Source: Chris Mendoza
November 2015: Visual artist Brian Keller spoke at the 47th gathering of the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings. Keller began his career at digital-cable channel G4 in Los Angeles. He wrote, produced and directed TV segments, including in-studio interviews with celebrities. Feeling homesick, he returned to Chicago where he established “Brain Killer,” a studio where he pursues his passion for making art, whether in the form of music videos or branded communication for clients, such as The Onion, Red Bull and Threadless. Two aspects of his talk instantly grabbed me: his childhood influences and their role in sharpening his long-term creative focus.
Video games. Anime. Manga. Godzilla. Skateboarding. “Star Wars.” These are among the influences that affected Keller, who kept calling this strong vessel of aesthetics, whose collective influence grew on his imaginative approach to projects, a “big wealth of creativity and knowledge.” He immersed himself in this material—the signs of the times. Its eclecticism is apparent. It formed bridges to his current work, like the anthropomorphic characters and landscapes, found in comics, he casts and renders in his murals to the textural language of street culture he surveys in his documentary footage. They all heed the call to “Keep it weird”—Keller’s goal in whatever he sets his mind to draw, paint, photograph and film.
Indulging in one’s formative influences is a priceless investment over time. Keller immersed himself with stimulating matter that charged his brain and set the tone for his life’s work.
The cumulative effect of genres and their unfolding impressions is proven by the genre-mixed films of Quentin Tarantino. While Keller’s brain is packed with comics (and more), Tarantino’s brain is packed with music (and movies), as he shared with Charles McGrath of “The New York Times”:
“I’ve got a huge record collection, and I have a record room off of my bedroom. It looks just like a used-record store, with record posters and bins of records broken down into genres. That’s a big part of my think tank.
When I’m getting ready to write a new movie, or thinking of the story and starting to zero in on it, I’ll go in the record room and start trying to find music for the movie—other soundtracks, songs, whatever. When I do find a couple of pieces, that’s two or three steps closer to actually being a movie. Now who knows if those three songs will end up being in the finished movie? But it gets me a little further along.”Genres can help galvanize a full-time passion. Throughout his talk, Keller’s drive for “bigger, faster, better” opportunities to express his attitude, his taste, his style, was aptly expressed when he said, “Fuck it. I’m going to do what I want to do.” This is the fierce beat of CreativeMornings, with Chicago-chapter speakers demonstrating this desire, ingrained among humans—to express oneself, that is, as poet Dana Gioa brilliantly encouraged: “To provoke thought into form…”
This can also be extended to the defiance of doubt when it comes to doing meaningful and ultimately rewarding work. Jim Coudal, who collaborated on Field Notes and was the inaugural speaker of the CreativeMornings chapter when it launched in Chicago, summed it up perfectly: “Risk is the time you wasted. Keep swinging.”
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Big thanks: to Braintree, Arclight Cinemas (Host), Deskpass, Publican Quality Meats, Green Sheep Water, Braintree, for being Partners of monthly Chicago CreativeMornings #47; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed who both spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to make CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.
Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.
Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.
2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.
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