Today I found an e-mail from Attacknine Records in my spam folder, from a couple of days ago. I usually never check my spam folder anymore before pressing delete, but thankfully I did this time around! They announced a new vinyl reissue of Freescha's first album from 2001, "Kids Fill the Floor", as well as some out take tracks by one half of the duo, Nick Huntington, released on vinyl under the alias "Christmas Lights". Having almost blown my music budget for the month, I opted for the Christmas Lights release on vinyl (see above) , with digital download included. What a real surprise of an album, reminding me of just how amazing anything Freescha-related is, even if it clocks in at only about a half an hour. If you like Boards of Canada (or Freescha, for that matter!), you'll love this one. I know the Boards reference is an obvious and perhaps lazy one, but there is definitely a similarity in sound, though something entirely different and unique going on as well. Upon checking the website, I also watched the video for a mysterious new musical project under the name Night Sequels, and again, was floored at how good the music is (sounding suspiciously like another Freescha-related side project). Maybe next month I'll grab up a copy of the Kids reissue, if any are still left. In the meantime, looking forward to more from Night Sequels. Happy listening!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Who is that adorable little girl in the picture? That would be my wife Kris at the age of two, posing with her play phone. Now she's all grown up, as adorable as ever, and her job, ironically involves talking on the phone for a good portion of the day, something she's far better at than me. The photo was taken by Kris' mother, in her home country of Trinidad. Her mother recently mailed us a bunch of wonderful old photos from Kris' childhood, which I have plans of compiling and making a book from this summer. Who knew that over two decades later, that little girl would marry some artist guy in Northern Virginia? Yesterday marked our four-year wedding anniversary, which is hard to believe since it seems like only yesterday we exchanged our vows!
I feel like the luckiest guy on Earth to have married Kris, and 2013 has been a good year for the both of us, with lots of positive change happening. Kris finally got her green card the other day, after four years here in the states and a somewhat stressful fourteen-month wait. We thought it would never arrive but I did remain hopeful. She's really enjoying her work and has gotten very successful at it, while making time for creative endeavors like painting, knitting, and most recently, growing plants. For myself, I finally paid off every last penny of credit card debt. It was a struggle since I moved here to America's wealthiest county from Pittsburgh, to work as an art teacher. I remember my car dying on me my third day out here, something I had just paid off and hoped to have for a few more years. From there on, I had to increasingly rely on my credit card for things, and having to buy new wheels, computers, get married and travel to visit relatives made it difficult to pay it all off, not to mention a longtime salary freeze and increasing rent costs that were already very high by most of the nation's standards. Still, that's life and it could have been a lot worse. But now, things are on the upswing and I owe so much of it to Kris, who has had such a positive impact on my life and on all of those who have gotten to know her.
I'm a very lucky man.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Last Thursday night I went see to the Ocean Blue play to a sold out crowd at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA. It was a very pleasant surprise to see the band back together with a brand new album and tour. I never got a chance to witness them live on past tours and didn't buy their new full length "Ultramarine" until I got to the show, trying not to listen to anything new from the band until they played.
I never saw a show at Jammin' Java before and have only been there to get a coffee, and recently drop off some Magic Bullet newspapers. They seemed to have a different set up, with more of an emphasis on concerts (I swear they once had a tiny stage at the right-hand side of the venue), with a capacity of what I believe to be 200 now, the stage set up at the back. I can't tell you just how good it was to see a show where there was ample, easy parking, without the supreme hassle of driving through the city. I've pretty much sworn off seeing concerts in DC on weeknights mainly 'cause my job can be mentally and physically demanding enough, and the thought of dealing with urban evening traffic just don't cut it for me anymore. Thankfully, Jamin' Java was a thoroughly pleasant concert-going experience, and a relatively short and simple drive. Also, being this was the Ocean Blue playing, and it was on a Thursday night, I could handle it, no problem.
I arrived at the venue about an hour before opening act, Don Peris, guitarist for another long-standing Pennsylvania dream pop band, The Innocence Mission hit the stage. He warmed up the crowd with a beautiful set of gentle, guitar-based instrumentals at times reminiscent of Daniel Lanois, and even Doug McCombs from Tortoise. I regret not buying one of his CDs as well Thursday night, so soon I'll have to order his new one titled "The Old Century".
Though there weren't too many people present yet, as Don played, I remained standing up front where I had been for quite a while at this point. At this point, I also wished I had been sitting, after standing and walking around on a hard floor all week, but the only place available for that was the fairly pricey VIP area. Thankfully, The Ocean Blue didn't take too long to hit the stage, and once they began to play, all thoughts of pain dissolved. The band was so incredibly good, it was hard to believe these guys had been around since 1989, yet at the same time it made perfect sense. The new songs melded so well with their classics, which many times doesn't happen when a band takes a long hiatus and make a new album. I think "Ultramarine" has taken fans by surprise, it's so good. Some reviewers have even declared it to be their best, and upon first listen while driving home from the show, I'd have to agree with them 100%. In fact, Ultramarine is a crucial release for 2013.
One can only hope The Ocean Blue will expand their mini-tour and come back this way again soon, hopefully to Jamin' Java again. It's been a while since I've been to a concert so good that it makes one feel great to be alive. Coming down from this show by the time I returned home at midnight was by no means an easy task. Thankfully the weekend was right around the corner. Below are a couple of samples of songs from "Ultramarine" for your ears to enjoy. Let's hope more folks start to recognize the monolithic tower of awesome this band (and album) truly is.
In the meantime, I got a cool package in the mail from my pal Dave Modler, which included a sketchbook for a collaborative project he was telling me about recently. Work, as well as another art-based project have been consuming most of my time and energy lately, but things will be settling down (at least with the work part) in about a week, allowing me to tackle this collab more in depth. I even dragged Kris into it as well, which is good 'cause she's been getting her artist mojo back quite a lot lately. Looking forward to this!
Meanwhile, if you're in or around the Leesburg, VA area, King Street Coffee is hosting the photographic work of our friend James Martin, up until the end of May. Kris and I have had James do some shoots for us in the past, and he's really come a long way with his passion for photography! His wife Tiffany, who is a truly great yoga instructor, has also been getting her art on as well, with a new line of t-shirts under the name Buddha Cat. Kris and I got shirts from her and we love 'em. Hopefully James and Tiffany will have some work for sale online in the not-too-distant future.
As for the other art-related project I've been working on, I can't say too much more than it has to do with a book to be released fairly soon, and that the subject matter pertains to endangered sea life, told in a comic-book/graphic novel style. Below is a sneak peek at some very early stage pages. So far so good.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Last week I got the news of a new Boards of Canada (see HERE) album to be released in the states next month. For fans like myself, this is huge. We haven't seen or heard anything from the (formerly) Scottish duo of analogue knob twiddling brothers for over eight years, and most folks lost hope of anything new to surface ever again. BOC are one of those groups who will go down in electronic music history, whose sound influenced many, but could never be imitated. As a personal tribute, I compiled ten of my favorite songs from the duo, in chronological order of release (from top to bottom), with the eleventh track/vid taken from the new album titled "Tomorrow's Harvest", which has something of a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Interesting. Some of these fan-made vids are quite good too, though listening to Boards of Canada with the lights turned off and headphones plugged in is always the best way to go. Now if only Richard D. James put out an Aphex album this year. One can dream. Enjoy the tunes.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
How cool is this? The Toonseum of Pittsburgh, PA will be hosting the first Comic Arts Festival downtown! In addition to a whole bunch of good things going on that day, a longtime favorite and a living legend in the comic art world, Patrick McDonnell (Mutts) will be there!! Kris and I have been to the Toonseum when it first opened several years ago, and it's a wonderful little space that packs a giant cartoon punch. It's been a while since I've dropped by, and if this is not a reason to go again, I don't know what is. Currently, a few great exhibits are going on there, including an art of Akira show, which ends in a few days unfortunately. Anyhow, here are some more details below, according to the blog:
Downtown Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival hopes to Draw a Crowd!
Pittsburgh, PA-Hundreds of cartoonists are descending on downtown Pittsburgh as the city plays host to the National Cartoonists Society Conference. It is the first time the prestigious organization has been to Pittsburgh in its almost 70 year history.
In conjunction with the conference, The ToonSeum will be hosting the very first Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival on May 26th from noon to 5pm.
The festival will feature autograph and sketch sessions with over 60 of the nations top comic artist and cartoonists including such luminaries as: Partrick McDonnell of Mutts, Lynn Johnston of For Better or Worse, Tom Richmond of MAD Magazine, Brian Walker of Beetle Bailey, Dan Piraro of Bizarro and many more.
The 900 Block of Liberty Avenue downtown will become a veritable living funny pages block party with visits from Betty Boop, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Dennis the Menace, and the Care Bears. Fun vendors, art activities, chalk artists and caricaturists and will round out the festivities and help to literally draw a crowd!
Several ticketed panel discussions and lectures will be taking place at Bricolage Theater featuring an exciting panel of women cartoonists presented by Carlow University. The Panel will include Cathy Guisewite, Lynn Johnston, Terri Liebenson, and Hillary Price.
The ToonSeum will host the first ever exhibition of Reuben Award winners featuring a who’s who of comics and cartooning spanning over 60 years and rarely seen original art.
At the August Wilson Center there will be original art from the classic animated series Fat Albert on display in their gallery.
Admission to the street festival is free. Five dollar admission gets access to exhibitions at the ToonSeum and artists signing booths.
Books and prints for signings will be available for purchase with all proceeds benefiting the NCS/ToonSeum Fund for Youth Programs.
Panel discussions seating is limited and ticket price is $20.
On Thursday night, there will be Special VIP tickets available including a sneak peek of the exhibit, reserved seating to all panels, and private meet and greet with artists which are available for $150.00
Information on the festival is available at pghcomicartsfest.com
The festival is a partnership between the National Cartoonists Society, the ToonSeum, The August Wilson Center and Bricolage theater with support from the R K Mellon Foundation and Geek Pittsburgh.
Speaking of cartoons, I received my physical copy of the Magic Bullet 6 "thank you" card in the mail today (see above) from Carolyn Belefski, and it looks pretty spiffy in person. What a great way to honor the businesses who helped to make this publication happen!
Today was a gorgeous day, and Kris and I spent the majority of it outside. We paid a visit to downtown Leesburg and stopped into my friend Allen's shop, "Books and Other Found Things". Just as we walked in, a wonderful family who was moving back to their home country of Singapore was buying one of my "Get Lost in a Book" prints, which is naturally the best seller of all my Splotch Monster prints at the shop. It was nice to meet these folks and thank them in person before their long journey back home, and it made me happy to see some of my art branching out to another part of the world. Of course, the wife and I couldn't have left without making a few purchases of our own, one of which was a print of a newer piece by local Virginia artist Bob Friedenberg, called "Joei's Garden", based on the beautiful pond in Bob's backyard. We love Books and Other Found Things, and we love Bob's artwork, more of which you can find at the shop in both original and signed print form. In the meantime, a gem of a song (and video) from Nite Jewel.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Last Saturday Kris and I visited some friends in Frederick, Maryland where we found a cool little art and crafts consignment store called The Muse. There were all kinds of neat and interesting hand-made creations, including a bunch of smaller works by a California-based artist named Kelly Puissegur, who made the piece featured here (see above), featuring a couple of my childhood heroes, called "Besties". How could we not have gone home without it, especially for only $45.00?! Definitely check out all of her work, and if you're in Frederick, don't miss The Muse.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Here's a big post for the month of April. Finally it's feeling like spring this way and there are a lot of good things happening on the art front to blog about. So let's get this party started, shall we? First off, I've been excited to share this on the blogs for a little while now, and now I finally can. A few months back JJ Cromer, who collaborated on the Splotch/Asterisk series of drawings with me last year, contacted me to tell me the good news with regards to Tokyo, Japan-based fashion company Comme des Garcons. It turns out they chose one of our collaborative pieces from the S/A series to feature in their April, 2013 promotional mailer. What a pleasant, unexpected surprise for the both of us! Each and every year they choose artists to represent a theme, and this year they chose anime/manga classic Akira, merging a handful of artists' work with the original manga art by Katsuhiro Otomo. Art heroes like Ai Weiwei have worked with Comme des Garcons in recent past, making me even more glad to see our work included as the centerfold of the current mailer. I borrowed the idea for the presentation of this part of the post from a blog post by JJ, HERE.
Below is another collaborative project I was asked to participate in by D.C. comic art star and graphic designer Carolyn Belefski. Carolyn contaced a handful of local cartoon and comic book artists, mainly from the DC Conspiracy collective to create a "thank you" card for businesses who sponsored the recently released Magic Bullet 6 paper, curated by Carolyn, who also illustrated the latest cover. Contributing artists received a randomly chosen letter to work on and include in the card, mine being a two-headed Splotch Monster K. I'm looking forward to receiving the actual card itself soon, in the mail, as well as picking up an issue of M.B. 6, which I unfortunately didn't have the time to be involved in this time around. The card turned out beautifully however, and I'm proud to have my letter included up there with the work of some of the finest cartoonists in the area. Below is a look at the layout, compiled and designed by Carolyn.
Last weekend, Kris and I had an art date in Washington, DC, which we're hoping to turn into a monthly event from now on. There's so much to see and do, and most of it is for free! First off, below are some photos from the latest exhibit opening at Off-Rhode Studio called "One Man's Trash". All I can say is my mind has been officially blown by the work in this show, featuring two very different yet very similar artists. The first six photos below show some of the work by local artist Chuck Baxter, who has been collecting trash and turning it into some incredibly imaginative and witty works of art for nearly two decades now. I got to talk to Chuck (see third pic down from here) very briefly, and he's one of the nicest (and tallest) guys around.
Also at the Off-Rhode show was the work of Mr. Rey "Quinnessential" Quinn, who creates portrait art from the styrofoam cups he uses. I was told at the show that he basically washes the cups that he drinks from, from a local business, then simply draws on them. The results, as you can see are stunning. I had trouble picking favorites, so I included some of them here, however you can see many more from the show at my Flickr site. With the exception of opening reception events and artists and collector talks, Off-Rhode Studio/Art Enables is closed on weekends, so try to get on down there before 5PM to see it all in person. Kris and I had a fantastic time at this show, and Art Enables is a prime example of how art can bring so many seemingly different kinds of folks together.
Next stop, The Phillips Collection. Actually, The Phillips was the first place Kris and I visited last Saturday, as doors opened at 10AM and we managed to find meter parking right in front of the main entrance. Yes, they do charge on weekends and thankfully the meters take credit cards now. The Phillips Collection also costs money to view but it's inexpensive and well worth every last penny. I can't even begin to say why, so you just have to go, period. This was only my second visit, sadly, and Kris' first, and I know she was in awe as much as I was Saturday. My main reason to come by this time around was to see the current show featuring the collection of work linking Jackson Pollock, Alfonso Ossorio, and Jean Dubuffet, called Angels, Demons and Savages. Surprisingly, for me, the highlight of this exhibit were the small drawings by Ossorio, made when he fell ill and stayed in the hospital while in his seventies. I found them to be more immediate and just as powerful as the gigantic painted canvases in the show. I'm a sucker for smaller works on paper perhaps, and unfortunately, none of these drawings by Ossorio were in the exhibit book. I believe this Saturday, April 20 is the final day for the show, so don't miss it!
Finally, my friend and colleague Brian Kirk has a show at the beautiful Studio Gallery, which will also end this Saturday as well. In addition to being an excellent teacher, Brian is an amazing sculptor, and more recently he's been exploring nature's effect on the process of art-making. In his own words: "I have always been intrigued with the forces of nature. I consider myself a naturalist and a curious spectator of natural phenomena. The natural actions of wind, water, fire on the ever-changing earth hold a fascination for me. I enjoy the cyclical forces; the ebb and flow of the tides, the changing stages of the moon, the emblazoned autumn leaves. My intention is for you to participate, as a naturalist, and examine the prints and sculpture for visual imagery, witness subtle variations in the rich palette of ochre's, oranges and browns and share in the wonderment of the natural phenomena - rusting steel."
That is all for now. If you're in the Washington, DC area, don't hesitate to get there early by or before this coming Saturday (or anytime really) to check out the art. Plus, springtime is always beautiful in the area. Looking forward to another post in May! Peace.