First Watch: 10 Years Of Drawings Used For Yellowbirds Video

Musician and filmmaker Sam Cohen. i

Musician and filmmaker Sam Cohen. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Musician and filmmaker Sam Cohen.

Musician and filmmaker Sam Cohen.

Courtesy of the artist

Ten years of notebook drawings and sketches by Michael Arthur, one week of work, 1,650 individual frames and an X-acto blade. Those are some of the ingredients Sam Cohen used to make this video for a song called "The Reason." Yellowbirds is the music of Cohen and his friends; I'm loving their latest album, called The Color.

"The Reason" by Yellowbirds:

Cohen says this about the video for "The Reason":

Michael Arthur saw Yellowbirds' video "The Rest of My Life" and asked if I wanted to collaborate on another collage video. When I went to his studio, he opened up a locker containing 10 years' worth of notebooks filled with amazing drawings and told me I could use them in any way. I marked the pages I thought I could animate and he scanned them for me — and in some cases water-colored them. He also made some new drawings specifically for the video.

"The Reason" is about those brief moments when your place in the universe makes sense, though when you try to explain it, you realize it was more an experience of feeling than embraceable logic. You have to be able to laugh at that and embrace the experience all at once. Looking through Arthur's notebooks, I chose "The Reason" because there was a theme in his drawings that connects to that song. He has a lighthearted way of poking fun at characters wrestling with bleakness and confusion that lets you know he is participating in that, too.

Arthur made the drawings that Sam Cohen used for his video. He's also a member of the Brooklyn band Balthrop, Alabama.

Here's a quote from artist Michael Arthur:


Essentially, I have an ongoing interest in combining drawing with
music — either through videos or live experiences — and I saw this as an opportunity to collaborate with Sam as a composer and producer, using my drawings as someone might use tracks laid down for an album. Sam took my drawings and sort of "mixed and mastered" them in an amazing way, using them, and seeing in them, an extension of his original music.

It's really just been a great experience from the moment I approached Sam. Looking at the last video Sam made for Yellowbirds ("Rest of My Life"), I just thought it would be great to let him at my backlog of sketchbooks and see what interested him. I guess I had a preconception that he would prefer using some of my more complex drawings — I have a bunch of drawings that are crammed with images that blend in to each other — but he was drawn to a lot of my simpler things, and that sometimes surprised me in a really wonderful way.


I only started working in color recently, so the opportunity to go
back and color old drawings was another really exciting part of this
project for me. Really, this process with Sam has been a discovery — I wanted Sam to use whatever he wanted, and in some cases he chose drawings that I maybe never thought of as finished; sketches that I never really developed. And here, he's turned them in to organic parts of something else. I also have to say that I love how the video includes drawings from as far back as 11 years — some things I drew when I first moved to NYC, one of my earliest ballet drawings, some drawings of folks I've seen at Joe's Pub (where I'm the archival artist), and some as recent as a month ago.

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