February 16, 2017
Creative Conversations, Volume 4: Christian Lindsey
By UPBrand Collaborative
Creative Conversations: An UPBlog Interview Series
Christian Lindsey, a Creative Director at UPBrand, is an innate thinker and creator. He is a graphic designer by trade, but he can’t be confined to a single medium. Recently, he has taken up a new craft—hand-carved, block print making. We asked him for the story.
1. Tell me about your project—what it is and why you are doing it?
I’ve been doing some woodblock carvings and prints for the past 6 or 7 months, more or less for the hands on creativity of it. I wanted to create something physical, that wasn’t just a digital file. I think the coolest part of art is taking a thought out of your head and making it exist. With this project, I get to touch my art with my hands and work with physical tools, as opposed to a mouse. I’m also learning a new craft. I work with print in my current role, so I thought, what better way to have a hobby than to go back to the very first form of printing, which is block printing.
2. Where did you get the idea to do block printing, and how did you learn to do it?
About a year ago, UPBrand visited Firecracker Press for an inspiration fieldtrip. That really lit a fire under me. I hadn’t been that inspired in a long time. I got to talk to some people that worked there, who gave me some starter points. I did block printing in college, but it was just a quick project for a class. I didn’t really get to focus on it, since I was a graphic design student. Now that I have two hours of free time at night, I decided to stop watching the crap that’s on TV and learn a craft—something that makes me happy and lasts longer than a digital file.
3. Explain the inspiration behind your first two series—the junk food and the birds of prey.
One of the hardest things about starting this project was deciding what to make. I’m very conceptual, and I feel like everything I do needs to have a concept. I got the idea for the junk food series when I was at a froyo place with my family. I put a little bit too much froyo in my cup, and I was like, “Oh well, I guess I’ll eat it.” My wife made the offhand comment, “Ice cream is going to be the death of us.” That sparked an idea in my mind. I thought, “Man, if I was going to eat myself to death, what foods would I choose?”
The next series is birds of prey. I figured, why not do something for the World Bird Sanctuary? One, because I love birds and, two, because why not give them something? I’m not rich. I can’t donate a whole bunch of money to the World Bird Sanctuary, but I can give them art they can put up and enjoy. I have a concept behind this series too. I was watching the Lion King with my son. I was thinking about the idea of “the king of the jungle,” and how I could relate that to birds. I thought, the owl is like the keeper of the night. A peregrine falcon is the owner of the skies. The bald eagle is the master of the tides.
4. Could you have created these images digitally, and printed them on a regular printer? What is the value of your “old school” approach?
I draw the images in my sketchbook by hand, but then I take them into Illustrator and refine them to be what in my mind is perfect. The reason I do that is because I know that when they get translated from a digital file to a hand-carved wood print, those perfections will disappear. A piece of carved wood is not the same as a perfectly printed out LaserJet print. You can’t carve something absolutely perfect, so the outcome is always a surprise. On a computer, you can fake texture and you can fake color. But when you carve wood, there are lines, textures, and accidents that naturally happen. Perfection is lost, but it’s translated into something unique, something hand-done.
5. What do you plan to do with your finished pieces?
For the birds of prey series, I’m donating three of the better prints to the World Bird Sanctuary. I’m just doing this to do it, and to learn a craft. I’m also not that good at it, so I think if I tried to charge money for these pieces, people would be getting screwed in the process. I would never do that. That’s like paying for a plumber, and they come and don’t fix your pipe. Maybe when I master the craft, even if that takes 5 or 10 years, I’ll be proud of my work. The junk food series I just gave away to people. I’m never happy with anything I make. Especially for my first series, I was like “Oh my God these looks like crap, so I’ll just give them away.” The intent never was to sell them anyway; it was just to make them to make them.
6. Oftentimes, what you do professionally you don’t want to do at home in the evening. For example, the person who works at a Laundromat never does their own laundry. How are you able to go from designing all day, to going home and making art? Do you ever get tired of it?
I never get tired of making things. It has been inherent in my life from my first memories. When I got my first bike, the first thing I wanted to do was make a ramp and jump off of it. If I didn’t have something as a child, I made it. My parents always urged me to be creative. They never told me to stay within the lines when I was coloring. If I didn’t have anything to do, my dad would give me a block of wood, and a hammer and nails, and tell me to make something out of it.
I didn’t know this until recently, but evidently carpentry is in my family lineage. I found out that my oldest uncle, who passed away, was a master carpenter. And my dad had all of his old tools. When I told my dad I was doing this, he said, “come downstairs with me really quick.” And I went downstairs, and I got a really old set of carving tools, a sharpening block with some oil, and a really cool carrying case to put my stuff in and keep it organized. It was this world that I had no idea existed before me. I had just introduced myself to this, and then all of a sudden I found out that there were people before me in my family doing this. It’s almost like I naturally fell into it through lineage.
7. Who is one artist you would love to have a drink with?
I think I would really like to get a drink with Thom Yorke from Radiohead. He is one of the few artists that I think is mentally above everyone else. He thinks on a different channel than most people. Just listening to his music and listening to him speak, you can tell he thinks differently. I want to get into that brain. I want to know what inspires him, and how his creative process works. Even though I’m a graphic designer and he’s a musician, I think the creative process, and the steps you take to get to a conclusion, is kind of similar across all media and formats. I’ve also been listening to his music since I was a kid and I’m a big fan. I think that half the time we’d be drinking, I’d probably be a fan boy, freaking out and giving him a hug. At the same time, I’d really try to understand his thinking process.