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The Colorful Masks and Music of Lightning Bolt Drummer...

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 14:04

The Colorful Masks and Music of Lightning Bolt Drummer @chimpendale

To see more of Brian’s colorful creations, follow @chimpendale on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Brian Chippendale (@chimpendale) is into masks. There’s the blue balaclava-like one that stretches out over his face, and the magenta one attached to two giant severed teddy bear heads. These days, Brian prefers his “tiger mask,” a multicolored stitched shell he wears while drumming for his band, the noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt. Inside it is a contact microphone, which picks up all the guttural vibrations, rumblings and sweat that accumulate during a show.

“Wearing a sweat-soaked rag on your head an hour a day helps dispel inhibitions,” says Brian, over the phone, about his facial disguise. “It’s funny because people are just like, ‘It must be so disgusting.’ But I wash it every night that I play.”

Washing may disinfect it, but it doesn’t keep it intact. The more laundry cycles it goes through, the more it starts to shred and fall apart, the more it begins to turn into another one of Brian’s growing pile of tattered creations.

The Rhode Island native’s tradition of designing and wearing his own costumes began some time in the 1990s. Back then, he and a group of artists were shacked up in a warehouse in Providence known as Fort Thunder, a collective art space where they played shows, drew comics and held wrestling matches. Then some developers came in and tore the place down to make way for a parking lot. So Brian packed up his stuff and, after living in a new space for a couple years, eventually moved down the road into the third floor of an old mill, which serves as his current home base.

“I miss Fort Thunder days in the same way I miss my 20s,” says Brian. “But I am also really happy where I am in my life now. If I had the option to go back, I wouldn’t. We had like eight cats and one litter pan. It was pretty ridiculous in its filthiness, and [there were] tons of roommates, which is so awesome and horrible at the same time.”

Brian is an artist-musician, or possibly a musician-artist. It’s hard to say which comes first. Drawing a comic comes just as easy to him as providing a steady backbeat on his two-decade-old kick drum. His group Lightning Bolt began in 1995, around the time Fort Thunder was getting off the ground. Since then, the duo has released seven official records, including its latest, Fantasy Empire. The new album has the same piercing dissonance and guitar shredding from the group’s previous efforts. But this one sounds crisper, due to the band utilizing the full digital technology of a studio for the first time.

The music wasn’t the only thing they approached with a fresh perspective. Lightning Bolt album covers, which are handled by Brian, have always included bursts of color. But this one is more minimalist––a black-and-white collage redrawn with a small pen.

“A lot of our covers are these colorful, aggressive things,” he says. “For this one I wanted to go for more of an atmosphere and an air of mystery.”

Like all of his projects, Brian worked on the cover while parked in his current studio in Providence. The building spans almost a city block –– 8,000 square feet (743 square meters) of wood and brick and a broken elevator, which makes loading gear for tours a bit of a pain. But the space is very much his own. There’s a room full of shredded paper for collaging, a room for silk screening, a room to record Lightning Bolt material and several rooms to draw in. There are also spaces filled with junk and other knickknacks he’s dragged up there over the years.

“An old roommate came over here once and started rummaging around in some room that I don’t really go to,” he says. “He pulled out an entire windsurfing board and I had never even seen this thing.”

The building switched hands a few years ago to a new landlord, but unlike Fort Thunder, Brian doesn’t think he’ll be kicked to the curb any time soon. There’s too much stuff to get him to leave –– art materials and toys, a couple of printing presses and his drum set, and maybe even that two-headed bear suit from the Fort Thunder days, languishing in some hidden corner in a box. Worst-case: If he gets evicted, Brian will just set up shop somewhere else.

“I am an artist and a musician just because I can’t do anything else and I won’t do anything else.”

–– Instagram @music

Painting from Nature with @hannahjesus For more of Hannah’s...

Wed, 05/06/2015 - 14:01

Painting from Nature with @hannahjesus

For more of Hannah’s paintings from nature, follow @hannahjesus on Instagram.

Hannah Jesus Koh (@hannahjesus), a high school art teacher from the San Francisco Bay Area in California, uses water from the nature around her to capture landscapes through watercolor painting.

Her technique came about at the base of Iceland’s Gullfoss waterfall when, armed with her journal and watercolor paints, she realized she’d forgotten the water. “But the dense mists off the waterfall heavily saturated my surroundings,” she tells, “and that was all the water I needed to render the scene. I collected some with my fingers and used them and my brush to paint. Sometimes I ran my brush directly onto the droplet-laden blades of grass.”

Since that moment, incorporating the water from her environment into her art has become as meaningful as the landscapes she paints. “It’s nice to know an elemental part of the scene will always be a literal part of my painting,” Hannah explains. “The salty Arctic sea spray is infused into my painting of Dyrhólaey. Drops from the largest ocean on Earth permeate my small painting of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Pacific Northwest rain rains into my painting of Multnomah Falls. And cheap black coffee from a hole-in-the-wall joint in Brooklyn colors in the bricks of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

The Art of Papercutting with @emilyhogarth To see more of...

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 19:08

The Art of Papercutting with @emilyhogarth

To see more of Emily’s papercutting art, follow @emilyhogarth on Instagram.

“Each papercut can take anything from a day to a week to complete all depending on the scale and the complexity of the design,” says Emily Hogarth (@emilyhogarth), an illustrator and papercutting artist from Edinburgh, Scotland. “I design it as I go along, which I find often makes the design more organic.” Each work is cut by hand and on the opposite side of the final product, which means Emily is extra careful when incorporating words into her designs. “Writing backwards has become normal for me these days but it did take a bit of practice.”

Emily says she uses Instagram to capture the magic of everyday life, as well as to document her art. “My work is often inspired by my surroundings, flowers and foliage on my dog walk or the pattern on an old vase.”

Emily assures anyone can take up the art of papercutting: “The best thing about papercutting is that it requires so little tools — all you need is a cutting mat, a piece of paper and a scalpel and some blades and off you go.”

All in the Family: A Portrait of Drummer @spencertweedy To see...

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:03

All in the Family: A Portrait of Drummer @spencertweedy

To see more of Spencer’s life on the road, follow @spencertweedy on Instagram. For more stories from around the music community, follow @music on Instagram.

“Recognize it?”

The year is 2001 and a young, doe-eyed Spencer Tweedy is holding a lollipop in his hand and quizzing his father, Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of indie rock legends Wilco, on the drumbeat he just played on his lap.

“What is it?” asks Jeff.

“Guess! It’s one of your songs.”

“It’s one of my songs?! ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart?’”




“‘Dreamer in My Dreams?’”


The back and forth continues until Jeff gives up and asks for help.

“It’s something with a drummer,” says Spencer.

“‘Heavy Metal Drummer?’”


Spencer puts the lollipop back in his mouth and starts to drum on his legs again. Jeff smiles and joins in.

The footage, seen in the band’s 2002 documentary, “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” has since gone down in the annals of Wilco history both as an enduring snapshot of father-son bonding, as well as an artifact for a familial musical relationship, now 19 years in the making.

More than a decade after that tour bus moment, Spencer found himself on stage in San Francisco at the Fillmore Theater with his dad, this time behind a real set of drums. The two were at the tail end of their world tour with their group, fittingly titled Tweedy.

Earlier in the day, the teenage drummer was sitting upstairs in a room at the venue, reflecting on his musical history. Spencer has technically been playing drums since he was two –– at least as much as any two-year-old can play the instrument at that age. He took to it quickly. By seven, he had started his own band, the Blisters. But Spencer never assumed he’d be working on a formal project with his father. Then, at 17, the elder Tweedy asked his son to contribute to an album he was producing for the soul singer Mavis Staples. Even today, Spencer admits he was both “shocked and really, really excited” at the opportunity.

“To me, that was always too far fetched of an idea, because my dad has Wilco,” he says, about getting to officially record with his father. “If I had ever imagined that when I was younger, I would think it would be really cool but it would probably never happen. And then it all sort of fell into place.”

Soon after, they recorded an album, Sukierae, named after Spencer’s mom, who was going through chemotherapy at the time. The results are a long, winding path of introspective lyrics and melodies. The two were on the road playing the finished tracks for the last several months, across the US and Europe. Save for the occasional trip with Wilco, the excursion was Spencer’s first official tour as a drummer.

“I think to a lot of aspiring musicians, the idea of touring is the thing that you want to do,” he says. “And I feel really lucky to do that at 19. But I think when you imagine that in your head, it’s a really romantic idea. It’s like, that’s making it as a rock and roll musician. In reality it’s a lot more normal. I think that I knew that, and to experience that is not disappointing at all. If anything, it’s just heartening. It’s still real life. It’s not unimaginably wild and crazy,” he says, later adding, “We are still waking up and eating cereal.”

The Spencer today doesn’t seem that far removed from the one readers got to know when he was younger, when he was writing smart, inquisitive essays for his blog and other publications. The sharpest piece, from 2011, is titled “About a Boy,” in which he discusses depression, anxiety and puberty with remarkable, matter-of-fact clarity:

“I had it all backwards. I don’t feel weird because my body’s changing and girls are confusing and school is hard and drugs are scary. I feel weird because my thoughts are different — my feelings are different. I feel weird because I feel weird.”

Spencer doesn’t write as much these days –– he says it’s gotten harder as he’s gotten older, feeling like he has nothing new or interesting to say. However, as he’s discovered while on the road with Tweedy, those early pieces had an impact on others. Meeting people who have been moved by the work he did as a young teen is an experience he calls both “weird” and “heartwarming.”

“I like writing. Aside from music, that’s one of the main things I like to do. I just need to figure out some way to do it that works.”

What works for now is touring and playing with his dad. During the Fillmore show, the experience came full circle for Spencer: Jeff, feeling wistful, remarked that the last time Spencer was at the venue he was a kid, chasing spotlights on the floor with his younger brother.

“That makes me really sad, but I am glad to be chasing spotlights on stage with you tonight,” he said to his son, before they both broke into a rendition of “Heavy Metal Drummer.”

––Instagram @music

Appreciating Culture and the Happiness of Children with...

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 14:03

Appreciating Culture and the Happiness of Children with @casadetake

For more photos from Shunsuke, follow @casadetake on Instagram.

“I try to capture the Japanese landscape and culture through my family life with Sora and Itaru,” says Shunsuke Miyatake (@casadetake), who lives in Japan’s Kanagawa prefecture. A father of an outgoing five-year-old girl and a restless three-year-old boy — both very curious about everything from insects to music to outer space — Shunsuke always has his camera ready for moments when the little ones absorb themselves in something interesting in their environment. “Through my kids, I want to share aspects of Japanese culture and sceneries,” he explains, “from the traditional ‘wabi-sabi’ aesthetics to the history and to the edgy modern art in the cities.”

For this Children’s Day, celebrated annually in Japan on May 5 to appreciate the growth and happiness of children, Shunsuke looks back on some of the favorite captures of his kids. Those moments include when Itaru became glued to the window when he saw a Japanese garden for the first time, and when Sora and Itaru sat and sang at a park on a cloudy day during the rainy season while they patiently waited for sunshine. “I love this photo,” he reflects back on the latter, “because the innocence I see in my kids makes any gloomy day of the rainy season seem brighter.”

Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPemojisinthewild Weekend Hashtag...

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 20:05

Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPemojisinthewild

Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.

This weekend’s prompt was #WHPemojisinthewild, which asked participants to capture real-life examples of their favorite emojis. Every Monday we feature some of our favorite submissions from the project, but be sure to check out the rest here.

Visiting a Miniature ‘Star Wars’ Universe with...

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 17:58

Visiting a Miniature ‘Star Wars’ Universe with @jeremy_ennis_1979

For more intricately detailed Star Wars iconography from Jeremy, follow @jeremy_ennis_1979 on Instagram. For more Star Wars fan art in honor of May the Fourth (Star Wars Day), explore the #starwarsart hashtag.

Jeremy Ennis’ (@jeremy_ennis_1979) micro-illustrations celebrate Star Wars in stunning detail. As a student working on his natural science illustration certificate, the Seattle-based artist plays with the techniques he learns in his studies by drawing his favorite characters and ships from the beloved film franchise.

“I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I came to the Star Wars movies late, actually. I watched A New Hope when I was 13 years old back in 1992,” he says. “I was so drawn in and impressed by the visuals and the creative attention to detail.”

Although his day-to-day work focuses on the patterns and textures of the natural world, much of Jeremy’s creative work is sparked by the intangible — from music to galaxies far, far away. “I am a self-taught violinist,” he says. “I am also really into the order and chaos of the universe, and spend a lot of time learning about astrophysics.”

Before he pursued an illustration degree, Jeremy grew up in Ontario, Canada, where he was a self-described “hitchhiking homeless guy” from age 15 to 20. Now 36, the experience shaped how he approaches his art.

“I spent those years hitching back and forth across Canada, and I met so many different kinds of people and paradigms,” he says. “I had to learn to adapt to all different circumstances to survive. It’s definitely influenced who I am and how I see the world.”

On the Front Lines Fighting Forest Fires with @caitlinchinn May...

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 14:03

On the Front Lines Fighting Forest Fires with @caitlinchinn

May 4 is International Firefighters’ Day. To see more moments — both adventurous and mundane — from Caitlin’s life as a firefighter with the La Grande Hotshots, follow @caitlinchinn on Instagram.

“Getting stalked by cougars and run-ins with pissed off bears … Feeling the earth BOOM when a 700-year-old tree that was burning out from the roots cracked and hit the ground not even 100 feet away … Getting drenched with water from rogue bucket drops, and splattered with red retardant from air tankers.”

In five years of fighting forest fires, three of them as a member of an elite 20-person Hotshot crew based in Northeast Oregon, Caitlin Chinn (@caitlinchinn) has had her share of harrowing experiences. For Caitlin, who grew up outside of Seattle, a grueling and dangerous job was not preordained. “I overcame way more difficult social obstacles to become a firefighter than physical ones,” she says. But a life of adventure, where work and play are largely indistinguishable, is exactly what she sought out.

The La Grande Hotshots’ season begins May 18, and kicks off with an 80-hour session of training and physical endurance tests. Then, they wait. “The early-season fires are typically in the Southwest or Alaska, so we’ll probably be headed there first,” Caitlin says.

“I take pictures from places many people don’t get to see and provide my own perspective,” says Caitlin, who emphatically rejects labels people might ascribe to her. “I am just an ordinary person with an extraordinary part-time job. If I happen to inspire people, great!”