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Artist Series: NGHBRS

ART, INTERVIEW, Local, PLAZA DISTRICTSteven SilvaComment
Summer Eyes - Aaron Cahill

Summer Eyes - Aaron Cahill

This month's featured artist is Aaron Cahill. Aaron is a graphic designer, photographer, and DJ with an affinity for math. He has animated projector sequences for musicians, and is the man behind the wavy digital aesthetic of Instagram juggernaut NGHBRS.

Aaron is currently working on an art book based on his recent travels in Tokyo, but he was kind enough to take a moment to share his thoughts on social media, inspiration, and process. We could've gone on and on – we didn't touch on his hypnotic, glitch-driven animations, for instance, which I highly recommend. 

Our interview begins with the story behind the NGHBRS name, itself a fascinating study in searching for creativity in the physical world, and wraps up with a bit about what to expect from his upcoming show. So, without further ado, I give you Aaron Cahill:


TL: Aaron, thanks for doing this! First off, your instagram handle @nghbrs is huge. Can you tell me a little bit about NGHBRS? What is it? Was there an inspiration behind the name?

AC: Thanks, dude. It’s my pleasure. I used to go thrifting, looking for old science annuals/textbooks for $0.25. You know, stuff that’s totally useless, full of antiquated science and outdated technology. I’d use these for collages and illustrations.

Mostly scientists experimenting on lab rats – all in the name of progress. The name was pulled from an old 1950’s social studies book titled, "Your World and Mine: Neighbors In The Air Age." The title was how the world is smaller now with commercial air travel. Now everyone is your neighbor. I thought that Neighbors in the Air Age sounded lofty. Poetic. But mostly I was using it as a sarcastic statement about society. All the messed up events that happen in the world. Things that we do to each other.

Eventually, I shortened it. And I’m trying to be more positive with my art work. Create something that reflects that name. The art that I create now explores how our perception preserves the past. 

TL: How have you grown the brand to this point? And what advice would you give to upstart artists about the jungles of social media?

AC: Honestly, I’m not into Facebook, but I was drawn to the visual nature of Instagram. I think a lot of artists are. The medium made it easier for me to connect with other photographers and designers. It gave me the opportunity to work alongside them as well. That’s where all of my success comes from – collaboration.

Early on it was all edits done on an iPhone. We’re able share our processes – which apps do what and see how far they can push a pixel using a phone. I’ll share their work with my followers and they do the same. It kinda grew from there. 

The biggest piece of advice I have is figure out your voice. With social media people are looking for authenticity. You can see how my style has developed over the years. But it’s still my own.

Akasaka Lights - Aaron Cahill

Akasaka Lights - Aaron Cahill

TL: Much of your work combines strong design sensibilities – geometries, abstractions, color – with photographic elements. What draws you to this style?

AC: In high school, I was studying to be an engineer. So I took lots of math classes. Algebra, geometry, calculus and logic classes. That’s something that I’ve always had an interest in. And it’s something that has stuck with me. As a graphic designer, I have all of these elements at my disposal to communicate a certain message. As an artist, I naturally want to combine all of these things to pose a question.

TL: How do you typically start a piece? Tell us a little bit about your process.

AC: With design, I’ll concept, sketch and plan things out. However, these works begin as an exercise in composition. I try not think too far ahead. I’d rather they come naturally and try not to force anything. If it’s not working, I’m not afraid to come back to it or scrap the idea completely.

Typically I like to start with a photograph. Find angles within the layout or add geometry that compliments the subject matter. As common elements piece together, I’ll figure out spacing and hierarchy. Every now and then these are quick. They’ll come easily to me. Other times, I’ll build out smaller details, finishing touches that allows for an idea to emerge. Leaving room for mistakes is always part of the process.

TL:  Your work has landed in a really cohesive place. But zooming out a little bit now, do you have any standout memories of early art? When did it begin to appeal to you, and was there a moment when you began to take it more seriously?

AC: I was always drawing as a kid. In high school, a teacher recommended me for an AP art class. That was one of the first moments that I thought that I could do this for a living. Luckily, I come from a family that supported and encouraged me to pursue whatever interests I might have. 

TL: I don't know how we haven't mentioned this yet, but you're also a DJ. You're going to turn it up at your own show. Is there a lot of spillover between your music and your art? What are you listening to these days?

AC: Absolutely. DJing is just another way that I can express my creativity. I dig how electronic music matches the tone of my work. It adds another element in establishing a narrative in the viewers mind. 

At the moment, I’ve buying a lot of Seb Wildblood records. Chill deep house. Also digging Ishmael. It’s little bit jazzier. And if you’re looking for something a little more upbeat and groovy, I would check out Harvey Sutherland – I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll be playing tracks by all three Friday night. 

TL: Certain music scenes (hip-hop/indie-pop/electronica) and art styles in Oklahoma City are becoming increasingly visible – but let's get real, there's still plenty of room for growth there. I always ask artists this – what are some of the advantages of being an Oklahoma City-based artist? What are some of the disadvantages, or some of the things you’d like to see change?

AC: Oklahoma City has a small community of artists. It’s easy to get involved. It’s exciting to know that you can make an impact and help it grow.

TL: Okay, showtime. Your show opens Friday (9/8). What can people expect from this one? What should they look for?

AC: Can’t wait. It’s gonna be fun. I like for my shows to be a complete audio/visual experience. Hopefully it’s something they haven’t seen or heard before. 

TL: And a little free advertising. Anything you're working on right now that you want to share? Where can people find more of your work?

AC: I’m in the process of finishing up a book of my art work from a recent trip to Tokyo. That should be done soon. I’m also revamping my website. That’s looong overdue. In the meantime, you can find more of my work at instagram.com/nghbrs.


Everything Is in Decay - Aaron Cahill

Everything Is in Decay - Aaron Cahill

Gateways to the Future - Aaron Cahill

Gateways to the Future - Aaron Cahill

Cognitive Shift - Aaron Cahill

Cognitive Shift - Aaron Cahill

Echoes from a Silent Spring - Aaron Cahill

Echoes from a Silent Spring - Aaron Cahill

This Tokyo trip art book sounds awesome. Keep your eyes peeled and prep for more NGHBRS by visiting our store. His show opens during Live On The Plaza (9/8) and will be up for viewing through the end of September.

Artist Interviews: Todd Beats

ART, INTERVIEW, PLAZA DISTRICTDusty GilpinComment

With each feature, our aim of the game is to connect you with atoms in the local art molecule. We take the Field of Dreams, build-it-and-they-will-come approach to content creation. Call it optimistic, but we’re an optimistic brand. We believe art has a strong chance to influence. Creating opportunities for artistic voices primes our community for a more livable local scene - more stylish bars and restaurants, better design and architecture, and, fingers crossed, more open minds.

So let's keep it rolling. We welcome Todd Beats to the store this month. Todd is a high-volume, clock-racing portrait painter, with a knack for relaying his subjects’ expressions on a limited color palette. We caught up with Todd via email.

TL: Hi Todd! Tell us a little about your work - where did you grow up and how did you get introduced to art? 

TB: I was born in Denver, CO, but I've been an Okie since '89. Growing up in the 80's and 90's in the Midwest meant finding ways to entertain yourself. I was always fascinated with drawing, and I have done it since I could hold a crayon. My tween and teen years were enveloped with comic books and the art that came with it. Physical anatomy, dynamic posing, facial expression, proportion, etc drove my obsession and skills. Eventually evolving into portraiture and other artistic mediums.

TL: We'll swing back around to the portraiture. Do you have any formal training in art?

TB: Ha! Not a lick! I took a couple "art" classes in high school, but they were teaching elements that were already well-established skills in my repertoire. So it was mostly a waste of time. Can you tell why I had a hard time in high school?

TL: At least that wasn't the top of the mountain, right? The Todd star is still rising! Now, going into this show, are there any major themes or ideas in the mix?

TB: This show is all about the improvement and exercising of my skills as an artist. Simplifying and accelerating my process was a major focus, but honestly my favorite part is how the fan participation that helped drive the creation of these 20+ portraits.

TL: That's right, you mentioned that. Facebook and Instagram voters were choosing subjects for your 1-hour paintings. It lends a very interactive, pop-culture vibe to some of your work. What is it that draws you to portrait painting?

TB: There are some foundational truths I have found in art, and one of them is; if you can accurately manifest someone's likeness, and/or the physical form in general, everything else is easy. People don't understand how little forgiveness there is in portraiture. A line that's a centimeter off, or a shadow that is the wrong tone will completely change how someone looks. Being able to capture someone's likeness is just straight up rewarding.

TL: Change of pace question - do you listen to music while you work? What have you been listening to?

TB: So I actually have been a music producer for over 12 years. I have a huge catalog of my own work that I tend to listen to.  I know that sounds egotistical, and to some degree, it is. But I liken it being a skilled chef. If you can make exactly what you want to eat, why would you risk having someone else make you something that doesn't satisfy your craving.

TL: Strong analogy game. That's awesome. Let's talk Oklahoma. What is it like being an artist out here? Advantages or disadvantages?

TB: Simply stated: Big fish, small pond and all the positives and negatives that come with that. Oklahoma has blown up in the last 5-10 years as far as the art community goes. I'm stoked to see all the amazing talent that has grown from this relatively small/big city.

TL: Todd, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for your time. We're excited for the show. Give us an outro, where else can people find more of your work?

TB: Thanks! You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @toddbeats. I paint live frequently, and my wife and I have a live morning show every weekday. You can follow us @morning_tna or watch us live on her Facebook account, Ashtyn Anderson.

Todd's show opens at 7PM during Live on the Plaza (3/10)! You can catch him live painting in-store. His work will remain up throughout March. Pieces will be available for sale, and the man himself will be available for similar commissions. Put on your art show shoes and swing by!

Artist Interviews: Sean Eldridge x Live on the Plaza

ART, PLAZA DISTRICT, INTERVIEWDusty GilpinComment

January drops a new year in our laps. Already we're 3% of the way into 2017. The big battery icon is still bright green, and it's full speed ahead. As a business, we are renewing our commitment to growing and showing local artists, and we'll dive into those details in our next blog. This one is all about Sean Eldridge.

Sean is our featured artist, a Punk Picasso lending paint to wild, expressive characters. His creations toil with strange, stretched limbs and oversized hands. Extra eyes create movement, layering swiveling sequences into single images. Filled with acrylics on a range of canvases and accented by sculptures, this is a large show equal parts grim and delightful.

Hi Sean! Tell us a little about your roots. Where did you grow up and how did you first get introduced to art? I grew up here in Oklahoma City. I was introduced to art as a child, maybe 3 or 4, watching my mom paint and draw. I took a few art classes in high school and first year college. Other than that I am pretty much self-taught. I have shown art at Graphite Elements & Design, Twisted Root, ARTINI, Tall Hill Creative, Coffee Slingers, and Momentum.

Talk a little about what inspires your work and the characters you use in your paintings... What inspires me in art is music, sarcasm, and color. Music, because both creating and listening to music can transport one to a state of powerful emotional interaction. I would like to achieve that same interaction in a painting. Sarcasm, because it helps me not take life too seriously and roll with the punches. Color, because of it’s power and beauty. A little color can go a long way and a lot of color can be overwhelmingly beautiful.

Do you typically listen to music when you work? If so, who are some of the artists that helped motivate this series? I do typically listen to music while creating art. Some artists that motivated this series - Spark Master Tape, Ravel’s Bolero, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Chopin’s Nocturnes, and the Frank Ocean album, Blonde.

Pros and cons of being an artist in Oklahoma? Where do you go locally to find inspiration to do your work? The pros of being an artist in Oklahoma is that we don’t have an over-saturation of artists like in bigger cities. This, to me, makes it easier for up-and-coming artists to make a name for themselves. Also, I feel there is a lot of hunger for greatness here in artists and the art community. The cons of being an artist in Oklahoma is that Oklahoma is a young state and the art scene is really just developing. Oklahoman artists are pioneers and in any beginnings there are struggles. I find my inspiration in other local art, in my frustration with Oklahoma’s politics, and from cycling around town.

Where can people find more information about your work? Do you have any upcoming events on the horizon? People can find my art on my Facebook page: Sean Ryan Eldridge Original Art, or on my Instagram: @Sean_Eldridge. I have another show this month as well at The Art Hall, located at 519 NW 23rd St. where I’ll be featuring some collage pieces.

Thanks to Sean for the interview - come check out his show opening EDIT: Saturday the 21st at 6 PM