Whalen: Bridging the gap between visual, musical works of art

DIY artists integrate fine art into their music, adding to a larger sense of community.

JaredWhalenThe life of a musician is not always glamorous. The pay sucks, vans tend to break down on endless highways and the attending list always seems bigger on Facebook. But millions of musicians continue to push forward because it’s their dream, their passion, their fun. Call it what you want, but it all comes down to heart.

But musicians aren’t the only ones balancing creative aspirations with car payments and utility bills. Artists of the visual realm are often in the same cheap and barely afloat boat as musicians.

The relationship between artists and musicians is one formed by mutual purpose – sharing one’s artistic creations. Both develop abstract ideas in their minds and create real things, whether they are audible or visual.

Out of this relationship comes cohesiveness. The do-it-together nature of the local scene does not stop with musicians. Artists of all varieties create unified pieces of art.

Whether it’s through album art, liner notes, photo shoots, music videos or creative merchandise, musicians often come to graphic artists to add to their music.

Ben Robinson is an example of an artist who brings his creative elements to the table when working with musicians. Robinson graduated from University of the Arts in 2013. Since then, he’s taken on a sort of nomad status throughout Philadelphia and finds freelance work wherever he can. To him, music and art are essential to each other.

“The two complement each other so well,” Robinson said. “Both art and music help each other out by painting a picture for the idea in all forms possible and pushing the idea as far as possible.”

When working on a music-related piece, he said he feels as though he is connecting the two mediums.

“As a visual artist I feel it’s my job to infuse the personality of the music and musicians into the artwork,” Robinson said.

Robinson has recently finished the artwork for the first EP in a series of three for hip-hop artist Voss.

Sometimes the connection between art and music is even tighter. Chris Markley is both a musician and visual artist, and he has drawn no lines between the two.

“I see art and music as one in the same,” Markley said. “They are both very expressive forms of art. Both are extremely intuitive.”

Markley has been an artist as long as he can remember. He said it was in middle school where he began making the connections between art and music, becoming obsessed with studying the album covers of his favorite bands.

When he began playing music, he expressed this infatuation by painting artwork to complement the music.

Markley is in the instrumental band Mohican, a group that heavily uses visual artwork.

“Mohican is a huge artistic platform for me,” Markley said. “It was a vision that came to me and I knew I could use it to balance my art and music and let them grow together.”

Additionally, Markley helped found Swamp Youth Collective, a community of artists and musicians.

Not all music-related art comes in the form of paint and canvas, however. Take Dan Newman, who grew up in rural Alburtis, Pa., and had his fingers all over the area’s local music scene in the form of recording and mixing, graphic design, photography and videography.

Now, several years later, Newman has established himself as a videographer and photographer. Newman has worked extensively with musicians, creating music videos for both independent and major-label bands.

When creating a music video, Newman said his inspiration relies heavily on how the music influences him.

“When approaching the creative process with a band, I often draw back on personal experiences based on their music and lyrics,” Newman said. “If I can’t seem to relate to the music, which happens every once in a while, I will find out some sort of story to tell.”

Whether a band is on a major or independent label, Newman said creativity is all that matters.

“The artistic process doesn’t differ much at all from a local band to a major-label band,” Newman said. “It’s just the scale it is executed at.

Newman has worked with several bands and artists local to the Philadelphia area, including music videos for Trophywife, as well as Nathan Allebach and Rachel Moyer. Newman has also worked with bands on larger labels, including Oh, Sleeper and The Air I Breathe.

Like Markley said, art and music can be viewed as one in the same. The two complement and strengthen each other.

Artists and musicians are both creative individuals who use their talents to tell a story, and sometimes these stories are best told together.

Jared Whalen can be reached at jared.whalen@temple.edu.

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