Artist and one-man-band Hisham Bharoocha (aka Soft Circle) and Sumi Ink Club co-founders Sarah Andersen and Luke Fishbeck of Lucky Dragons met to discuss collaborative drawing, life after New York, and the world’s tiniest outdoor museum.
Luke: What is a “soft circle”?
Hisham: It’s like, say you went to the beach and you’ve been swimming all day and you’re tired from the sun. And you’re headed home in your car and you’re just…that feeling of just feeling so soft. Or when you’re in love and you’re feeling that joy from being stoked about something. Just about anything, I guess. It always feels like a soft ball of light or something — that’s where that name came from. I didn’t want it to have something to do with my name, because I thought it would be weird if I wanted to have people play with me.
Luke: I love the idea of having a different identity, a “band identity.”
Hisham: I liked it when I’d go see The Thrones and it was just him, but he’d always say, “Hi, we’re The Thrones.” I thought that was funny.
Luke: Have you played with other people as Soft Circle?
Hisham: I’ve done some collaborative shows. One of my favorite friends to play with is Rob A. A. Lowe, who does his solo thing called Lichens, and plays in the band Singer. He’s really fun to play with because we’re totally on the same vibe.
Luke: Oh man, I think we’ve committed to having to fill this entire thing with pattern.
Hisham: [Laughing] That is pretty, that’s sort of why I did the big marks.
Luke: It’s funny, my brush strokes are getting bigger than they were at the beginning. Do you think you’ll live in New York forever?
Hisham: I don’t think so, but then I don’t really know where else I would go. I guess that’s what everybody thinks about when they think about moving, but I like New York even though it is sort of turning into a big mall. The people who I like that make stuff are still there, still happily making stuff. So, I don’t know, I guess it depends. Do you have any place that you would imagine going after L.A.?
Luke: I don’t know, we just got in the habit of doing things in this city. I have been thinking that, as much as you’re thinking things have been going downhill where you live, they’re probably going even more downhill somewhere else. And as much as you feel like things are better somewhere else, they’re probably getting better where you live, too. I used to think so much about moving; all the time, I was like, “I wanna see this place, I wanna do that.” I don’t even like touring that much. I like sitting at home.
Hisham: That’s because you’re so busy having to do it all the time. I remember when I was touring a lot more and I just wanted to be home chilling. It makes you totally lose yourself after a while.
Luke: I was just having this revelation the other day, that almost all of my friends who make music are on tour constantly, just playing the same show every night somewhere different. It’s such a weird way to live.
Hisham: It gives you opportunities, but it also creates its own monotony.
Luke: I think it’s a musician’s duty, because I feel an artist’s duty is to be able to share what you have, in terms of creative talent — that’s how artists affect people the most. You can move somebody with what you do, whether it’s music or visual, and that hopefully inspires people to do something creative with their life — or just to take that joy with them. That’s something that’s important to me.
Hisham: This music is getting into the drawing. Get out of my drawing! I’ve been trying to get more minimal these days, but it’s still kind of hard.
Luke: [Laughing] It’s especially hard when it’s collaborative, because you want to give the other guy some space — draw over here, draw over there — and there’s this fear of empty spaces.
Hisham: I really like it when people can pull it off though. It’s so amazing. Do you have any upcoming projects?
Luke: We’re opening an art museum.
Hisham: Oh, really?
Luke: We’re going to build one.
Hisham: No way.
Luke: I mean, it’s not that major, but I guess it sounds major.
Sarah: It sounds major, but it’s a tiny museum, maybe five feet tall. In Elysian Park.
Luke: There’s an old nature trail that’s been abandoned and we’re sort of reclaiming it and turning it into an art museum.
Sarah: And its [going to be] retrospective in one wing, and then one wing is going to be a project space for whatever artists want to do.
Hisham: Wow, that sounds pretty awesome.
Luke: If you ever want to do anything, that’d be awesome, but you’d have to accept it if the work is stolen or vandalized. Because it’ll be outdoors, it has to be geared toward that understanding. And there will be a book for every show that’s there.
Sarah: I’m so excited. I can’t wait to have gatherings in Elysian park.
Hisham: How did you guys come up with that idea?
Luke: I found the trail, and I was like “Oh, what is this?”.
Sarah: We were inspired by people that squat galleries and squat stores. We were scouting around for a place we could squat here to do art shows. But it’s not clear what’s going on in L.A. most of time with empty properties, so we decided that we should do one that is accessible 24 hours a day. And is in a beautiful place.
Luke: It’s a great mix of accessible and hidden. Our friend Ron was going to do a thing where he took people on walks to Elysian Park and call it “Elysian Park — it’s right over there.”
Sarah: It was kind of like Sumi Ink Club, but for landscape drawings — people would gather and make a drawing of Elysian Park.
Hisham: How did the Sumi Ink Club start?
Sarah: It started when Luke and I started drawing together. We developed a set of rules together that would work well for larger groups, and then we just opened it up to people in Providence. [When] we moved out to L.A., it became a lot bigger and a lot more work, and a lot more people involved and a lot better. Now it’s at a level where Luke and I don’t even have to be there for a meeting of Sumi Ink Club. People write to us for instructions for how to do it, and then they conduct their own meetings and post their drawings on the internet.
Luke: This is a really crazy skull, isn’t it?
Sarah: I love that drawing, it’s so beautiful. I love the orange.
Hisham: I’ve been getting way more into monochrome recently. I’m obsessed with the space you put in between a line.
Sarah: Especially with black, the white kind of pops up all of a sudden. It’s really in your face, almost as if the black is ground that you never realized was there, and the white drawing was there all along. Yeah, I really like that too.
Hisham: This part looks like sea urchins.
Luke: Yeah, it’s gonna get there.
Image courtesy Hisham Bharoocha.