A hero of mine once said of himself, “There is no old Adam Young, there is no new Adam Young, merely different colors and different brushstrokes over the same canvas.”
Adam Young, best known for his music project Owl City, wrote those words upon reaching a point in his career where he was creating music that was vastly different from what he had been previously known for, sonically, structurally, and lyrically. I feel his statement was important and relevant not only to artists, but any human being at all. An artist may transform, experiment, and expand their work all throughout their careers, just as a person changes, develops, and grows all throughout their lives.
With this piece, I thought of what it might mean not only to take Adam’s quote literally by means of a painting, but how I could portray the essence of the words. I considered how I respond emotionally to his body of work. When I hear music, I tend to associate different colors, forms, and scenes with what I hear, sometimes influenced by lyrics, but most often by melodies and sounds. I painted layers of colors associated with each phase of his work, using techniques to complement the phases; from fluid, bright colors for his experimental, surreal escapism, to simple, linear visuals and colors for his more polished, controlled, straightforward work.
The photo I worked from was one I took the first time I saw Owl City live; September 2012 at the 930 Club on the Midsummer Station world tour. The fuzziness of the original photo that obscured Adam’s appearance was actually to my advantage for the painting, as it was not only easier to paint than an image with great detail, but, in my mind, went with the idea Adam expressed in his words, of not being rigidly defined by one thing or another. Though a simple snapshot, the time of it holds personal significance. I went to that concert in the beginning of a semester of college that would turn out to be an incredibly transforming and defining time in my life. I happened to decide to take all art classes that semester, not being intentional at all about a theme, but trying to get requirements out of the way. Having a full credit load of constant, hands on work started out extremely overwhelming and challenging. It was this concert, though, that gave me a huge dose of inspiration for artwork, and motivation to rise to the occasion. Though that semester did not cease to be challenging, the music of Adam Young definitely took the edge off the overwhelming nature of things by keeping me sane and happy, and providing me conceptual inspiration. Though I didn’t know it at the beginning, I would find by the end of the semester that making art was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Though there were other influences and events that brought me to that particular realization, I always credit Adam’s work with giving me the endurance to press on to the arrival of that realization. Therefore, I consider this painting to be first and foremost about Adam Young, but also, a little bit about myself.
(Adam’s blog can be followed on Tumblr at adamyoungofficial)