Filtering by Tag: Experimental

Latest Project: Brooklyn Artists and Fleas

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

In January 2011, I started my advertising career sitting across from my fellow "wintern," Sarah Dudek. When I was driving across the country, she happened to have just moved back to Massachusetts and was gracious enough to let me crash at her new apartment. Then Sarah got into sign painting and started selling her art at weekend markets and I've been simultaneously proud and jealous – it's every advertiser's dream to no longer do advertising.

It's a weird existence we've chosen for ourselves.

That's when my roommate-turn-best-friend-turn-business-manager reminded me that I have a ton of posters under my bed, and that I, too, can have a stand at a weekend market, like, say… Artists and Fleas, perhaps. So she emailed them a proposal to get a table on my behalf and left the rest in my hands.

After many excuses and days of procrastination, I finally paid a deposit and there was no turning back (refund-wise), so I opened back up the @EgosDeckDream account and told my friends about it.

I picked the weekend that was furthest away so Casey and I could plan the business: what to print, what to order, how to price, how to design. 

I'm not sure if choosing to wait three weeks from email-to-table was a good idea or bad idea. On the one hand, I got to plan, print, shop, scout, and strategize. On the other hand, waiting three weeks and not knowing whether my table would be a hit or miss with Brooklynites is frightening. And I'm a Brooklynite.

August 25 and 26 will be days I'll remember for a long time. Maybe because it helped me remember the three months in 2013 that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Or maybe because I never smiled so much in my life, not because it was all genuine smiles, but because I'm acutely aware of my resting-bitch face and I'm trying not to deter people from the table. Or maybe because seeing people's faces light up reading about their state validates my project, research and writing.

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I also decided to venture into my second passion: pet portraits, drawn on a brown paper bag for $1. 

And as cheesy as it sounds, it didn't matter if people bought a postcard or not. Seeing people stop by, put on 3D glasses, flip through the book and nod along was pretty rewarding in itself. I know, I know.

A big thank you to every one who supported me physically or in spirit. I've never worked harder in my life, not even in my real day job of advertising.

Funny enough, things came full circle that weekend: Sarah, who helped support my project, inspired me to sell my project products at a market, happened to be selling stuff at her own market that weekend.

I might do it again, I learned areas to optimize and it was my "first pancake" after all, as my business manager says. And I might even do more of a pivot to pet portraits. I don't know. I'll have to wait for my cheeks to rest cause It's been over a week since I tabled AND MY CHEEKS STILL HURT.

Latest Project: Kanye West's Opening Credits

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Before Kanye West released his 2018 Wyoming projects and before he started tweeting and saying questionable and problematic things, I had this idea of writing this essay about Kanye West and his music. Not in a Pitchfork type of way where I analyze his music, but through a pop culture lens.

I should also explain that I was in the middle of reading Shea Serrano's Basketball (and Other Things), so this was my frame of mind.

One Friday night when my roommates were out of town, I played Kanye West's albums back-to-back-to-back, writing and trying to understand his lyrics, evolution, and his mindset at the time. Quite proud of what I had written and hoping for a feature on The Ringer, I emailed Shea for critique, something he's often very open to giving because he's a man of the people.

This was his response:

 
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Of course. Why did I even frame it as a ranking? Probably because I was still in the middle of reading his book. I mean, I was the type of guy to switch majors to whatever class I was taking at the time because I thought it was so interesting.

So I made some edits, shopped it around to other sites that are not The Ringer and got zero bites, so here it is.


What If Kanye's Albums Were TV Shows?

The entire Kanye discography is like a tv network, each album is a tv show with a different flavor, theme and story. Most, if not all of them, should be listened all the way through from beginning to end to get the whole picture. And if each album is a tv show, that means each opening track is its theme song.

If the HBO static hum and chorus came on just before you hit play, what emotions would the opening track elicit? Would it be the same feeling you get from the Game of Thrones theme song (an epic fantasy saga involving incest and murder), or Sex and the City song (a fun half-hour look into four female friends navigating life, love, and Manhattan), or maybe it’s Insecure and there’s no theme song, just a 2-second title card?

In this case, your fingernail tapping your telephone screen trying to navigate your music app and search “Kanye West” is the HBO static.

“Intro” + “We Don’t Care” on College Dropout (2004)

I was in the car with my friend Eric on our way to a camping trip in 2004. Fresh of out things to talk about, he told me about this rapper who had kids on his album singing about how they sell drugs. Didn’t sound like my kind of music, because I was more into Apple-commercially indie bands at the time, but in the interest of not having to talk to Eric anymore, we had a listening party in his Honda Civic.

I’ll be honest. I can’t remember anything from that experience. Even “Jesus Walks” didn’t impress me at the time. But I was dumb and didn’t understand hip-hop culture and didn’t realize how transformative College Dropout was both sonically and lyrically.

Now when I listen to the opening skit with Bernie Mac telling Kanye to do something for the kids and moving into the song about how kids are dealing crack to survive, I get it. This is the origin story of Kanye West, even though we get a 15-minute, Wikipedia-esqeue, oral history of the origin of Kanye West at the very end of the album.

This theme song tells the story of hustle and the tv show is about that hustle and also about how school is kinda dumb.

“Wake Up Mr. West” and “Heard ‘Em Say” on Late Registration (2005)

In Late Registration, DeRay Davis reprises his role as Kanye’s teacher, calling him a bum, which is always hilarious, followed by “Heard ‘Em Say” featuring Adam Levine. The song is catchy as hell but because the album’s kind of a sequel to The College Dropout, “Heard ‘Em Say” isn’t a standout despite the interesting pairing.

“Good Morning” on Graduation (2007)

In the final album of the College Trilogy, Kanye is no longer hustling as he did in Dropout, nor is he as socially aware as he was in Late Registration. Graduation is all about the glow up.

“Good Morning” is a good theme song for a good tv show that has been going on for a little too long, like if The Wire’s ninth season’s theme song was performed by Randy Newman. Undoubtedly good. But also, like…come on, man.

“Say You Will” on 808s and Heartbreak (2008)

808s and Heartbreak is an album that came after the break-up with Amber Rose and passing of his mother. There were a lot of emotions swirling around Kanye at the time, putting him in a different headspace than where he was for his first three chipmunk-soul albums, so it only makes sense that 808s kicks off with this emotional, auto-tuned track about heartbreak and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

But here’s the thing: “Say You Will” is a good song but doesn’t exactly hype me up for the rest of the album. If the Jeopardy clue was “This is the first song off of 808s and Heartbreak,” I would’ve buzzed in with so much swagger and said, “What is ‘Heartless,’” and then I’d be at -$3600 and then my mentions would be in shambles.

“Dark Fantasy” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted  Fantasy (2011)

Five weeks before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped, we got the 37-minute film, Runaway, that opens on Kanye running full speed down a country road and the title card. Then we cut to a meteorite burning through Earth’s atmosphere and catch a glimpse of Kanye rapping this song through the rearview mirror of a Tatar MTX, driving down that same country road, surrounded by deer. Maybe it’s just associative memories at this point, but honestly, that shit’s tight as hell.

Fantasy is the first album that opens with spoken word since Late Registration, where Nicki Minaj reads a retold sample of Ronald Dahl’s “Cinderella,” and she literally tells us what the album is about. Then Teyana Taylor asks us if we could get much higher, like, 30 times. And Kanye goes on and on about pain, but in my mind, he’s going on and on about pain while driving a Tatar MTX. It’s very cool.

“No Church in the Wild” on Watch the Throne (2012)

In the early 2010s, Dodge started running ads that featured the driving beat of “No Church in the Wild” and every time I heard it, my body instinctively prepared itself for a 45-minute, luxury-rap adventure and the unseen dark side of it all, as told by two of the best rappers of the decade.

Watch the Throne is a great album not only because it’s so catchy, but also because of its themes, which mirrors The Great Gatsby (2013), which Jay-Z, who identified with Jay Gatsby, got executive producer credits for lending “No Church In The Wild” to the movie.

“On Sight” on Yeezus (2013)

Yeezus is the angry follow-up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and between the laser sounds, that weird interlude, and duration of how long Kanye drags out the word “mooooooooouuuuuutthhh,” this theme song is perfect.

“Ultralight Beam” on The Life of Pablo (2016)

There are things in life that you wish you could experience for the first time every time, like visiting New York City, or getting your first big paycheck, or the first time you lay in bed with the lights off and letting the choir from “Ultralight Beam” wash over your body. We’re always trying to chase that dragon and this song is probably the easiest dragon to catch. And that’s before Chance the Rapper even comes on.

Kanye always said The Life of Pablo is a gospel album, and I’m not sure what getting bleach on your t-shirt has to do with church, but overall the album is a potpourri of sounds and production that describe Kanye as the man he is today, post-Amber, post-Donda, post-VMA, husband, and father of two, and the gospel song that gets us there is undefeated.


Latest Project: Shake Ye Off

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

There was one night in 2014 when I was working really late on two different projects with deadlines on the same day which happened to be at the same time the next morning. With my very slow work computer, I saw all my coworkers go home one by one until I was the last person left on the team still in the office. Then my part of the office went home. Then the entire office went home. The night guard walked by a couple times and went home, I guess. And it was just me and the song "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

Now Grey has an open floor plan which means music is usually consumed through headphones but with the entire floor to myself, I turned it wayyyyyyy up.

So besides being an absolute bop, "Shake It Off" has a place in my heart for this reason, because it helped power me through that entire night and morning when the office lights turned back on and people slowly filed in for the day and I was still working. It's a near-perfect song with a cute music video. But if there's one thing I'd change, it'd be the weird spoken-word/rap portion of the song.

Later that year, in August 2014, I tried to be the change I wanted to see in the world by splicing the real "Shake It Off" song with an instrumental karaoke version and laying Kanye West's verse in the N.A.S.A. song "Gifted," but it didn't turn out well. It was actually kind of bad, which is why you won't hear it.

Almost exactly four years later, inspired by procrastination, I found the perfect Kanye song to put into that part of "Shake It Off," and now it's finally perfect.

So unplug your headphones and blast this in your very own stupid, open-office floor plan because the people deserve an aural blessing.

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And if you think about it, aren't they singing about the same thing?

Latest Project: Lion Harty Phone Case

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I always hated the Society6 mentality of taking a thing you made and putting it on practically everything they sell: A pillow, shower curtain, regular curtain, clock face and a bath mat. I mean, if you want to get your money, I'm all for it, but it's not for me. If I was going to make a thing, I wanted it to make sense for the medium. So out of spite of nobody except my imagination, I wanted to make a unique phone case for my upcoming store.

In 2016, I got a new project manager and she was new to Grey and her phone lock screen background said, "NOBODY CARES. WORK HARD." Not one to encourage hard work, I gave her my "LAY LOW, WORK SLOW" phone background instead.

I checked back in a year or so later to see what phone background she had now. It was neither the "WORD HARD" one nor the "WORK SLOW" one. Great. I asked her what her favorite animals are and she said a lion and sloth. Cool. 

Experimenting with layout, looks, brushes and color. Always gotta accommodate the headroom up top for the clock

Experimenting with layout, looks, brushes and color. Always gotta accommodate the headroom up top for the clock

So I made this lion iPhone wallpaper.

But the whole point of this entire exercise was to make a phone case…so…

Hell yeah. Now I just have to do a sloth.

Coming to the /shop

Latest Project: QR Codes

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

As I begin to fix my website to prepare it for the store, I'm seeing where I can fix other areas, too, especially since once every year, someone on Reddit has a ShowerThought™ that goes something like, "There should really be a sarcasm font," and then some loyalist who I'm grateful for, says, "Hey, why not try Sartalics!" And then I experience what seems to be a DDOS attack, but it's just a bunch of sarcastic nerds looking at how to be sarcastic online.

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Ever since I changed my website from a hand-coded HTML site to a Squarespace, I wanted to fix it so it's not templated. The scrolling marquee is a holdover from the HTML site, and the little bug of the moose icon below the left-hand navigation. The little moose pointed to my Tumblr, which I was obsessed with, but then my /latest blog and Tumblr achieved singularity.

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Not wanting to lose that dumb little bug but also not wanting to point to the Tumblr anymore, I decided to put one of my URLs that I'd been holding onto since the early 2012 to use.

Anyway, not going to spoil it for any of us, just know that iOS 11 has an automatic QR Code reader when you turn on your camera and point it towards the code.

I don't know where this QR code below goes (it used to point to nathanhoang.com before the addition), but I printed them out and posted them around DUMBO in 2011. 

 
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Latest Project: Point and Shoot Bicycle

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Inspired by my cousins, Lauren and Chloe, who dug out their old Canon Powershot, I found the old Canon point-and-shoot film camera that my parents took on vacations.

I'd been scanning a lot of family photos lately, and seeing the pictures taken on this camera brought back memories, so I decided to hook it up to my bicycle like a very two-dollar GoPro and take some pictures around Brooklyn like a Trader Joe's-brand Bill Cunningham.

I was biking around looking for a place to ball in Brooklyn. I ended up finding the pier out in Brooklyn Bridge Park where made zero points, zero assists and maybe a couple rebounds. So I went to a playground pictured here where I worked on my fundamentals and at no risk of getting dunked on. (Picture taken on iPhone)

Anyway, here are my favorites.

Getting the film developed was expensive but getting that irreplicable film grain and nostalgia is worth it kinda. I don't know. Haha. It's expensive. But there's something about the delayed gratification and never uploading the images to Instagram, a platform I now despise, that makes me enjoy this rediscovered medium.

Latest Project: Mud

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I didn't start drinking coffee until after my mom told me I should learn how to drink coffee in high school because I'd need it in college; after someone woke me up in Intro to Art History 1301 because class was over and I told him my next class (Intro to Art History 1302) was also in this auditorium so I just slept through that class, too; after I pulled an all-nighter at my first internship and fell asleep at my desk in Boulder; after I pulled another all-nighter at my second internship and fell asleep at my desk in New York; after I moved to East Village across the street from Mud.

Literally across the street. Like, if I made a tin-can telephone from my fire escape to Mud, I could put in an order, run down the six flights and get the cup in 30 seconds.

Mud is special to me because I'd grab a cup every day on my way to work and the people there were part of the 9th Street community: Greg and Seth would talk basketball with us, we invited everyone to our Fourth of July parties, Garrett took Mark and Bonnie's bed when they moved to Amsterdam. And also their coffee tastes like hot chocolate.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Mud Truck came to the rescue and the line went around the block.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Mud Truck came to the rescue and the line went around the block.

Anyway, during a brief period when my roommate, Bonnie, and I had an overlap in unemployment, I talked about doing this project where she'd blog about coffee and I'd paint different coffee shops using their coffee. That never happened.

Five years later and inspired by the stylings of Christoph Niemann, I finally decided to see how it'd be. First I started in Photoshop, using Kyle's brushes with a couple colors: black coffee, and coffee mixed with white paint to mimic cream.

The painting on the left was based on a picture I took in April. When I came back a month later, I realized the windows were open: my favorite time of year, when I could literally sit outside Mud for hours. So I redid the windows in Photoshop and had the draft to base my painting off of.

Now I knew coffee was a weird medium (I've seen my mom dye fabrics in coffee), but I wasn't expecting it to be so faint. I experimented different techniques on how to maximize color with temperature, layers and grounds-to-water ratio, but no matter what, it was never as dark as it gets when I spill coffee on my white tee.

Experimenting different methods with two of the three mugs I saved from downsizing.

Experimenting different methods with two of the three mugs I saved from downsizing.

It was becoming clear that the "black coffee" color from the Photoshop test was an overestimation so I'd just have to be patient and layer coffee over coffee.

It took two episodes of Master Chef Junior and the first quarter of Wonder Woman, but I like how it ended up. It was a struggle to scan because it's so faint, and I'm not sure how long it'll last because coffee is acidic and that's not good for paper, but the possibility of me licking the paper is also on the table.

Mudspot , May 6, 2018. Coffee on paper That's not me in the window but that's definitely  Ego  on the ground.

Mudspot, May 6, 2018. Coffee on paper
That's not me in the window but that's definitely Ego on the ground.

Because I'm obsessed with things in sets of threes, I'm going to work on Mud's two other venues, Mud Hut on 1st and Houston and Mud Truck (RIP).

Latest Project: Long Dog

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I keep receipt paper at work for scrap papering, note-taking, to-do-list making purposes, and one day during an in-office happy hour, I doodled my friend's favorite dog on the paper and it wrapped around naturally as receipt paper does, and I thought it was cool and she thought it was cute and then I forgot about it until I checked this place where I printed my Birds and the Bees bag and it turns out, they did all-over printing on t-shirts, which is perfect because this doodle wouldn't work unless it was seamless, so then I paced around the apartment with excitement, sat down and fired up Photoshop while watching Nocturnal Animals.

I started off with a sketch of my roommate's favorite kind of dog, even though she's a cat person, the dachshund. Then I had to take that dachshund sketch and put it into Illustrator to stretch the dog out and make sure it'd wrap around correctly.

Could I have done this in Photoshop? Yeah, but I thought about doing a vector outline first and then decided to not do that at all and keep the lines natural, but by then it was already too late and the program was already open and then I was like, yeah sure. I'm watching  Nocturnal Animals  so who's really paying attention to what I'm doing, anyway?

Could I have done this in Photoshop? Yeah, but I thought about doing a vector outline first and then decided to not do that at all and keep the lines natural, but by then it was already too late and the program was already open and then I was like, yeah sure. I'm watching Nocturnal Animals so who's really paying attention to what I'm doing, anyway?

Once I got the dachshund to the optimal length, I exported her back into Photoshop to start different brush tests.

Testing different Kyle brushes

Happy with how the little guy looked, I went back to the original pup cause I knew at least one shirt would be bought. It took a while to get the correct brush, but it didn't occur to me to fill out the scottie instead of outlining him like the dachshundd.

Testing different Kyle brushes

The final step before I sent these out to be made into shirts was to put it back into the Illustrator template.

With the shirt template layer turned on

With the shirt template layer turned on

With the shirt template layer turned off

With the shirt template layer turned off

Now look at these mock-ups and imagine how excited I was to get the orders in.

Just look at it!

I broke my style guide rule and wore a shirt with a print on it to work. I was very excited.

From my copywriter,  @conopatttt

From my copywriter, @conopatttt

From my account person,  @caatnaps

From my account person, @caatnaps

My other roommate works in fashion and gave me her approval, so it'll be in my revamped store soon!

Also, because I like things in threes, there'll be a third dog soon.

Latest Project: Animals in the Night 2

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Cougar in a tree, 2014. Part of the Animals in the Night series.

I'm not entirely happy with how these paintings turned out, I might try a different technique next time, but I do like how the eyes glow and how this gif gives people a headache.

I previously tested out this painting technique as well as the rhinestone-behind-green-pvc flash theory on a quick Ego sketch and made adjustments for this theory but I think the next iteration of these are going to be monochromatic and a lot darker.

I'll show the other two soon.

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Latest Project: A Bicycle Bell Music Box, prototype

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I took apart a bicycle bell and a toy xylophone and combined them to make a bell that works like a music box.

The melody it plays is "Mexican Hat Dance," something I heard a couple times late at night from a passing car while working on my Home posters. It was part of the inspiration to build this sort of bell for a bicycle.

Through a lot of trial-and-error, I figured out the best way to strike each key was to use the plastic end of a map needle and the best way to hold it in place was with extra foam board, tape and a rubber band.

Originally, the outside was supposed to be a tin can but things didn't work out in the fabrication process and I ended up standing in a Home Depot aisle for 2 hours figuring how to work around it.

I ended up going with foam board because I didn't have the proper tools to cut or mould wood and metal. The board's easier to cut through and thick enough that it won't give way.

Latest Project: Animals in the Night, work in progress

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

We're always being told that flash photography isn't allowed at art museums. I wanted to paint something that requires flash photography in order to get the full effect. Consider it to be like QR codes or augmented reality but without the hassle.

This is a proof-of-concept painting to see if an idea I had a year ago would actually work before I went on to paint a series of animals at night.

It did.

I originally considered using sequins but tried out green PVC backed with textured but concave aluminum foil. Ultimately, I decided to substitute the foil with rhinestones instead.

Ego Getting Caught by an Open Fridge , 2014. Mixed Media

Ego Getting Caught by an Open Fridge, 2014. Mixed Media