"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Monday, September 13, 2010

Highway to Helsinki!

Before leaving Ireland to live in Finland I gathered my compact discs and mediocre collection of vinyl records all together for a long session of bubble-wrapping. These were all little mementos and memories with no real monetary value. Maybe they will have one day, but I will find it very hard to part with any of them if such a day arises. That's what a lot of music is to me, a reminder of a past memory in my life, whether it be good or bad. I will occasionally spend that little bit extra for any newly released music that I think is exceptional, for example 'The Bends' by Radiohead, and 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley amongst others. I do also have a lot of music which I like, simply because the price was right. Well, a bargain is a bargain!
Nowadays in a world of what I call 'invisible' music or downloads, the whole appreciation of having a hard copy of something you have paid cash for is obsolete and in a way extinct.
Over the past couple of years I discovered an event which happens annually in various locations throughout Finland. It's called Levy Messut or roughly translated Record Fair. Living back in Ireland I was used to searching through superstores like HMV, Tower Records and Virgin for all the latest releases on compact disc. But I never stopped buying old vinyl. For this I went to various small second-hand record shops like Sound Cellar and my old favorite Freebird Records. Their collections were however very limited and sometimes a little expensive for second-hand material.
So when I discovered the 'Levy' record market event here in Finland, I simply had to investigate. This event is organised between a group of record dealers from Finland, Sweden and Germany.

My first visit was back in 2008 in a town called Hyvinkää. My expectations were more than satisfied. It was held in a big indoor hall with plenty of space to move around, and they even had a public toilet and a coffee station! More importantly the selection of records was vast and all were available at a reasonable price. Well, for my budget anyway!
Needless to say I picked up a couple of favorites of which I didn't have at home already.. Here's what I got on that occasion.

Slade – 'In Flame' vinyl album €10 – playing condition 8/10
Thin Lizzy – 'The Collection' vinyl double album €8 – playing condition 9/10
Creedence Clearwater Revival – 'Travelling Band' (Russian print) vinyl album €8 – playing condition 10/10

The Stranglers – 'The Raven' vinyl album with 3D cover art €12 – playing condition 10/10
The Specials – 'More Specials' vinyl album €6 – playing condition 10/10
Various – 'Street Level' 20 New Wave Hits vinyl album €5 – playing condition 9/10

Of course, it can be a gamble as regards the condition of any record you buy at these markets. But it only takes 10 seconds to take the vinyl out of it's sleeve and check for any nasty scratches if you're concerned. You will soon realise that all of the people involved at such record markets are true professionals and care for their records more so than any of their customers.

So what's all this got to do with the Highway to Helsinki you may ask.
Well, yesterday I got the chance to go to another Levy Messut record fair, this time in Helsinki.
And that's why I took the Highway to Helsinki!
Well I tell a lie, I actually took the train. The train from Karis to Helsinki, on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. Perfect weather to be where I was heading. The hall was a bit smaller this time though, but the bargains were bigger and better! Amongst all the usual collections of UK and US releases I noticed an increase in the amount of Finnish records or Suomi Rock. I was tempted to pick up an old Levi & The Leavings album but I already have a double cd of theirs at home. This time I was looking for some Johnny Cash, something Irish, and some old-school ska/reggae like Desmond Dekker or Prince Buster. So I began my quest. It's important to practice a little bit of self-indulgence once or twice a year. This was my time, this was my bag!
And here is what I came away with this year. I could have stayed longer, only I had to catch the cheap train home! That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!

Phil Lynott – 'Solo in Soho' vinyl album €3 – playing condition 9/10

The Police – 'Regatta de Blanc' vinyl album €3 – playing condition 10/10

Elvis Presley – 'Elvis Forever' 32 Hits vinyl double album €3 – playing condition 8/10

Johnny Cash – 'The Best of Johnny Cash' vinyl album €10 – playing condition 10/10

Blondie – 'Parallel Lines' vinyl album €6 – playing condition 9/10

Sinéad O'Connor – 'The Lion and The Cobra' vinyl album €3 – playing condition 10/10 (I'm not a big fan of Sinéad, but this album contains some great songs and her voice excells)

Elvis Costello and the Attractions – 'Get Happy!!' vinyl album €4 – playing condition 10/10

Horslips – 'Dancehall Sweethearts' vinyl album €12 – playing condition 10/10

…...and finally my bargain of the day!

The Equals – 'The Equals' vinyl album €1 – playing condition 10/10
featuring a young Eddie Grant!

I admit I was tempted by some classics by the likes of Pink Floyd, The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, AC/DC and even Uriah Heep! But I have all that I need by these artists on vinyl or compact disc already. I have the only two albums by Pink Floyd that I ever wanted, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' and 'The Dark Side of the Moon' and a cd box set of The Who. I don't think it's healthy to listen to same music all the time, a bit of diversity is important I reckon. Having said that, I did keep my distance from 'John Denver and The Muppets Christmas Album'. There are limits, you know what I mean folks!!

There is without doubt in my opinion something very satisfying about owning a vinyl record whether it is new or second-hand, as long as it's in reasonable condition. It's something to be cherished, and never be embarrassed to show it off to your friends the next time you invite them around for a drink. It's an old practice that is unfortunately dying slowly. It's something that your 'download' can't offer, plus you get the chance to discover or rediscover some great album artwork. Such artwork has become so iconic today and is well worth the album price in itself. Something else which is well worth knowing is the fact that most newly made record players on sale today have a special USB port that allows their owner to convert their vinyl records to MP3. And they are not as expensive as you may think. You can pick up such a record player with a USB function new for under €100. So now you can also listen to your vinyl collection on your mp3 player without any download costs!

For anyone reading this in Finland you might want to make note that the Levy Messut is in Hyvinkää on October 2. More details at
Anyone reading this in Sweden might like to check out a shop called Nostalgipalatset in Stockholm. A Swedish guy handed me a flyer from this shop. Tell him I sent you! More details at

- Now all I need to do is find is a new needle for my record player!!

Thanks for reading my blog and please feel free to share it with any of your friends.

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- Alan 


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Never Too Old!!

For some reason this little t-shirt design I made called 'Never Too Old!' seems to be getting noticed lately.
I have it on sale with the popular art website Redbubble, where I have sold three t-shirts in the last four weeks.
While most of the cost paid by the purchaser goes to Redbubble, I do get a small commission for my design. It is also a good feeling when someone picks 'your' design from a site full of thousands of other top notch t-shirt designs.

Is it the attraction of such an iconic image or my adaptation of it, I can't be sure? Maybe it's the message on the t-shirt? Only the customer knows I suppose. I have a few more ideas for future t-shirts based on this design which I think a few people might like. Check this link for new designs.
Many thanks to those of you who liked my design and bought the t-shirt. I'm very grateful!

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Double Agents!

Here are two recent paintings I just completed.
Called 'I Spy Red' and 'I Spy Orange', these paintings were more an exploration of colour rather than anything deep and meaningful.
Like secret agents my cool-coloured spy-glass shapes investigate their underlying warm landscapes of red and orange.

'I Spy Red'
2010, acrylic on stretched canvas
Original size 55cm x 46cm

'I Spy Orange'
2010, acrylic on stretched canvas
Original size 55cm x 46cm

And as we know, any decent spy must break borders and investigate all areas.
Perhaps a little view into the way society has become with the increasingly intrusive world wide web. The interpretive borders are open on these two!

Thanks for reading my blog.
Please share and do come again!

- Alan

The Art Garage, Finland

The Art Garage, Finland
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