Kevin Hartmann Stuff


Photography and creative journal from Kevin Hartmann. Hi.

Early Morning, Friday Morning.

I'm telling you, it's just way too early for this: Any time on a Friday morning is too early. Much too early for exercise, thinking, moving. Yet, here I am, doing just that. 

Like any city, there are always blocks of non-descript apartment architecture. Useful but mostly avoidable unless you live there. You can ignore them because you drive or walk by, only sometimes giving them thought because you see someone climb the stairs as you wait for a traffic light or hear about the area on the news. The murders, perhaps.

It's way too early to really think about any of this, to be out here walking, pretending to exercise when really I was only motivated to purchase a high-calorie muffin for breakfast, defeating the purpose of the walk.

But as it's early, I saw one of those non-descript buildings which I pass every day. There had been a light on at the upper left window and I wanted to snap a shot. As I raised my iPhone, the light went out. The building blinked at me, acknowledged me, and also realizing it was too early, closed its eyes. 

For a Friday, I'm up too early, yet being early you can often snap stuff you wouldn't see otherwise.  Well, now all I see in this photo is that the left side window is not balanced on this boxy building; it's too close to the left side and my OCD is troubled. 

Back to my muffin, which rests on a plate on my belly because I didn't walk enough to help diminish its size. Happy Friday.

Nature and Nurture: Waimea Valley, O'ahu


Whenever we are out and about, and especially on holiday, my husband is the one that takes a lot of nature photographs. I admit to enjoying the beauty of nature but I've never really been a stop and smell the roses and take photos kind of person; I've not wanted to take the time to capture any of it in camera. I tend to skip over capturing natural beauty as it blocks my view of the man-made things I find equally beautiful, the detritus and eccentricities of the city that I usually like to photograph.

I'm staring to admire the complexity of nature now and that's all because of my husband. He's shown me, through his incredible photos, his actions and words (he seems to know a lot about many things, including plants) just how beautiful the natural world can be, even if I'm not photographing it. I'm now happy to be nurtured in this way, seeing the structure and architecture of nature, of trees and plants.

I took quite a few shots on our most recent Hawaii trip, so here's some to share. I don't recall any of the names of these things; I guess I'll have to work on that part in time.

Block Walk: Junipero Serra's Church at Capistrano (June 2017)

Selected photos from the interior of Serra's Church at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California. 

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Footwork and Wires from Just Like Humans Electronic Music

Today is the third anniversary for the release of my electronic dance single, Footwork and Wires, from the self-titled album Just Like Humans (2012).

The single release, from August 2014, featured the album version of the track, three remixes of the song, one bonus track (Electric Mountain of Love), and one further remix of an original album track, "Individual Throttle Bodies".

This song actually had a soft release nearly a year before with completely different artwork; it was the first song completed for my debut as Just Like Humans (in December 2013). The album artwork at that time was rushed and included some Converse-style shoes super-imposed over a skeletal X-ray of a foot superimposed over many computer wires and cables. It was also a super literal translation of the idea which I didn't think had much of an impact. (The particular artwork doesn't survive anymore, sadly - I deleted it from my drives to take up less space.)

Even as a graphic designer and a creative, I had quite the difficult time with the imagery and idea for the final Footwork and Wires release and I struggled through many iterations. The title of the song means nothing more than simply dancing to electronica - easy enough to grasp, but short of a blur of people on a dance floor (which I'm pretty sure had been used for many compilation CDs sold in stores) I couldn't get the design I wanted out of my brain. 

The 'stick figure' people is a stock photo; it'd be awesome if I were talented enough to have created this myself, but purchased stock sufficed and I didn't have the time to create anything original otherwise as I was just beginning the writing of all new tracks for the next album (which ended up being Big Beautiful).

I named the couple the stick couple because it looked as if the art were made of sticks, which also stood in for intertwined wiring. It worked out perfectly with just slapping (literally) the X-ray 'foot-age' over it the stick people inside Photoshop, cleaning it up, and ... there you go. Done. 

I honestly wasn't happy with the Just Like Humans type on top of the image, but as the font had already been established on the full album (and all of the marketing) I left it alone.

The final artwork for Footwork and Wires was completed by me in the middle of 2014 shortly before the official release of August 29, 2014. I had to ship it off to iTunes and the online retailers quickly before I changed my mind about the layout, again.

I think the art and the title track for the single are pretty good. I'm a bit biased, but you should check it out on this website or Bandcamp! I think it's one of my better electronica/techno songs. 

The original stock photo file used in artwork 2013 and 2014.

The original stock photo file used in artwork 2013 and 2014.

Back cover album artwork for Footwork and Wires. Just Like Humans is Kevin Hartmann and a computer.

Back cover album artwork for Footwork and Wires. Just Like Humans is Kevin Hartmann and a computer.

Stop, Listen and Design: Album Cover Artwork

Hello, my name is Kevin. I am addicted to packaging.

This addiction began in the 70s when I repeatedly saw a commercial for the Spirograph. In the commercial, after the girls and boys use the 'toy', one of the children repackages all of the contents inside its neat, red plastic-formed encasement inside an equally fascinating bright cardboard game box. 

I have no idea why that image and memory stuck with me all these years and yet the simplicity and clean organization of its boxing and unboxing has affected me since. It's how I pack, fold, and organize things in the real and electronic world. I like simple, minimal. I like super simple boxes and bags, tee-shirt logos. I like less, because it's more. I like shiny, but reserved and neat.

The Spirograph commercial inflicted (not infused or ingrained, but indeed inflicted as an actual sickness) in me a need for calm and organization. It has been in my design genes forever. Even when I was younger and when I was drawing made-up space ships (yes), I fitted them with very little decor, only adding the necessary equipment and decoration that I thought would keep the thing moving, floating. I've even left off parts of plastic models I would build because I didn't like that some parts just appeared to be embellishments; contradictory to my minimalistic goals, perhaps, I would leave off a left or right piece so there wasn't a full visual balance, but balanced to my eye.

I have yet to design any packaging - for fun or for pay. The only boxes I've set up were in a living room as a fort wall where I could shoot Nerf arrows from the taped-together arrowslit at the dog. Or my sister. 

In designing my own album covers for my electronic music (Just Like Humans catalog and Kintner), I found it difficult to contain my minimalism and represent the sounds of the album at the same time. I think this was because the music was too close to me and I knew the meanings, the story, the sweat and tears that went into producing it. Yet it was still a completely exciting challenge, one that I believe I executed best with my first album, Bayswater, and my most recent, NINE (2016).  These two covers, although different in design, represented the musical content best.

Designing album art to fully represent an artist and the content of the current release is super challenging. I cannot imagine the pressures of some agencies and an artist coming to agreements on that representation. (I've also read that some bands - erasure, for example - don't even have a say in the choice of the artwork, and/or leave it up to others to decide.) For the six designs here, I first came up with some ideas on paper, searched out and found the right artwork, if needed, then set aside all the ideas and parts for a week, and came back to them individually at a later time. 

The designs are packaging just as any type of graphic package design; the designer or agency is promising to represent fully the contents and must convey all the legal and other elements somewhere within the artwork (often to detriment - I used to get so mad that barcodes would interfere with a good design or photo on the back of a record album or CD). It's super fun to me to design these when asked, whether they get chosen or not.

I'm up for designing for some real musical people out there, so if you need any graphic design services, hit me up! It would actually be way cool and insane to use an actual Spirograph for the art!

You can find these designs and more, including those for my own electronic music releases, here.)

Kualoa Sugar Mill Ruins, O'ahu


During our July 2017 trip to O'ahu, we stopped along the shoreline (literally, as the road changes into the small, lapping waves of the sea with just some lava rock placed at roadside to prevent erosion) and took the opportunity to take a few photos and to do some droning.

I've snapped photos of the sugar mill ruins in the past but in the past, all the times I've snapped it's been a bit gray out. This time it was gray then bright then gray then super bright. That's the thing with that tropical climate: Lighting and other weather-y factors change in an instant. The tropical climate on the island is what I love and yet find so frustrating when trying to be creative. I would gladly wish to have this minor complaint in my creative wheelhouse if I were afforded the chance to live there permanently. 

The sugar mill, built between 1863 and 1870 sits on private property with Kualoa Ranch on the east side of the island on Kamehameha Highway. It's easy to get to but you can only take photos from the road. Luckily, the stone and brick structure, or what remains of it, is easily seen. You can almost reach out and touch it. 

I've not ever read what happened to the rest of the building; besides time and weather, I'm unsure where the other bricks and stones went, when the mechanicals and vats where hauled off. Maybe they went to another mill on the island. It would definitely be interesting to find out.

(continued below)

(Above center: A half-buried and rusting piece of mill machinery I'd never seen before.)

What is left is still super interesting to me to photograph. From the roadside, I tried to get as many angles as I could. After several shots through the viewfinder, it all begins to appear the same but I still love how these shots turned out - finally, after all these years, getting some decent ones. 

The mill closed up not long after it was completed; rainfall dropped to negligible levels and no cane would grow on the otherwise dry land. The closure was preceded by a tragedy where the young son of one of the owners fell into a vat of boiling syrup and unfortunately died days later.

As I write this, I've recently read that sugar cane production is fully stopping on the Hawaiian islands, a defining era gone. There are other places on the island where you can see remnants of the sugar industry, even locations with some intact structures. Kualoa has always been the most fascinating and picturesque of these spots to me. So, until next time, aloha.

Workin' the Salt Mines: The Mercedes-AMG GLC43

Poser: Mercedes-AMG GLC43

My husband led me down some abandoned-looking side roads off the California 5 freeway, roads I didn't know existed. We were close to the water, close to the border of Mexico. We were also in my brand new car. I admit hesitation, or a flat tire in the brand new rubber and we'd not be able to call for service as we only had one bar available on the mobile phone. But all was quickly pushed aside as we came down a long, narrow stretch of crumbling white top (so old it wasn't really black or gray anymore) and our destination appeared on the right.

This rusty, dusty, salty backdrop of machinery, tin-clad buildings and an array of conveyer belts proved to be a wonderful backdrop for my new car, the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 sport utility vehicle (or as it's classified, a light truck).

The only thing I've found light about this 'truck' so far is the feel of it catapulting you forward as you mash the accelerator. Setting the GLC43 4MATIC in Sport+ mode fully activates its biturbo, lowers the vehicle on its air suspension and then instantly folds space around you as you quickly and suddenly find yourself at a point and location somewhere in the future. It's not the fastest car in the AMG stable and in fact, the 43 designations are new and entry-level for the AMG lineup. But even with its six-cylinder power plant and nine-speed gearbox, you'd not notice if it were slower than something else in the Mercedes garage. With 362 horsepower, 384 foot-pounds of torque, and a zero to 60 rating of 4.8 seconds, I'm not finding it in any way slow.  Biturbo lag, if there is even such a thing in a twin-turbo setup, is negligible, and even then only at slower, traffic-crawling speed.

This is my first Mercedes, my first large vehicle (as it's bigger in dimension and interior capacity than my previous car, the Range Rover Evoque), my first fast car, my first AMG, my first engine with more than 240 mule power (not horsepower), my first black automobile...

...and being a black automobile, the background of the Chula Vista Salt Pond industrial grounds turned out to be a perfect setting to photograph this car. There was just enough evil industrial machinery for me, just enough buildings and other equipment to not become a distraction from the focus of the shots.

Besides having the excitement of my new car in front of me, I found the location equally exciting and even wanted the car out of the foreground on occasion so I could focus on the industry of it all. The mounds of salt were nearly blinding on this mid-afternoon day out, and were so white and intricately detailed that my mother asked me if this were indeed my own car I was sending her photographs of because why was there snowy mountains in the distance in the summer time?

I cannot wait for more time and experience behind the wheel. I could go on and on about the vehicle but not say anything you can't read online at this point, all of which pretty much praises the vehicle. I've seen nothing but good reviews for the car and that is as exciting to read and know as it is exciting to mash the accelerator and fly down a deserted, salty road into the distance.