After hearing the news of Neil Peart’s death earlier this week – my thoughts turned to how I might acknowledge his life through the free art project. I wanted to reference his lyrics and connect these with a design familiar to Rush fans.
The song Afterimage opens with the lines:
Suddenly, you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon
The song later begins to conclude with:
I learned your love for life
I feel the way that you would
I feel your presence
Neil Peart was a private person, and news of his ill health had successfully been kept from the media – so in that respect, his death came as a shock. These words feel apt.
As an image – I chose to adapt the Rush Starman design originally by Hugh Syme. Peart once described the design as ‘the abstract man against the masses’. I’ve chosen to represent the design with tiny dots – and sought to create a fading out appearance towards the bottom of the design. ‘Afterimage’ will be the next free art drop and it will be accompanied by a print out of this blog post.
Rush. I have so many memories associated with this band. As I emerged from my fascination with punk and new wave, they offered something completely different, Rush became and stayed a guilty pleasure through the 1980s. Going to see them at the old Wembley Arena became a habit, and though I became less interested in their music in the 90s, I returned with renewed excitement in the 00s and beyond. The last three tours, Time Machine, Clockwork Angels, and R40 were all very, very special.
My excellent friend Curly and I went to the O2 for the Time Machine and it was pure joy – slightly helped by the fact that I managed to sneak a really nice bottle of wine into the venue up my coat sleeve.
I took the equally excellent Ade, and Curly to Clockwork Angels as a thank you for their support in the aftermath of the death of my Dad. We popped a bottle of champagne over the Thames on the riverbus, and though for me there was a tinge of sadness around the gig (2 reasons – thinking of Dad and I spilled a whole pint of overpriced beer!) the music was perfect and we got to see Rush perform The Garden – it only happened on this tour. For me, The Garden is the ultimate song about death, about passing, about what if anything remains. Beautiful and fitting.
When Rush announced the R40 tour there was no European leg. I was 50 when they toured, and I had some work planned in the USA (thank you Laurie I’ll never forget your kindness). The very lovely Carole suggested I try to link the work with the tour – and so I bought myself a ticket to see Rush live in Columbus Ohio. I travelled via Summer Brandcamp where I got to hang out with Dwane, Jason, Laurie, Michael, Jonathan, Amanda and many others, at an outstanding event which changed me for the better. I went on through Cleveland, spending excellent time with friends Tammy and Frank, before driving down to Columbus which included a brief stop to meet Jackie and some of her colleagues. The Columbus gig was excellent. This was the first and only time I saw Rush perform live without a friend to accompany me, and I watched them bring the curtain down in spectacular fashion.
I love how music and other art forms are able to get under the skin – connect you with others, move you, raise you, and drop you too. I never got to meet Neil Peart – but I couldn’t be happier that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson did. Neil Peart. 12/09/1952 : 07/01/2020 <3
I don’t recall ever using a computer during my school years. All our work was written in books, drawn on paper, listened to on tape and vinyl. Signals were likely to be distorted, there was interference, and feedback. Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the pen and the brush were among the devices I used which provided some of that feedback. The signals might be quite subtle, but they were there. The response of the writing and drawing instrument when crafting different letters, different shapes, and shades. You don’t get this subtle feedback from a keyboard or a stylus.
He picks up scraps of information
He’s adept at adaptation
Because for strangers and arrangers
Constant change is here to stay. N Peart
I started work in the mid 1980s, by which time computers looked something like this:
A decade later I was selling computers to earn a living, and they were common place in people’s homes and at work. I remember starting work for BT in 1996 and being surprised to find no computer at my desk. Some of my colleagues were quite happy to still be relying on inter office memos stuffed in envelopes, and though people were given email addresses – there seemed to be no compulsion to use them.
Fast forward to now, and for most people who read this blog, the idea of not being connected to your work through computers and other devices is practically impossible.
Love them or loathe them, etcetera. And yet…
Analog Kid : Digital Man
…for all the advantages of digital, there remains something distinctly ‘connected’ about working in analog. Those subtle signals I mentioned earlier – the feedback a pencil gives you when you write and draw – that’s a very desirable thing. I recently spotted my friend Euan Semple talking about Blackwing Pencils on Facebook. I followed the crumb trail and discovered you can pay $25 for a box of 12 Palomino Blackwing 24 pencils, produced as a tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning author John Steinbeck. In truth, you’ll be lucky to find these available for sale, they are a limited edition pencil (I swear I had no idea there was such a thing), and seemingly the only way to guarantee a set of these, or at least of future limited editions, is to join The Blackwing Club. Pencils as a desirable collector’s item, how about that?
I digress. Limited edition or otherwise, I believe the humble pencil, pen, and brush remain essential tools to work with. For all the speed with which I can ramble on here, each digit I produce on the screen feels just the same as the last. Q = W = E = R = T = Y. I know from my own experience and from the feedback I gain through arts based learning, that using analog tools to supplement your digital work, creates fundamentally different outputs. When we work like this, I and others see, hear and feel emotions much more clearly, and there seems to be a greater presence of something you might call humanity, when people are creating work together, by hand.
I don’t want to get all dogmatic about this, working by hand is not the answer to making work better, it is an answer. Thankfully, not everything follows Moore’s Law.