Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Kawandeep Virdee
Image by Rae Niwa.

Kawandeep Virdee

Maker

Posted in artist, mac, music

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm ​Kawandeep Virdee​. I am the author of "​Feeling Great About My Butt​." I make ​various media things​, ranging from ​interactive web experiments​, to ​public art​, to ​wall drawings​. I love to organize and facilitate gatherings - be it ​art & tech salons​, ​creative workshops​, or ​spaces to do nothing​. I'm at ​Medium​ running projects to connect, support, and inspire writers.

What hardware do you use?

I use a well. It is a gift that my partner made for me. It is a place where I can share my wishes, my dreams, and also where I can confide. I can go to it when I'm feeling a lot and I'm not sure how to articulate things. It was made ​kind of as a joke​, but actually I love it.

Kawandeep and his well.
Image by Carlee Daniel.

I use a maroon ​zafu​ when I sit down to meditate. I find it a bit easier to sit on the floor when I meditate with the zafu. There are eight generic IKEA wooden stools that are used as tables or seating. These can be quickly re-arranged, allowing for some flexibility in how I shape the space. I have a variety of pillows, rugs, and a yoga mat to make it easier to sit on the floor.

For music I have an ​Elektron Monomachine​, which I've been using as my main synth sound source since around 2009. I'll usually make a drone of some sort with it and play along with other instruments. Or I'll make a nice ambient synth and drift into a vortex that feels like a variety of sonic duvets. I have a microphone hooked up to the Monomachine that I sometimes run through some vocal effects. Specifically, I use the TC Helicon pedals to ​autotune​ and ​pitch shift​.

The instrument I've had the longest with me is a ​Martin Backpacker guitar​, which I've had for about 14 years now.

Alongside the Monomachine, ​I'll play the melodica​. For a while I would just play drone chords on this and imagine myself as ​Pauline Oliveros with an accordion​. I like using the breath with an instrument. There's some connection with all the focus on the breath in meditation. Here I can draw towards that focus as well. I have a couple ​bansuris​. These are such soothing instruments to play. One is the pitch of Hariprasad Chaurasia's bansuri, and one is a deep sound like G.S. Sachdev's ​in this album​ which is stunning. I listened to it for a year or so and at some point felt the urge to get a bansuri. Later I realized I got the bansuri after several immense changes in my life, and that turning towards it was a balance. During this time ​I drew a variation of The Tower tarot card​ to reflect everything I was going through.

I have ​a tarot deck illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith​. This is the traditional Smith-Waite-Rider deck. I have an absolutely gorgeous deck by ​Jessalyn Ragus​, it's colorful and abundant, and sensual. I have a deck by ​Jon Garaizar​ which is very dark and strange and surreal, and I'm obsessed with the creepy vibe but I could never use it for this reason. I find these cards a powerful feat of storytelling and illustration. I like to use them as a vocabulary of experiences and emotions, rather than forecasting. The variety of states of being expressed in the cards is immense. It can be hard to articulate difficult feelings. Sometimes with these cards it's easier.

For drawing, I currently use a ​Pigma Graphic 1mm pen​ with 4x6 inch index cards. I got a notebook with paper this size and when I used up the sheets, I just placed these index cards in the notebook. It works smoothly. I used to use a ​Pentel Sign Pen​ with a ​Canson mixed media 7x10 inch notebook​ for a few years. I like to use a ​Moleskin classic notebook​ for daily writing, and a ​Cahier XL for sketching​. For larger scale drawings I use Montana colors and KRINK markers. I use ​artist tape​ to tape up drawings all around my space.

I currently use a 2015 MacBook Pro that I got from work.

And what software?

There's something beautiful in making things for yourself. You know what you want, and you've made this thing for yourself. It's sweet, it's caring. To that extent I use a few things I've made often. I'll use ​huedoodle​ to wanderdraw, ​bloopdance​ for weird sounds to sing-a-long to, and have a bright color​ when I need a bright color wash of light.

For interactive graphics I love using ​p5.​ To write the above software I've used iTerm2 or Terminal, tmux, vim, and Sublime. I use Pixelmator for image and illustration editing. When I write text digitally I'll use either vim, TextEdit, Google Docs, Medium, or Dropbox Paper. Vim feels most personal. I record music on the voice recorder app on my iPhone.

What would be your dream setup?

A shared space with lots of synthesizers, instruments, wall space to post up ideas, some whiteboards, and projectors, all kind of colliding. There will be a buchla easel and a harp. There will be a variety of bells that resonate deeply. A place that feels pretty social and open. I can hold gatherings there. I can nap, or I can dance. My favorite moments are collaborative idea jams, yes-and-moments. A space to encourage that would be wonderful.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.