Monday, June 22, 2015

This Summer In New York.

What can I say about my eight year collaboration with Jeffery F. Barken? 

I first met Jeff in 2007. He was a student hitchhiking around Ireland. My Aunt picked him up and brought him home. We sat and talked about our hobbies, studies and plans for the future. I could tell even then that Jeffrey was more serious about his writing than most kids his age. 

We stayed in touch and, a few years later, he contacted me regarding his new idea for a magazine called, a global project that would facilitate collaboration between different artistic disciplines. I'd never heard of anything like it before. 

I suppose the work we have since embarked on together can be viewed as a trilogy.

The first completed collaborative project on was Mackerel. Jeff wrote a story inspired by his time in Galway and I painted two corresponding oil on canvas pictures. The result was a three dimensional, interactive experience. Jeff wrote the story in short installments and I sketched the action and experimented. The final paintings were organic in their conception and by the time we finished the project we better understood each other’s work and creative process.
Sketch- Mackerel

Painting under construction - Mackerel
Shoal- Finished painting for Mackerel. 

 Around that time Jeff started sending me more of his writing, including a novel titled Idle in September. The story chronicled the lives of several young musicians. They form a bluegrass band and tour the US in the aftermath of 9/11. These were the characters that would stay with me for the next few years. Jeff never published Idle, but he continued to develop his characters and prose in a series of short stories that he published in May 2013, entitled This Year in Jerusalem. I was delighted to contribute a series of India ink and acrylic illustrations to the book that he designed.

Cover for This Year in Jerusalem
Our work on This Year in Jerusalem was more organized than the Mackerel project and I was fascinated by the notion of bringing these characters to life. By using the same characters, sometimes likeable, sometimes severely flawed, somehow always sympathetic, in many different, yet interconnected stories, Jeff created his own little universe. The trials, joys and troubles these actors experience never actually end, they go on to live in Jeff’s other works. Their collective journeys through the heartland of the USA, the Middle East, and finally New York City comprise a creative saga. 

An illustration from This year in Jerusalem.

So that brings us, along with Ari Shultz, Miles Fletcher, Ethan Mav and other prominent characters to the sinister world of All the Lonely Boys in New York.
All the Lonely Boys In New York - Cover

For which I was honored to design the cover and illustrations. The cover was by far the most challenging of the three projects. How does one sum up a story Like All The Lonely Boys In New York in one image?

Illustration from All the Lonely Boys In New York
 The book is at once personal, intimate and immense. A scathing social commentary on the 21st century, distilling many complex ideas into a deceptively simple story. Eventually we settled on a scene from the last page. The importance of which will resonate with anyone who has read the book. 

Illustration from All the Lonely Boys In New York

For the book launch and subsequent exhibition in New York on June 25th, Jeff and I will be collaborating with a wonderful collage artist named Dara Lorenzo, who has incorporated my illustrations into her collages. 

So we go back to the roots of the project: Jeff has prompted me to engage and interpret his work, Dara, in turn, has indulged my art. This exciting concept for encouraging artistic collaboration on a global scale is the magic behind 

What a journey it’s been! I’m glad to have been there from the beginning and see this talent take shape. 

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yusuf said...
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