Monday, October 31, 2011

october splotch monsters


I had a lot of difficulty choosing five favorites from the month of October, not because I didn't like any, but instead, quite the opposite. The Splotch Monster in the image directly above is what I believe to be the last one I made using black watercolors, created early in the month. The rest, including the ones featured below in this post, were done with India ink, a medium I wasn't too fond of at first, but now thoroughly enjoy. I've been making some on tan craft paper as well, and wasn't too sure about how I'd like them until I went with a "tree creature" theme and started drawing on the Splotch Forms. I've been trying to limit my materials when making these lately, and with these tree creatures, I've only drawn with a black calligraphy pen, to match the loose, almost ancient Sumi-e look the black ink forms take when on the tan paper (see bottom image). Going with strictly black ink for the forms, and using only back and white pen has opened up some fresh creative avenues when making these recent Splotch Monsters. I may continue the Sumi-e  style monsters and tree theme throughout November, however, I look forward to a return to more color soon.  In the meantime, have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

grimes live at the rock & roll hotel, washington, dc, 10/27/2011

Last night there was a wicked wind and a chill in the air, rapidly descending on the NOVA/DC region. The clouds looked like giant blue-gray smokestacks strewn across the sky as darkness fell. As I drove out to DC's Rock & Roll Hotel, I thought there couldn't be a better night to hear the music of Grimes live. Real name, Claire Boucher, Grimes brought her catchy, haunting brand of experimental pop to the R&R Hotel as an opening act for the group Austra. I didn't stick around for the latter act however, it was Grimes I wanted to hear, plus getting up at 5AM, getting to work by 6:30 AM, and working with extremely energetic, young children until four isn't a good idea on just several hours of sleep. Perhaps Grimes was feeling some empathy for us early risers, as her set was incredibly short. That said, she certainly packed a punch in the half-an-hour she was on stage, brewing up her unique, enchanting brand of dance-floor friendly audio delights. Despite all the mysteriousness and seriousness heard in the music of Grimes, this young creative genius from oh Canada is quite the joker, her first words as she grabbed the mic were something along the lines of warning the audience that she might belch during her set, since she just downed a giant sandwich, occasionally muttering something funny then giggling between songs.

What's refreshing about Grimes is that she also makes and produces her own music, and plays it live as well, manipulating electronic instrumentation on stage while singing. In interviews, Grimes herself has stated that this kind of thing is often too rare with women singers these days.  I agree, and her music is certainly unique, taking influences from seemingly everywhere and everything, and from different eras in time. She gave up visual art, for the most part, to pursue music, saying that working with sound was a far broader medium. You can hear the artistic influence in her music both on record and as with last night's live set, with its all-enveloping layers.

Her set started with the more pop-friendly new tune "Oblivion" from the much anticipated "Visions" album, to be released January 31st, 2012.  Popular crowd pleasers like the highly danceable "Vanessa" intermingled with some more deeper cuts I wasn't familiar with yet. I was hoping to hear future classics like "Crystal Ball", whose video I featured a couple of months ago at this blog, as well as more stuff from her astoundingly good "Halfaxa" album, a CD I've listened to at least a thousand times in the past couple of months and still have yet to wear out. She's stated in interviews the difficulty of duplicating and performing much of her tracks live however, with all the layers and complexity going on, so it's understandable, and if the new album is anything like "Oblivion" expect a more streamlined, minimal sound. Whatever the case, word on the street is it's her best work yet. In the meantime, don't hesitate to see Grimes live as she continues her tour of the states this Fall, opening for Austra. Hopefully next tour she'll be the headliner. She certainly deserves to be. Below are some samples of some of my favorite Grimes songs for your listening enjoyment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

david hockney: "a bigger picture"

Above is a short film featuring paintings of the East Yorkshire Landscape by David Hockney at L.A. Louver gallery, from 2007. I had watched a recent documentary called "A Bigger Picture", which featured Hockney in action, like a man on a mission, painting these enormous landscapes on sight throughout his former home of rural England. To call this film a "triumph of the human spirit" would make me sound like a movie critic using another canned cliche', but that is exactly what this film is. It's interesting to see this acclaimed artist, approaching his seventies, decide to abandon his home of Los Angeles and literally get back to nature, driving along winding country roads with the aid of his loyal assistant, painting huge, greatly inspired canvases in rain or shine. I had wanted to blog about this great documentary for months now, but forgot about it until we had our first painting critique last night, for a grad class I'm currently taking.

I love Hockney's sense of color and he's never managed to pigeonhole himself into any type of style or genre, producing work with subject matter both inncoent and provocative. Here he takes on something as conventional as the landscape and does something magical. To see him in action and to hear him speak throughout the film deepens the viewer's appreciation of these works. It also makes you want to grab a brush, a canvass and some paints and head out to the country. You can view some clips from the film HERE in the meantime, but I strongly recommend watching it in its entirety.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

thoughts on fur

"No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink." - Murray Banks

It's that time of year again here in Northern Virginia, and many other parts of the world when a chill in the air has us reaching for our jackets, as folks trade in their iced lattes for a steaming hot cup a joe. Recently, Kris and I headed out to a nearby retailer so I could purchase a new Fall jacket to replace the older one I had broken. Despite all the leather ones, none of which I , personally would ever buy, I was happy to have found a real nice, stylish, durable weather-proof jacket, free of any animal-based materials. Thankfully, it didn't take long at all to find, with my wife's help.  Looking at the nearby coat section for women made me happy I wasn't a girl however, seeing so many coats lined with fur of some sort. Some were downright hideous, and while I know that faux-fur is a common trend, I sincerely hoped that an animal didn't die to be made into something so incredibly ugly. The fact of the matter is however that no single animal should be killed in the name of fashion ever, period.  Unless you live in a native tribe somewhere on a vast frozen wasteland, the wearing of an animal's fur should be obsolete. Unfortunately, I know of many good folks who, due to lack of knowledge (or perhaps a decidedly ignorant stance) still find the wearing of fur as stylish and acceptable. One thing I make an effort to do when I blog is focus on the positives in life and the things that are good and make me happy or fulfilled in some way. There's nothing worse than reading a rant-fest blog,  or people who constantly complain, whine, and dwell in the negative all the time. Still, in "keeping it real", I occasionally blog about some realities that might not always be so "happy happy joy joy", to quote the great Ren & Stimpy. In this case, the reality that many people don't realize, and sometimes even refuse to acknowledge is that there is absolutely nothing glamorous about wearing the hide of an animal(s) who was brutally tortured, beaten and killed in the name of fashion and greed.

I recall a wonderful scene from the amazing Planet Earth documentary series where Tibetan citizens renounced the wearing of fur and animal skins by burning them in a fire, at the kind urging of the Dalai Lama, who himself started taking action against the illegal fur trade, a trade that many desperate Tibetans were getting sucked into at one point. You can read more about this HERE. As an eternal optimist, I believe that this will be a small but growing trend in the future of humankind, a tiny contribution towards the betterment of our world rather than towards the corruption of it. This might seem futile in a time of such human rage and violence, but rather than subscribing to what some people believe to be gloom and doom, "end days", and similar garbage, I believe that things will indeed get better for people, and all living beings in the future. That's a whole other topic however. The point is, it's the small steps like the one previously illustrated here, that will make a big difference towards the welfare of both humankind and animals alike.

It's a wonderful thing to have the freedom to choose in our society, and there will be people who choose ignorance over compassion, for a myriad of unfortunate reasons I won't get into here. I will say however that if you find fashion and so-called glamour to be of more importance than the lives and well-being of innocent animals suffering and dying in unspeakably wretched conditions, so be it. I feel for you though. If you choose certain trends dictated by the fashion industry over the possible extinction of some of the planet's most rare, majestic and incredible, respectable beasts, then so be it. Again, I feel for you. I know that most people in American culture regard dogs and cats, their pets, almost as members of their own family, and sometimes even treat them better than they would most other people. The animals sacrificed for the fur industry are no different, and it's incredibly tragic that they had to spend their dying days in the most unfortunate of situations, created and supported by the people, the buyer, the impressionable consumer. The choice indeed is ours.

I'd like to end this post with one of my favorite quotes by a man, much like the Dalai Lama, who spent his entire life dedicated to fearless spiritual and moral advancement,  Mahatma Gandhi :
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

wish i was there

The "Wish You Were Here" art opening at The George Orwell in London looked like a good time last Friday night, and according to artist/illustrator Mr. Gresty, the event's organizer, fun was had by all. Above is a nice photo montage he sent to those of us who had a piece in the show, and below is a shot you can find at his blog.  Gresty looks to be a real busy, prolific fella, so it was real cool of him to put on this show. The exhibit features over twenty participating artists and runs until November 13, 2011. So if you're in the London, England vicinity, drop on by, have a pint for me and say "hi" to some of my Splotch Monsters, who are having their own little party up there on one of the walls!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"our secret genius" exhibit, pterodactyl gallery, philadelphia, pa, 10/15/2011

Yesterday Kris and I drove out to Philly, PA to check out the Moleskine sponsored, "Our Secret Genius" art reception at the terrifically-named Pterodactyl  gallery and creative space. We got to the place pretty early, and got to meet the infinitely kind, cool Helen Bradley, who played a big role in organizing the exhibit and whose work is also in the show. While the place looked like an old urban warehouse on the exterior, the inside looked pretty spectacular. It was obvious the folks who organized this show put lots of care into setting it up, and it was refreshing to work with Helen, who was open to ideas and suggestions. 

Eric Reimer's work (see above) was among some of my favorite, and I think the Japanese-style fold-out Moleskine was the perfect format for his dream-like, stream-of-conscious visual tales.

Mark Brunetti had quite a few of his books of poetry at the show (see above) , including his free 'zine "The Idiom", which I look forward to reading. We talked about some possible collaborations in the near future. 

I really liked having a nice little table and a sad but enthusiastic little clown to display my book full of Splotch Monsters.  I was also very happy to be able to give away some of my 'zines for FREE (yes!) and provide pre-painted Splotch Forms for people to draw on and take home.

My wonderful wife Kris (above) created a beautiful sign (after my ugly, failed attempt) for my display. It's all about presentation, right?!

Eric Kennedy's abstracted forms (see above image) were also among some of my personal faves, again, well displayed in the Japanese-style Moleskine format. 

A Philly sunset. Ahhhhhh.

Yours truly, gettin' busy on the wall. 

Mark and Eric of the band "Puppy Grease" drawing and writing (above) and jamming (below). Nice!

Helen utilizing her way groovy space-age picture-taking mechanism (above). We want one of those!

Laurel Casciato had some awesome sketchbooks full of comics, drawings and writings on display (above).  It's a known fact that she can't complete an entire book before starting a new one! Lauren can also throw down a mean collaborative Splotch Monster (photo below). 

So can Skyler (below)!

And these guys (next few below)!

Love the big collage made for the show near Pterodactyl's entrance.  The show had a real good attendance, though Kris and I left about an hour before it all ended, since we got there about an hour early and by that time were pretty tired out from all the fun.

I wish we had a space like this out our way. I love how the reception was far more than a static art exhibit, as organizers allowed input from participating artists and room for creative play and visitor participation. Hopefully we see more places and events of this nature pop up in the near future. 

Kris' pretty flora drawings spawned this wild collaborative draw-jam.

"Our Secret Genius", a Moleskine project runs from October 15, 2011, until November 26, 2011. Don't hesitate to drop on by and take a look if you're in the Philly area!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

roman's splotch monsters

I've made some of the most wonderful contacts through my Flickr site, including art therapist Ira Freidman, from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Ira teaches both kids and adults, including eleven-year-old Roman, who took some inspiration from my Splotch Monsters and seriously created something unique and amazing! This made my day, so thank you Ira and Roman, you are both truly awesome! 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

roedelius live at the velvet lounge, washington, dc, 10/12/2011

Last night, I made my first visit to The Velvet Lounge in Washington, DC to see and hear Hans-Joachim Roedelius perform live as part of his current North American tour. It had been almost exactly twelve years since I saw him when he came to the Millvale Industrial Theater in Pittsburgh, PA.  Before the show I was able to meet the man, who was sitting inconspicuously at the back of the small venue, and got him to sign one of his CDs for me. What a cool, humble guy, this Roedelius fella.

 Several acts opened for Roedelius, including the band Kohoutek (above), who performed as a quartet, playing a slow building, continuous instrumental jam that was absolutely explosive towards the end. I've never heard of this group before and according to a friend who was there at the show, it was an unusual collaboration between the band and a couple of other performers. Whatever the case, I need to check their music out more.  On an unrelated side note, I could have sworn I saw Holger Czukay, co-founding member of the influential band Can in attendance last night!

Roedelius got on stage pretty late and proceeded to play a mostly peaceful, more piano-solo based set, with interludes of electronic sound-collage material, to a projected backdrop of hypnotic, manipulated film footage of dripping water. While the set was beautiful, the setting just didn't compare to when I saw him live over a decade ago. That said, like that night twelve years ago, it rained once again, gently falling like the melodies from the fingers of this gracefully aged musical pioneer performing in front of me. It was tough driving home after such a tranquil dose of music, and while I seriously lacked sleep today, I had a feeling of peace and contentment throughout my day, thinking of this wonderful old man, who ended  his set with a big smile and a "thank you my darlings" to the roar and applause of a very receptive DC audience.  I can only aspire to be a fraction as cool as Rodelius when (and if) I make it to eighty years old. Pure class.