August 2024

Every Picture Tells A Story

Words: Tristan Ceddia Images: Craig Redman

The digital age that we live in paired with the increasing capacity of the world wide web sees literally millions of images making their way online every day. That’s not to say all of them are amazing, but the critical mass of the image is surely undeniable. So undeniable, that these days humans have the opportunity use images in place of words to tell a story or send out a message. Craig Redman from Rinzen debuted the blog Darcel Dissapoints just over a year ago as a personal diary composed entirely of illustrations. Drinking, skateboarding, exhibitions and the general day to day are all used by Craig, via Darcel, to bring the life and times of New York City to the world.

Tristan Ceddia: Darcel popped up on the internet just over a year ago now. Was Darcel around before this time? Why was Darcel born?

Craig Redman: I started a small animation called ‘5 Disappointing Moments’ about five or so years ago (don’t ask, it’s still not finished) and I needed a character to play the lead role, to act out the “moments” as it were. The “moments” in the animation were non-descript every day things, like your iPod battery going dead during a favourite song (hey, they were cool back then). I wanted the character to be super simple, a kind of blank canvas where the incident, and not the character, became the focus. Hence Darcel was born. I was also obsessed with my friends constant reference to everyone as “eggs on stilts” (skinny jeans, developing beer gut) at the time, so I guess that makes Darcel self referential as well.

The blog is an extension of the idea of the animation, except this time Darcel is the focus. I didn’t want to forget any of the small observations I had when I moved to New York and since I’m no Hemmingway I decided to start an illustrated blog rather than attempt to pen my thoughts.

TC: For the reader who isn’t familiar with the world of Darcel tell us a bit about him.

CR: Darcel is a miserable hipster who skulks around New York casting an cynical eye (singular) on himself and the stuff that surrounds him. They can be quiet moments alone or self deluded grand observations while plum drunk at openings.

TC: You’re an illustrator, graphic designer and head up the internationally-spread collective Rinzen. Is Darcel you having some fun blending life with illustration or is he something more? What’s your relation to Darcel? Is he a direct representation of you as character? Does Darcel come under the Rinzen umbrella, or does he appear more as a side step?

CR: Almost everything Darcel does I do, although he reacts to it in a more exuberant or exasperated way. It’s fun to be able to record everyday activities into a vector “snapshot” that captures a small moment in time, something that alludes to a grander story.

Instead of treating illustration as something reverential, I want to use it to explore the banality of these everyday moments. Around the time I started doing Darcel, the commissioned illustrations I was doing were more complex, so my blog posts were an effort to simplify things, to clean out some space in my head. It’s me letting go a bit, not being so uptight about my designs. The posts are spontaneous illustrations that I can execute quickly, rather than labour over for days.

Rinzen is a party of five, spread across Brisbane, Sydney, Berlin and me in New York. We’ve been together just short of 10 years now so it’s inevitable that we all have our own personal interests, thou these outcomes really are just an extension of the magical world of Rinzen. Steve paints a lot, Karl does The Pop Manifesto, Rilla collects and displays her illustration finds on Flickr and Adrian dabbles in the comic world, collaborating with people like Paul Pope.

TC: As well as running through the motions of the day to day, Darcel Disappoints offers an interesting social commentary on aspects of life in New York City. Art shows, boutiques, restaurants and bars, fashion, anxiety. At the best of times, Darcel seems a little depressed by all of this. Is it living in New York or life in general that gets him down?

CR: Darcel isn’t really depressed (although I might need to talk to my psychiatrist about that… if I could afford one), occasionally miserable yes, but not depressed. He just has certain expectations for things and is consequently let down when they aren’t reached. Like it sucks to go to MoMA, one of the best art institutions in the world, and be disappointed with a show. Or to walk outside your building and see 10, 000 Alife stickers plastered over a stop sign, you’re like “Okay, okay, I get it. Enough already!”.

TC: How long have you lived in NY? Is the Big Apple still rotten?

CR: I’m still fresh! I’ve been here two and a half years or so now.

New York is a shiny red apple with a rotten interior. I don’t mean the people but rather the city itself. The streetscape and buildings look so grand and then you chip away a little at the paintwork and find it’s all held up by crackly old sticky tape, layers of new hastily stuck over the old. Everyone is living in these expensive dumps but no one cares, everyone’s super friendly because everyone is just so happy to be in New York. People work really, really hard here which is great because it forces me to be more productive. If you stop moving you’ll get trampled.

TC: Darcel keeps in good company toting ongoing collaborations with some of the words best young designers including Alex Trochut, Ryan Cox and Eric Elms. Are these collaborations part of Darcel connecting with his peers, or are they more about jamming out with friends?

CR: A bit of both I’d say. A lot of the people involved are friends, in either an email or physical sense, but it also gives me an opportunity to approach people I really respect, designers I hold in such high regard it’s quite flabbergasting to receive their files and dig through the vectors (or pixels). Rinzen was built on the idea of remixing each others works so sending out files for people to stamp in their own way comes pretty naturally. The original concept was for other people to invite Darcel into their world and I like seeing how designers interpret (or mis-interpret) that basic idea. Some people use it as a platform to have their say on a particular issue, others just pour beer on Darcel’s head – either I’m fine with.

TC: You recently produced some lighters with the Parisian boutique Colette. I spoke to Jonathan Zawada last month about how dissatisfaction with real work often leads to the pursuit of more satisfying personal projects, which can often come full circle and evolve into more enjoyable work. Is Darcel proving this to be true or is he more of a hobby?

CR: Totally. You do new work off your own back for no money while you’re working on paid client work that references your old work. The new work eventually reaches the masses and people/clients start asking for that style. If you don’t keep pursuing new ideas then you just keep doing the same old thing over and over, then your work starts looking like a knock-off of your own style. Does that make sense? That was a mouthful…

TC: What adventures does Darcel have coming up?

CR: The next collaboration coming up is with Steven Harrington, very excited about that one. September is with Mario Hugo who is super amazing, I can’t wait to see how his fluid style gets mixed in with Darcel’s snap-to-grid symmetry. I’m doing some Darcel vinyl wall art with Bodega, The site launches sometime in August, they’ll also be releasing work from Barry McGee, Surface to Air, Wood Wood, Dalek and a few others.

More on life in NYC from Craig/ Darcel here

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