Sunday, February 27, 2011

wallace & gromit



Knowing I'm a big fan of Wallace & Gromit, Kris surprised me last night by renting their latest film "A Matter of Loaf and Death" on Netflix digital. I have their first three classic shorts on DVD, as well as their big feature full length "The Curse of the Were Rabbit" on disc (trailer below). I had no idea of the existence of "A Matter..." (see above trailer clip) however, which aired on TV in Britain on Christmas 2008. I feel bad about being out of the W & G loop and missing such an amazing movie, right up there with the other four! I feel lucky that Kris found out about it for me though!



The first time I saw Wallace & Gromit was while watching some TV with my parents years ago, flipping through the channels, nothing on, then suddenly something half interesting appeared on the screen. Who were these little animated clay characters building a rocket to the moon? It was Wallace and Gromit's first adventure, "A Grand Day Out", which got me hooked from then on. When I subbed high school in Pennsylvania for several years, one of the art teachers kept a copy of the Wallace & Grommit films around on VHS, and allowed me to play it for her middle school kids if they were on task in class (something they surprisingly loved). That's the great thing about all their films, they appeal to all ages, working on both an adult and a child's level. Below is one of many mini-clips from a series called "Cracking Contraptions", featuring Wallace's many pointless inventions, including my favorite, the Shopper (skip through the twenty second commercial at the beginning if you can).



If you haven't seen any Wallace & Gromit yet, well, you should. Why? Because they're fun, hilarious, brilliant, unlike anything else you'll ever see, and did I mention brilliant. Please, get some W&G into your life ASAP! You will not regret it!

Friday, February 25, 2011

speechless


Today started out on a calm note as my friend Alex, our school's Spanish teacher and I did our daily twenty minute morning crossing guard duty. It was a somber, gray, drizzly morning, which later turned into a beautiful, warmer early afternoon. I remember briefly going outside on my lunch break and wishing I didn't have to go back inside. It felt like Spring was on it's way. Soon it got real dark and real windy real fast. I was wondering what it would be like out there, listening to the howling winds as I stayed an extra hour after school to teach an after-school program art class. I couldn't wait to get home. Then, about halfway through I get a somewhat frantic call from my wife. She said she was in a car accident while coming back from lunch with a friend, but was OK. The image you see above was from that accident, taken on her cellphone. My wife was unusually calm about the whole situation, despite the car (fortunately not ours) being totaled. She showed me the photos on her cell when I picked her up, as well as some of the shards of glass still in her purse (and bra, for that matter). Still, it didn't completely hit me until we got back home, after driving down a road full of dead, snapped and bent trees along each side. Kris showed me some more pics, including this one that she took, much larger on her computer screen. This is when I became totally speechless and literally driven to tears, amazed that my wife was still alive AND well! You see, it all happened in a split second - the tree that was blown onto the top of her friend's truck, smashing the roof and going through the windshield. All the other windows shattered completely, except the windshield, which began to cave, as the large branch was lodged in the glass, point blank in Kris' face. Kris said she never heard such a horrific sound before in her life. The car began to smoke on top of that, and some impatient a-holes in a hurry thought it would be wise to honk their horns at her and her friend. Seriously? I swear if I was there, I would have personally tracked down every single one of them and made them eat their steering wheels, giving them something to really honk about. Insane. My wife didn't want me to post any other pics involving the accident, some of which really made you wonder how anyone could have survived (even the tow-truck driver was baffled). Some might call it a miracle, or luck, or rare coincidence. Whatever the case, I'm completely humbled by nature's power and happy beyond measure that Kris is here with me right now, alive and well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

layer


What do a pair of seals attempting to French kiss have to do with layers? Originally I was going to do one of my more imaginary drawings involving layers of sound in music, then I had watched a great National Geographic program on TV , while at the gym about Galapagos wildlife. One segment that grabbed my attention in particular was about the seals who live on the island. There was a portion where it showed the alpha male, who is very protective over his territory, constantly being challenged by younger males. The alpha male (who was given a silly title I can't recall right now) usually initiates a battle when another male enters his territory, aggressively charging trespassers. They end up duking it out pretty good, however despite biting the heck out of each other's necks, the thick layer of fat on their bodies keeps them pretty well protected, and what appears to be a pretty intense fight ends up no more than a fairly vigorous session of rough play. Apparently the Galapagos seals are very playful mammals in general, and even play with the marine iguanas who graze in the shallow waters, swimming along side them and bumping them with their snouts (much to the dismay of the lizards).

*8" x 10", 005 tip black Pigma Micron pen and watercolor on watercolor paper, made for the Illustration friday topic "layer", 2/2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

my case for going veg

Many times people ask me why I went vegetarian, sometimes with a sort of "how could you" tone in their voice. It's rare, but it surprises me that people are still surprised by these things, as if it's a bad thing. Anyhow, I've got many reasons for this gradual shift in diet, but for me it was primarily ethical and political reasons. I had dabbled in vegetarianism in college after some friends I knew were vegetarian and vegan. This intrigued me and led me to research and try out the diet, long before there was Google and the kind of selection you find now, as vegetarian food goes. Upon reading up at the library, I was surprised and appalled by the environmental impact the meat industry had on our planet, and the way factory farms treated animals was so far from the Old MacDonald's image of a happy farm full of grazing beasts in harmony with the land. I even based a major report in my speech class on this info, which prompted a handful of students in my class to switch to a vegetarian diet (not bad for someone whose speaking skills aren't so strong). For most of my twenties, I fell off the vegetarian wagon, though still kept the meat-eating to a minimum, with the exception of chicken wings. It wasn't until I turned thirty the doctor said I needed to quit eating the wings immediately or I'd be in for some serious health problems in a short while. So I did, though like many new vegetarians, I still ate a lot of crap - things loaded with cheese and carbs, and wasn't yet aware of the importance of eating organically grown fruits and vegetables. The shift was and still is gradual and by no means am I a perfect eater. Sometimes I occasionally indulge, and even have a little salmon (wild, not farm-raised) a couple of times a month when my wife gets it. As for eating beef or pork again, it will be a strong never for me. I can never support the way these intelligent animals, very capable of thinking and feeling, are tortured and abused by very desperate and ignorant individuals, and I can never again be a part of the destructive process that factory farming perpetuates on our world and people. In my eyes, this is a form of terrorism fueled by big business. It's helpful to try and envision the bigger picture beyond one's own taste buds and matters of convenience here. While we have a ways to go, there are so many good vegetarian and vegan options out there now, it's not so difficult at all anymore.



There's a growing number of very good, legit documentaries out there that inform the public of the harm that the meat industry and factory farming is doing not just to the animals, but also to the land and to the people. Above is a sample from a recent, stirring film called "A River of Waste" - a film everyone would benefit from seeing. I promise it's very low on the gross-out content, and takes a very unbiassed, brutally honest view at factory farming's ravaging impact on local communities. To cynics, I say, you can choose to call this "propaganda", but my question is, why wouldn't you question MacDonalds or KFC advertisements? Do you think they care about you or your health at all for that matter?



As far as the lame stereotype as vegetarians and vegans being "hippies", I find for the most part, that's not very true at all anymore. In fact, most hippie types I've come in contact with are pretty decidedly clueless and self-indulgent and do in fact eat lots of meat. What's interesting is vegetarianism is spreading to places unexpected, like President Bill Clinton's dinner plate, of all places. I know for most, this is old news, but I still find the short interview with Clinton (above) pleasantly surprising. Remember, this was once a guy who loved his hamburgers. On a similar note, the Ultimate Fighting community is catching on to vegetarian and organic eating, like Clinton, for more health-related reasons. You can read the article HERE if you don't believe me.

If you just can't fathom not eating meat, I say either try cutting back or go the organic route. There are also many very good vegetarian meats out there now. Many folks confuse this stuff as fake food, but there are more real ingredients in most of these products than the hormone-fueled, pesticide-fed slab of pork or beef (or chicken, for that matter) on your dinner plate. Some of the best include Helen's Kitchen ground veggie beef, anything by Field Roast, and Quorn products, to name a few. There's so many good vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there too now, including the new Veganomicon, you can't go wrong. Finally, there's an abundance of info online, and Go Veg is always a good place to start.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

sweater


It was good to crack open the Moleskine again, and even better to get back into a pencil sketch, after a while of working in pen and watercolors. I went with the first thing that popped in my mind, which was a sheep. It looks like a lot of other people were thinking of the same thing, which is good. I wish I can say I went out to some farm and happened upon this half-sheared sheep, camera in tow, but the truth is, I made a loosely rendered version of a photo used in National Geographic (gotta love Google image).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

autechre: "flutter" & "goz quarter"





Above are a couple of my favorite tracks by electronic music innovators Autechre, including "Flutter" from their Anti EP (Warp 1994) and "Goz Quarter" from the Evane EP (Warp 1997).  The way these tracks build and morph still blows me away, and the gorgeous melodies and tough industrial beats are a formula that influenced hoards of bedroom producers. Their early EPs contain some of their strongest output in my opinion, especially the more analog-based works prior to 1998. The duo just released a box set containing all of their early EPs, dating from 1991 - 2002 and is available for pre-order at Bleep. If you're new to Ae or electronic music, I say get the set without hesitation, since most of their early material is going for insane amounts of money. I've got them all myself, in excellent shape, but might just pick this up anyhow. It's hard to believe this stuff came out so long ago.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

carpaccio guide vol. 4 pre-order now


The new Carpaccio Guide to emerging illustrators, photographers & artists Volume 4 is currently on sale as pre-order only through Atem Books.  You can get a brief digital sneak peek at Atem if you like, however the actual material copy will start shipping to your doorstep March 1, 2011. I'm happy to have been chosen to show some of my own art in Carpaccio Magazine in recent months and will have more work in their upcoming "Imaginary Friends" issue next month. I've got some stuff in the Guide as well, though not sure what they chose. Whatever it is, this is pretty exciting news, and I look forward to the book's arrival next month. Since it was an import, I paid roughly 24 U.S. dollars (that includes the shipping), but it looks to be a big book, jam-packed with art and more. I'll do a follow-up post when it does arrive. In the meantime, consider taking a chance and submitting some of your own work if you do art, and check out their past publications for some serious inspiration. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

got my rooms!


My issue ( issue #3) of Rooms Magazine finally arrived in the mail yesterday, after a long day of Kris and I moving into our new place (sorry for the lack of Blogger activity lately). It was a nice way to unwind, leafing through these pages last night, and it was an even nicer surprise to see some of my animal-based works on a couple of the pages. It's one thing to see this kind of thing online, but in person is always a whole other experience. The mag itself is fantastic - thick, sturdy pages, lots of content and lots of art! I really enjoyed some of the interview and gallery features as well. Rooms is looking to expand its distribution, so if you have a gallery, boutique, bookstore or cool shop, please consider supporting good art and carrying their publication. If you are an artist, take a chance and submit your work. It's a slightly lengthy process, but well worth it!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

reverse the psyche



"Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other."  - Arthur Schopenhauer (German Philosopher)

In more recent years I've thought a lot about the way we perceive things and how our own personal perception effects our response to something, such as a particular situation. I find sometimes in my own life, I find myself "stuck" in a situation that is mind-numbingly boring, and I try to find a way to "flip the script" and make it into something at least slightly more interesting. This can also be applied to situations that can cause more negative emotions such as anger or sadness. It definitely takes effort and practice, this turning lemons into lemonade thing, but it's also worth it in the end. I think the quote above covers this kind of thing pretty well. As for the images, I'm not too sure which version I like better. The bottom one was "reversed" both out of curiosity and to keep in spirit with the current topic.

*10" x 8", mixed media on watercolor paper, made for the Illustration Friday topic "reverse", 2/2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

the soundtracker


Last week Kris picked up a DVD from the library that made me an instant fan of a man I now consider a modern day hero, Gordon Hempton. This isn't your typical action hero however, but rather a man of action - a silent hero if you will. The DVD is a documentary film released by Indiepix called Soundtracker, which follows Gordon on his journeys in sound recording across the world. His own personal story is one as fascinating as the "sound portraits" he diligently and relentlessly attempts to discover and record for the rest of the world to hear. Gordon is a man on a mission, and has been for quite some time, trading in life's more typical luxuries, as well as sacrificing common human trappings for a life dedicated to sound. There's so much more to it than this though, and while I've seen enough incredible documentaries to dedicate a blog to, this one is well worth a mention and checking out. In a time and culture where infantile behavior and obnoxious "celebrities" are worshiped, it's so good to see folks like Gordon doing his thing, and getting some recognition for it to boot. Here's a recent Newsweek interview with Gordon in the meantime.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

artist of the week: eric m. scott




I chose my good friend (of 20 years!) Eric as this week's artist of the week at Go Flying Turtle.  For one, his work is simply awesome. Second of all, he's got a solo show going on at King Street Coffee in Leesburg, VA until the end of February. I took some photos but as with last time at my wife's show, the lighting wasn't good for my little camera, more suited for outdoor shots. Anyhow, a couple did turn out decent (below), featuring some of Eric's visual journals and merchandise, including his excellent book Journal Junkies Workshop. Kris and I bought one of his smaller works (the little rectangular gray and white piece in the middle), which can serve as a free-standing sculpture or one to hang on a wall. I highly recommend checking out Eric's work and show, if you're in the Northern VA area. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011