Thursday, September 30, 2010

good old-fashioned r & r

Better late than never, I went with a quicker, sketchier drawing based on some photos I took at the marvelous Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, MD. If there was one thing those pigs knew how to do, it was relax. Perhaps I should take notes.

*mixed media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, made for the Illustration Friday topic "old-fashioned", 9/2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

a visit to poplar spring animal sanctuary

Some friends invited me out to visit the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland for their thirteenth annual open house fundraiser today. It turned out to be a beautiful day, somewhat overcast and finally feeling like Autumn. I'm so glad I was able to make this event, since I've never had the pleasure of visiting this wonderful place yet. The animal sanctuary is nonprofit and one of only about a dozen currently existing in the United States, housing roughly 200 various rescued animals from throughout the country. What a joy it was to see cows, goats, chickens, and many other types of farm animals, once abandoned, neglected or abused, roaming free and happily on such a spacious, natural plot of land. From what I gathered, the place has been attracting record turnouts to their events lately, and I've got a feeling this one was no exception, as folks kept piling on in as the day progressed. Highlights included a very informative and engaging speech by author, activist and scientist Jonathan Balcombe, who recently published Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, as well as some marvelous free food from local vegan hotspot Java Green, and finally some mouthwatering sweets from the award-winning Sticky Fingers bakery. They also had a silent auction, which I plan on contributing some artwork to next year. It was nice to see such a great turnout on such a pleasant, Autumn day - another indicator that people are slowly but surely learning of the multitude of positive benefits which arise from a vegetarian or vegan diet, and the harsh, grim realities behind the meat industry and industrial factory farming. Here's looking to next year's open house!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

bochum welt: "robotic operating buddy" & "greenwich"

"epic, filmic moments which pause with confidence and are sonically fantastic" Future Music

"gloriously melodic lo-fi ditties that you wonder if you'll ever tire of them. Cool" Muziq

"mid-pace electronica. Rephlex bounce back!" New Musical Express

"plastic noises, custom built sounds, unique breakbeats. Regardless of who produced it, it is great" Mixmag

"melodic sense and sensibilities are absolutely impeccable... Something quite sublime" Wire

"the power to create some masterful moments" Dazed & Confused

"electronic beauty, simplicity and complexity in equal measure. Up there with Aphex and the very best" EQ

Above are some of the accolades attributed to the wonderous electronic music of Gianluigi Di Costanzo, aka Bochum Welt. As with many a great electronica producer, Costanzo got his first break on Aphex Twin's Rephlex label in the early nineties, releasing what some consider his most memorable, classic material. "Greenwich", the track featured below, is one of those releases - a song evoking early eighties electro, well fit for a session of pops, locks & headspins, while romantic "A Broken Frame" era Depeche Mode-esque melodies provide a purple-sky horizon backdrop to a proper cardboard floor throwdown. Above is a video for a reworked classic, retitled "Robotic Operating Buddy" for the double disc album of the same name (Rephlex, 2008), compiling many of Bochum Welt's rare, classic material, as well as some excellent newer stuff. The video is credited to Justin Morgan, who has made a handful of other very good, very surreal videos for some very similar artists. While information is vague about the vid producer, it's most likely the same Justin Morgan who makes some severely underrated, seriously good electronic music as "Rusuden". I am pretty sure this is actual promotional footage from some wild and zany children's toy, taken from a time when the future was still bright, shiny and optimistic, expertly edited to Bochum's music.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ethereal acrobat

Earlier in the month, a gentleman who bought one of my pieces hanging in a local coffee shop referred to my art as "ethereal". I took that as a compliment, since I like that word and actually try and get something to that effect in some of my work.

Here are some of the definitions I found for the word ethereal:

light, airy, or tenuous: an ethereal world created through the poetic imagination.
extremely delicate or refined: ethereal beauty.
heavenly or celestial: gone to his ethereal home.
of or pertaining to the upper regions of space.

I originally was going to do another animal drawing but decided to try something different this time. Squirrels instantly came to mind, since they are incredibly deft travelers of the trees. Well, I've already recently drawn some of those. How about humans for once? I thought about circus performers and tried to find some images to work from online. I saw quite a few good drawings and paintings of acrobats. I also found some great material from You Tube, including Big Apple Circus star Dolly Jacobs who performed one of the most difficult Aerialist tricks of all time, and can be viewed below, from a clip from 1985. While I can appreciate the modern acts of today's acrobats, I'm actually drawn to the less artsy-fartsy, sensory overload of the more modern acts, preferring the simplicity and beauty, not to mention insane skill of past performers like Dolly, who seem to have come from a bygone era of great acrobatic performers. For the current Illo Friday prompt, "acrobat", I ended up pausing and taking a screen shot from the performance featured below, later altering it in Picnik, then Photoshop. It was already somewhat of an interesting image, because of the way the camera caught a sort-of double image of Dolly throughout much of the performance, giving it an almost "ghostly" effect. While this image is essentially a digitally manipulated photo, I'd like to try some drawing and sketching of acrobats in the near future.

Friday, September 17, 2010

splotch monsters on io9 and strange spanners

After a fairly long but eventful second week back in the classroom, it was nice to start my weekend off with some good news. First off is the heads-up from fellow Moleskine Exchange member Ballookey, with news of my Splotch Monsters being featured at the excellent sci-fi blog io9. It's always great to know that some people out there are enjoying what I do other than just myself. Thanks for the news Ballookey and thank you for the feature Charlie Jane Anders and io9!

Today I also received the "Zombie Rabbit Award" for my Splotch Monsters from Lazarus Lupin, who runs the wonderfully weird Strange Spanners art blog. Thanks Mr. Lupin, it's an honor!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

beauty is in the aye-aye of the beholder

For this week's Illustration Friday topic, "proverb", I went with a more well-known one and tweaked it some. I was searching for images of ugly animals to draw, when the Aye-aye caught my attention. I'm not sure I would call it ugly though, to be honest, compared to some of the others. One reason I keep doing these Illo Friday challenges is because they force me to research and learn things I may not have known too much about. Granted, a search on Google could never compare to a real, honest-to-goodness learning experience, and if I could fly to Madagascar right now and study the Aye-aye, you bet I would right now. What I did learn about this fascinating little lemur is that it is an endangered species. I also learned, unfortunately, that this virtually harmless critter is feared by the native peoples of Madagascar, who believe it is a demon who brings bad luck and death. For instance, some of the natives believe that it can use its elongated middle finger to drill a hole in it's human victims and kill them. The truth however, is this elongated finger is used to pierce a hole in hollowed out trees, where it actively searches for and hunts grubs, its main source of food. Sadly, the natives who believe the Aye-aye is evil, will kill it to prevent danger from coming to their villages. Hopefully, someday soon, those who believe this harmless beast (who is also facing habitat destruction) is evil, will evolve in their thinking and realize the Aye-aye isn't out to get them at all. It's not a good situation to be in, being a victim of too much, as well as too little progress. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place! If I could invent my own proverb, it would be "no superstition is a good superstition".

*mixed media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 9/2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

d.c. veg fest 2010

Last Saturday I was able to make it out to the DC Veg Fest at George Washington University. I took off from Leesburg, VA at about 10:15 AM, and made it to the Falls Church West metro by about 11AM. The Orange Line was a brief straight shot to the Foggy Bottom exit, and the Fest was a few blocks away. I got there by about 11:50 AM, giving me some time to spare. I knew they were handing out freebies (Veg Fest bags with goodies and such) to the first 400 participants, so I wanted to get there when they started around noon. People started to trickle in early, and I'd say by about 12:30, the place started to get pretty packed and long lines were beginning to form at the various food vendors. While getting there early was a good idea, I made the grave mistake of not bringing any cash - something I rarely carry around with me. Apparently nobody took credit cards. To say it was torture was putting it mildly. Smelling all the good food and seeing everyone eating around me was tough. I would say, for those skeptics out there who still believe that vegan and vegetarian food tastes bad, the Veg Fest would be a good place to find out otherwise. I've eaten at several of the places who set up shop there Saturday, and only wish they were located closer to Leesburg. Kris always says it's probably good they aren't though, 'cause we might go broke supporting them all the time. I did end up stopping by a neat little hole-in-the-wall called the DC Cafe for an amazing falafel and fries for a very low price. Anyway, the weather worked out for the best - was absolutely gorgeous, and everyone was really nice there. In a little over an hour I got to check out a great variety of vendors and info booths and talk with some folks. There were some cooking demos going on, and even Animal Planet was there filming for a new series. There was an estimated 6,000 people who showed up that afternoon, and like I said to some friends who attended later that day and met me in D.C., it was nice, for once to be a part of the majority. I didn't get to check out any speaker presentations, since I wanted to check out the excellent Phillips Collection, which was about an easy mile's walk away and is free to the public up through the end of the month due to current construction on the building's exterior. I've never been there before and was thoroughly impressed. For me the highlight was Jacob Lawrence's "Migration Series", which can be found on the left-hand side of the museum lobby, upon entering. Later, I walked a few blocks down the street to catch my friend and colleague Brian Kirk's artist reception at Studio Gallery in Dupont Circle. Brian's work is always a feast for the eyes and the Studio Gallery is a beautiful historic structure featuring three floors and a wide variety of great art. So, it turned out to be a weekend well spent in the District of Columbia, and if there's one thing I've learned from the Veg Fest experience, it's to BRING CASH next year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

squarepusher: "the exploding psychology" & "tundra"

I've posted some vids from Tom Jenkinson, better known as Squarepusher before at my blog, but never featured both my favorite Squarepusher track ("Tundra", below), or video ("The Exploding Psychology", above). Next to Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), who I've blogged a lot about, he's one of my favorite musicians. I think his Last FM bio sums up his sound well, which is no easy task: "Tom “Squarepusher” Jenkinson can be broadly described as an electronic musician, though he is perhaps best known for his experimental drum’n’bass with a heavy jazz fusion influence." You can read more about his history on that page as well. It was Richard D. James who actually heard Tom playing live in a club and shortly after, signed him to release his first album, the astoundingly good, appropriately titled "Feed Me Weird Things" on Rephlex in 1996. The eerie epic, orchestral drum n' bass mutation and second track on that album, "Tundra" can be heard below. It's difficult to comprehend someone only in his twenties composing such a massive piece of music, and album for that matter, and with fairly meager means at the time. Throughout his career, Squarepusher would explore a great variety of musical avenues, including live freeform jazz experiments to spazztastic junglist digi-dub stormers ( see "the Exploding Psychology", from 2001's "Go Plastic", above), and currently electro-funk rock, which leads me to his new unreleased album "Squarepusher presents - Shobaleader One - d'Demonstrator" - his first with a band, inspired by a dream he had (noted on his last LP, "Just A Souvinir"). So far, I'm pretty mixed about the two tracks I've heard. I like "Cryptic Motion" a lot, but "Megazine" seems pretty tame and kind of conventional, at least by Squarepusher standards. You can be the judge yourself, since an excellent interview with Tom can be found HERE, as well as the video for "Megazine". The man has always been very honest and real in all of his interviews, and my favorite words from this one include a line referring to the new release: "It's a stand against the affectation of knowing indifference in urban life and its corollary in music. I've always wanted to sabotage coolness as for me music is about laughing and crying, not about standing around smoking cigarettes.". I like the part about sabotaging coolness, as it's something I can personally relate to when creating much of my own art work. In the meantime, spend some time with the one and only genius that is the Squarepusher, preferably with a decent pair of headphones or speakers. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

summertime dessert

Recently, over the summer my wife spotted a curious-looking creature hovering around some flowers at a local vineyard. Before I could identify it, she said "Look, it's one of those hummingbird bugs!". I took a couple of photos, and sure enough, it was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth. The first time I actually spotted one was while traveling back home to VA, at a rest stop flower bed in Maryland. It totally confused me, this bizarre little thing zipping around like something from science-fiction. Was it a hummingbird? Was it an insect? What on Earth was this thing?! I brought it up to some people and not many folks seemed too familiar with it. I think some of them thought I was high or something. I forgot who finally did identify it for me, but thanks to Google, the mystery had been solved. In the meantime, I created two versions illustrating this silly-named insect enjoying a sweet summer treat. The bottom version is the original drawing. I thought I'd try and get a hot, summery feel with some help from Picnik, in the upper image. I'm still not sure which one I like best.

Monday, September 6, 2010

sketch dump: 8/2010

Well, more like a "splotch dump", but there was definitely some sketching going on. Unlike with July, I didn't do any observational drawing or sketching in August, mainly because I was putting so much energy into my Illo Friday drawings, as well as these guys. So, I decided to choose my favorite eight from about 31 in August. Half of them were done in a watercolor Moleskine for Andrea Martinez's Moleskine exchange, and the other four were made in my own sketchbook 'skine, which is full of Splotch Monsters and now officially finished. Right now I'm doing some on various patterned scrap papers, mostly from either Kris' scrapbooking excursions, or from school/work. Still, I'm planning on getting a watercolor Moleksine of my own and filling that one up with Splotch Monsters as well. In the meantime, I need to do more observational stuff again this month!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

finally, my own web page!

So, I finally have my very own web page, thanks to Kris and her ace design skills. It's clean and simple and is divided into categories such as "art", "bio", "contact", and "blog", while there are sub-categories (which all fall under the "art" part) such as "mixed-media", "splotch monsters", "sketches", "photos", and "creative diversions". I decided to limit the images to no more than fifteen in each sub-category, focusing on what I believe to be my best work. I thought that ten was too trite while twenty was too much. The great thing is, I can change and update these through Flickr, which feeds the images in these categories. I figured it was due time to have a web site and get a little more "serious" about featuring some of my art. Honestly, I'm not the most aggressive person when it comes to pushing my art, or anything for that matter, and I always feel very silly for even talking about myself. Still, it can't hurt to put myself out there a little bit. A recent source of inspiration for this was a great post I found on a blog I follow called "Rowdy Kittens". It included a cool quote by Gary Lew saying " This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.". Those words really resonated with me, and I can go on for eons about this quote and topic, but I don't want to get too far off the point of this post, which is the website. Speaking of, you can find my actual site at It still needs a little work, but for now it's just fine.