If it’s early March, then that means SXSW beckons for artists from film, TV, music and advertising to make an annual pilgrimage to Austin, Texas and explore, inspire and create. It’s mecca.
This year, Dropbox and 72andSunny LA teamed up to create an combustive environment where artists were encouraged to unleash their creativity on a wall mural based on a cause-driven theme (or “creative energy”) tied to SXSW and relevant to society. The activation is a continuation of the brand’s recent creative energy campaign and rebrand, which launched in October, 2017.
Six purpose-driven artists, each with a distinct style, were Shawna X and Rachell Sumpter, Ben Sanders and Maxwell McMaster and Stacey Rozich and Matt Leines. After they were chosen by Drobox and the 72andSunny production team, the muralists were introduced to Dropbox Paper, a collaborative workspace where teams can create and share early ideas. Each duo was then given a theme as a prompt for their collaboration, then turned loose to see where their imagination would take them.
Each team met at the Ironworks Parking Lot to co-create a live mural which would become a nine-hour marathon. On Friday, Shawna X and Sumpter reimagined the future. Saturday, Ben Sanders and Maxwell McMaster explored environmentalism. And Sunday, Stacey Rozich and Matt Leines combined their talents to create a mural based on the theme of human rights. On their assigned day, they worked morning to night to bring their collaborated masterpieces to life. Here’s a video how it all came together:
The future reimagined by X and Sumpter
Shawna X and Rachell Sumpter are both accomplished artists and experienced collaborators. Shawna works with various media including digital, traditional, motion and physical and spatial experience. Her work exhibits interest in vibrancy and contortion to evoke energy, seduction and morbid curiosity.
Sumpter’s exhibitions have included solo exhibitions at the Richard Heller Gallery and her work has also been showcased in group exhibitions at the OCMA and LACMA, among others. Her work has been featured in Juxtapoz magazine and reviewed in Artforum.
Dropbox asked the two to portray their own idea of the future.
Though the two had their own, independent ideas for portraying the future, Shawna X, an artist and visual designer residing in New York, said it was surprising to see how two creative minds can work together. “When we had to combine forces to make a cohesive work, it was seamless,” she says. “Something I think creatives do best is how we tackle problems.” So how do two artists with contrasting styles begin merging ideas?
“Shawna likes to write in the beginning so she took the first leap and put down a word list,” added Rachell. “I follow with some thoughts and then put out some initial sketches to test the waters.”
For both artists, it was their first time using Dropbox Paper to collaborate. “It’s actually quite easy,” says X. “Fun to see the progress, the discussion, and overall, a very efficient process for collaborations.” Sumpter, an American artist working in Seattle, said she could see Paper becoming a valuable tool for art directors and their collaborators. “A CD could be cued in to what is going on down the line and not necessarily needing to participate, but making sure projects stay within their overall vision.”
Sanders & McMaster protect the environment
Ben Sanders is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice encompasses a wide array of media and techniques. In addition to his paintings, drawings and sculptures, he is known for creating large murals and immersive environments that often double as sites for social experiences. His studio also makes commissioned work for commercial clients, some of which have included Nike, Bloomberg, and The New York Times. He lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
Maxwell McMaster uses color, shape, and texture to enhance and deepen scenes from his travels and everyday life. The result is abstract and minimal in design, but somehow complex in appearance.
Their collaboration began with a face-to face-meeting, then sketches shared on Dropbox Paper. As a result, the evolution of the concept was surprisingly smooth. “Our initial ideas were fairly strong and got more refined and unified as we moved forward,” says Maxwell.
“The concept comes from a drawing I made that was a part of my most recent body of work,” Sanders said. Though most of his paintings and sculptures are made alone, Ben said his creative process didn’t change much in this collaboration. “The only difference is that I had to fit the composition to line up with the previously agreed upon shape so that it fit with Max’s piece.”
McMaster added, “I’ve always thought it’s beneficial to have more trees around.” He went onto explain, “So my first thought when I got the topic was to do something about planting trees. The hand sprouting trees was the second thing I drew out. I think I got lucky that it just worked. Later, I thought about the hand as humanity lending a helping hand to nature, kind of giving mother nature a boost to do what she does naturally.”
For both artists, it was their first experience collaborating in Dropbox Paper. Ben said working in Paper was “much easier than attaching images to email. You can very easily see the progress, like on a blog.”
Max added that working in Paper streamlined the way he worked with images. “I also enjoyed using the comment feature. It really helped keep the conversations organized.”
Rozich & Leines explore human rights
Stacey Rozich is a Los Angeles-based artist and illustrator. Her work combines folkloric vignettes with the trappings of popular culture and consumerism. These narratives are pulled from a realm of familiar archetypes and traditions with influences from world textiles and the many hours spent watching television as a kid. Matt Leines is an artist who loves to exploring the kaleidoscope of memory and outer zones of imagination. His work has been shown in New York, Los Angeles, and international venues in Sweden, Italy, Spain, Greece and Japan.
For their mural based on the theme of human rights, Rozich and Leines began their collaboration by chatting about their individual processes, and comparing notes about their experiences working on a large scale. After their call, Leine sent Rozich loose sketches which helped her form her own concepts alongside his compositions.
“From there, we shared our sketches with the team via the Paper doc, along with some of our previous work examples for inspiration,” said Rozich.
“It was like we were on the same page from right off the bat. Once we started communicating, it was really just a matter of refining ideas,” Leines added.
Their concept grew out of a Dropbox Foundation presentation on human rights. Though finding the right interpretation of activism was daunting at first, it became easier through the sketching phase. “Once we refined my sketches down to a singular idea, I polished it up along with several iterations of color,” Rozich explained.
In her Brand Innovators interview, Shane Steele, Dropbox Head of Global Brand Marketing, explained that the brand is using the live mural activation as an opportunity to tell the story of creative energy. “We’re here at SXSW because you all in this room are the superusers of Dropbox… We want to tell that story of creative energy at SXSW. One component of that story is this idea of co-creation, bringing together unexpected collaborators to create something.”
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