Pictured: Aaron Pierre Brown
at his Pride Arts Center Exhibit, 2023
Aaron Pierre Brown is a Tennessee-born/Michigan-raised Artist and Designer who has spent the majority of his life in Chicago, Illinois. His talent for painting event banners and creating bulletin boards was being showcased as early as 3rd Grade in elementary school. During his Senior Year in High School, Aaron received the Rhode Island School of Design Book Award for Outstanding Art Students. His undergraduate education began in Fashion Design, but culminated with a BFA in Graphic Design from Columbia College, cum laude. A major portion of his professional life has been graphic-related in the Legal Marketing field.
Aaron’s work ranges from Still Life to commercially-functional subject matter. His fascination with color and composition draws from influences ranging from the Surrealism of Dali to the Post-Impressionism of Toulouse-Lautrec. His approach, regardless to medium, always strives to use unlikely materials (often up-cycled), precise shapes and loose arrangements to create impact and drama.
Self Portrait, 2009, India Ink
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Lately, I’ve run into the more-than-occasional skunk in my neighborhood. One night, a passing dog-walker warned me of existing boroughs they had casually encountered. In the first-person, I have run across foraging skunks on someone’s front lawn or late night in my neighborhood park. One “fella” had the nerve to raise his tail “warning style” in my direction, even though he was at least twenty feet away. I get it—defense mechanism. To be fair, this is written into his survival DNA. But the lesson learned from Pepe Le Pew… you should be JUST that cautious when it comes to your brand.
My life experiences, skill tracks and creativity all culminate into a survival package that has developed over time, getting me past my fifty-year milestone. I look forward to a few more decades, given the fact that my last-surviving grandparent reached 91. In order to continue forward, I have cultivated a shift in my design philosophy: prioritizing myself.
During the emergence of Modernism, artists were trying to be rebels, solely recognized for being the one to break the mold and free themselves from the traditions of the Italian Renaissance. Many artists were not willing to be categorized and labeled in the manners that would ultimately make them famous. French artist Fernand Léger is a prime example of this creative shift from classic techniques to more abstract visual concepts.
Gathering in a room with fellow artists and critiquing each others' work is an exercise that goes far beyond the “canvas.” A head-on approach can be taken when the critic stands in front of a painting and takes it all in as a whole, while an “angled” view might look at the media choices and techniques utilized. As the participants take their turns interpreting, sizing-up and otherwise internally chastising the collection of expressions, a sense of each individual starts to develop. The observer relates to the pieces as well as each other. A breakdown of the various uses of color, space and line opens a gradual connection among the players; a virtual pecking order sorts itself.
I enjoyed taking a behind the scenes look at artist Kara Walker and her studio, seeing how her thought process leads up to actual art. Her subject matter, on the other hand, was a little unsettling to me. Mission accomplished.
After World War II, there was a need for low cost furniture with good design. A competition was even held in the late 1940s, “The International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.” This was to go beyond just solving the problem of affordable housing, as returning soldiers reuniting with their families now needed affordable and comfortable living solutions. Dually, the design process would be an overall attempt to elevate society through functionality and aesthetics (creating the best for the most, as Charles Eames would put it). The inspired challenge would take some of the manufacturing advances made during WWII used to make weapons and apply them to a streamlined assembly process. It would also give manufacturers a needed transition from the diminished wartime production demands.
I hadn’t blogged in quite a while because of a recent life event… the sudden passing of my Significant Other of twenty-one years. While our relationship was predominantly weekend-based (me living in Chicago and he living in nearby Indiana) I always looked forward to our time together. I still find myself wanting to share some trivial weekday anecdotes when he comes on the weekend…but, alas. I find myself having to seek out other weekend dérives.
I’ve recently taken up the courier profession as a side hustle, via a particular phone app that shall remain nameless for the sake of this missive. My last delivery of the day in question would prove to be my pièce de résistance: picking up and successfully delivering a large food order from an establishment I had vowed I would avoid accepting future orders from. But in the fervor of the moment, I inadvertently accepted this new order, only to realize my error… it was now an irreversible decision.
I finally came to the realization that I'm (somewhat of) a cheese snob. While perusing a "dollar store" for treasures to complete my setup for an outdoor movie screening of "The Blues Brothers," I decided to give an off-brand can of squeeze cheese a chance. I took it with, but never did open it until I attended an outdoor screening of "Steel Magnolias." OMG!, it was MMG! (as so many things that are bad for you usually are).
Last week, I took time out to create an indulgent getaway at a Michigan camping resort that would include cozy comforts and whimsical details. Since January, I had been curating pieces to put together for a theme that took me to this juxtaposition of vintage and exotic. The planned jaunt leading up to Memorial Day weekend soon arrived, and after hitching a trailer to the back of a friend's Jeep, we set off for a DIY destination that would soon materialize like a desert mirage.
Having met and worked with director and videographer Wolfgang Busch through the "How Do I Look" community empowerment project, it was discovered that a new art form had been emerging, worthy of its own distinctions beyond just "Vogueing with a Prop." If Fate had any say, then it was truly destined for our creative minds to cross paths.
My new Thursday night obsession is a figure drawing meet-up at the Uptown Underground. Tucked away in the back of this basement entertainment venue is a smaller theater where models pose in various stages of undress, while artists sketch away while engaging in casual, bawdy banter. I have joined this group to brush up and perfect my drawing of the human figure.
Wow! The title of this entry just came to me as I was starting to write... It's a play on Tom Browne's "Funkin' for Jamaica," an old-school funk jam (with guest vocals by Tonni Smith, though I always thought it was Chaka Khan).
Over the past weekend, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL (the oldest outdoor music festival in the U.S.) hosted its annual Ultimate Picnic Contest. In the lawn seating areas, many attendees don't even need a contest to go all out and bedeck their sections of the grass with chairs, pillows, table coverings, candelabra and gourmet munchies. I would imagine that this spirit inspired Ravinia to start a yearly contest, and each year has drawn a spectacular range of dynamically themed entries.
Many people will pay for a web address and then hold on to it until they find a web designer/programmer. This is perfectly fine, but be sure to get your web hosting from that SAME source. To understand how the process works, think of a web hosting service as a landlord and your designer/programmer as a construction company. You want to build a “house” on one of the landlord’s “lots.” The “address” is important, only because it helps visitors to find the house, but without the lot to build upon, you’re just wandering around carrying blueprints and a “Home, Sweet Home” placard. You need a place to “park” and establish residence. The Web is “land, stretching out so far and wide,” to borrow a "Green Acres" reference. Where will you take up residence?
How do you know when something has become bigger than life? My answer is 'when it continues on, long after it has ended.' Marketing plays a large role in the life span of a concept. After all, popular culture is just a collection of successfully marketed elements that are accepted for a time by society at large. Often, the marketing cycle dictates that oversaturation of a product will eventually lead to its demise. Keeping something afloat for as long as possible takes a skillful amount of manipulation and speculation. The investment must pay out before opportunities have evaporated.
Red Earth: A Malian Journey by Dee Dee Bridgewater
Free-ranging melodies are accented with the syncopation of various percussion instruments, as images of trickling waters, tropical safaris, colorful fabric wraps and a sea of multicolored skin tones are painted on a virtual canvas. An expanse of red earth can be seen adjacent to the River Niger, the sun fixed intensely in the afternoon sky. No matter the point of origin, transporting to this distant locale and warm climate is made possible by the musicality of Dee Dee Bridgewater's Red Earth: A Malian Journey.
While restocking my bar for the past holiday season, the cashier asked if I had tried the New Amsterdam brand of gin. I admit I had seen it on the shelf in passing, but never got around to trying it. Later, I did buy a bottle to sample. I like gin, but I found New Amsterdam's to be low on juniper (why I like gin) and high in citrus. While I'm not a big fan of the contents, I absolutely LOVE the bottle.
I was working on a booklet-style brochure that featured full page photographic images to compliment the copy on the facing pages. I searched a library of stock photography looking for images that were slightly abstracted by being close-up, detailed cropped shots to enhance the generalized concepts they would evoke in the viewer's imagination.
Double Navel, 1947
Photographer Minor Martin White was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 9, 1908 and died in Cambridge, MA on June 24, 1976. His photographic foray started in 1937, though he had been a childhood hobbyist upon receiving a box Brownie camera from his late grandfather. He graduated to a 35 mm Argus camera around this time, and through publications he was inspired by the work of Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. He would later meet many of these people and establish friendships and working relationships with them.
Today’s visual trend in design is simplicity. Light-colored backgrounds and fields of flat color have put two-dimensional rendering at the top of the charts. Even collage-type composition with minimal shadows and shading are marrying 2 and 3D elements into basic idea representation.
While I’m not knocking the pursuit of trends, I like to capture the current mood of style in a way that can be timeless, while still stamping the results with a definite place in the artistic timeline. There will be a time when the fashions of today become nostalgic markers of bygone ideas, but the work can still represent the the rationale behind the design choices.
Not to be a brag, but I am an integral part of the Chicago leg of the community made famous in the cult-classic Paris is Burning. This documentary explored the underpinnings of a community that developed as a direct result of intentionally keeping people of color out of arts society. When creative people are marginalized and deprived of opportunity to participate in the exchange of talents and ideas, they always create their own arenas. That’s how you ended up with things like the Chit’lin Circuit, where black people were relegated to a separate performance schedule from white performers. Don’t forget that some of our iconic entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, etc. were not allowed to stay in the very hotels they performed.
In this brand identity excercise, I took on a mock-challenge of resurrecting a defunct company. The twist would be to create a new manifestation as far away from the original as possible, stripping away any entrenched connotations and associations.
I resurrected Enron… as a local neighborhood flower shop! Enron is remembered for raping the life savings, 401ks and other financial lifeboats of hard working Americans, during the economy of greed in the 90s. In my vision, it is humbled by priding itself in environmentally-conscious deliveries with a vintage postal delivery bike. I had fun creating the logo, trying to evoke creativity, freshness and the local neighborhood mom-and-pop feel.
© 2002-2023 Aaron P. Brown. All rights reserved.