proper attention and time to circulate the images, a degree of patience is needed. But if it starts to look like a dead-end, move on. There is a bottom line for everyone involved -- if the work is not getting responses, no one makes money and it’s time for some changes in the product. Always stay flexible and never fall in love with your own work -- everything can be improved.
When I first encountered Linda, she was full of energy and confidence. It was obvious to me her story and interview make a great additon to Real Creative Magazine. Linda Balaban is a production manager & producer, known for Garage, Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000) and Home of the Brave (2004). When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
learned from, performed with and are my greatest friends to this day. Steven Ivcich was a great Chicago mentor of mine for the stage and I had never been able to grasp a method until I met Steven. He would likely object to the idea that he was teaching a method, but I have the notes to prove it!
The funny thing is, I never thought about what I wanted to do as an adult. I have always done what seems to fall into my lap. I think I’d be further along in some ways with clearer vision, but everything I involve myself in feels authentic to me in part because I take my time to get there. My family has been a part of the entertainment industry since the early part of the 20th century, so my sisters and I grew up taking lessons in music, dance and drama. We all work in the entertainment industry. I’m lucky to have spent my formative summers at the most magical place on earth, Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. The arts are seen, accepted and celebrated at Interlochen. I’ve had quite a few mentors throughout my life who each exposed me to high levels of integrity and talent. I spent quite a few years in Boston where people like Dr. Kenneth Cranell, Professor Emeritus and a renowned voice and articulation teacher, taught me more about acting than most of my acting teachers. Lee Wilson and Marilyn Cook, my teachers and mentors at boarding school are some the best classical musicians I have ever
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences? Most of my adolescence I felt awkward and out of place. But I think most people say the same thing. I grew up in Highland Park, IL, a beautiful north suburb of Chicago. I love Chicago and love being from the Midwest. Chicago has the best of everything. Great people, arts, culture, food, events and schools and great public transportation. For me, growing up in Highland Park was tricky. In middle school, in the 80’s, being a musician was not very highly regarded in the popular crowd. Sadly, I knelt to the peer pressure that I felt and dropped my classical music studies in order to fit in, (or at least to stop getting sneered at when I walked down the hall with my flute case). By the time I was a Freshman, I started taking acting classes like my older sister, who was a fabulous actor. 23
One day, he had to go home to wait for a Mac desktop delivery and told me I need to wrap out the job. I was totally panicked! I had no idea how to close the books and I was confused by all the deliverables and where they needed to go! But I must have figured it out, so on the next job, he hired me as the Production Coordinator. After coordinating about 7 commercials, I landed an interview with an HBO TV series and at the time, the producers had a background in one-hour comedy specials (the paperwork trail was similar to commercials vs. episodic so they hired me). I always like to say I became an accidental producer. That series turned out to be Season 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David brought in new producers for Season 3, but kept the crew. I worked for 8 seasons on the show, eventually becoming a producer on it, which spanned over a period of 17 years (long hiatuses)!
Highland Park High School was lucky to have Barbara June Patterson as one of our acting teachers. She raised the bar for all of her students. When it came time for me to register for the class, I didn’t get her as my teacher, and I was so upset because I knew I was missing an opportunity to learn from the best. So, I decided to skip some of my other classes and hide behind the curtain in the black box theater where she taught, taking notes upon notes (I still have them all). I remember hearing a story once about Gary Sinise (who also attended Highland Park High). Gary was asked who he would have thanked if he had won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forest Gump (for which he was nominated). Gary said Barbara June Patterson was one of the people he would have thanked. Tell us how your background played a part in your choosing to be a film producer? When I moved to Los Angeles as an actor, I didn’t want to wait tables. And I wasn’t the dog walking type or nanny. Thankfully, I was offered a 12-day job as a Production Assistant on what was literally my first day here. Quite the experience to learn the ropes in Baker, CA, the gateway to Death Valley during a 120 degree heatwave. I must have done an ok job, because they asked me onto the next job, and the next one. It wasn’t long before I realized they wouldn’t hire me if I had an acting class or an audition to run off to. After almost two years as a PA,
I’m sure you’ve been asked about Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm a gillion times so I’ll try something I hope is different. What character do you relate to best and why? Haha! It’s funny that you ask that question. Because every time someone asks me what I’ve worked on and I tell them CYE, they cannot wait to tell me how all the things that happen in their lives are exactly like an episode of the show. I think that’s one of the things that makes Larry so good. We all have a less than desirable side to us and Larry’s material speaks to everyone’s worst aspects and inclinations. As for what character I relate to - I think we all can relate to Larry, that’s why he makes us cringe. Need I say more?
I was working on a commercial with my friend Jeff, who was a great production manager.
What’s your process when you approach a project? Every new project makes you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. So I guess my process is to not assume I know how it goes, to be detail oriented and to do the work and be prepared with all the info I will need. Having my fiancé Aaron as a business and creative partner has been a great joy. We each bring our own set of skills and work very well as a team Tell us about Arbonne and why you choose that path? Arbonne is a certified B Corp brand that manufactures holistic nutrition, personal care and beauty products. I became a business owner with the company while producing for HBO. Having a side 24
Do you mind discussing the complexities around 72 Hour hold, disclosing abuse to a loved one (and others). 72 Hour Hold is a blog my fiancé Aaron started, in the wee hours of the morning, one day after I picked him up from a 72 hour hold in a psychiatric hospital. He was having suicidal ideation due to medication he was on, posted about it on drum roll . . . Facebook . . . because he felt that to publicly announce his feelings would force himself to be accountable and keep him safe. That quickly led him to a need for the blog and he asked me to co-write it with him. In hindsight, writing helped saved his life during those 3 and ½ years in trauma recovery. Disclosing abuse is not something everyone has the luxury of doing. It’s often not safe for people to do so, but for Aaron he had me, and loving family members. So, coming out with the truth and telling his story was what saved him. (72hourhold.com).
(continued) business is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done and social marketing is very much trending now. Diversifying financially has allowed me to have more choices. I wasn’t able to do all the things I wanted to do while working in traditional employment because my time was limited and there was a very clear financial and success level ceiling. My side-hustle business is the only thing I’ve ever done that’s paid me every single month for 12 years straight. I work for myself now, rather than other people, I have a production company with Aaron (Dissection Media), and we work on developing and producing our own projects. The ability to spend time with my family when I needed to be there most has been critical for me. I believe everyone should seize the opportunity to build an asset and a safety net for themselves. This one spoke to me because it’s a very smart model.
Why did you and Aaron decide to discuss this openly in podcasts? The feedback and support we got from the very first blog entries was overwhelming. It felt difficult and raw to be so public but as we wrote and published articles, so many people approached us to thank us for telling our story because they also had a story. I’m pretty convinced the whole world experienced a kind of spiritual and cultural trauma this last year for multiple reasons that I will not get political about but safe to say, our society is divided and all we thought we knew has collapsed. We find that shining a light on what is happening in our lives is honesty, and far better than the build-up of stressful thoughts that lead to blow ups. We call it the pressure cooker. Gotta let the steam out.
Explain your experience on your social media and why you’re into it? You know how most people have to schedule down time from social media? I have to make myself go on social media. I’m a social media curmudgeon. I never have the impulse to take a photo of what I’m doing and let the world know about it. I think my generation is an interesting one. Computers and ATMs emerged while in our college years, and I never feel like I’ll be able to keep up with the demands of digital life. As tough as 2020 was, I discovered that many people felt relieved to have a built-in excuse to slow down. That said, I do use social media for my business (we raised the funds for our film on Facebook) and I also find private FB groups very helpful for my social marketing business. I’ve got a goal to really learn how to use Instagram (or maybe just to remember to even visit Instagram) but every time I start to look into marketing online, I just feel like I’d rather talk to people one on one. I’m sure by the time I do figure out how to use my social media accounts more effectively, the world will be on another platform. Can you feel the Larry David in me coming out?
What do or did you do to promote yourself? What exciting projects are you working on now? I’m a belly to belly kind of gal. I love talking to people, networking and finding out what’s going on with them. These days, I pretty much live on Zoom. I figure we can all help each other in various ways when we exchange information about all the amazing things we are doing. We’ve just completed our first film Garage, which is a short suspense film about a middle-aged man who’s trying to get his PTSD episodes to stop. We’re in development for the feature version, and while we circulate the short throughout the festival market, we’ll be working with trauma specialists and therapists to help promote recovery for those still suffering the effects. We’ve got a few other exciting projects and we’re feeling quite blessed to be together and to have launched our filmmaking careers with this precious little gem called Garage (garagemovie.com). 26
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. .
annaDART Written by Lon Levin
When did you first think about art as something you wanted to be involved with? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors? My childhood proceeded with a lucid calm, at a measured quiet tempo. Curtains billowing while I rested upon my bed, playing Beethoven, the collection of butterflies I unleashed around the bedroom, being enamoured with my first brushes I won due to some art competitions, me lying back into the flowers upon receipt of a cherished letter from someone dear. My family would talk a lot about the sky, travelling, and I used to read Antoine de Exupery. My mom would paint on wood in red, yellow and black sophisticated birds and create gorgeous compositions of dry and fresh flowers. I remember myself longing to become a dancer, but I was a sick child. So I painted, read the books with illustrations sparkled with candlelight and did some pirouettes in the living room. Once being 7-8 I would draw with my colorful pencils right before New Year’s Eve bell-ringing, at the last moment, because somehow I felt the importance, almost a weight of creating to be able to freeze the time. The day without a painting is a day without a date.
Anna Dart is a multifaceted and a largely self-taught artist who promotes ecological, climatic and social sustainability as well as mental health. Emerged as an artist in Barcelona, Anna Dart was approached by numerous galleries, various international fashion magazines and art festivals; her works can be found in private collections of celebrities. Now Anna Dart travels around the world with her base and representatives in Zürich, Barcelona and London. She plants trees and does charity. 28
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow ? What were your influences?
How has your background played a part in your career?
Being a kid, I had that lightness, grace in my blond almost white curls and seriousness in my eyes. Adults loved me and the teachers strictly demanded from me more than from other kids. A perfect mix of naivety and maturity beyond the years. Looking back, I want to believe that I lived a romance with the possibilities within me, the future before me, and the joy of being alive. I tied up my hair, threw off the childlike clothes, and put on a modish dress and my mom’s pearls. I imagined how one day I will shine in Paris and London. These cities embodied my wildest dreams. The lack of refinement in surroundings lent a sense of authenticity. I used to listen to the sounds of silence, the rustle of clothing, the bird songs. My granny had a breathtaking garden where the apples happily grew. I have never seen more red apples in my life. I adored going to the art school, placing the easel on the floor with the butterflies in my stomach, hanging on it the piece of virgin paper which was probably bigger than me in size. Once my teacher seeing me sick said that I must fall in love... she paused deliberately... with a tree. With the time, I understood what she meant.
I immersed myself in the flowers and in beautiful words. I recreated on paper the nature with tenderness and poetic truth. I learned to be honestly enchanted with little things and be alert with the daily miracles. Some galactical chain of coincidences brought me into La Pedrera House by Gaudí (1906-1912), where my heart is and will ever be. I have been on a date with the genius for more than 5 years. Living him, loving him, missing him, touching him, breathing in his magic. The sensuality of Gaudí’s work is undeniable. So when people keep asking me where the unlimited sensuality of my work comes from? I can easily say, architecture, my environment, those ceiling, the chimneys of the big outrageous crazy master. How did your interests evolve into working on erotic subject matter? And why did you choose to use black and white for such passionate work? I never painted anything erotic (laughs) Sensual yes. My relation with the black watercolour started when my family faced a petty tangle of money worries. 29
It was the only medium I could afford. That particular black color which produced those grey and blue shadows as if it was a burn out photo gave me something that I could not find in words. The words require so much precision and as Bulgakov said in one his novels “the manuscripts do not burn.” What I love about watercolour is that it is free, accidental and unbounded like the Space. And the grey color so empathetic, non-judgmental and noble. It meets my craving for sophistication. Regarding the subject I think I simply respond to the pulse of the audience. Recently I was asked to paint animals with the eyes of humans. I will see.
build a little bit of the name, it feels like there is a stone of expectation on your heart. There is something fine and careless about the beginning, a blaze of perfection and rightness, almost destined to decay with upcoming compromises and responsibilities. Mind this gap between before and after.
Even in those paintings which look less discreet I am searching to express the feeling of connection and love. I hope I will never have to make a false choice between love and art. We deserve to be loved. We deserve to be with someone who grows kindness as flowers in the garden of thought about oneself and towards us. Who tenderly invites us to get out of the comfort zone and gets excited about our little steps of growth. We deserve that person who kisses our cheek in public and gets excited when we explode into confettis because the trees and the sea leave us enchanted. We deserve to be by the side of someone who respects the lack of our sexual experience and delicately guides us hugging us the whole night if we are scared or shy. We deserve to be with the one who commits to us when there are billions of people out there available on multiple apps. We deserve that person who thinks we are the most beautiful being on earth when we get sick and don’t want to watch ourselves in the mirror. We deserve the person who stays loyal when you are sinking in the most deep and dark place of sorrow and waits patiently for us as a glittering light. We deserve to be with someone who thinks highly of us and finds us brilliant. The person who wants us free and wants us love ourselves more than anyone. That person who lets us go in peace if life brings us someone else.
It is impressive how quick things are now, the rate at which things change and become trendy or not trendy. To stay relevant I have to actively invite myself to evolve. Never change what I am about, stay within that framework, but see what else I can do to meet the New World we are living in. I learn about crypto art and tokenization, I learn what the Clubhouse is and how to implement my knowledge of aesthetics and filming to help brands to stand out from the crowd working in “Iloveher Studio” we have recently launched. My team and I want to make the visual presence of companies a piece of art.
The digital image seems to be more important each day. The millenials are already living in the future, they were born with the social media. I would love to ask the millenials for some recommendation and see the world through their eyes.
I am longing to help people to connect with their desirable future through emotions of love and abundance, having my art in front of them when they wake up in the morning and go to sleep. I hope that people will remember me first for my light, rather then for my art though. I want to exhale the extraordinary What do you recommend to younger artists/art directors who are just developing their portfolios? How do you stay up to date on styles/process outside of your projects? The less empowering thing to hear, for any artist are the words like: there was something very perfect at your early art works. I invite the artists and art directors to keep the enthusiasm throughout their career and life. I would 31
I left my new watercolour paper during the whole day under the pouring rain in the balcony of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona in the same street where Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró used to go to la Llotja Art Academy. I found so much amusement in disolving my watercolours over this special to me, naturally “greyed” washed paper. I made a duet with the rain itself!
You do different styles and designs. What motivates that? What is your favorite area to work in? I came up with the idea of questioning the fact that watercolours still have such a bad reputation among the art-collectors’ world. I keep creating a lot in watercolor, during 100 days of quarantine in Barcelona I produced up to 100 works of art.
Third, by making paintings time travel. Almost like a graffiti, my art happens to appear in the unusual places around the world: over the trunks of the oldest trees in the middle of giant Swiss forest, at the glass of the luxurious bloody red Mercedes-Benz 500K of 1936 at the Stuttgart Museum, next to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in Neue Pinakothek in Munich. Last summer I solo-travelled for two weeks and visited 12 cities in a row and the day of my birthday I spread hundreds of my paintings with delicate rose petals over the ancient stage of the great Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, Lyon. I like to think that I shake the timelines and rush into the impossible by doing this sort of live performances. I register this with my Iphone camera and share online.
I even did an open air art show over the fences of the park to cheer my neighbors with the bright colors of my acrylics and the uplifting message “Everything will be alright”. Some canvases were stolen, the one with the words “Alright” as well. It’s not the first time this happened. It even happened at the Yoga Festival in Barcelona where I show-cased. It makes me sad, yes, but it also makes me be reminded that my art is living its own life as if it never belonged to me, but to my muses. I found three ways of letting the paintings manifest their own nature: First, by letting them go after the purchasing. They travel alone to far-away Alaska or somewhere in Australia and I loose the track cause in the galleries they almost never provide me with the names of the art-collectors.
I really like to interact with the surroundings, I like to interact with the world. There is so much life out there. And so my art is a mere invitation to leave my den.
Second, by creating a story even before the art-work is done and the world sees it. I remember working at the Grey Colour project (#Grises) back in 2016, a very dear project in which I asked friends, strangers, art experts, poets, writers what the color Grey evoked in them. 32
“When you are passionate about something, you do everything in your power to master and perfect it.”
name and it was not the person she waited for. There is a question in her eyes and the multiple colors which form her naked shoulders, bare neck and the windy backgroud are shivering like the fragile buttefly wings. I reproduced “California” as a beautiful art print of the limited edition. I donated one with the secret message on the back side to the “Art for children, Switzerland” auction, where I was invited last November. “California” became one of two most popular pieces and saved some children’s lives. The funds raised went to the local hospitals to provide infants and teenagers with art and music therapy.
Can you explain “I am” Do you see the words and art existing only together or do they also work apart? Words are powerful. I like to polish the titles of my paintings as much as the images. I go to great lengths to ensure that my writing standard is as high as the standard of my painting. I like to do written storytelling as much as visual. One of the latest shows I did was during “Zürich Art Weekend 2020” in some private vintage art space with an invited musician of Bolshoi Theater, Alexander Boldachev and a talented dancer Aceko. As soon as the visitors opened the marvellous door, handle they passed from one room to another. They discovered the beautiful art over the ceiling, the walls, opening cupboards, windows, even the fridge, followed by piano music and movement. They were guided by little messages popping here and there over the furnitures, the plants leaves, diverse objects inviting the spectators for a play, self introspective and daydreaming. There was a “Turn me on” message written over the light switcher, “Do you want to know” at the door handl, “Eye contact” at the mirror. I was beyond excited seeing so many shining eyes that night. I even celebrated it with a glass of... deep grey watercolour. My intention is to do more of this, for example at the wedding ceremonies: some elegant touching art together with the poetic titles guarantees a great impact.
Who if anyone influences your work? I am doing a lot of cultural nomading. I visit and get involved in multiple museum projects. I mostly look to photographers and artists for inspiration and meet people from different backgrounds. I do not know any painters who would go so much after the dancers and learn their vocabulary. The “El Greco” festival in Barcelona is my favourite drug. All that is my personal research on the human heart and beauty. That is the most important part of my artistic process, which mostly happens away from my studio. Covid-19 interrupted my drama and dance studies. As an art-performer, I undertake the performance training based on a Stanislasvkij method in Barcelona. One of my mentors used to say “Fight until the death for your idea, the smallest it may seem”. This positioning helps me not to trash / burn / sink most of my paintings (laughs).
What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece/series? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished?
I’m curious about how you choose your performance art? Do you record the performance or does it only work live?
Travel is an intrinsic part of my life. If the patterns inform your character, then I am a traveler through and through. “Paris in One Day”, “London in Two Days” - we all have read once of those articles for travellers. Similar to dropping to a new place, I use to finish art pieces the day I started it, letting each scene unspool evenly. Sometimes it takes me 12 hrs per day or even more (when it comes to the acrylic works on big canvases) and so I cry at the end of the day. Sometimes I needed to finish the work, because at 4 a.m. I had to take a flight, otherwise I would be late.
My interest in performing arts is mainly focused on multidisciplinary projects which aim to cross-pollinate the disciplines of visual arts with contemporary dance, music, poetry. I initiate amazing collaborations to create site specific works for the local and international artvenues making the viewers experiment their senses in all its potential and let the paintings have a voice and a movement. I never really record the performances of this kind because I act myself. I do not ask someone else to record simply because I like the idea that dance/drama is the most eco-friendly form of art. It is done and it is gone. I went to Wuppertal, Germany to see the performance of my friend dancer Pau Aran who danced for the last time with the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch company and I did that because I knew I will never be able to do it again. I could see the show recorded but it will never be the same. I searched for the bus and could not find it, I had my travelling bag on my shoulders finding my seat, I was tired etc. At the end I was there for my friend and to live the moment.
One of my most famous acrylic paintings “California” I made after my first visit to Zürich and Lucern and when I caught a heavy cold. As soon as I landed I was guaranteed by a doctor a full day of rest and the obligations which tore me apart had to wait. In-between my burning bed, easel and the low velvet female voice singing “All the leaves are brown...” on my headphones, I created something that I could comprehend only the days after. “California” is one of my best pieces and if not the fever I would not know how I technically brought her to life. Large sized figurative-abstract piece respresenting a vulnerable female gaze as if someone called the woman’s 33
Written by Lon Levin
Social sciences were subjects I enjoyed, Math beyond Stats & Commerce Math I did not! I was a very active sports person. Where did you grow up? I grew up in south Croydon (which is in south London). From the age of 8-18 I went to boarding schools in Kent.
What or Who were your influences? My parents were practicing Christians and as a family we attended Church every Sunday. At boarding school there was a short service every morning. Both schools were in rural Kent countryside and I enjoyed this setting and the culture and way-of-life prevalent in the area at that time. The teaching staff at both schools were very important influences. At age 18 I went to Salford University just outside Manchester. This is a very different and highly urban part of the country relative to rural Kent. Politically very different from the south. There was much poverty around and lots of disadvantaged people. I lived for 2 years in what I was told was the largest high-rise estate in Europe. It was an eye-opener and different in very many ways to my privileged upbringing in the south of England.
When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? In my mid-teens I wanted to be a news and current affairs journalist. In my late teens I wanted to try to become a pro tennis player! Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
I was encouraged to become a journalist but nobody in my family had any involvement in journalism and so they had no network in the field to introduce me to. I arrived home one day and was informed that my father had booked me in to attend university to study social sciences! I dutifully attended! What kind of kid were you?
I think I was extrovert, gregarious, enthusiastic and hard-working academically (although sadly only with regard to subjects I enjoyed), energetic and a gifted athlete. I read widely and enjoyed visual art. I particularly enjoyed creative writing, including poetry. 34
Tell us how your background played a part in your choice to be involved in the arts?
exhibitions led me to believe that it was a field I would like to work in.
I realized in my teens that I wasn’t drawn to follow many of my family’s paths into law or medicine and that I was drawn more to the field of current affairs and communication. As a teenager I took extensive cuttings from magazines, always looking for striking and singular imagery of any kind. I guess like many teenagers I then posted these cuttings to my walls to create a kind of gallery.
You started out in advertising as a media planner. Has that background had an effect on what you chose to do after that?
Was there a pivotal moment that inspired you or was it a slow realization. A slow realization. In my early twenties (1981) I met Tamsin who is now my wife and with whom I have been since 1981 – her family has a long history of visual artists in the family and I think my exposure to ‘active artist’ family members and visits to a wide variety of
Yes. Very much so. As a media planner at Ogilvy from 1982-1985 I was trained to develop an in-depth knowledge of the media marketplace. As a media planner I was also part of account teams that established parameters for the types and nature of creative work for deployment in the media marketplace. I was primarily accountable for media selection and purchase of media space and time. I often felt that the creative work that was deployed was lackluster and that no amount of media planning and great media buying could make up for a weak creative execution. This led me to feel that I would rather work on the creative side. I was accountable to the nth degree for media expenditure but sometimes felt that the exposure level secured was not as
How has the evolution of technology affected your business? Has the effect been positive or negative?
effective as it could have been had the creative messaging been more stimulating. If so…how? Had I not been a media planner I would not have acquired a high degree of knowledge of the media market-place. This knowledge was very valuable when I came to market artist’s work on their behalfs – It meant I had insight as to the kinds of artists particular newspapers, magazines and brands might find particularly appropriate to commission.
Technology has affected the business a great deal. Both for the better and negatively in my view. The advent of the worldwide web and broadband has opened up the whole world for marketing of artists and the ability to send work-in-progress and finished high resolution files has made the whole business much easier and faster paced. However the same technologies have I think led to a convergence in the kind of work that is commissioned and used for commercial purposes. The greatly increased speed of the production process for artist’s who work digitally has led to more control and exploitation for commissioners in terms of how commissions progress creatively and in business terms. Technology has also been exploited I think by commissioning sector clients so they have more control over negotiation and billing processes / terms of business.
How and when did you come to the decision to start Debut Art? I decided to set up Debut Art in 1985 (very shortly after I left Ogilvy) The original concept for Debut Art was that it would represent artists to commissioners of illustration but also promote the fine art careers of the same artists. How did that evolve? From around the middle of 1986 it became apparent that the representation of artists to commissioners of illustration was developing very strongly and for the next 8 or so years (until I set up The Coningsby Gallery) this was the sole focus of Debut Art.
How do you determine which artist you’ll represent? That is a good question! It’s a subjective thing! I think the most important requirements are that an illustrator’s work contains good ideas, a finely executed style in technical terms and a style which works harmoniously with good ideas in such a way that 2+2 = 5!
In my late teens
Is that governed at all by where the artist lives?
I wanted to try to become a pro tennis player!”
No, so long as the artist has broadband Is that your choice or are there other voices that are influential? Ultimately yes, but there are others on the team at Debut Art whose voices I respect in terms of which illustrators to represent. How has the business of Illustration changed from when you first started out? Its faster and global. Less personal, real face-to-face meetings of client commissioning teams and illustrator and representative are now rare. Portfolios are now on display and downloadable from web sites – less schlepping! What advice do you give to young artists who want to pursue a career in illustration? You’ll need good fortune and prolific work to create great art and for that art to also be deemed appropriate for a great many different kinds of illustration project. There are lots of talented artists out there but only a low % are fortunate to have styles and problem solving abilities for their work to be appropriate for many different types of 37
How has your family been affected by your career? My family has benefitted from the stability that my founding and running a successful agency has afforded them and I think they all support the work I do to help contemporary artists and bring their work to a global clientele. I think they also have no worries about the business in terms of its climate impact and they support the diversity which is I think intrinsic in the illustration business. Can you explain how the gallery operates? I founded the gallery in 1994. Debut Art needed an office in central London at that time (it used to have 60+ real portfolios out with clients per week at that time). It was a natural decision when acquiring an office to go for something bigger (a gallery). This meant that we could offer artists a space in which to develop and show their work, open up a fine art market for them and offset some of the cost of the central London office. Today we usually stage 4-5 exhibitions each year for artists represented by Debut Art as well as staging exhibitions for a wide range of other artists working in the field of communication art. We also exhibit fine art work for other galleries and for a range of fine artists for solo shows. Is it an independent business or is it tied in some way to Debut?? The Coningsby Gallery is a trading division of Debut Art Ltd but the gallery offers a more neutral space for illustrators in particular to exhibit.
“You’ll need good
fortune and prolific work
to create great art and for that art to also be deemed appropriate for a great
many different kinds of illustration project.”
Tasty meals to inspire the artist in you. From culinary masters of their own art.
RCM real creative magazine
Grilled O’Henry sweet potato, creamy almond, Chile morita and cilantro at the EXCHANGE, the Israeli-leaning restaurant from chef Alex Chang in DTLA’s Freehand Hotel
Yakimiso and sausage porridge, numbing spice braised pork sausage, chayote in black bean sauce, rose-geranium baby onion pickles, celery pickles, seasonal edible flowers, and negi rice porridge at Porridge + Puffs.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
PORRIDGE + PUFFS
VIBRANT FLAVORS, LOCALLY INSPIRED
CHEF MINH PHAN IS WHERE SHE WANTS TO BE,
Freehand LA’s restaurant, The Exchange, pays homage to the 12 story vintage blade sign (the largest in LA) under which its entrance proudly sits.
She’s on the cusp of opening up her first standalone location for Porridge + Puffs, a popular popup previously run out of a space in Hollywood. Phan is also happy to make her home Historic Filipinotown, a continuously growing neighborhood.
The restaurant is led by the team behind Bar Lab, who brought us the beloved 27 Restaurant at Freehand Miami, and Angeleno chef Alex Chang, best known locally for his Paladar dinner series. Similar to 27 Restaurant in Miami, where dishes explore the city’s many flavors through a Latin lens, the menu at The Exchange explores the multi-cultural flavors of urban LA through an Israeli lens. This is the first restaurant in California from the design team Roman & Williams. For more information, please email TheExchange@ thefreehand.com
Phan is happy to be back in the kitchen — this time the one that used to belong to Thai East Wind restaurant, on the corner of Beverly and Occidental. The restaurant space itself has been completely peeled back, with a minimalist aesthetic with a long black banquette,and light blonde wood touches. She’s been positioning her menu of porridges to be offered at or near $12 a plate, with room to add on side dishes at will. Daytime hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to start, Tuesday through Friday, 2801 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Reviews courtesy of the LA Times 39
DOG DAYZ ARE HERE.
SHOP NOW www.thejumpingdog.com
Photo: Lon Levin