They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, when we think of all that defines humanity, how does one illustrate its complexities or put into words juxtaposing beauty and ugliness? Who knows, but there are two people who have offered their own interpretations by way of art, poetry and song in “HUMAN.KIND.” The collaborative project is upstarted by The Paper Stars’ Tres Altman and illustrator Jeremy Collins.
What began as simple black-and-white drawings by Collins—silhouettes of human figures as recognizable as Martin Luther King Jr. standing at a podium, to two men who could be friends or strangers—evolved into poems by the artist. The connection in the chosen figures is they all are or were responsive to real hurdles humans have faced throughout life. Collins categorized the collection as “The Giver,” “The Stranger,” “The Builder,” and “The Dreamer.”
“I had drawn a few iterations of ‘The Giver’ over the years, and one day felt inspired to write some poetry behind it,” he tells. “That opened the gates to the others.”
Soon after sharing his work, his pal, Altman, reached out with a song based on “The Giver”—of which he recorded with his iPhone in the bathroom. At less than 2 minutes, the acoustic guitar and soothing cello complement Altman’s soft, gentle touch to the poetic lyrics. “I got chills,” Collins says. “It was just so soulful and tasteful. We immediately got on the phone and put together a plan.”
Collins and Altman have since cut an EP sharing the same titles of the illustrations (with more to come). They’re available for download and include an optional 11-inch x 17-inch print of “The Giver” at cost. More so, 10 percent of each purchase will be donated to Mercy Corps, a global crisis-response organization.
encore caught up with Altman and Collins before their “HUMAN.KIND” release party on Friday at Bourgie Nights.
encore (e): Can you walk us through one or two of the images and the stories behind them?
Jeremy Collins (JC): Obviously, “The Dreamer” is Martin Luther King Jr. “The Giver” is based on selfless people I’ve been fortunate to observe and be impacted by. “The Stranger” was written the day Trump first tried banning Muslims from the U.S. I started thinking about how it feels to be a minority. “The Builder” was inspired by the fixers—you know, people who just see someone struggling with life and leap into action. I’m not like that, but I certainly admire it.
e: Do you have a favorite?
Tres Altman (TA): “The Giver” is just epic. It struck me immediately, both visually and poetically. It’s a perfect balance of simple and profound that is often hard to come by. I was instantly inspired to compose something to connect with the core of how I experienced what Jeremy created.
e: Was there one illustration more or less difficult to interpret than others?
TA: I’ll let Jeremy take that one…
JC: “The Stranger” was challenging because it was a time-specific topic that inspired it. I wanted to speak to [this man’s specific Muslim ban] but also use words that felt timeless and relatable.
e: Tell us about Mercy Corps and why you chose them to benefit from sales?
TA: Jeremy’s choice. But once I learned about them, it was a no-brainer. They are doing amazing work! It’s right at the heart of what it means to be kind and human.
JC: Mercy Corps is about relieving human suffering. The “Human.Kind” collection intends to do the same and it was an obvious choice. Tres and I went ‘round and ‘round about who we wanted to support. Mercy Corps made the most sense due to the spirit of “The Giver.”
e: Will prints of the artwork and EP copies be available at the release party?
TA: Yes, we will have beautiful, archival quality screen prints. The music is only available for download through Jeremy’s website. You can also stream it for free on the website at jercollins.com/humankind.
e: Tres, you’ll be joined by other friends from ILM’s music scene; will they be singing any of these with you?
TA: Yes, indeed! My friends in the band Tumbleweed will open the show, then members of their band, as well as my bandmates in The Paper Stars, will chime in on the “HUMAN.KIND” songs. I’ll perform a few of my other originals I feel complement the theme and finally, other friends, Sean Thomas Gerard and Chris Frisina, will play a set of their stuff to end the night. It’s gonna be a lovely night of local music! We will be projecting Jeremy’s art on the big screen (behind the stage) during our performance of “HUMAN.KIND.”
e: Is it the first of future or similar collaborations?
TA: I sure hope so!
JC: Never know. I don’t write poetry daily. I get inspired and then it’s gone. I recently had some inspiration from the moment you accidentally interact with wildlife in the woods and write a bit. That seems to happen to me a lot—bears, deer, raccoon, whatever. Maybe my next collection is “Wild.Kind.” [laughs]
e: Anything else you’d like to add about “HUMAN.KIND”?
TA: It was such a fun experience and truly unique and liberating for me as an artist who is normally focused on the writing and production of my own material. The whole process was pure and uncontrived. It was challenging, but in a whole new way. I could let go of thinking lyrically and just create music around someone else’s vision as a writer and artist. In this way, I hope our project inspires others to exit their comfort zones and embrace collaboration toward a shared goal of creating something beyond what can be achieved individually.
JC: I’ve always loved music; it has a huge impact on my work and attitude. My dream is to someday play the cello, as I want to be able to feel that sound in my fingertips. Until then I live vicariously through Tres. As someone who doesn’t play an instrument, I was so enameled with the process of this collection. I’m so proud of it and enjoy listening to it often.