Sunday, October 31, 2010

so long october

Over the past week or so, I ended up taking my camera with me on walks I'd take around Leesburg after work. The weather has been excellent so far, though it's starting to cool down and actually feel like it should feel, temperature-wise. I didn't get any good hikes in on the Appalachain Trail this Fall, like I usually do, but I did manage to do lots of walking. Kris and I even got a visit in to a local vineyard today at the gorgeous Willowcroft Vineyards. It was the best kid and costume-free Halloween I've ever had in my adult life so far thanks to the view and the wine and some quality time with Kris. I only posted one pic from that visit here, but I'm currently working on an extensive Flickr set, collecting lots of shots from all the local vineyards we've visited. Afterward we dropped by King Street Coffee for some good hot chocolate and coffee.

I always wonder how October passes on by so quickly, and how November always seems to signal a start to the cold and the holiday craziness. I'm making an effort this year to choose not to get all wrapped up in the materialistic madness that can define and frankly ruin the holiday season for me, and try harder to enjoy the simple things that life brings us every day, and hold on to my sanity. Speaking of, I would have loved to have been at the Rally to Restore Sanity in D.C. this weekend, but after a week of kids being totally amped up about Halloween, long lines and big crowds was definitely not the way to restore my own personal sanity. That said, I've always been a fan of Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert, and think they're genius. The rally looked like a blast, the signs were hilarious and I'm glad about the big turnout. Jon's speech was by far better than any I've heard from any politician too, to be honest. In the meantime, I'm ready for November. I'm ready for the cold and I look forward to visiting Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. I hope everyone had a great October and Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


*made for the Illustration Friday topic, "racing" 8.5" x 10", mixed media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 10/2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ten bucks and a fro yo run

It's interesting how other people's words and/or actions could have a ripple effect, which could of course be big or small, positive or negative. Recently I briefly blogged up my experience seeing and hearing Chris Guillebeau, the author of The Art of Nonconformity, in D.C. There was a section of the book where he talks about charity and simply "letting go" after the act of giving. I found this section, and the entire book, a truly refreshing read. Have you ever been approached by someone on the street, who may be homeless or down on their luck, and decide to give them some money? This happened to me tonight, maybe about thirty minutes ago as of writing this post. I don't know about you, but it kills me to see homeless people or folks down on their luck. It really does, almost to the point of disturbing me. Perhaps if I was a city slicker, I'd be more jaded, which wouldn't be a bad thing for someone like me, who personally, is not exactly wealthy, at least with regards to money. I guess in the suburbs, it (homelessness) stands out a lot more.

Anyhow, today was a particularly stressful day at work for both Kris and I. She had to deal with issues in abundance, only dealt with by people who work in retail. I'm still recovering from the fact that a bus almost didn't show up for a class of fifth-graders who've been waiting all year to go on a highly anticipated field trip, as well as an incident with a kid who completely disappeared from my sight/classroom as soon as I turned around to wash my hands during an after-school program I teach. Fortunately he left to go home with his mom, who was in the school hallway, who didn't bother to stop in my room to sign him out. What do these things have to do with anything? Well, as much as Kris and I had plans to sit down and work on some art this evening, all we could do was shower, eat some then pass out in the living room. We both felt we deserved to be a little decadent this evening, so I mustered up some strength to hit up the nearby grocery store for some "Moose Trax" frozen yogurt, at Kris' request. As I pulled into the mostly dark and nearly vacant parking lot, I saw a pretty ragged looking man approach my car. I immediately thought, oh sh@*t, he's gonna jump me. Instead, the man kindly asked if I could spare some change so he could get to Richmond eventually. Since I don't really carry much cash ever, I grabbed a couple of the quarters and pennies I had in my pocket and told him this is all I had, and wished him well. The man may have been in his forties and definitely looked as if life had gotten the best of him. I didn't know him, but he seemed like he truly hit rock bottom and he was genuinely thankful, shaking my hand and asking me to wish him good luck. He turned around one last time to thank me again (for a lousy fifty-three cents) and said "It never hurts to ask, right?". I wished him luck once more, and felt like a real chump, going into the grocery store to drop four dollars on some fro yo that we really, probably shouldn't be eating this time of night anyhow. Long story short, I told the man to wait a few minutes while I get what I have to get, and I told him I'll see what I can do.  I dropped by the in-store ATM, took out a ten and on my way out, gave it to the man and told him that's all I could give him. By now, it was starting to get cooler and very windy, and I felt bad that this was all I could do. The man, on the other hand acted like it was Christmas and couldn't stop thanking me. When I got home, Kris could see I was bothered by something and asked me what was wrong. I told her what I did and said we'll just have to eat out one less time this week, which she agreed to completely. At this point I had lost my appetite. Some might call me a braggart for posting about this, but I felt the need to write about it,  and wished I  did more posts of this sort here. I'm definitely not naive to homelessness and poverty or any other kind of human, or animal suffering for that matter. What I did realize is that this person wasn't just a "bum" or a "vagrant" or any other stupid term we create to desensitize our minds from that fact that  the folks on the streets are fellow human beings, like you and me, who were once children with hopes and dreams (and many who are children), who might still have a shot at a better life ahead, if given a chance. Besides, any one of us could be that guy.  His problems, whatever they might have been, made mine and my wife's seem pretty petty, in retrospect. I used to wonder what someone did with the change I gave away to them, and think, "what if that person used it on booze or drugs?" or "what if I'm supporting their bad habit and contributing to their life getting even worse?".  Many people say you should give to an organized charity instead. Well, I do, to a couple of them, on an annual and monthly basis. I have in the past as well only to have discovered the organization embezzled tens of thousands in funds (and it was a church organization no less). The fact is, a man, desperate enough to walk up to me and ask me for money, obviously needed money, so I gave him some, right there, in person and on the spot. I'm not suggesting folks do this on a regular basis (especially if you do reside or work in the city). I am suggesting however, if not to my own self, we think about how we perceive others who are less fortunate and what we can do about it, especially with winter and the holidays fast approaching. I also suggest you share, blog, and write about a simple, random or nonrandom act of kindness or giving and not be afraid of someone accusing you of being a braggart. I personally was inspired by a great post at a blog called Ridiculously Extraordinary today. Once again, the ripple effect.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

some new tunes: "with lions" and "mrc riddims"

Below are a couple of samplers from two fairly new music projects from some members formerly of bands I've been into for some time now. Both were introduced to me earlier this month via e-mail, and I thought I'd share 'em here for your listening pleasure.

First off is the single "Our Great Rise" by former Lake Trout lead man Woody Ranere's new project With Lions. Vocals are credited to Stephen Ortega, but they sound a whole heck of a lot like Woody singing, which, as a big fan of Lake Trout, was kind of confusing. All technicalities aside, this is a pretty awesome song, with a big, epic sound going on. Fans of U2 and Coldplay, as well as Lake Trout should like this. Though they claim to release tracks in a more nonconventional manner than your typical single and LP format, let's hope they put out a full length soon.

The other single is a set of tracks from Dalek music man Oktopus, who collaborates with producer Merc on what sounds to be nothing like Dalek. In their own words: MRC Riddims is the production/DJ team of Oktopus (dälek) and Merc (from Ifwhen All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors). - Two lifelong experimental guys now making music for the freshest of dance floors. Influences from Jamaica to dub-step to the dirty south to Flying Lotus. They don't care about replicating or fitting into any one genre. They're based in NYC and Berlin, one in each city.  Its all about their own style of grooves and textures - whether its remixes, straight hip-hop, cut-ups, riddims or straight dance tracks, they've got their own thing going and its very undeniably MRC.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

technopunk art opening at the soundry, vienna, virginia, 10/22/2010

Last night, Kris and I drove out to The Soundry art space in Vienna, VA to check out the opening reception for their TechnoPunk exhibit. The show encompassed everything from Low Brow and Street Art styles to more formalist, traditional works, and everything in between. The show's title, TechnoPunk, included works reminiscent of more dystopian Gibson-inspired industrial aesthetics, nostalgic Steam Punk styles, and day-glo techno-influenced works. I had five pieces in the show, including two paintings made this year, as well as three collages from a series I worked on nearly eight years ago.

Upon arrival we encountered a great graffiti mural in-progress, as some awesome dub music was booming nearby, providing a healthy dose of audio inspiration to the artists bombing the wall-space in front of us.

After grabbing some tea and a cupcake, we saw this eye-catching robo-beast painting. I'm not sure who the artist was, but several of his or her works looked like they were hanging up throughout the space last night. Real good stuff!

The Johnny Number Five and RoboCop pieces really appealed to my nostalgia-spot, being a big fan of these films growing up as a kid.

There's another wild and wonderful robo-beast, going wild to the left of an acrylic  painting I completed last February called "The Lure".

I was real happy to dig out a few of my robot collages I made when I first moved out to Leesburg, VA. They all have a special place in my heart, as I recall first getting back into art-making again, sitting on the floor of my tiny single-room loft apartment, cutting and gluing away. They're still like new.

The works above were pretty fabulous, reminding me of something out of Bladerunner perhaps. I can't recall if they were digital or hand-cut/glued collages.

Kris got me to buy her a CD by local trio, "The Polka Dots", who were performing live for last night's visitors at The Soundry. They did a fine job playing and singing last night and I highly recommend seeing 'em live and buying their music. On a side note, I discovered one of the members of the band took a cartooning class I taught one summer several years ago. Man, I feel old now.

Lots of Steam Punk heads were in attendance last night. It was interesting listening to a brief discussion on the meaning of Steam Punk at the opening. Lots of the Steam Punk attire consists of repurposed articles of clothing, mixing and merging both nineteenth century and futuristic styles.

The diptych of paintings above reminded me a little of something out of Neil Gaiman's "Mirrormask" film. It inspired me to want to try painting in a looser style again, which I enjoy most when painting.

The fifth and final piece I had at the show was the "Robot Symphony" one above. I'm still undecided on an official title for it. Kris really likes this one and is hoping it doesn't sell. I thought if fit well with the show's theme though, and I like the cloud wall it's hanging on in The Soundry.

This man had some very interesting Steam Punk-inspired works in the show. I loved his giant camera he used to shoot photos with throughout the evening.

There was a cool little animated robot at the show, who was part of an installation which included a graphic novel and several clay sculpture figurines. I wished I had brought a pen and paper to write some of the artists' names down.

On our way out, the graffiti artists were still working feverishly on their mural, this time to the sounds of some underground hip hop, in front of a small crowd of admirers and onlookers. It was good to visit this cool, unique space that is The Soundry once again, after a while away from the place. If you're in the area, please drop on by and check out the show for yourself. Works will be displayed through November 30, 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

acid wolf: "moonrider" and "s. kedzie theme"

While I prefer discovering music at the record and CD shops, I am glad that I can sample stuff I might not have otherwise heard if it wasn't for online music sites like Last FM, as well as features on You Tube. Such was the case with Acid Wolf (real name Benn Jordan), while sampling some tunes a year or so ago on Last FM. Hearing his stuff made me wonder why he wasn't more well known, since much of it would certainly appeal to fans of AFX/Aphex Twin, Mu-ziq, Jega and Squarepusher even. Upon further research, I discovered Benn also recorded under the names The Flashbulb, as well as Human Action Network, and despite being known primarily as an electronic music recording artist, he's a self-taught jazz guitarist, playing guitar and drums in the Chicago jazz scene since an early age. Listening to his recordings under various names, it becomes obvious his styles are pretty far-reaching and diverse, almost to the point that you wouldn't have known it was the same musician. My personal favorites are his Acid Wolf recordings, which employ the use of old electronic recording gear like the TR-808 drum machine, and the Roland TB-303 synthesizer. There's a very "classic" sound from these recordings, partially due to the gear, but also, very much in part due to Benn's knowledge of music and composition. The two tracks featured here are from Acid Wolf's excellent ten-year retrospective rightly titled "Acid Wolf Legacy 1995-2005". The "Moonrider" track is a short, sweet, and simple one with a nice, building harmony and subtle, uplifting dance vibe. The video, with it's synched up semi-Tetris-like visuals suits this track well. "S. Kedzie Theme", featured below, has a very Detroit techno-inspired sound, deep, sombre and cinematic, with some sweet freeform jazz melodies working their way in about halfway through. Think Carl Craig's "Psyche" project. So, if you're into good instrumental electronic music, and good music in general, don't sleep on Acid Wolf, or anything else by Benn Jordan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


So this one was a given, since the original version of this photo I took a couple years ago was called "Spooky" when I uploaded it to Flickr. I decided to play around some with it in Flickr's Picnik this evening, however, to get an even spookier, more ghostly look. The pic was originally taken at the beautiful Bluemont Vineyards, in Bluemont, Virginia, where they sold these statues of creepy-lookin' little girls. I don't know what it was about those statues, but all I could think was, who in their right mind would buy one of these, and this coming from a guy who spends lots of his free time drawing monsters. But seriously, there's nothing that creeps me out more than this type of thing. Vampires are pretty boring, giant monsters are fun and kind of goofy, zombies can be scary, depending on the type, but those creepy little ghost kids seriously freak me out, and here I am posting one on my blog for this week's Illustration Friday theme "spooky". Let's just hope she doesn't jump out from the computer screen to eat my soul. Mommy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

a day at the 2010 richmond zine fest

Yesterday I tabled the 2010 Richmond Zine Fest along with Andrew Cohen and Matt Dembicki, who were there representing The D.C. Conspiracy. Early in the morning I drove out to the Vienna, VA Metro lot, where I met up with Matt and Andrew, who were waiting to pick me up before taking off for Richmond, Virginia.

I almost didn't make it this year, so I'm glad Matt told me about it. It was my third year tabling the fest, which took place at the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Last year we were at Gallery 5, which is a beautiful old converted fire station, now an art gallery. I completely forgot to bring my camera that day though. While I preferred the location and gallery, the GCCR had a ton of space for folks to table and browse. You couldn't miss it too, with the big painted rainbow stripe going around the building - a nice splash of color in an otherwise drab locale. I wished I could have checked out the Diversity Thrift shop, right next door, but I was mostly kind of stuck behind my table yesterday. I remember a few years ago they had some cool records and books.

Andrew, Matt and I arrived around 10:30 AM, after about an hour-and-a-half drive in Matt's car. The fest officially began at 11 AM, though folks were still slowly getting set up. There was no need to hurry though, since the first couple of hours were pretty quiet. It wasn't until about 1PM that things really picked up. There was a pretty steady stream of people from then, until about 4:30PM.

I was so fortunate to have met a bunch of great people at the fest. My neighbors tabling beside me were really cool, and the people who dropped by to talk or buy some of my stuff were truly wonderful. While I was making some decent green from my Splotch Monsters mostly, I also made some "real" green in the form of fresh produce from some way cool organic farmers who traded me some kale for some monsters! I also made several book trades with folks as well, and I look forward to featuring some of these great zines here at the blog soon.

In between selling things and talking to people, I decided to keep busy and make some Splotch Monsters as well. I managed to crank out eleven altogether yesterday, which made the time fly by pretty quickly. I figured that it would also be great to share with folks the process behind these things.

Andrew and Matt are two of the best comic book artists on the planet. They were there supporting their ever-growing empire of comic book awesomeness, including their latest collaboration "The Brewmaster's Castle", Andrew's excellent "Howz It Funnies" "Shhh! (You'll Wake the Dead)", and "Dr. W", Matt's amazing "Xoc" and "Mr. Big", "Spadefoot", Matt's son Adam's awesome "Ant Army", and the huge "Trickster Anthology". Here they are getting psyched up for the fest. I was lucky their table was right behind mine yesterday. I give 'em a ten for presentation, and that little knight statue at the bottom right was a nice touch.

I started the day off tired and cranky due to procrastination and trying to get things ready the night before (on a Friday night nonetheless) and wished I could have gotten another five hours of sleep Saturday. As the day progressed and as I met more and more great, kind individuals, I realized once again why I decided to do this again.

Here I'm talking with Eric, who with his girlfriend Sara, put out a great zine about their adventures in record collecting called "Vinyl Vagabonds". I really loved reading this book last night, and I look forward to checking out their blog of the same name.

Until next time, BIG thanks to the festival organizers and to all those who stopped by my table to talk, check out my books and art and buy some of my work! It is always much appreciated. And a REAL BIG thanks goes out to Matt, for most of the photos you see here and for the ride to the fest, and to Andrew, for the beverages. Looking forward to next year's event!

On a final note, I'd like to give away a pair of my two new art zines "Splotch! VOL 1" and "Tales From the Natural World" to the first two people who drop me a line here at this post. They both go for two bucks each and compile some of my favorite art I made from the past year or so. They're black & white, sixteen pages, signed, numbered and limited to sixty copies each. Good luck!