Sunday, September 30, 2012

jj & steve collab (so far)

Late last summer I got in touch with JJ Cromer about trading some artwork.  I had been following his work for a couple of years now, since first reading about him in Raw Vision magazine.  While I don't like to play favorites, if I had to choose only one artist whose work I could look at for the rest of my life, it would be JJ's. The fact that we ended up trading some art was in itself amazing to me, but now we're working on a little art collaboration, and this post is just a sneak peek at the beginning, which I'm documenting from start to finish in its entirety. I refer to our collaboration as "little", because originally we had much more ambitious plans for the project, but we agreed to narrow it down to simply ten pieces, for now at least, due to time constraints. Above are the five JJ began and sent my way to work on, while he currently is working on five that I began and sent with Splotch Monsters.  So far I've only added the Splotch Forms to these gorgeous drawings, and throughout October I'm going to bring them to life like I normally would with my Splotch Monsters, making sure to take extra care with the drawing portion.  I have to admit, it was somewhat surreal and intimidating at first to start working on drawings by my favorite living artist, but as I've discovered through e-mail communication, he's just a way cool, regular guy, as humble as can be about his work, without a single chip on his shoulder.  If you want to learn more about the how JJ Cromer became an artist (and a beekeeper!) and see some spectacular new pieces by him, please check out the latest issue of The 22 Magazine. I actually just ordered myself a copy of this beautiful book, since it's also available in print form. In the meantime, I'm having lots of fun so far with this collaborative effort, and I know it's going to result in some pretty fantastic art work!

Friday, September 28, 2012

crow and panda in the raw

Above is a raw example of one of seven pages I worked on for the recently released book, District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC (Fulcrum Publishing), before our editor Matt Dembicki cleaned it up and plugged in the text.  I thought it would be interesting to show what a page looked like before the editing process.  It was a pleasure working on a story based on Tai Shan the giant panda, whose story seems even more relevant now, in light of the recent passing of a giant panda cub at the National Zoo, who shared the same mother as Tai Shan (Mei Xiang). Tai Shan's birth was something of a miracle as he was the first successfully born giant panda cub at the National Zoo. Baby giant pandas are prone to all types of illness during the first few weeks of life, and it can be rare for one to survive in captivity. 

You can read more about Tai Shan in the book, which is jam-packed with some fantastic comic book art and story telling. You can also check out some great reviews HERE as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the monsters have arrived!

Yes, the monsters have indeed arrived in my mailbox, waiting for me to greet them this crisp Autumn evening! Stickerbomb Monsters is the fourth in a series of Stickerbomb books released through Laurence King Publishing and Studio Rarekwai (the SRK). Around this time last year some good folks from the SRK e-mailed me to see if I might be interested in submitting some of my own Splotch Monsters for the book, compiling art work from artists from all over the world. I didn't even know they had a call for artists, so I feel very fortunate to have any work in this awesome little book at all. Four of my Splotch Monsters are in the book, all featured here via Instagram vision. This book is some serious eye candy, fit for anyone into monsters, stickers, street art and visual documentation of contemporary artists, illustration and art movements, just in the nick of time for Halloween.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

jean-michel basquiat: the radiant child

Last week I watched another winner from the Arthouse Films company, this one about the life of artist Basquiat called "Jean-Michel Basquiat: the Radiant Child". Thanks to some candid, unearthed interview footage from friend and filmmaker Tamra Davis, we get a rare glimpse into the real Basquiat. Chronicling the young man's meteoric rise to fame in the early eighties, we see Basquiat in action, from his early days dabbling as graffiti writer SAMO and playing in the experimental post-punk outfit Gray, to an extremely ambitious painter trying to deal with the attention and wealth that comes with fast fame.  The early eighties saw the art world transform almost overnight from a scene dominated by an often alienating European minimalism, difficult to grasp by the general public, to a bold populous type of art, born in the streets of NYC thanks to the likes of Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. It was Worhol's death in 1987 that helped trigger the downward spiral Basquiat fell into, as he was something of a parental figure to the young prodigy, whose own father, a New York business man of Haitian descent, didn't quite acknowledge him, even at the height of his artistic career.

The myth of Basquiat as icy-cool bad boy art star is quickly dispelled as soon as the film begins, and what we see is a soft-spoken, sensitive soul playing with paint and smiling like a child. The interview footage from Davis is perhaps the most crucial footage in the documentary, with Basquiat wearily and wholeheartedly expressing his dismay at the way the media has portrayed him as a young, black artist on the rise. While he attempts to brush it all off as mildly amusing, in an almost nonchalant manner, there is a pain in his eyes that can't be masked - a pain that will eventually consume and destroy such a radiant, promising young human being. As the most comprehensive collection of Basquiat footage available, "the Radiant Child" gives Jean-Michel Basquiat a voice beyond his life's work, and we get to know the man and the artist in a much truer light long after the initial flame has burned out. This movie is not to be missed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

tycho: "melanine", "dictaphone's lament", & "a walk" (interview and live in london, 2011)

I couldn't be more psyched about seeing and hearing the music of Tycho a week from today in DC. Scott Hansen is the main man behind the project, which has now turned into a full touring band. I followed Tycho back when he was signed to Merck records and had released the excellent downtempo masterpiece Past is Prologue in 2006. Now part of the Ghostly International roster, he's released his second album Dive, and has come into his own sound even more, quite possibly with the album of the year. As an acclaimed graphic artist known as ISO50, Hansen's instrumental electronic music has a very visual element, as if each song accompanies a moment in time, or a short movie. Despite the laid back, dreamlike west coast vibe in Tycho's sound, this is by no means passive background sound, and you can hear the love and energy put into each and every track on all of his albums.  Do not miss Tycho's Fall tour as he'll be visiting along with another great band The Album Leaf, who I had the pleasure of seeing live about six years ago, and they too will not disappoint. Featured here are some of my favorites from Tycho, including the track "Melanine" from Dive, which defies words and is accompanied by a perfect fan-made video. The other is  "Dictaphone's Lament" from Past is Prologue, accompanied by the official video, and finally some nice new live footage from London, with some interview clips and snippets from the song "A Walk". Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

inkflow 2

Artist, illustrator, connoisseur of great book illustration, and self-proclaimed dreamer Human, out of California contacted me about the latest self-published art book he's working on and wanted to know if I'd be interested in including some Splotch Monster work on some pages. His latest project, called "Inkflow 2" is the book, and it's to be released through Blurb. The original release date was to be sometime last mid-May, but I know he's put out a call for a few more artists before wrapping things up, so hopefully soon. So far it looks to be an awesome compilation of work and I'll make sure to update this post when the book finally does materialize.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

collaboration with andrea

A couple of years ago artist Andrea Martinez, who I knew as "Big A" sent me a watercolor Moleskine to collaborate with her in. I followed her work shortly after I began blogging years ago and she has become one of my favorite artists on the planet. I've worked on and off in it during the past couple of years, laying down colorful watercolor washes for which she'll later draw on top of. Unfortunately, I'd clean the studio and shelve the book away with my other sketchbooks, only to forget I even had it. Finally, after some friendly reminders from Andrea, I've completed most of it and will be sending it off for her to work on later this week. Pictured here are some sample shots  taken with the I-phone. I'm so pleased to collaborate with Andrea and am looking forward to what she'll add to the pages of her book! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

the cats of mirikitani

Over the weekend, I finally got around to watching the documentary about Japanese American artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, and it was as good as everyone said it was, exceeding my expectations. I didn't want to read up on the film too much and I discovered pretty quickly into the movie that this was hardly about cats, and was much more than a mere artist's biography. I will admit, it was a bit of a tear jerker, towards the end at least, only because it had such a triumphant and beautiful ending. The film made me think about how one person can make a huge difference in the life of another individual, and how in turn that individual can affect the world in a positive way. I wonder what would have become of Jimmy, if not for a benevolent and curious woman, who took him into her home, after he spent twenty years on the streets of NYC surviving off of his art. How he got there is a whole other story, and how his life changed from the moment he met filmmaker Linda Hattendorf is the stuff of legend.

From the film's website: "Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival."

Please don't miss this beautiful film, whether you have an interest in art, artists, or simply the way real everyday people live their lives through both bad times and good. It's a truly irresistible little movie about an equally irresistible little man with an enormous, vibrant soul.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

wayne dyer in dc tomorrow!

Tomorrow evening one of my favorite people in the world will be speaking in DC, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.  I learned about his work after my wife picked up some of Louise Hay's books (another amazing individual who I love).  We got to see them speak in NYC almost exactly a year ago, and were fortunate enough to witness the debut of two films from their recently launched series "Tales of Everyday Magic" at the Director's Guild. If the series title strikes you as kind of corny or airy fairy, don't be fooled, because all four movies (Kris managed to find the last two DVDs at CD Cellar in Falls Church, VA recently) are some of the most beautifully written, acted, directed and all around artfully made films I've ever had the pleasure of viewing, thanks in no small part to former actor turned director Michael A. Goorjian. Unfortunately, we won't be able to see Dyer or Hay this weekend due to other obligations.

The writings and speaking of Dyer and Hay have had a real, positive impact on a lot of aspects of my own life personally, given I was once a lot more negative and cynical than I would have liked to admit for a good portion of my early adulthood. I've got a long way to go however, though I simply cannot imagine being in that "place" now and experiencing or accomplishing some of the things I have in recent years if I still were. I love the fact that both Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay are everyday people who experienced a good deal of disadvantage and adversity in their lives, and rather than allowing their ships to sink or take it out on others, they found solutions to forge ahead and prevail, and decided to share those solutions with others. All rambling aside, I highly recommend seeing these folks speak in person, as well as many of the other Hayhouse speakers and authors if you get a chance.  Featured here are a couple of clips featuring Dyer discussing how he began to recognize his path early on, as well as a description of the excellent film "My Greatest Teacher", which was loosely based on his life.