Monday, April 30, 2012

books available for pre-order at amazon now

I'm pleased to announce having some of my artwork featured in two upcoming books, both to be released September, 2012. The first one, coming out on September 5th, 2012, is entitled "Stickerbomb Monsters" (see above image), put out by Studio Rarekwai, and is already available for pre-order through I'll have some Splotch Monster art featured in the book, alongside some pretty amazing artists from across the globe. I'm not even sure what monsters they chose for the book yet, so it should be pretty exciting. 

The second book will be released not even a week later, on September 11th, 2012, called "District Comics, An Unconventional History of Washington, DC", through Fulcrum Publishing, and is also available through pre-order at While the Splotch Monsters were second nature for me, working on the comic strip for this book was my first "real" endeavor into writing and illustrating a short story in comic book form. My story in particular is a simple one about a nonhuman DC celebrity who was born and raised at the National Zoo, before going off to live in China, to the dismay of his rabid fan-base, and especially a particular crow. My very busy friend Matt Dembicki had the daunting task of editing the work, and I greatly look forward to seeing everyone else's stories in the book as well. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

a happy accident above harrison street

"A Happy Accident Above Harrison Street"
36" x 36"
acrylic on canvas

Finally, I finished this painting today, just in time for our final grad class/critique this coming Tuesday night. One thing I learned most when working on this one was to never, ever go into a piece expecting to finish early.  I really rushed into this painting from the start, convinced I'd have it completed in a couple of classes, then on to the next one. Nope, it just doesn't work that way, at least for me, and quite the opposite occurred. As a result of rushing early on, I ended up having to fix a lot of mistakes and some not-so-happy accidents. Most notable was when I was walking to class from my car, through the parking lot, painting in tow while a mighty wind blew. The wind ended up blowing the painting into my jacket zipper causing a minor, but very noticeable patch of scratch marks. I wasn't too happy about this and upon getting to class, promptly mixed what I thought was the right color combination, and instead used the wrong type of blue (without even testing it out on another surface). This began a chain of unfortunate events that evening, as it seemed like each consecutive step I took with the painting made it worse, until I ended up having to basically redo the entire piece, where I once thought I would be finished. This was extremely frustrating, and at one point I wanted to throw it off the nearest bridge, after kicking the crap out of it first. After getting over the original frustration and accepting the fact that I simply need to slow down, I was good. Even my teacher said something to me that I tell my elementary art students all the time, and that was that I shouldn't worry, it's not a race. So, I needed to practice what I preach. Once again, I have to give my wife and her painterly eye, and her kind but sometimes brutal opinion, lots of credit regarding this painting. There were a few times I thought I had completed this, but like Yoda with his cane whacking Luke's behind, she reminded me just how much more needed to be done. Even last night I had thought this was finished, but she told me to sleep on it and to look at it again Sunday morning and see if I still thought it was done. After another hour of reworking the sky and getting another layer of clouds in, it finally looked finished. It should be interesting to hear what my colleagues say at the critique, and there is the possibility of working even more clouds into the piece. I find that letting go of my ego and pride, and accepting kind advice from people has been the absolute best thing I could possibly do in order to grow as an artist. For now though, I'll call it finished.

As far as the title is concerned, the painting is based on another photo I took a short while back, which was a completely happy accident where both an enormous turkey vulture and a small plane were both in my viewfinder when I took the shot, which was above a street near to where I live. The photo was different though, in that both the plane and the vulture looked as if they were on the same level in the sky, since they appeared as silhouettes. It's the same exact vulture who was the subject of another large, square-format painting I completed at the end of my first graduate painting class, which ended last winter. Ironically, my wife and I just got back from a walk around town, and upon returning, the sky had several large turkey vultures above us, and what looked to be that same, little yellow plane flying around above them.

I included two photos because the top one was taken with my Canon Elph, which has a much better resolution, while the second shot was taken with my I-phone, which was much truer to the actual color of the piece. What I really need to do is simply dust off the ol' Rebel, which has been sorely neglected, and use that camera to retake shots of all of my recent paintings. Perhaps this summer when I actually have some time to breathe.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

southpacific: "parallel lines", "10 @ 182", & "life illusion"

Every now and then, while searching through the budget CDs at record stores, I unearth a diamond in the rough that literally makes me jump with joy.  Such was the case with an album by short-lived band Southpacific, called "Constance", released in 2000. Right now, I can't remember when or where exactly I found this one, but I do recall how the gorgeous cover art and poetic-sounding band name and album title immediately jumped out at me, giving me a good idea of what to expect as far as music was concerned. It was in near perfect condition for something like $2.00.  Since I found it about a decade ago, I've seen it on occasion at record shops, for about the same price, in the same shape, and every time I'm tempted to buy another copy, or two.  The music can only be described as (mostly) instrumental shoegaze, more along the lines of Slowdive , Auburn Lull and Ulrich Schnauss, and is definitely up there with those three bands/artists. Unfortunately, only after one EP (which is very hard to find) and an LP (pretty easy to find), the band ran into record label issues, creative differences, etc, causing the project to fade into the ether. Two songs here are from perhaps their strongest musical document "Constance" and are a couple of my favorites from that album, as "Parallel Lines" has this intense, building rhythmic urgency, while "10 @ 182" lumbers along in a monolithically dubwise fashion, like waking to a big rainfall on a humid summer morning, you can almost smell it. I like that "Constance" is a mostly instrumental/vocalless endeavor, allowing the listener to focus on the music itself, while the few vocal segments on the album merge seamlessly with the instrumentation, never overpowering the rest of the sound. I also included a great great track from the "33" EP, which I'm hoping to get in my collection someday soon. In the meantime, "Constance" continues to hover around my top ten favorite albums of all time list. Below is some more info about Southpacific from E-music. Check out the very excellent The SirensSound blog, where you can also download both albums for free.

One of so-called post-rock's more addictive and compelling instrumentalists, southpacific was on the indie music map for only a few years, releasing two albums of broad, sweeping noise set to beats bordering on the minimalist. They weren't exactly everyone's cup of tea, either: Some critics complained that they were too derivative of deconstructionists like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, while others argued that they were just plain boring. But there's no such thing as bad publicity, someone once said, and the fact that opinion on southpacific was so polarized hints at the particular skills they displayed throughout the late '90s.

The group's nucleus, Joachim Toelke, Graeme Fleming, and Phil Stewart-Bowes, met as friends in the spring of 1996 after Toelke moved to Ottawa after recently returning with empty pockets from the United Kingdom. Fleming spent most of his early musical career in his basement, melding the sounds of Bailter Space, My Bloody Valentine, and Swervedriver into a style that southpacific would later call its foundation. Fleming already had a few recordings (as many others did) under the name of Saturnine. Meanwhile, Stewart-Bowes and Toelke were deep into the British flavors of Seefeel and Bowery Electric. The diverse musical interests of its various members gave southpacific a cross-genre feel that immediately registered with a public quickly tiring of bubblegum pop bombast. Ironically enough, southpacific started playing shows in 1998 with a female singer in tow, but unloaded her when they found out she couldn't sing in key. The band pushed on, hoping to land at a label like Creation, which was deep into classic rock by the time southpacific garnered attention as the newest math rockers (à la Tortoise) or space rockers (à la Slowdive) on the block, much to the band's chagrin. They admittedly borrowed some of both genres' characteristics for their compositions, but all of them chafed at the comparisons, especially Fleming, who hated space rock with a passion.

After a well-received live show, a friend of the band sent Bailter Space's label, Turnbuckle, a cassette. Turnbuckle responded positively and signed southpacific up for the band's first album, 33. Most of that initial release was recorded in a ski chalet that belonged to Fleming's parents, a perfect setting for an album full of aural soundscapes. Even after finding out that they had done everything backwards, the band was satisfied with Fleming's magic hand in the recording process, and 33 was released to minor acclaim in November of 1998. There was enough momentum behind southpacific following 33 that Turnbuckle generously pulled out the checkbook and allowed the band -- which had relocated to Toronto -- to log some time in an actual studio. But creative differences and annoyances dampened the recording process: Many of their sonic experiments were watered down because of technical issues (amps humming too loudly, different recording gear) and group friction (the band deferred much to Fleming, who had the luxury of recording at home, rather than in an expensive studio), leading to a good deal of stress and conflict.

Then the ceiling came down. The buzz that had been built up on the strength of 33 dissipated once Turnbuckle abruptly folded. Rather than hitting the shelves in its stated release date of February 2000, southpacific's best album, Constance, was delayed months, by which time the anticipation had all but disappeared. Although the album was promoted heavily on the university circuit and received excellent airplay, it shuffled from distributor to distributor until it landed some time later at Symbiotic. By that time, Fleming decided he had seen enough and left the band, and Toelke and Stewart-Bowes soon followed suit. Toelke moved on to form Frihavn, while Fleming went back to the chalet and recorded a slew of songs that he refused to let anyone listen to. But although the members remained friends, southpacific itself remains just a memorable footnote to the continually unfolding post-rock exegesis.

Read more:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

keep shelly in athens, live at dc9, washington, d.c., 4/24/2012

Normally, anymore I tend to avoid going out to concerts on weeknights, unless it happens to be someone whose music I really like, or if they're a band who are from far far away and most likely won't be coming around to my neck of the woods anytime again soon. Grecian duo Keep Shelly In Athens happened to qualify for all of the above, and despite being tired from work and deciding to take the Metro and getting off about twenty blocks too soon, this band was well worth it. Performing live, as a four piece outfit, with guitar and drums, I wasn't too sure what to expect, knowing they might sound different from the original songs I've recently grown to know and love. However, as more of a rock outfit, the guitars and drums were superb sounding, even enhancing some of the original songs when played out live, while the electronic, sampledelic element was still present, alive and well. The singer, whose name I'm still not sure of (they're quite mysterious that way) did a real nice job singing both with and without the ethereal effects (not to be confused with the awful Autotune that so many pop singers use to "enhance" their weak voices). Either way, she certainly held her own up there, casually dancing and twrilling around on stage along with the music.

Keep Shelly in Athens' set opened up with a sweet, shoegazey version of instrumental "In Love With Dusk", with only the guitarist, drummer and electronic guys on stage. Next, the singer walked on stage as soon as they started into the popular "Hauntin' Me". I was so glad to hear a good mix of both newer songs, like "Our Own Dream", "the Chains", "DIY" (which was a highlight!), "Fairytale" and the St. Etienne-esque "Lazy Noon" mingle with earlier ones like "Cremona Memories" "Running Out of You" and "Fokionos Negri Street", the latter of which the singer came down into the audience (right next to me, nice!) and hung out, as the band played onstage. I was glad to take that opportunity to shake her hand and thank her for the great music and for coming out our way to play. She was such a humble, gracious and friendly individual. Some good ones we didn't get to hear included "Tear in My I" and "Don't Be Afraid", which might not have translated so well live anyhow. Luckily, we were treated to an excellent cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey", which ended the band's set and can be found on the "Just Like Honey" breast cancer fundraiser CD compilation. Fortunately, the band played to a warm, receptive audience at D.C.'s intimate DC9 venue, and stuck around for a two song encore, which included their remix of Porcelain Raft's "Tip of Your Tongue". 

Despite it being a weeknight and my Metro mishap (and a very slooow Metro, due to a derailment!), it was a beautiful night fit for some beautiful music. I hope more people wake up to the sounds of Keep Shelly In Athens,  one of the best things happening in music right now, and once again, it would be nice to see a full LP out soon, including all of their previous songs (and a bonus remix disc, since they've been hugely in demand for remixing other bands' music this past year). Don't miss 'em if they head to your town. In the meantime, below are a few more samples from the band I've never posted here yet, including "Lazy Noon", "DIY" and "Fairytale". Enjoy!

UPDATE: New info/KSIA interview as of May, 2012 from Under The Radar. CHECK IT.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

windy & carl: "a dream of blue" & live in austin, tx, 2009

Last night I was listening to one of my favorite drone rock bands, a magnificent husband and wife duo known as Windy & Carl, while quietly getting some work done. The Dearborn Heights, Michigan duo are one of the most prolific and longest-lasting bands in a genre that hovers somewhere between the realms of post-rock and ambient electronica, and I was extremely fortunate to catch them live in Pittsburgh, PA, at the Rex Theater (with opening band Paik!) over a decade ago. This was far from your typical concert event with whooping and screaming fans. Instead, their music was all-enveloping and unfolding slowly like massive cloud formations in the sky, silently inviting those in attendance to a lucid, almost out-of-body-like listening experience. The song above is the title track from my favorite Windy & Carl release called "A Dream of Blue" from 1999 on Ochre records. Below is a brief and rare live capture of the duo, playing in an unusually well-lit setting from a few years back in Austin, Texas. This year, they put out a brand new LP on the Kranky label called "We Will Always Be", which I look forward to picking up soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

art from the national mall instagram dump 1

I've been meaning to post some more shots from my visit to the National Mall a couple of weeks ago, to see some art. Here's the first set, through some Instagram filters. More to come soon!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

squarepusher: "dark steering" & "energy wizard"(live)

Squarepusher fans rejoice! Mr. Tom Jenkinson is back, in full-on pusher-mode, this time as some type of LED cybernaut from the furthest reaches of the galaxy. After Jenkinson's somewhat disappointing venture into electro-pop cheese whiz under the Shobaleader One alias (there were a couple of good tracks), it's good to see him hungry again, as are his fans for that awesome abstract beat science he's known for. Not that I don't respect Squarepusher, or any artist for that matter, trying out different creative paths now and then, since it's vital to move forward, and while the tracks I've heard from the upcoming Squarepusher album "Ufabulum" have a fresh, new sound, it's classic Squarepusher - a winning blend of mad beat patterns, early rave acid squelch, brightly-hued synth work, deep, heavy bass, and an occasional dash of noise/distortion for good measure. It's interesting to see how Jenkinson's musical output has evolved with time, as more organic, bass-guitar-driven stuff takes turns with his more synthetic style, many times meeting halfway, while sometimes throwing a complete curve ball at listeners. Featured here are two tracks from the new "Ufabulum" LP, now available for pre-order in several formats at BLEEP. The one above is the official video for "Dark Steering" from Warp records, while the bottom is some live footage from a fan, featuring a portion of the excellent sounding "Energy Wizard". The official release date for Ufabulum is May 14, 2012.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

hokusai, jakuchu, and winged spirits at the freer/sackler galleries and national gallery, washington, d.c.

There's a lot of great art this month in Washington, D.C. as part of the annual cherry blossom festivities. While the blossoms have quickly, prematurely come and gone, the art will remain, at least for a little while longer. One such exhibit includes Japanese master Katsushika Hokusai's "Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji" series of prints, on view at the Sackler Gallery up through June 17, 2012. When I went last weekend, the gallery was jam-packed and photography was not permitted. So if you're in the area, take this rare opportunity to see the entire series of prints together in one setting before the exhibit ends. On a brief side note, if you do go and find the crowd slightly harrowing, as I did, take a walk directly across the hall to check out the "Art of Darkness" Japanese Mezzotint exhibit, which had very few viewers, at least when I went, thus adding to the sublime, quiet nature of the work. 

At the connecting Freer Gallery, you'll find more Hokusai works in the form of his giant screens (until July 29, 2012) and more intimate paintings and drawings (until June 24, 2012). While this Hokusai exhibit in particular wasn't quite as extensive as the one hosted at Freer/Sackler about six years ago, these works still have to be seen in person to be believed. 

Over at the National Gallery of Art, West wing, was a pleasant surprise exhibit that, I have to admit, surpassed even the Hokusai shows, called Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Itō Jakuchū. I had only briefly encountered some of Jakuchū's work through photographs, but to see this absolutely incredible collection of bird and flower paintings on 30 scrolls, in person was spellbinding. Again, as with Hokusai's "Thirty-six Views..." show, there was no photography permitted, and the space was packed with viewers wall-to-wall.  The book/catalogue was unfortunately sold-out, however the National Gallery will be getting a new shipment in by early May. Can't wait for mine to arrive! The exhibit itself won't be around for long unfortunately, ending on April 29, 2012. Not to be missed!

Back over to the Freer Gallery for more amazing Asian art (and more birds), this time in the form of "Winged Spirits: Birds in Chinese Painting", which ends August 5th, 2012. Never mind the crummy photos below and go see these magnificent ancient works in the flesh.  

On one last side note, in addition to the many amazing Asian art exhibits going on currently in D.C., there will be a "100% Miyazaki!" movie marathon on Sunday, April 15, appropriately, at Freer/Sackler from 11AM - 9PM. If you haven't seen a Miyazaki film on the big screen, as I was fortunate enough to have done with both "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke", now is your chance! Special guest Helen McCarthy, author of "Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation" will be there presenting the films and signing books.